In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down restrictive abortion law

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessaraily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down restrictive abortion law: Oklahoma’s highest court on Tuesday struck down a law imposing restrictions on abortion providers, including a requirement that they take samples of fetal tissue from patients younger than 14 and preserve them for state investigators. The law also set new criminal penalties for providers who violate abortion-related statutes as well as individuals who help a minor evade the requirement to obtain parental consent. In addition, the bill created a new, stricter inspection system for abortion clinics [Reuters].

Affected by budget cuts and testing, dozens of Oklahoma teachers are running for office: In some parts of the country, it’s not just the presidential race on voters’ minds. State elections are taking center stage in some places, too, like Oklahoma, where education is at the forefront of the ballot. Teachers are upset over spending cuts and what they see as a political assault on public education. They have decided it’s time to take matters into their own hands. A record number of teachers are running for seats in the state legislature. All of this comes as Oklahoma faces tough budget decisions [PBS NewsHour].

Oklahoma City Public Schools cancels instruction during fall, winter breaks: Oklahoma City Public Schools will cancel three days worth of classroom instruction during fall break, choosing instead to focus on teacher training, officials said Monday. Superintendent Aurora Lora, in a letter to families, cited budget concerns as the reason for canceling intersession classes scheduled Oct. 10-12. The district also is canceling classroom instruction scheduled Dec. 14-16 while students are on winter break [NewsOK].

Educators, lawmakers mull emergency teachers: With the state seemingly headed for a record number of emergency certified teachers, lawmakers are taking a closer look at the system, in an attempt to ensure a better education for Oklahoma students. “When we don’t have the certified teachers in the classroom and we don’t have that kind of experience, then catching the brunt of that are our students,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa), who called for an interim study into the effects of emergency and alternative teacher certifications. As the state faces a shortage of teachers, the Oklahoma State Department of Education has been busy approving 926 emergency certifications for classroom teachers who don’t have teaching degrees [KFOR].

At Hearing, Views Vary on Rising Tide of Court Fines and Fees: In the words of District Judge Thad Balkman, Monday was a “light night” at the Cleveland County Detention Center. Only nine people spent the night in jail on charges of failure to pay their court-mandated fees or fines. “The sad part about it is that these individuals are taking up beds in our jails and it’s at cost of $42 per day to our county,” he said Tuesday. “I’m sorry to say, but in Cleveland County we are operating a debtor’s prison.” Balkman’s statements were made during a legislative interim-study hearing at the State Capitol, held to discuss Oklahoma’s court fees and fines and how they affect the state and those who must pay them [Oklahoma Watch]. Instead of progress on fines and fees this year, last-minute legislation hiked them even further [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City Council mulls legislative agenda: Oklahoma City’s legislative proposals for 2017 will include granting municipal court judges authority to require indigent defendants to perform community service. Advocates of the idea say giving judges an additional sentencing option for defendants in the city’s criminal courts could relieve some financial pressure on the poor. Judges who find a defendant to be indigent now have limited recourse to collect fines [NewsOK].

Oklahoma becomes a leader at managing volatile revenue: Volatile revenue sources can create problems for states that rely on them for recurring budget expenditures. During good times, these unstable revenue streams can produce large surpluses that allow policymakers to expand programs or cut taxes. However, dramatic revenue declines often follow those unexpected booms, causing large budget holes and leaving lawmakers scrambling to balance the books. Few states know this unfortunate pattern better than Oklahoma [Robert Zahradnik, Steve Bailey, and Jon Moody, The Pew Charitable Trusts / OK Policy].

Policy wonk Tamara Draut: ‘Lift up the dignity of work’: Tamara Draut is vice president of policy and research for Demos, a policy organization focused largely around issues of equality and the economy. The group is based in New York City but also has offices in Boston and Washington, D.C. Draut is the author of Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform American. She will be in Oklahoma on Wednesday and Thursday of this week as a result of an accompanying book tour [NonDoc]. Learn more about Draut’s free public events, cosponsored by OK Policy, on October 5 in Tulsa and October 6 in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma Employers Get Ready For New Overtime Rules Despite Legislative, Court Challenges: Employers have about two months until new federal overtime rules go into effect unless Congress or courts put a halt to them, but experts are telling Oklahoma companies to plan for the rules, anyway. Attorney General Scott Pruitt has joined several other states’ attorneys general in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Sen. James Lankford has introduced a bill to delay the December 1 deadline [KGOU].

In Red State Oklahoma, Ballot Questions Cause Controversy: From its state legislature and governor to its congressional delegation, Oklahoma is a solidly Republican state. So while polls and political analysts predict a Trump victory, several key ballot questions are causing a stir. One of them, called “Right to Farm,” limits government restrictions on farming. Another focuses on alcohol sales. Here & Now’s Robin Young checks in with StateImpact Oklahoma reporter Logan Layden for the latest in Oklahoma politics [Here & Now]. Read our fact sheet on SQ 777.

Oklahoma Incarcerates More Women Than Any State. What It’s Doing to Stop Moms From Going to Prison: During two previous prison terms, Samantha Houston-Brown had experienced milestones, including the time 11 years ago when she gave birth to her youngest child while handcuffed to a hospital bed. After she was again charged for drug-related offenses last year, the latest missteps in a lifetime of gambling away her existence, Houston-Brown had finally run out of chances and was facing the near-certain prospect of meeting her life’s end behind bars [Daily Signal]. Read our fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781.

Twice-fired Owasso cop loses appeal over video showing him using excessive force during arrest: A twice-fired Owasso police officer who alleged officials violated his rights when they released a video of him using excessive force during an arrest lost an appeal Monday in a civil case against the city of Owasso. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit affirmed an October 2015 order by U.S. District Court in Tulsa that ruled in favor of the city of Owasso. That court found that former Lt. Michael Denton, 50, could not prove that city officials’ choice to release video of him during a June 30, 2011, arrest was in retaliation either for his arguments during his arbitration process or for an email he sent July 7, 2011, to other members of the local police union [Tulsa World].

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: The Department of Human Services is recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Spokesperson Mark Beutler says, according to the Violence Policy Center, 97% of women killed in the Sooner State knew the attacker. “Here in Oklahoma, we rank 4th in the nation in the number of women killed by men, so this is a very serious problem, a very serious issue, and this is just our way of recognizing that this is something that really needs to be addressed.” Beutler says this is an issue especially important for young people as 30% of child welfare cases at DHS is related to domestic violence [KOSU].

Quote of the Day

“At the end of the day, what we’ve found, is they don’t stay very long. So, there’s a big investment over a short period of time to help them be a teacher, and most of them leave the profession or leave that district.”

-Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, arguing that emergency teacher certifications end up costing districts because they pay for intensive training (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma road mileage that is gravel

Source: Oklahoma Department of Transportation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Actually, Income in Rural America Is Growing, Too: On Tuesday, when the Census Bureau released one of the country’s most important reports on income and poverty, dozens of facts were revealed. We found out that real middle-class incomes in America grew a phenomenal 5.2 percent, and that the poverty rate fell by the largest percentage in nearly 50 years. That got the headlines. But after the initial buzz, a few reporters across the country, me included, were intrigued by two lines in the first table: While incomes in metropolitan areas grew 6 percent, those in nonmetro areas fell 2 percent [New York Times].

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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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