In The Know: Arkansas execution case could lead court to revisit Oklahoma

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Arkansas execution case could lead court to revisit Oklahoma: Lawyers for eight death row inmates in Arkansas say their challenge of the state’s execution procedures should warrant a U.S. Supreme Court review that would likely revisit the high court’s ruling on an Oklahoma case. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled against the prisoners last month, but the inmates’ lawyers want the court to withhold a final order pending a possible U.S. Supreme Court review [Associated Press].

How we are transforming our states’ justice systems: President Ronald Reagan once famously said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” No one could have seen it at the time, but we now know that, with respect to our justice system, truer words were never spoken. In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law a “tough on crime” bill that contributed to the explosion of the federal prison population [Governors Deal, Fallin and Bevin / Fox News]. Governor Fallin’s new, inclusive approach to criminal justice reform is bearing fruit [OK Policy].

A Natural Gas Well Next Door: It sits among a clutch of homes, not far away from a storage tank for natural gas. The pumpjack isn’t operating now, but the company that owns the well says it hopes to re-start the pumping soon. The appearance of a natural gas well in the middle of a neighborhood, less than 30 feet from a home, is startling. Then again, the location is in predominantly black northeast Oklahoma City, where an urban renewal plan has identified numerous environmental and blight issues [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma grand jury seeks removal of Love County sheriff: Oklahoma’s multicounty grand jury is recommending the Love County sheriff be removed from office for corruption and other alleged violations. Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Tuesday that the grand jury has filed an accusation for removal against Sheriff Joe Russell. A phone call to a number listed for Russell rang unanswered [Associated Press].

Think local: TSET grants to scientists help bring national dollars: Oklahoma State University biomedical researcher Lin Liu is putting tobacco tax money to work examining possible treatments for cigarette-related illnesses. He is one of eight scientists who recently received a total of $1.26 million from the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust to advance adult stem cell knowledge. Federal funding for the basic science he does can be difficult to obtain, because the National Institutes of Health is subject to congressional appropriations [Journal Record].

Final appeal: State may challenge arbitrator’s ruling on tribal tax collections: The state may take a dispute over tribal sales tax collections to federal appeals court. An arbiter ruled in April that the state cannot force the Citizen Potawatomi Nation to collect sales tax from nonmembers at its retail businesses, and a court affirmed the decision in June. That seemed to end a months-long battle over tribal sovereignty and Oklahoma’s right to regulate tribes’ retail operations, including alcohol sales [Journal Record].

A proposed cut to historic preservation tax credits in Oklahoma raises concerns: In October 2014, photos surfaced of John Johansen’s Mummers Theater, or rather, the theater reduced to a pile of scrap metal and rubble—the humbled remains of bold architecture traded in for corporate towers courtesy Robert A.M. Stern. In 2010, before its demolition, the 1970 theater was vacant and severely damaged by flooding. Finding funding for historic preservation, especially for structurally compromised buildings, can be challenging [Architect’s Newspaper].

Midwest City center expands to offer more mental health treatment: AllianceHealth Midwest expanded its mental health center to meet the demand of patients needing care. Last year, the center treated about 1,600 people. Behavioral Health Administrator James Hutchison said the hospital was turning away about 100 people per week. The $3.5 million renovation, which opened this month, allows the hospital to double its treatment to 40 adults and 32 seniors ages 65 and older at a time [Journal Record].

Families sign up for federal aid to help pay electric bill during hot summer: Families who can’t afford to stay cool in this summer weather have some relief coming their way. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is accepting applications to help them beat the heat at home. The agency has $18 million available in federal funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program [KTUL].

‘Watch-Out’ Forum on Aug. 23: The Alcohol Question: Oklahoma Watch will hold a public question-and-answer forum Aug. 23 on the proposed changes to Oklahoma’s laws on sales of wine and strong beer, featuring state Sen. Stephanie Bice and Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma President Bryan Kerr. State Question 792 is already approved for the Nov. 8 ballot, and efforts are underway to add another alcohol-sales question. The forum will be from 6-7 p.m. at Kamp’s 1910 Café, located at 10 N.E. 10th Street in Oklahoma City [Oklahoma Watch].

Henryetta residents seek state audit: A group of Henryetta residents spearheaded by perennial city hall critic Howard “Buck” Sheward has begun circulating a petition calling for another state investigative audit of Henryetta city government. “It all centers on public funds,” Sheward told The Oklahoman. “There are some funds that are supposedly missing. There are funds that have been grossly wasted” [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Glossip has resulted in unmitigated disaster in Oklahoma. Since the Supreme Court approved of the midazolam protocol there, Oklahoma authorities have shown that they cannot properly carry out the protocol. Oklahoma executed one prisoner with the wrong drug in January 2015 … and it almost executed another with the wrong drug before a member of the execution squad caught the error hours before the injection was to occur. This state of affairs gives the U.S. Supreme Court a good reason to revisit Glossip.”

-Lawyers for eight death row inmates in Arkansas who are challenging the execution procedures in that state, arguing that the US Supreme Court should reconsider the case (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of non-institutionalized Oklahoma adults with a disability in 2014. Three-way tie for fifth highest

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kansas’ Insane Right-Wing Experiment Is About to Destroy Its Roads: Kansas has had trouble paying for much of anything since 2012, when conservative legislators decided to implement a bevy of right-wing economic policies—and lead their state into a fiscal crisis. In order to keep funding its government despite dramatically decreased tax revenue, the Legislature has flipped all its piggy banks. One of them is the Kansas Department of Transportation—or what sarcastic Kansans now call “the Bank of KDOT,” for the stupendous quantity of money that has been diverted from its coffers to the Kansas general fund and state agencies [Slate].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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