In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs bill allowing prisons to store lethal injection drugs

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

Gov. Fallin signs bill allowing prisons to store lethal injection drugs: A bill signed into law Tuesday will allow the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to store lethal injection drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Senate Bill 884 was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday, giving the state Corrections Department the authority to obtain federal and state licenses to store controlled drugs. Currently, only physicians and hospitals can gain such licenses. The main purpose of the law, said co-author Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, is to make sure controlled drugs are stored and kept properly in the prison system [NewsOK].

Panel eyeing billions of dollars in Oklahoma tax giveaways: A new state commission tasked with analyzing whether Oklahoma is getting its money’s worth from billions of dollars in state tax giveaways to businesses is meeting in Oklahoma City. The Incentive Evaluation Committee will hold its second meeting at the state Capitol on Tuesday as they begin to study Oklahoma’s various tax incentives. The panel will hear from Jay Moon, an economic development expert from Mississippi, and David Blatt, the director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute and a longtime critic of some of Oklahoma’s tax subsidies for businesses and industries [KOCO]. The panel was created as part of a tax incentive reform package that is still incomplete [OK Policy].

Oklahoma leaders have their sights on the wrong credits: The second course is the most reasonable. To save our most important public investments, the money will have to come from somewhere. One promising avenue is to suspend or reduce unproductive tax breaks for businesses and special interests. Unfortunately, state leaders have decided to target a very different kind of tax program. They are threatening our state’s most important broad-based tax credits for families that work hard for low pay [Gene Perry / NewsOK].

Worker benefit denials are keeping Oklahoma’s unemployment rate artificially low: Believe it or not, sometimes the State of Oklahoma gets it right. The Oklahoma Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is one of the healthiest funds in the Country with over $1 billion in it. This didn’t happen by accident. Many years ago the Oklahoma Legislature developed a formula that would raise employers’ unemployment insurance rate and lower the unemployed workers’ weekly benefit if the Trust Fund’s monies were low. The opposite is true when the trust fund monies were high — employers’ unemployment insurance rate would drop and unemployed workers’ weekly benefit would increase [Jimmy Curry / OK Policy].

“Oklahoma is failing its students,” High school student calls on district to spare teachers from budget cuts: For months, state agencies across Oklahoma have been pleading with lawmakers to avoid drastic cuts. The state is facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, and it seems health care and education will see their budgets slashed before it is all said and done. State leaders say they plan to cut Medicaid reimbursement payments by 25 percent [KFOR].

39 positions could be chopped across district: Bartlesville school administrators proposed eliminating 39 positions, including 22 teachers, Monday night as part of plan to save the district almost $1.9 million for the upcoming school year. The cost-saving plan was presented to the Board of Education Monday night in anticipation of reduced state support for the 2016-2017 school year. State lawmakers are wrangling with a $1.3 billion budget shortfall and two revenue failures this year [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]. School layoffs are among the effects of our unprecedented budget disaster [OK Policy].

Time for autism mandate has come: Better late than never, Oklahoma is on the cusp of requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism. The Oklahoma Senate approved last week a measure to mandate coverage. The state House has previously approved a variation of the same legislation. So the measure must return to the House, but our sense is that House Bill 2962 is about to become law [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Oklahoma City Thunder, OU oppose two gun bills pending before state Senate: Several organizations, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, sent Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman a letter opposing two gun bills pending before the upper chamber. House Bill 3098 would allow people to openly carry firearms without a permit. House Joint Resolution 1009 would let voters decide to amend the state constitution to make it more difficult for lawmakers to put regulations on gun ownership [Tulsa World].

Senate passes bill requiring DNA upon felony arrest: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow for the collection of DNA upon a felony arrest or violent misdemeanor. House Bill 2275, by Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, passed by a vote of 32-15. It heads to Gov. Mary Fallin for consideration. Jolley said the sample would be destroyed if charges are not brought, if the charges are dismissed or if the defendant is found not guilty [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma House passes legislation to prohibit revenge porn: Legislation that makes revenge porn a crime in Oklahoma has passed the state House. House members on Tuesday voted 81-0 for the bill and sent it back to the state Senate for consideration of House amendments. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative says 27 states and the District of Columbia have laws that outlaw nonconsensual pornography, or the distribution of sexually graphic images of individuals without their consent [Associated Press].

Off track: Budget hole could put Heartland Flyer funding on chopping block: As lawmakers meet privately to negotiate the next year of state spending, nearly anything could be on the chopping block. One of those projects is a $3.2 million subsidy to support the Heartland Flyer passenger rail service to and from Fort Worth. “It may be trimmed a little bit,” House Appropriations Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said Tuesday. “We’ve talked about it, but there’s no hard language in that funding” [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“The idea that our very own school district is going to take the most essential part of our education away is not only insulting but devastating to the students and teachers that have worked so hard for us to be awarded our international baccalaureate diplomas next spring. I feel as if the state is doing the education system a disservice by not funding it sufficiently, robbing my generation and the next of the educations we deserve.”

-Sophie Trachtenberg, a junior at Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of affordable housing units in Oklahoma that are situated in a rural setting

Source: Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why the Poor Get Trapped in Depressed Areas: In modern America, it’s expensive to be poor. If you have a car, it’s old and habitually breaks down. Often, there aren’t banking services in your area and you must live with high-cost alternatives. And in white working-class towns decimated by years of outsourcing, the jobs available don’t provide the kind of wages to break the cycle of poverty. That’s not to say the situation of the American poor hasn’t preoccupied policy-makers and the pundit class. Recently, there’s been a bipartisan grumbling among elite wonks that the poor should just rent a U-Haul and leave their depressed communities if they want a better life [New Republic].

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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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