In The Know: Oklahoma governor signs civil asset forfeiture legislation

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

Oklahoma governor signs civil asset forfeiture legislation: Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Thursday a bill saying judges may award attorney fees to people whose assets were unjustly seized by law enforcement. Other more far-reaching legislation seeking to restrict civil asset forfeiture failed to advance this legislative session under criticism from district attorneys and police agencies [NewsOK]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Senate Sends Revenge Porn Bill To Governor: Legislation that makes revenge porn a crime in Oklahoma has been sent to Governor Mary Fallin to be signed into law. The legislation received final legislative approval Thursday when the state Senate voted 39-0 to accept amendments passed by the House. The bill outlaws unauthorized dissemination of intimate photos or video, an act commonly referred to as “revenge porn.” In most cases, the dissemination occurs after a relationship has ended [NewsOn6].

Proposal for Inmates: Swap Free Work for Less Jail Time: A bill moving through the Oklahoma Legislature could allow many non-violent misdemeanor offenders to avoid a lengthy stay in county jail. But it comes with a catch: inmates would have to volunteer their work for free. The program could save the counties money, but some inmate advocates cite a risk that it could lead to exploitation of inmates with loose oversight at county levels [Oklahoma Watch].

Board OKs reductions that will limit mental health care access: Thousands of low-income Oklahomans with mental illnesses and substance use disorders will have less access to the care they need, a result of cuts approved Thursday at a special state Medicaid board meeting. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board approved cuts Thursday that limit how much therapy Medicaid members can receive. The board also approved provider rate cuts to behavioral health professionals [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Legislators Seek Change in Sodomy Law After Ruling: After Oklahoma’s highest court dismissed a criminal charge against a 17-year-old boy accused of forcing a heavily intoxicated girl to perform oral sex, outraged lawmakers vowed Thursday they’ll move quickly to fix an apparent loophole in the state’s forcible sodomy law. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals’ unanimous ruling, first reported by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit journalism corporation, said last month that while Oklahoma’s rape law addresses unconscious or intoxicated victims, the forcible sodomy law does not [ABC News].

Oklahoma college presidents warn lawmakers about dire budget: College and university presidents from across Oklahoma urged lawmakers Wednesday to ease cuts to higher education as the state grapples with a $1.3 billion hole in next fiscal year’s budget. Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson and the presidents of some of the state’s 25 colleges and universities held closed-door meetings with House and Senate budget leaders to outline what they called the dire effects of further cuts [Tulsa World].

The down low on taxing downloads: One of the recurring revenue options that Gov. Mary Fallin laid out in her FY 2017 Executive Budget involved “modernizing the sales tax.” This was presented as something of a catch-all category described as “keeping the same low rates and applying them in ways that better reflect today’s commerce and consumer behaviors.” For the Governor, the biggest components of sales tax modernization are broadening the sales tax to include more services, which we discussed here, expanding collections on Internet sales, and eliminating sales tax exemptions [OK Policy]. 

Tulsa baby’s death in dirty shed spurs DHS to discipline employees, review two years of child abuse, neglect deaths: The January death of a 5-month-old Tulsa boy has prompted an internal review of two years of cases by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and pending disciplinary actions against some of its employees. Starting at birth, Arrow Hyden had the attention of medical staff when his mother tested positive for marijuana at the time of delivery [Tulsa World].

Nebraska, Oklahoma mount new attempt to overturn Colorado pot law: Rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson and his Oklahoma counterpart are trying a different strategy to halt legal marijuana in Colorado. This month, the two states asked to be added as plaintiffs in a case being considered by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. That appeal combines two separate cases: one brought by a group of county sheriffs from Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, and the other on behalf of a Pueblo County couple who own land near a recreational marijuana growing facility [Lincoln Journal Star].

