In The Know: Millions raised and spent on Oklahoma ballot measures

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.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8th! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

Correction: Yesterday’s Quote of the Day was from Oklahoman Johnny Reininger, Jr., not Howard Rosenblum. We regret the error.

Millions raised and spent on Oklahoma ballot measures: Backers of a penny sales tax for schools, proponents of criminal justice reform and supporters of wine and full-strength beer sales in supermarkets have raised and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade Oklahomans to vote for their proposals on Tuesday. Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future — a committee backing the education measure — received $4.27 million in contributions by Sept. 30, according to a report filed Monday [NewsOK]. Two national nonprofits and a major out-of-state corporation are some of the million-dollar donors to campaigns for state questions appearing on the ballot [Oklahoma Watch].

Drug addiction debate continues as election nears: When she was a little girl, Megan Gaddis never said, “I want to be a drug addict when I grow up.” She never imagined a future that included a felony conviction and prison time. “I didn’t really do drugs in high school,” Gaddis said. “I had a preconceived notion that people who used drugs were bad people.” Gaddis’ story began with painkillers. She originally took them for an injury but spiraled into addiction. That spiral bottomed at homelessness and a meth habit. Isolated from her children and everyone who loved her, she was alone [Norman Transcript]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781 here.

Fact Check: The claim that less than half of SQ 779 revenues will go to teachers is false: A central claim being made by opponents of State Question 779, the ballot measure that would increase the sales tax by one percentage point to boost funding for education, is that less than half the money will go to raise teacher pay. This assertion is made repeatedly on the homepage and campaign ads of the group leading the No on 779 campaign and has been repeated by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and other organizations. The assertion is false. SQ 779 clearly provides that of all revenue received by the new one-cent tax, a full 60 percent will go to teacher pay [OK Policy]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

Debate over civil asset forfeiture heats up again: A contentious hearing at the state Capitol recently provided hints that civil asset forfeiture will again be a hot topic during next year’s legislative session. Civil liberty groups and law enforcement representatives debated for three hours Wednesday on whether Oklahoma should continue to allow police to seize people’s cash or property without securing a criminal conviction. But after the interim-study hearing, two prominent backers of overhauling the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws said they are unlikely to pursue legislation to end the practice [Tulsa World]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

Collaboration looks to make a difference in the Tulsa area’s mental health status: A cross-section of leaders has rolled out a decade-long effort to make great strides on the sad state of mental health in the Tulsa area. The Tulsa Area Mental Health Plan Steering Committee — a collaborative effort of philanthropic, business, nonprofit and academic communities — is determined to do something about all of that. The mental health effort is modeled after early successes in efforts to address a 14-year life expectancy differential that a 2005 study found between ZIP codes in north and south Tulsa [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma preterm birth rates steady: Oklahoma’s grade and preterm birth rate remains a “C” on the 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. The state did improve its rank by eight spots from 26 to 18 in disparities among racial and ethnic groups. Cleveland County also got a “C” ranking this year. Grades for seven states declined in this year’s report. Twenty states and the District of Columbia joined Oklahoma with a grade of “C”. Four states earned an “A”, 16 states received a “B”, six states and Puerto Rico got a “D” and three states – Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi – received an “F”. [Norman Transcript]

Legislative Races to Watch: Where the Money Is Being Spent: With scant public polling on Oklahoma’s legislative races, newly released campaign finance information offers clues on which races could be close and bear watching on Election Day. An Oklahoma Watch analysis of data shows that the 202 legislative candidates running in contested general election have raised more than $8.3 million this election cycle. That averages out to about $41,225 per candidate. But some races are generating more interest than others and highlight where donors are focusing their efforts [Oklahoma Watch].

GOP continues to build voter registration lead in Oklahoma: The number of registered voters in the state increased slightly since the last presidential election with the Republican party expanding its share of the total electorate, figures released Tuesday show. But while the number of voters in the state has increased 9 percent since January, the percentage of citizens at least 18 years old who were registered to vote continues to decline, according to a Tulsa World analysis of U.S. Census data [Tulsa World].

Lamb: Oklahoma needs to focus on a 20-year vision: As Oklahoma continues to face difficult times, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said Monday during a visit to Enid the state should focus on diversifying its economy. Lamb said two years ago, the Legislature had a budget hole of $611.3 million. Last year the budget hole was $1.3 billion. Lamb said the forecast for the upcoming session is a budget hole of $700 million. Lamb, an Enid native, said commodity prices will increase and decrease as history has proven [Enid News & Eagle].

New DUI law designed to keep drunk drivers off Oklahoma roads: Among the more than 200 new laws going into effect in Oklahoma, one is designed to help keep drunk drivers off the road. Beginning Nov. 1, House Bill 3146 moves all DUI cases from municipal non-courts of record to a court of record. The law now allows any municipality with a population of at least 60,000 to have the option to create a court of record. The arresting municipalities will still receive a portion of the fines [KTUL].

Fallin, Legislature must push for quick state ID law compliance: State government inaction is causing a major league migraine for all Oklahomans needing to visit a military base or fly on a commercial airline. The Real ID act was passed by Congress 11 years ago, in 2005, but Oklahoma has yet to comply by placing enhanced security features on state-issued driver’s licenses. Signed after 9/11 by President George W. Bush, the federal Real ID law seeks to fortify state procedures to confirm people’s identities and to ensure that terrorists cannot manufacture bogus but realistic-looking driver’s licenses [Editorial Board / Enid News & Eagle].

Quote of the Day

“The thing about these reforms is, when we pass them, it will allow individuals affected by addiction to have success. We’re expecting these people to contribute to society, but we’re not giving them the necessary tools to do so. Addiction doesn’t always come with recovery on the first try.” 

-Megan Gaddis, a graduate of the Remerge program in Oklahoma City, on why she supports SQ 780 and SQ 781 (Source). See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781 here, and read why we’re supporting the two questions here.

Number of the Day


Total number of registered voters in Oklahoma as of November 1, 2016, which is about 73% of the total population age 18 and over in the state

Source: Oklahoma Election Board

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Most Parents Work 9 to 5. Why Do Most Schools Still End Around 3? Like many parents, I’ve often fantasized about 9-to-5 school schedule that would offer children a free and nurturing place to be while their parents worked. Now a new report from the Center for American Progress suggests that this isn’t a pipe dream, but a practical and logical solution that would provide a major boost to the economy. In “Workin’ 9 to 5: How School Schedules Make Life Harder for Working Parents,” authors Catherine Brown, Ulrich Boser, and Perpetual Baffour make the case for why a shift to longer school days is necessary and how it can be done [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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