In The Know: Cherokee Nation lifts minimum wage to $9.50

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

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Today you should know that the Cherokee Nation is increasing the minimum wage for the tribe’s employees to $9.50 an hour. A bill that would pay nonprofit prison diversion programs for successfully reducing incarceration is advancing to the full Senate. The OK Policy Blog discussed the decade-long waiting list for Oklahomans seeking home-based cared for family members with a severe developmental disability.

A report from the DC-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics argues that Oklahoma’s private prisons are allowed to operate in too much secrecy because they aren’t subject to Freedom of Information laws like public prisons. You can Read the full report here. A study by California researchers found that those incarcerated in the state’s private prisons are younger and more non-white than public prisons. The researchers suggested that private prison operators have contracts that allow them to transfer prisoners with costly health problems, so they end up with a younger population.

A measure (HB 3167) to allow local school districts in Oklahoma to opt out of the state’s curriculum standards appears to be moving forward in the House. Two bills (HB 2625, HB 2773) that would give alternatives to retention for third graders who don’t pass a reading test passed out of House committee. Oklahoma is launching a program to share student data between early childhood education providers and K-12 schools.

Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said it may be difficult to cut income taxes this year while the state is facing a revenue shortfall, but they may schedule a tax cut for later years. New House Speaker Jeff Hickman is proposing to abolish the Calendar Committee established by TW Shannon. An essay by Helen Grant in examines Oklahoma City’s development on the verge of a mayoral election.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans made at or below the minimum wage in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities discusses why more U.S. cities should embrace bus rapid transit.

In The News

Cherokee Nation lifts minimum wage to $9.50

The Cherokee Nation’s minimum wage will increase to $9.50 an hour this year under an executive order signed by Principal Chief Bill John Baker. The tribe’s minimum wage was already $9 an hour, well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The raise will give an extra 50 cents an hour, or $1,000 a year, to roughly 400 people who work for the tribe. It will affect only employees of the tribe itself, not casino workers or other employees of Cherokee Nation Businesses, which is a separate corporate entity. But Baker has asked the board of directors to follow the tribe’s example.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Bill to pay programs with successful alternatives to prison advances

A bill that would pay criminal justice programs for successfully reducing incarceration costs is headed to the Senate floor. Senate Bill 1278 recently passed two panels and is set to be heard on the Senate floor. The measure would authorize the state to enter into “Pay-for-Success” contracts with nonprofits that provide programs which successfully divert people from prison. The bill’s author Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, said it was written for the Women in Recovery program in Tulsa, but others could apply.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Take a number: Oklahomans with disabilities face devastating delays

Earlier this month, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced he would pledge $24 million to move people with developmental disabilities off the waiting list to receive home- and community-based services. Governor Nixon’s pledge will bring specialized medical equipment, therapy, job preparation, respite care and independent living skills to over 900 of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens – about two-thirds of the children and adults in the queue. “Our friends and neighbors will now get the life-changing services they need, when they need them,” Nixon said. If only that were true in Oklahoma.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma private prisons operate in secrecy, advocacy group says

Taxpayers fund the operations of private prisons in Oklahoma, just as they do state and federal ones — but they largely don’t have access to the same information and records about those private facilities. A new report argues that private prison operators should be subject to the same level of scrutiny and transparency as state- and federal-run prisons. According to a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, private prisons avoid greater public scrutiny because they are not subject to the same federal Freedom of Information Act and state open records law requirements as government-run prisons.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Read the full report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics

Senate panel passes bills aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse

A Senate panel on Monday passed two measures aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed Senate Bill 1821, by Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, that would require doctors to view the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing controlled drugs. The panel also passed Senate Bill 1820, also by Griffin, that would make the database available to federal medical facilities, such as veterans’ hospitals and military medical facilities in Oklahoma.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Study: Inmates in Oklahoma’s private prisons different from state-run prisons

A recently released study by a university researcher has found that private prisons in Oklahoma have more inmates who are non-white and more who are under age 50 than do state-run prisons. The report by Christopher Petrella, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Berkley, compares the racial makeup and age of minimum and medium-security prisoners at five public prisons with that of inmates at two private prisons. Petrella suggested racial disparities exist because private prison operators have contracts that allow them to transfer prisoners with costly health problems, leaving a younger prison population. Those inmates are more likely to be minorities because non-whites tend to be convicted at younger ages, he said.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Oklahoma Legislature may rescind Common Core standards

