In The Know: Reasons for concern about OK County jail death count

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

Reasons for concern about OK County jail death count: Why is it so important for Oklahoma County to come up with broad procedural changes that will result in fewer people winding up in the county jail? Look no further than a story this week about the number of inmate deaths since the beginning of 2016. In that time, 20 inmates — 15 men and five women, ranging in age from 73 to 21 — have died inside the jail. [The Oklahoman] The Justice Reform Task Force recommended changes this year that could help [OK Policy]

Oklahoma has lowest business tax burden, according to report: The tax burden felt by business is lower in Oklahoma than anywhere else in the nation, according to a broad study of tax collections. Analysts at the Anderson Economic Group have determined that, in 2015, just 6.3 percent of business profits went toward Oklahoma’s state and local taxes. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma is losing millions to corporate tax shelters [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Health Care Authority expects budget challenges: The authority, with a budget of about $5.7 billion, has not yet received word of its next appropriation from the state of Oklahoma, which faces a shortfall. The agency is planning for different scenarios and expects final word on funding in late May or early June, when Gov. Mary Fallin signs the budget bill. [NewsOK] OHCA budget cuts would hit small towns especially hard [OK Policy]

As Oklahoma legislative session winds down, leadership must emerge: The 2017 session of the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn May 26, the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. This means lawmakers, who face an $878 million budget hole, have just five weeks to produce and then approve a constitutionally mandated balanced budget. And yet, thus far there has been very little said publicly of late by the governor or legislative leaders regarding how this hole could or should be filled. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman]

Education front and center at OKC March for Science: The signs on display Saturday morning at the Oklahoma Capitol covered many fields of scientific research, and each had its own voice. Some were political, with references to President Donald Trump’s proposed budget that cuts research and organization funding, and some were simply about a love of science. But the people holding them at Oklahoma City’s March for Science — one of more than 600 held around the globe — always seemed to gravitate toward one issue politically-active Oklahomans know all too well: education, and its funding in particular. [Norman Transcript]

Political incentives deter Oklahoma state savings: A new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts suggests Oklahoma’s management of its “rainy day” fund is better than what occurs in most states. That’s welcome news, especially given the financial challenges state government has faced in recent years. Yet despite this fact, efforts to boost Oklahoma’s state savings in future years may continue to face strong political resistance for one simple reason: Increased saving means restraining the growth of government spending. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] Learn more about the Rainy Day Fund and how it works here.

Rally for justice promotes medical marijuana, strategic voting for state: In addition to launching a support rally for the legalization of medical cannabis through support of State Question 788, a measure that will likely appear on the ballot in the 2018, rally organizers also focused on other issues that citizens could use the power to vote on. Hosted by gubernatorial candidate Sen. Connie Johnson, the rally touched on issues like education funding, criminal justice reform, the end of corporate welfare and more. [Red Dirt Report]

State is “hypocritical” says OKC industrial entrepreneur: “We are a very hypocritical state,” says Dirk Spiers, one of the leading industrial entrepreneurs in Oklahoma City. He doesn’t like how the Oklahoma Legislature is talking about valuing education without supporting it with funding. [Oklahoma City Free Press] Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in cuts to education [OK Policy]

Republicans’ Budget Strategy Becoming Clearer: More than two-thirds of the way through the legislative session, House Republicans’ budget strategy is slowly coming into focus. Legislative leaders rolled out some of their first revenue-raising proposals this week with the introduction of five bills, which target delinquent taxpayers, remove the sales tax exemption for Thunder tickets and cap a rebate used to lure filmmakers to Oklahoma. The proposals are expected to generate about $28 million annually – a fraction of the $878 million budget shortfall that lawmakers face for the upcoming fiscal year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Some valid concerns about suspending third-graders: While disruptive and violent students are a real problem, even in third grade, it’s not clear suspension is the best way to handle those students. It’s reasonable to ask if other discipline programs might better protect teachers and preserve classroom order without putting already at-risk children on the streets. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman] SB 81 would break Oklahoma’s obligation to educate all kids [OK Policy]

Political winds are variable when it comes to Oklahoma power laws: Wind power is a growing business. Lawmakers have noticed. While Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposed wind power tax has not exactly taken flight, the Oklahoma Legislature is moving forward on other fronts. Fallin recently signed a measure bringing an early end to Oklahoma’s “zero-emissions” tax credit for wind power — a credit that resulted in the state paying out more than $50 million in refunds in 2015. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy]

April showers bring … 2018 political candidates: April showers bring May flowers. And, apparently, political campaigns. Several candidates either formally declared in the past few days or are expected to do so soon. [Tulsa World]

City reports sales tax numbers down again: The City of Stillwater made an announcement that is not much of a surprise, but is noteworthy nonetheless. In order to continue its efforts to be transparent, the city announced that sales tax collections are down from the same month a year before for the fifth straight month. [Stillwater News Press] Should Oklahoma broaden the sales tax to more services? [OK Policy]

Teachers wanted: ‘You get paid less, but you only work four days a week’: The attraction of the four-day week for some teachers is that it gives them extra time to work a second or third job to make ends meet. Others take advantage of the shortened week to plan and collaborate with other teachers. So, they are working without pay. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

Oklahoma ponders alert system for mentally ill missing: Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a new kind of alert that would help authorities locate distressed individuals. Senate Bill 823 includes the term in Oklahoma’s Silver Alert law, which is used to locate seniors who are believed to have dementia or cognitive impairment. The bill would include people whose mental health status prohibits them from reasonable and prudent judgment. [The Oklahoman]

Clearing the air on the Oklahoma cigarette tax: Over the past few years, Oklahoma has debated a tax on cigarettes and each year, it fails at the Legislature. Partisan bickering and automatic aversion to the word “tax” keep our state from receiving critical funds when they are needed the most. The business community is very frustrated. Oklahoma deserves better and government must be funded adequately to provide core services like health care. [Fred Morgan/The Oklahoman] The progressive case for increasing the cigarette tax [OK Policy]

Oklahoma unemployment rate falls in March: The Oklahoma unemployment rate went down two-tenths of a percent in March to 4.3 percent. That’s down from a revised 4.5 percent in February, according to a news release from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Friday. [Tulsa World]

Expansion of State’s Earthquake Monitoring System Coming: As Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Dr. Jeremy Boak told OK Energy Today recently, he’s working on perhaps getting someone beside the legislature to help finance the purchase of additional equipment to monitor Oklahoma’s earthquakes. [OK Energy Today]

Quote of the Day

“If you’re pinching pennies, this bill helps save money by kicking young kids out of class, reducing their services, and getting the state off-the-hook for paying to educate and counsel them. If, however, you are trying to educate a generation of children to become productive adults, it undermines that goal in almost every way. In fact, in the long term, it will probably also cost the state more money, fueling the ‘school to prison pipeline,’ as children who can’t make it in school turn to antisocial behavior and crime.”

– Joe Dorman speaking about SB 81, a bill that would allow out-of-school suspension for students as young as third grade (Source)

Number of the Day


Average annual rate of fatalities for Oklahoma law enforcement officers per 50,000 officers, 2008-2012, sixth highest in the nation

Source: Governing

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What We Get Wrong When We Talk About Food Stamps And Immigrants: According to the strict requirements for the program laid out in detail by the USDA, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive SNAP benefits. Even immigrants living in the United States as lawful permanent residents (aka green card holders) must live in the country for five years before they qualify for the program, though some states — like California and Minnesota — run their own state-funded food assistance programs that have slightly different eligibility requirements. [Huffington Post]


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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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