In The Know: Oklahoma executes first since April

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma executed Charles Warner Thursday night. It was the state’s first execution since the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April. The Tulsa World has a timeline of the execution here. According the Oklahoma State Election Board, registered Republicans now outnumber registered Democrats for the first time in state history. OSEB’s report is available here.

An OSU student and member of the activist group Oklahoma Students in Solidarity, which led protests and die-ins throughout the fall and winter, called out OSU President Burns Hargis in an open letter for comments he and other administration officials made in a meeting over the death threats the activist group ad received. The open letter can be read here. State Representative Randy Grau has filed a bill calling for budget-only legislative sessions every other year. On the OK Policy Blog, we examined how the state has already developed an effective criminal justice reform model with Tulsa’s Family Drug Court.

An editorial in the Tulsa World discussed recent data indicating that state prison employee morale is so bad that many simply stop coming to work. A district attorney approved more than $84,000 in raises to four outgoing employees in her final months on the job. Oklahoma schools are bracing for funding adjustments to correct an error in the way state aid had previously been calculated. More than 1,000 people have been hospitalized due to the flu in Oklahoma this season, and a total of 31 have died. In his Journal Record column, Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton discussed the film “Children of the Civil Rights,” which shares the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma. NewsOK previously interviewed the director.

After five years of persistent drought, some Oklahoma communities that rely on lakes for drinking water are in trouble. The Number of the Day is the number of women per 100,000 incarcerated in Oklahoma, double the national average. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post makes the business and public health cases for expanding paid sick leave to all workers.

In The News

Oklahoma Killer Executed After U.S. Supreme Court Denies Stay

After a nine-month delay, a condemned Oklahoma killer has been executed. A stay of execution for Charles Warner was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday evening, making way for his planned death. Warner, 47, raped and murdered his girlfriend’s 11-month old baby in 1997. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 opinion, denied Warner’s application for a stay minutes before his scheduled 6 p.m. execution at the state penitentiary in McAlester.

Read more from NewsOn6.

See also: Warner execution timeline from the Tulsa World.

Registered Republicans Outnumber Democrats In Oklahoma

Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in Oklahoma for the first time in state history according to official annual voter registration statistics released by the Oklahoma State Election Board. According to a news release, the board counts the state’s official voter registration statistics every year on January 15.

Read more from NewsOn6.

View the press release from the Oklahoma State Election Board.

Activist group member calls out President Hargis in open letter

Ayah Abo-Basha, a member of the activist group Oklahoma Students in Solidarity, posted an open letter to Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis on Tuesday containing potentially indicting anecdotes of a Dec. 12 meeting with university administrators. The O’Colly is continuing to investigate the allegations in the open letter. On Monday, the O’Colly provided OSU Director of Communications Gary Shutt an unpublished copy of Abo-Basha’s letter.

Read more from The O’Colly.

Read Abo-Basha’s letter here.

Oklahoma lawmaker files budget-only legislative session bill

A state lawmaker has filed legislation that calls for the Oklahoma Legislature to have budget-only sessions every other year. The measure filed Thursday by Republican Rep. Randy Grau calls for a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would restrict state lawmakers from taking up policy issues and constitutional amendments in even-numbered years, unless the legislation received a three-fourths vote.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Read the bill here.

Oklahoma has already created a great model for criminal justice reform

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Oklahoma is badly in need of criminal justice system overhaul. The state regularly tops the charts for incarceration – and a lot of that is because of drug offenses. One in three people incarcerated in Oklahoma is doing time for a drug offense, and two in three incarcerated women in Oklahoma have “moderate to high need” for substance abuse treatment.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

How bad is state prison employee morale? Check out how many workers just quit showing up for work.

And officials wonder why they can’t hire and retain qualified and reliable staff to supervise 27,000 inmates in facilities that are over 100 percent capacity. How bad is morale among state prison workers? A Tulsa World review of 250 disciplinary records of DOC employees during the past two years, shows that two in 10 were fired because they just stopped showing up for work.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

District attorney hands out more than $84,000 in raises during final months in office

A district attorney approved more than $84,000 in pay raises to eight outgoing employees in her final months on the job, including one hike in her final hour, her successor says. Five of the raises approved by ex-District Attorney Janice Steidley (Rogers, Mayes and Craig counties) went to assistant district attorneys, and the largest was divvied out to district manager/financial coordinator Misty Douglas.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma schools brace for adjusted funding after miscalculation by state since 1992

As much as $20 million will be temporarily withheld from payments to public schools as the Oklahoma State Department of Education continues to address an error in the way state aid had been calculated since 1992. Midyear-adjustment notices are due at schools on Thursday, but they won’t paint the definitive picture they typically do for school leaders.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma City Public Schools adds CNG school buses to fleet

The Oklahoma City Public Schools system has purchased three new compressed natural gas buses to serve the massive district’s students. The city’s public school population has steadily increased over the past few years and is now the state’s largest.

Read more from News9.

New Figures Show Flu Is Getting Worse in Oklahoma

The number of people hospitalized with the flu continues to climb in Oklahoma. The hospitalization rate has now topped 1,000. Officials say 228 more people were sent to the hospital with influenza just last week. That brings the total to 1,033 for this season.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

The children who dared to dream

As we prepare to commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King’s birthday, it’s hard not to despair over the persistent racial injustice and discord in this country. We watched as Ferguson, Missouri, roiled in the wake of a white police officer killing an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown – unforgettable images of tanks rolling down American streets, stores looted and set ablaze, protesters tear-gassed by police dressed like military commandos.

Read more from the Journal Record.

See also: Filmmaker discusses Civil Rights documentary, activist father from NewsOK.

Drought-Stricken Oklahoma Communities Dealing With Prospect of Dead Lakes

Most of western Oklahoma is in its fifth year of drought with still no end in sight, despite a wetter-than-normal-end to 2014. And many of the lakes communities rely on for drinking water are now on the verge of being too low to use. The situation is most dire in Altus, Duncan and Canton.

Read more from StateImpact.

Quote of the Day

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and the creeks I always played on when I was a kid, they don’t run anymore. [Lake] Tom Steed is the life and the blood of southwest Oklahoma. Right now we’re providing 100 percent of the water to Altus. We’re providing over half of the water supply to Frederick. We’re providing, I think, about half the water supply to Snyder.”

– Lake Tom Steed manager Will Archer. Current projections suggest Lake Tom Steed will be depleted by 2016 without intervention. (Source:

Number of the Day


Women per 100,000 incarcerated in Oklahoma. The national average is 63.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

More than a third of American workers don’t get sick leave, and they’re making the rest of us ill

Today, President Obama’s proposing legislation that would give American workers 7 days a year of paid sick leave. The U.S. remains the world’s only wealthy nation that does not mandate a minimum of paid sick leave, vacation leave or parental leave. Nationally, nearly 4-in-10 private sector workers — 39 percent — do not have access to any sick leave at all. Zero. Zilch. None. According to Betsey Stevenson of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, that amounts to 43.5 million workers who may be compelled by financial reasons to come into the office when they’re sniffling, sneezing, barfing, and generally feeling under the weather, making the rest of us ill in the process.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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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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