In The Know: ‘We don’t have a sentencing problem’ AG Jeff Sessions tells Oklahoma sheriffs in a rebuke of state reforms

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

‘We don’t have a sentencing problem’ AG Jeff Sessions tells Oklahoma sheriffs in a rebuke of state reforms: Critics of criminal justice reforms approved by Oklahoma voters in November spent an hour Thursday railing against them before yielding the lectern to an apparent ally in their fight: America’s top law enforcement officer. “Despite the national surge in violent crime and the record number of drug deaths over the last two years, there is a move to even lighter sentences,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a gathering of the state’s sheriffs [NewsOK]. In message to Oklahoma sheriffs, Rep. Scott Biggs praised for stopping several criminal justice reform measures [The Frontier]. Misguided budget concerns sank criminal justice reform this year, but lawmakers have another shot in 2018 [OK Policy].

Budget shortfall could send thousands of drug court participants to prison: After hearing that their jobs might disappear and that their patients could end up in prison, several Oklahoma drug court officials and mental health providers said they have no intention to stay quiet. On Thursday, they told their staff members and patients that state-funded outpatient services could disappear before year’s end. …For the patients, that could mean no more support for drug addiction recovery, and worse, a prison sentence [Journal Record]. Latest state cuts ‘catastrophic,’ Tulsa mental health professionals say [Tulsa World]. Agencies grasping for new revenue might be able to delay a $215 million budget cut until 2018, Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall declared Thursday [NewsOK]. Although the Oklahoma Legislature has convened numerous special sessions in recent decades, none has dealt with issues as sweeping and consequential as the current one [OK Policy].

Fallin’s chief of staff to oil and gas leaders: ‘Participate in a way that can help’: After Oklahoma’s two largest oil and gas industry associations sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin opposing gross production tax increases, the governor’s chief of staff pleaded for the industry to “be for something” and noted that Fallin has been “the biggest supporter of your industry over the last several years.” Pasted below, the late-September email from Fallin’s chief of staff, Chris Benge, was widely discussed among industry leaders [NonDoc].

Governor — and the state Constitution — turn up the heat on the state budget failure: The lack of real progress on the state’s mounting budget crisis led to a fascinating battle of news releases between two Republican leaders last week. On Friday, House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace chided Gov. Fallin and her Office of Management and Enterprise Services for telling three state agencies that their allocations will be cut starting next month because the state budget is out of balance [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma lawmakers shouldn’t let Big Tobacco win: Any parent is familiar with an almost all-encompassing natural pull to protect and nurture their children. For many adults, using our resources, knowledge and experiences to steer our children away from harm is literally the impulse that guides our lives. That parental instinct — which is really a system of values recognizing the importance and wisdom of nurturing the next generation — is and should be reflected by our government and our laws [Oklahoma Hospital Association President Craig Jones / NewsOK].

Grassroots groups: Contact your lawmaker about ‘devastating’ budget cuts: Over and over people described the cuts announced Wednesday, as “devastating.” The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced it will trim $75 million from its budget by cutting outpatient services. “If it was a third of my paycheck I didn’t get all of a sudden, I would have to make some very difficult decisions right away,” Andy Moore said [FOX25]. An anti-revenue virus is running rampant in Oklahoma, with symptoms that include scary budget cuts to our schools, health care, and other critical services. Can the virus be stopped, or will we all be transformed into budget-busting zombies? [Together Oklahoma]

Capitol building to reopen on schedule: The state Capitol will open on schedule after being closed since Oct. 13 for an electrical upgrade. The building was closed to remove existing electrical equipment and make the transfer to a new system. The first 72 hours were the most crucial to the outage success, as demolition crews worked to remove existing switchgear and busway traversing the southwest wing of the building [Journal Record].

Nurses trade group prepares for legislative battle: A state trade group for nurses will continue to fight into the next legislative session to expand nurses’ authority to treat patients. Toni Pratt-Reid said nurse practitioners help provide patients access to medical care. Nurses aren’t trying to replace doctors, said the Association of Oklahoma Nurse Practitioners president. They’re likely to face opposition from the state’s physician trade group, the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Hundreds of nurse practitioners got advice from two legislators on how to best engage lawmakers in hopes of advancing a bill [Journal Record].

