In The Know: Officials: Oklahoma state prisons at 109% inmate capacity

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Today In The News

Officials: Oklahoma state prisons at 109% inmate capacity: As lawmakers continue to battle at the Oklahoma Capitol about a budget, corrections officials say they are in dire straits. Earlier this week, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told board members that the agency has a record number of people in the system. …In December, Allbaugh announced that the department had extended over its capacity, which could put the public in danger [KTUL]. Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, the Oklahoma prison population is on track to grow by 25 percent – about 7,200 inmates – in the next ten years [OK Policy].

Oklahoma AG Says State Moving Forward With Execution Plans: Oklahoma is moving forward with new protocols for executing death row inmates, despite a unanimous recommendation from a bipartisan study group that a moratorium on the death penalty remain in place, the state’s new attorney general said Wednesday. Republican Mike Hunter said while he respects the independent work of the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission , he “respectfully disagrees” with the panel’s findings [Associated Press].

Caseload booming at Oklahoma Innocence Project: Cameron Farnsworth spends a lot of time opening envelopes and reading letters, a task not often associated with first-year law students. He’s the president of the Fighting for Innocence Through Exoneration group, known as FITE for short. The student organization was formed to help the Oklahoma Innocence Project with its routine office work, such as sorting through mail. Farnsworth’s task is important to the project’s work because that’s where the group gets some leads for its next cases [Journal Record].

Prosperity Policy: Fix the budget: Last week, a coalition of organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans came together to release a Blueprint for a Better Budget. The Save Our State coalition, of which the Oklahoma Policy Institute is a part, laid out a detailed plan to fix the budget based on three guiding principles. First, this year’s budget must avert deeper cuts to state agencies and school districts that are already struggling to fulfill their basic functions after years of cuts [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Learn more about the Save Our State coalition and view the Blueprint for a Better Budget here.

Political pressure mounts at Oklahoma Capitol amid budget bill delays: For the second time in two days, Oklahoma Senate and House leadership abruptly canceled budget hearings that typically are used to roll out significant revenue-raising measures. The move suggests ongoing talks behind the scenes about which revenue bills might have enough Democratic votes to advance, and whether GOP leadership will budge on demands to raise the oil and gas production tax rate [NewsOK].

GOP plan to raise tax on fuel would cost Oklahoma families $150 a year, House Democrats say: House Democrats on Wednesday said a Republican plan to increase the gasoline and diesel tax by 6 cents would cost Oklahoma families about $150 a year. The proposal comes as lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to reduce the $878 million state budget hole. House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said his caucus will not supply the needed votes to pass the increase [Tulsa World].

Scratch This: The Fall (and Possible Rise) of State Lotteries in Education Funding: The purchase of a lottery ticket offers an assurance of virtue with its promise of vice. Shell out for a Powerball or scratch ticket, ads declare, and you’ll be making a deposit to your state’s education fund: customers, local businesses, and students all benefit. If there can be such a thing as a win-win in the transactional arena of budget-making, surely this is it. Today, fifteen states dedicate all or most of their lottery proceeds to schools, including California, New York, and Texas [The 74]. Why didn’t the lottery solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems? [OK Policy]

Budget cuts could close entire school district: Tulsa Public Schools isn’t the only district strapped for cash. In smaller communities, districts could be forced to completely shut down. The Panola School District has been here before. Almost 20 percent cut from the budget, leaving them short enough to close the doors for good. Each pen stroke is a new plea. Almost a thousand envelopes are going to people in the community asking for help [KTUL]. Oklahoma continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Public safety bill hits a snag in the Senate: A bill that could lead to the use of property tax revenue to fund police, firefighters and jails has hit a wall in the state Senate. Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, sought permission from Appropriations Chairwoman Kim David, R-Porter, to restore title so House Bill 1374 could be voted on in the Senate and move to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk if approved by the upper chamber. Holt is the measure’s Senate author [Tulsa World].

Point, don’t shoot: Oklahoma bill allows pointing of guns to deter violent crime: Oklahoma law could soon let people point guns at other people to deter or prevent some felony-level crimes involving physical violence. Senate Bill 40 passed the Oklahoma House on Tuesday. It only needs to return to the Senate, which has already approved the bill, for a procedural vote. It then would head to Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature [NewsOK].

