In The Know: Oklahoma’s Death Penalty State Question Draws Bipartisan Opposition

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

Reminder: The Fall Policy Boot Camps are next week! Join us at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14, and Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond on Saturday, October 15 to learn more about the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state! To learn more and purchase tickets, click here. Space is limited and registration closes October 11. 

Oklahoma’s Death Penalty State Question Draws Bipartisan Opposition: Oklahoma’s execution practices were under the national spotlight when the 2015 legislative session began. A few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging the state’s three-drug lethal injection cocktail, Oklahoma state Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 31. Sykes did not respond to KGOU’s requests for an interview. But in March 2015, Sykes told lawmakers his measure was designed to enshrine the death penalty into the state constitution [KGOU]. Our fact sheet on State Question 776 is available here. The rest of our fact sheets on this year’s State Questions can be found here.

Prosperity Policy: Just say yes: In 2012, the last presidential election year, Oklahoma voters were asked to decide six state questions on such subjects as banning affirmative action, removing the governor from the parole process, abolishing the Department of Human Services and allowing the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to issue bonds. All six measures passed with comfortable majorities. One might imagine that Oklahoma voters would be inclined to vote no on ballot measures that are frequently obscure, confusing or controversial. In reality, the 2012 results were typical of the outcomes over the past quarter-century [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Superintendent of Education to host town hall events across Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Education is hosting town hall events across the state. Superintendent Joy Hofmeister will host seven town hall events beginning Oct. 18. The one hour events will kick off in Duncan and roll to Ada, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Enid, Yukon and Muskogee. “These town halls are an exciting opportunity to hear from education’s many stakeholders – including parents, educators and community members – as we develop a multifaceted state plan to improve results for kids,” Hofmeister said [FOX25].

Oklahoma could tweak school grading system: Students get report cards evaluating how well they’re doing in class. For the past several years, Oklahoma schools have received similar grades. Now, lawmakers are taking a new look at the letter grades given to schools. Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, called it a “wonderful metric” but said, “I’m not sure it’s where we want it yet.” The Legislature has revised the criteria several times, but Denney noted that education officials are “very concerned” about the program’s direction. She did not elaborate, and Department of Education officials did not weigh in at the hearing [Tahlequah Daily Press]. The way Oklahoma calculates A-F school grades actually hides achievement gains among the lowest performing students while providing large bonuses to schools with students that start ahead [OK Policy].

OKCPS superintendent, lawmaker, teachers to participate in ‘walk-in’ at metro school: The superintendent of Oklahoma’s biggest school district, a state lawmaker and hundreds of teachers, parents and students will hold a “walk-in” Thursday in Oklahoma City. Members of the walk-in will join together to call for increases in school funding and high quality public education in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora, Representative Jason Dunnington, OKC-American Federation of Teachers President Benjamin Bax will be joined by teachers and students during the 7 a.m. walk-in at U.S. Grant High School [FOX25]. Oklahoma leads the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Broken Arrow parents, students learn about options for accommodating growth at Oklahoma’s largest high school: Broken Arrow Public Schools officials working to develop a long-term plan to accommodate a large and growing student population at the district’s high school presented three models under consideration to parents, students and others at a forum Wednesday evening. About 60 people attended the forum at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center, which followed a forum on Tuesday that about 100 people attended at Centennial Middle School [Tulsa World].

Rural health care realities: Donald versus Hillary is an entertaining presidential race, but I’m more concerned with elections for state offices. When we go to the polls Nov. 8, we can either vote to continue on the downward path that Oklahoma is on or we can vote to improve state health care. Instead of just voting for candidates from one political party, vote for the candidates who are best for Oklahoma, regardless of party. We’ve seen a decline in state revenue over the last several years, and we’ve seen legislators unprepared to deal with the resulting economic crisis. State health care is also in a crisis, and those same legislators also seem unprepared to deal with it [Landon Hise / Journal Record]. Rejecting federal funds to expand health care is devastating rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Vinita hospital board ready to sell to Saint Francis Health System: Saint Francis Health System appears poised to purchase Craig General Hospital in Vinita and its affiliated clinics. The Craig General Hospital Board approved a purchase agreement with Saint Francis last month. “We as a board are committed to maintaining access to health care for our community,” said Eddy Allensworth, a hospital trustee. “We believe the success of the hospital and the health of the community go hand in hand. A sale to Saint Francis would be a positive step for maintaining access to health care in our area.” [Tulsa World]

Creek Nation lays off 123 health employees, 55 others transferred: Facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health closed out fiscal year 2016 by cutting its workforce by 15 percent. A Creek Nation spokesman confirmed that 123 health-care employees were laid off Friday, with 55 more transferred to other positions within the tribe as part of a reorganization to balance the department’s budget [Tulsa World].

Some 33,000 Oklahomans may be missing out on Obamacare tax credits: Some 33,000 Oklahomans who buy individual health insurance are missing out on tax credits they would get if they bought their policies on, according to new analysis released Tuesday by the federal government. Among American consumers who bought individual policies on health, as well as offline, more than 70 percent would qualify for tax credits, said Sylvia M. Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Moreover, qualifiers usually can buy policies with monthly premiums of less than $75, Burwell said [NewsOK].

NSU Receives $1.7 million Grant To Support Native American Students: Northeastern State University recently received a $1.7 million grant that will fund the university’s Native American Support Center. The Title III grant award will be distributed over the next five years. The Native American Support Center seeks to increase the retention and graduation rates of Native American students through early alert and intervention strategies and provide additional academic advising, personal and academic coaching, tutoring, and mentoring, NSU officials said in a news release [NewsOn6].

September flooding leaves Otoe-Missouria water cloudy: Tribal authorities are working to clear up the water for about 500 citizens and nearby customers in northern Oklahoma. The Otoe-Missouria Tribe’s drinking water plant employees are dealing with the aftermath of mid-September floods in Kansas, which affected their water quality. Better communication among government agencies could help the tribe better prepare for a similar incident, said public information officer Heather Payne [Journal Record].

Kansas’ big budget problems exposed in 24 hours of doom and gloom news: The gloom surrounding Kansas’ ongoing budget woes intensified in a 24-hour period stretching from Monday to Tuesday. These events make it crystal clear that Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature will have to make bold, decisive moves that require adding more revenue sources to the budget in 2017. But even more cuts to state programs could be required, too, possibly long before the governor’s planned annual budget plan emerges next January [Kansas City Star].

Quote of the Day

“The death penalty is obviously kind of litigious program as is and this is going to give more options for I’m sure appeals and lawsuits.”

– Marc Hyden of the group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, suggesting that a State Question that would enshrine the death penalty in the state Constitution could lead to a taxpayer-funded court battle (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma public school students subjected to seclusion 2011-2012, 275 of whom were male.

Source: Civil Rights Data Collection

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Black-white wage gaps expand with rising wage inequality: Black-white wage gaps are larger today than they were in 1979, but the increase has not occurred along a straight line. During the early 1980s, rising unemployment, declining unionization, and policies such as the failure to raise the minimum wage and lax enforcement of anti-discrimination laws contributed to the growing black-white wage gap. During the late 1990s, the gap shrank due in part to tighter labor markets, which made discrimination more costly, and increases in the minimum wage. Since 2000 the gap has grown again [Economic Policy Institute].

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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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