With term limits, the revolving door spins faster: One of the many unintended consequences of term limits is that the Legislature has become a steppingstone for professional development and personal enrichment. That is why so many lawmakers are squealing over a state Ethics Commission proposal that would make them wait two years before they can lobby their former colleagues. Think DC’s Congress to K Street pipeline stinks? Well, the post-electoral career cash-grab is alive and flourishing in Oklahoma City, too [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

New protections for payday loan borrowers are coming (if Congress will stay out of the way): After years of research and public consultation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this month issued a final rule to create new protections for payday loan borrowers. These new protections are a necessary and positive first step in eliminating the debt trap that so often results from high-interest, predatory loans — and nowhere more than Oklahoma, where we have the highest payday loan usage rate in the nation [OK Policy].

What Do Monkey Bars and Test Scores Have In Common? More Than You Might Think: On the playground at Chattanooga Elementary School some kids are pretending to be pirates, a few boys are climbing on a baseball dugout, and another group is belting out the words to various pop songs as they wriggle across the monkey bars. This is the students’ third 15-minute recess of the day, and they’ll get one more before the end of the school day in the tiny southwestern Oklahoma town of about 450. Added up: That’s an hour of recess a day — double what these kids got two years ago, and double what most kids in America get [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Higher income limit will open Oklahoma’s Promise tuition scholarship to more families: Oklahoma’s Promise is expected to pay college tuition for nearly 18,000 students in 2017-18 at an estimated cost of $74.3 million. That’s up about $2.5 million from the current fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved the cost estimate Thursday and thanked state Rep. Leslie Osborn for her help raising the family income limit so more students can qualify for the scholarship [NewsOK].

Former state lawmaker defends actions, says he had nothing to gain by amending bill that would have regulated facilities like CAAIR: Former state Rep. Doug Cox acknowledged Thursday that when he amended a 2013 bill that would have regulated Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery, he didn’t disclose he was on the board for the facility. But, he said, he had nothing to gain by changing the measure. Cox said he discussed the bill in committee, but “I don’t think I told them I was on the board. I didn’t see it as relevant. I wasn’t doing it for CAAIR.” [Tulsa World]

Former Oklahoma Seismologist Deposed In Court: Oklahoma’s former chief earthquake researcher comes clean on why he quit his job and left the state. Former state seismologist Austin Holland was deposed last week for a lawsuit and, according to a blog post published Thursday by attorneys representing the plaintiff in the suit, Holland testified that the reason he gave publicly for leaving was only part of the story [News9].

The president’s indecision on health care is costly for middle-earners: Insurance is supposed to be about the careful management of risk. Recently, for America’s health insurers, it has had a lot to do with keeping track of President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. On October 12th the White House announced that it would cut off payments to insurers that underpin parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as “Obamacare”. The move will knock already wobbly markets, a prospect that seems to delight Mr Trump [The Economist].

Quote of the Day

“I try my best to always avoid exaggeration, but in this instance, the word ‘catastrophic’ is not hyperbolic. It’s accurate.”

– Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO Mike Brose on the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ plan to eliminate virtually all outpatient treatment if a budget agreement isn’t reached soon (Source)

Number of the Day


Average number of new crimes per year created by Oklahoma policymakers over the last six years.

Source: Manhattan Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Public Health Insurance Could Help, Even if You Don’t Want It: It is anyone’s guess whether Democrats will unite around the goal of creating a single-payer health care system or even take a less ambitious approach — introducing a public health insurance option. Adding public insurance as an option in the complex American health care system has been treated as a consolation prize for those who really favor single-payer health care, but the lighter approach might pack much more punch than you might think. What’s more, the best way to see that is by looking at the Indian labor market and the Mexican grocery market. Why should jobs in India or food in Mexico have anything to do with health care in the United States? They are linked by the logic of supply and demand, which applies in the United States and in countries very different from it — countries that the United States doesn’t turn to often enough for policy lessons [The New York Times].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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