Opposition to national K-12 curriculum standards among Oklahomans persists, and may be rising, as a new measure to eliminate the Common Core appears ready to make its way to the House calendar this session. Several other state lawmakers have introduced similar bills, but HB 3167, introduced by Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, has the greatest chance of being considered in the House. The state Legislature adopted the Common Core State Standards for language arts and math in 2010 and is among 45 states and the District of Columbia that have agreed to use them. Only Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia haven’t adopted the Common Core.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma bills to limit third grade retention pass House committee

Parents of Oklahoma students who fail a third-grade reading test would be given alternatives to having their children held back under two bills approved Monday by the state House Common Education Committee. An upcoming third-grade reading test has created a public furor because of concerns that hundreds of students will be held back for reading below grade level. HB 2625 would prohibit a student from being retained based solely on their performance on one test. HB 2773 would create an appeals process for students who do not pass the third-grade reading test or meet its good-cause exemptions for promotion.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma launches program to share student data between schools

Oklahoma is often praised for its early childhood education system. But according to state officials and educators, the system has a serious weakness: Data about each student’s academic profile is not shared between early-childhood education program providers and school districts, or between providers. That prevents kindergarten teachers from being able to immediately target students’ learning needs when they arrive, officials say. It also prevents providers from doing the same when a child transfers from one program to another or is enrolled in more than one program. The Oklahoma Department of Education plans a pilot program in eight school districts this spring to help districts and early childhood education programs share student data with each other.

Read more from NewsOK.

Route to cutting income tax unclear for state leaders

State Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said Friday that the Capitol feels more like the end of the legislative session than the beginning, but he acknowledged that several important issues remain unresolved. Speaking to the Tulsa Republican Club, Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said legislative leaders and the Fallin administration are still struggling with how to proceed with a promised income tax cut, and with addressing concerns about some education reform measures while maintaining performance standards. “I’m sure everyone in the room would like it if we didn’t have an income tax, but we have to have a balanced budget, so any change we make in the tax rate we have to make sure at the end of the day it balances,” he said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

New House Speaker wants to abolish Calendar Committee

Newly elected Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman is proposing to abolish a committee established by his predecessor. Hickman on Monday scheduled a hearing for a resolution to abolish a Calendar Committee that was created last session by former House Speaker T.W. Shannon. The Calendar Committee was set up to approve all bills before they could be heard on the floor. Shannon suggested last year the committee would allow an open, bipartisan approach to scheduling bills for a floor vote, but critics said it was an additional unnecessary step.

Read more from KGOU.

OKC: You are at a tipping point

I happen to be particularly enamored with Oklahoma City. And the city is on an upward trajectory in more ways than one. Remember this when you go into the polling booth on March 4th. This is a city where people voted for the MAPS programs. This is a city that also came out to vote for both Oklahoma City councilman Ed Shadid and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. This is a city that shut down the festering crack den that was the downtown area because enough people believed in a dream for a better place. It galvanized them to vote for measures to rehabilitate the city. And I’m happy the people in Oklahoma City did this, truly. Because in specific areas of Oklahoma City the effort to grow business and bring forth prosperity is clearly bearing fruit.

Read more from

Quote of the Day

Oklahoma has the highest female incarceration rate in the country for several years now. Oklahoma’s history of imprisoning nonviolent women, rather than treating them, is expensive, ineffective and damaging to families.

-Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, who has authored a bill allowing Oklahoma to make “social impact contracts” that pay nonprofits for successfully reducing incarceration (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans making at or below minimum wage in 2013, 6.3 percent of all hourly workers in the state.

Source: Current Population Survey via Governing

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why more U.S. cities need to embrace bus rapid transit

American cities welcomed the automobile in the 20th century by yielding much of their street space to cars. The damage done by this approach can be measured in rising pedestrian deaths or declining walking rates, but a less obviously legacy is the reluctance cities still show toward reshaping their streets — a resistance that’s playing out full-bore in local debates over so-called bus-rapid transit lines. It’s a feud that calls into question the street’s very role in the modern city: Is it to convey automobiles, or is to provide mobility for everyone? Bus-Rapid Transit lines, or BRT, are designed to address a flaw in most public bus systems: they’re slowed down by the automobile traffic that surrounds them.

Read more from Atlantic Cities.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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