Tulsa Area School Superintendents Discuss Ways To Save Money: Tulsa area school districts have a common problem – they’re on the verge of hiring teachers for next year as they downsize and increase class sizes. That was the common theme out of a superintendent’s meeting Thursday morning, where they urged parents to get involved with legislators. Tulsa’s Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum of public school superintendents who represented the leadership of ten districts in and around Tulsa [NewsOn6]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

State’s financial crisis puts OKCPS arts education in danger: Cleveland Elementary School students placed their hands in small youth scissors, followed marked lines and carefully cut colorful construction paper. The vibrant swirls dangled from a clothesline in the school’s hallway. Down the hall, another handful of students wrapped colorful streamers around cardboard rolls. Students shook them and heard the sound of their newly created rain sticks, small percussion instruments. The activities were just a sample of February’s Celebrate the Arts, an event hosted by the Cleveland Elementary Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and a highlight of the year for students and parents alike [Oklahoma Gazette].

Number of Oklahoma college students in remedial classes increases as education budgets plummet: The number of Oklahoma college students enrolled in remedial classes has increased from 2004 to 2014, and many are worried the number could get worse amid the state’s education budget crisis. Remedial classes offer a second chance for OU students who were frustrated with their high school educations’ lack of preparation for college’s demands [OU Daily].

‘Let’s fix this’ group hopes to grease stalled lawmakers: A professional counselor by day, Andy Moore likened the face-to-face encounters he prompted this week between lawmakers and constituents to marriage therapy. “You get the sense when you talk to lawmakers and you talk to regular folks, there’s a big disconnect,” said Moore, 35, of Nichols Hill. “So, I kind of joke that this is marriage counseling between two parties who have the same goal in mind: We all want Oklahoma to be better. We want things to be fixed” [Stillwater News Press].

Oklahoma lawmaker apologizes for linking Native Americans to alcoholism: An Oklahoma state legislator has apologized after saying in the legislature last week that Native Americans are pre-disposed to alcohol abuse, officials said on Thursday. State Representative Todd Russ, a Republican, made the apology in a statement issued by his office this week, his office said on Thursday. During floor debate last week on a measure to amend Oklahoma’s liquor laws, Russ said: “The white man took advantage of the Native American people at the rim of an alcohol bottle” [Reuters].

County jail could stop taking state inmates: Oklahoma County commissioners are considering District Attorney David Prater’s suggestion that the county stop accepting detainees from the state Department of Corrections. Prater told commissioners Wednesday that he was concerned about cramped housing in the jail that sometimes results in three people per cell instead of one or two. The idea came up in response to recent notices of violation from the Oklahoma State Department of Health for deficiencies at the facility at 201 N. Shartel Ave. One of those deficiencies involved inadequate space for each detainee [Journal Record].

Mayor proposes budget, says VisionTulsa to soften cuts: The mayor proposed his budget for the next fiscal year — which includes cuts to mowing and nuisance abatement, as well as a handful of layoffs — to the City Council on Thursday night. But without Vision Tulsa’s approval earlier this month, Mayor Dewey Bartlett said the cuts would have been much worse. “Certainly having Vision, having those funds come in helped a lot from us considering layoffs,” Bartlett said [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City-County Health Dept prepares for mosquito season, Zika virus: The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is preparing for mosquito season. That includes working on a contingency plan in case the metro encounters the Zika virus, although health experts say that chance is very low. “Some of these are bad diseases, West Nile can be fatal,” said Oklahoma City-County Health Department Director of Public Health Protection Phil Maytubby [FOX25].

Quote of the Day

“It just breaks my heart that we’re losing talented teachers in this state and we’re losing them for the wrong reasons because we’re not stepping up and investing in them and the difference that they make.”

– Dr. Lloyd Snow, Superintendent of Sand Springs Public Schools, on cuts to education due to the state budget crisis (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma families able to afford infant care (at a cost of 10% or less of family income)

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Block grants are just budget cuts in disguise — and the targets are antipoverty programs: The most popular panacea offered by conservatives for the supposed burden of federal funding that comes with strings attached is the “block grant.” The idea is that states and localities know best how to serve their citizens — especially their disadvantaged citizens — so the feds should just give them bundles of money for social programs and let them decide how to spend it. Much better than the government trying to manage these programs from far-off Washington, D.C [Los Angeles 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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