In The Know: Democrats win special election in Norman

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

Democrats win special election in Norman: Oklahoma Democrats added another seat to their House membership Tuesday as Jacob Rosecrants beat Darin Chambers to fill an unexpired term. The Norman House seat was previously held by Scott Martin, who left the Legislature to run the Norman Chamber of Commerce. It is the third House or Senate seat Democrats have taken from the GOP in special elections this year alone [NewsOK].

State Sen. Bryce Marlatt resigns: State Sen. Bryce Marlatt resigned Tuesday, effective immediately, six days after being charged with sexual battery. Marlatt, R-Woodward, was processed and released at the Oklahoma County jail Tuesday morning and then made his first court appearance in the felony case. He was charged last week, accused of making sexual advances toward a female Uber driver in June. The driver, who is 41, told police that Marlatt forcefully grabbed her while she was driving and kissed her on the neck, police reported [NewsOK]. It’s one of four sex scandals at the Oklahoma Capitol in 2017 [Associated Press].

Former Fallin assistant charged after allegation he took up-skirt pictures of protester at state Capitol: The former executive aide and personal assistant to Gov. Mary Fallin was charged Tuesday with offering false or fraudulent evidence and destroying evidence following an allegation he took a picture up a woman’s dress at the state Capitol. Travis Goss Brauer resigned effective July 11 after the Oklahoma Highway Patrol started an investigation into an allegation he used to his cellphone to take a picture up the skirt of a protestor at a House budget meeting late May 23 and then allegedly destroyed evidence [Tulsa World].

P.D. Taylor wins Oklahoma County sheriff’s race: Acting Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor won easily Tuesday, beating two opponents in a special general election for sheriff. Taylor, 71, of Oklahoma City, is the first Republican elected to the county’s top law enforcement position in almost a century. He had almost 50 percent of the more than 46,000 votes cast [NewsOK].

Public safety sales tax increase narrowly passes, Oklahoma City bond measures and MAPS extension are winners: Oklahoma City voters approved a sales tax increase to add police and firefighters on Tuesday, and gave elected leaders the tools they sought to address deteriorating streets. “If we can add a little bit more onto our taxes and build up our streets, it just makes the whole community and the whole city better,” said Freda Meacham, who voted Tuesday afternoon. With all 234 precincts reporting, the public safety sales tax increase passed 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent. An extension of the MAPS sales tax, for streets, passed 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent [NewsOK].

Plans floated to narrow state budget hole: Legislative and executive branch Republicans pitched several ideas to tackle the state’s $215 million budget hole, which opened in August after the state’s high court struck down a revenue bill. The speaker of the House of Representatives appointed its new budget chairman, Kevin Wallace, after the legislative session ended this year. Wallace issued a news release Tuesday that detailed his plan to address the budget gap. A few hours later, Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston Doerflinger spoke to the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City about the state’s budgetary woes, why he believes they surfaced and the fixes he and Gov. Mary Fallin would recommend to address them [Journal Record]. Here’s how the budget crisis might be resolved [OK Policy].

Cigarette tax, tribal gaming changes: Oklahoma representative releases his plan to fix budget shortfall: Time is ticking for state lawmakers to reach a budget agreement to fill a nearly $500 million gap. Last month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a $1.50-per-pack ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional after lawmakers passed the revenue raising measure in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote. The fee was expected to generate $215 million for several state agencies. However, officials say the loss of matching federal funds brings the total loss to nearly $500 million [KFOR].

Special election costly, but necessary: Filling the First District congressional seat won’t come cheap. It could cost the state about $600,000. U.S. Rep. Bridenstine, who holds the seat, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to become the head of NASA, a job that Bridenstine wanted. He already had announced that he would not seek a fourth term, as he promised when he was first elected [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

ACT scores highlight Oklahoma’s education challenges: For the first time, 100 percent of graduating high school seniors in Oklahoma took the ACT test during the 2016-2017 school year. This provided a more comprehensive view of academic preparedness, but the results emphasized again that Oklahoma has much room for improvement. Oklahoma was one of just 17 states where all graduates took the ACT. Several states rely more heavily on the SAT, and a mix of the two tests is common elsewhere [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Children displaced by Hurricane Harvey enroll in Tulsa area schools: everal school districts are now reporting students escaping recent hurricanes are enrolling here in the Tulsa area. Tulsa has five students enrolled. Broken Arrow has one family with students and Jenks has two students from the same family. Hadya and Emmanuel Hernandez were living in Houston with their parents when Hurricane Harvey forced them to evacuate [KTUL].

Lawyers Return With Lawsuit Blaming Earthquakes In Oklahoma On Fracking: A lawsuit that blames the fracking industry for increased earthquake activity in Oklahoma is back. Class action attorneys who are targeting a group of natural gas companies will now ask a federal court to send the case back to the state court in which it was filed. It was because their previous case would have been heard in federal court that they dropped it more than a year ago [Forbes].

Quote of the Day

“If we can add a little bit more onto our taxes and build up our streets, it just makes the whole community and the whole city better.”

– Freda Meacham, 78, after voting for Oklahoma City bond and sales tax measures on Tuesday (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma households with a zero or negative net worth, 2013

Source: Prosperity Now

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Trump Wants to Get Tough on Crime. Victims Don’t Agree: Sending more people to prison, deporting illegal immigrants, cracking down on marijuana use — those are some of the things the Trump administration has said will make America safer. But what do crime victims think about all this? It is a group whose views are rarely measured, but a poll commissioned by the Alliance for Safety and Justice sought to find out. Half of respondents said they felt less safe since Mr. Trump took office, though it was not clear that this was because of his approach to criminal justice [New York Times].

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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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