In The Know: Panel Recommends Keeping Moratorium on Oklahoma Executions

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Panel Recommends Keeping Moratorium on Oklahoma Executions: A moratorium on executions in Oklahoma should be extended until major changes are made to the state’s capital punishment system so that an innocent person isn’t put to death, a state commission recommended on Tuesday. The 11 members of the bipartisan Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission agreed unanimously on more than 40 recommendations on topics like forensics, law enforcement techniques, prosecution and defense procedures, death penalty eligibility and the execution process itself. “Ultimately we found that there are many serious systemic flaws in Oklahoma’s death penalty process that obviously can and have led to innocent people being convicted and put on death row,” said former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry [Associated Press].

Oklahoma Senate approves bill to create new public school accountability system: Joy Hofmeister praised the Oklahoma State Senate for its approval of a new accountability system for public schools. Authored by Rep. Scott Martin and Sen. Gary Stanislawski, House Bill 1693 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 31-13. This comes a month after the bill was passed in the House with strong bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the Governor’s office for her signature. According to Hofmeister, HB 1693 repeals the current – and heavily criticized – school report card system with one that provides usable information for educators and gives parents and communities an accurate view of the important work of schools [Claremore Daily Progress].

Oklahoma House votes to expand use of drug courts: A bill designed to expand the use of drug courts for individuals convicted of misdemeanor drug crimes in rural areas was approved Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Justin Humphrey, House author of Senate Bill 377, said changes are needed to make sure individuals likely to benefit from participation in drug courts will still have that sentencing option open to them following the passage of State Question 780. The state question, which voters approved in November, made simple drug possession and certain other low-level crimes misdemeanors rather than felonies [NewsOK].

New report brings lessons of Oklahoma history to modern budget challenges: Today, OK Policy released a new report, titled “Lessons of Our History: Oklahoma’s past accomplishments teach us how to build a better budget and a better future.” The report looks back at some of Oklahoma’s important but perhaps lesser known successes arising from our public investments — how we put an end to dust bowls, brought health care to our children, and made big improvements to public schools. The report then looks at how we’re building on those successes in some ways and falling behind in others. Finally, it shares solutions for reinvigorating public revenues and the important goals that this could achieve [OK Policy]. The full report is available here.

Facts important in debate over Oklahoma gross production tax: I recently received an unsolicited tweet from the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association urging me to act to “Prevent another tax hike on Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry!” The tweet references efforts to raise the gross production tax from 2 percent to 7 percent. It’s imperative that Oklahoma policymakers have a reasoned discussion concerning the appropriate level of taxation for this vitally important sector of our economy. Such a discussion must include a factual assessment of recent tax changes and the current level of taxation [Jerry Johnson / NewsOK]. Oklahoma is collecting less than half the standard 7 percent rate on oil and gas production, costing the state over $450 million this year [OK Policy].

Doing what’s right by Oklahoma’s children: As the Legislature considers an expansive array of policies related to criminal justice and public safety, one thing is clear: Our laws should serve, protect and prioritize the state’s most vulnerable citizens, our children. But there is a group of Oklahoma’s youngest residents whose suffering is too often ignored: the children of incarcerated parents [Todd Pauley / NewsOK]. 

Oklahoma aerospace credits poised to fly for another 8 years: A bill extending three specific tax initiatives designed to keep Oklahoma’s aerospace economy flying is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk. If signed into law, Senate Bill 120 will extend the credits for another eight years, from Jan. 1, 2018, through Jan. 1, 2026. While the commission found the credits had cost the state about $18.4 million in tax revenues during that time, it also reported the employment and economic activities the credits spurred generated an additional tax revenue of about $46.3 million during the same time [NewsOK].

Defeated alcohol tax bill would have blocked millions to Oklahoma counties: House lawmakers have rejected a bill that would have cut off new tax revenue to counties in the wake of Oklahoma’s alcohol modernization effort. Senate Bill 58 would have capped the counties’ share of the alcoholic beverage tax at $13 million. Current law diverts a percentage to county governments instead of a fixed amount. The bill failed by a vote of 48 to 38, but the author, state Rep. Glen Mulready, said he will ask for another vote soon [NewsOK].

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. Current law allows the state to file felony charges against someone who brandishes a firearm at someone else, even in self-defense, state Rep. Bobby Cleveland said [NewsOK].

Bill Giving Oklahoma Legislature Sole Authority over Gun Regulations Stalls: A bill preventing gun regulations in Oklahoma from anyone but state lawmakers failed to advance from the Senate Tuesday. House Bill 2322 was another of several recent preemption bills considered by the legislature. Others have dealt with oil and gas regulations, and protection from discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons. Sen. Kay Floyd said the measure goes too far because it would affect current state law [Public Radio Tulsa].

Bill banning minors from tanning beds goes to governor: A bill banning minors from commercial tanning facilities passed the House on Tuesday and advances to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk. Senate Bill 765 by Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, passed with 57 votes for and 35 against. The Senate approved the bill last month. “It shall be unlawful for any person under 18 years of age to use any tanning device of any tanning facility in this state,” according to the measure [Tulsa World].

Richardson announces run for Oklahoma governor, seeks Republican ticket: Gary Richardson announced his candidacy for Oklahoma governor on Monday, launching a campaign critical of recent efforts to raise state taxes and promising to cut back on wasteful spending. Richardson, who ran for governor in 2002 as an independent, is seeking the Republican ticket this time around. “Folks, we are in trouble in Oklahoma,” Richardson said. “We will do an audit of every state agency, we will find out how the money is being spent and we will find out where the money is going.” [NewsOK]

Cleanup continues at site of 19,000-gallon Oklahoma oil spill: A Houston-based pipeline company is cleaning up a nearly 19,000 gallon oil spill in northwest Oklahoma that threatened a local water supply. Crews from Plains All American Pipeline were at the site Tuesday in Loyal, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City. The leak was reported Friday, but it’s unclear when it started. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring the cleanup [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“Ultimately we found that there are many serious systemic flaws in Oklahoma’s death penalty process that obviously can and have led to innocent people being convicted and put on death row. If we’re going to have the death penalty, it must be done right to ensure that no innocent person is executed.”

-Former Gov. Brad Henry, announcing the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission’s recommendation to maintain a moratorium on the death penalty and implement more than 40 changes to its process (Source)

Number of the Day


Motor vehicle thefts in Oklahoma in 2015

Source: OSBI

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

People don’t like paying taxes. That’s because they don’t understand them: Students who take the week-long course study issues of fairness and technical matters such as bases and rate structures. They examine key concepts such as the difference between marginal rates (the percentage of tax paid on the last dollar of income) and effective rates (the average percentage of tax paid). They learn that narrower tax bases, such as sales tax, need higher rates than broader bases, such as income taxes, to raise equivalent amounts of revenue. They discover that changing the method of taxation increases how much some taxpayers owe and decreases that amount for others. If more people knew what these students know, we’d have a far more reasonable tax debate and better tax laws [Washington Post].

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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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