Some Fear Governor Won’t Sign Bill That Cracks Down On Rapists: A bill is sitting on the Governor’s desk right now that would get tougher on rapists. But, some prosecutors and victims fear the governor won’t sign it because there is a big push right now to keep people out of prison, not put them in even longer. The state says we’ve got to stop sending so many people to prison because it’s expensive and it’s just not working, and they need to be sentenced in other ways [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma Senate advances bill clarifying execution methods: The Oklahoma Senate advanced an amended bill that bolsters and clarifies the state’s ability to carry out executions, but a newer version of the bill returned the electric chair as an allowed execution method. Passing 40 to 1 and engrossed, House Bill 1679 allows the state to use lethal injection, followed by nitrogen hypoxia, electric chair and firing squad as methods of execution. The bill follows a state vote in which voters supported a measure guaranteeing the state’s power to use capital punishment [Red Dirt Report].

Oklahoma AG announces support for new commission on opioid abuse: Declaring that Oklahoma is in the midst of “an opioid abuse epidemic,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter joined state lawmakers Wednesday in announcing support for a resolution to form an Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse. “In the last three years, alone, there have been 2,684 opioid related deaths in the state that have been reported,” Hunter said. That likely understates the true number, because not every death results in an autopsy or toxicology screen, he said [NewsOK].

House passes bill sponsored by late Rep. David Brumbaugh: Rep. David Brumbaugh’s House colleagues united to pass without dissent a Senate bill he sponsored before his death April 14. Senate Bill 191, by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, is intended to expedite simple Open Records requests. Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, presented the bill and said it was typical of the policies Brumbaugh pursued [Tulsa World].

2-1-1 Oklahoma launches new site: 2-1-1 Oklahoma has launched a website,, to better serve its clients and partner agencies through HeartLine in Oklahoma City and the Community Service Council in Tulsa. Since 2005, 2-1-1 has served Oklahomans in need of health and human services by making in-depth assessment and referral plans, providing callers with one or more options to meet their needs [NewsOK].

Poll: Oklahomans support immigration reform: A new survey conducted by Oklahoma City‐based CMA Strategies shows Oklahomans are ready for the federal government to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. More than 70 or respondents said they support a reform package, including 72 percent of men and 75 percent of women. The poll also found that 78 of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats support immigration reform [Journal Record].

OKC preparing for cuts to federal community development funds: City officials are already struggling with planned budget cuts by President Donald Trump’s administration to community development grants, they said Tuesday. The issue came up as the City Council approved a consolidated action plan on spending federal grant money, as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The five-year plan is part of the application for HUD entitlement funds, such as the Community Development Block Grant program, Emergency Solutions grant program and HOME Investment Partnerships program [Journal Record].

Mayor’s budget proposal includes new programs, hiring police officers, raises for some employees: Mayor G.T. Bynum proposed a budget Wednesday that anticipates sales tax revenue remaining stagnant but still introduces new programs, employee benefits and supports a plan to hire a record 90 police officers. The $268.9 million general-fund budget, which is a slight increase over the originally-anticipated plan, is possible through recently identified revenue and a few fee increases, covering previously anticipated shortfalls next year, according to administration officials [Tulsa World].

Study lays out options for water management in Oklahoma energy production: Several alternatives to current wastewater disposal practices in Oklahoma oil and gas operations are technically feasible but may be too expensive for most companies, according to a study released Thursday. The report by the Water for 2060 Produced Water Working Group builds on the state’s comprehensive water plan for 2060. Gov. Mary Fallin requested the latest study in 2015 as part of the state’s ongoing response to induced seismicity, which has been linked to wastewater disposal wells into the deep Arbuckle formation [NewsOK]. The report is available here.

Quote of the Day

“Today, we have 62,000 in our system. What bothers me is back in December, we hit a record population of 61,000. It has taken just four months for an additional 1,000 people to be included in our numbers of incarcerated, supervised, and county jail backup.”

– Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh (Source)

Number of the Day


Employment rate for prime working age Oklahomans in 2016, down from 77.0% in 2007 and 7th lowest in the U.S.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Federal Pressure Could Spur More ‘Lunch Shaming’ Bans: Cara Valente, a state legislative analyst in New Mexico, knows what it’s like to have her children punished because she missed a school lunch payment. At times, she and her husband had needed to wait until their next paychecks to cover the bill, even if that meant being a couple weeks late. But that tardiness had consequences: Per school policy, her children couldn’t have the more expensive and nutritious meal. “My kids were mad at us for not having paid the bill and causing them embarrassment,” Valente says. “I was angry because my kids were not doing as well in school as they could have been because they were hungry.” This year, Valente’s boss, state Sen. Michael Padilla, who also has a personal connection to so-called lunch shaming, sponsored legislation that makes New Mexico the first state to ban the practice [Governing].

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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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