In The Know: Records Show DPS Sought Access To Bank Account, Routing Numbers For Card Reader Program

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

Records Show DPS Sought Access To Bank Account, Routing Numbers For Card Reader Program: Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety sought access to peoples’ bank account and bank routing numbers as they negotiated a contract for a controversial debit card reader program, records obtained by the ACLU of Oklahoma show. In addition, other documents show that ERAD touted its relationship with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office and listed a controversial Illinois law enforcement official who was heavily involved in the Desert Snow/Black Asphalt firms as a reference for the program [ACLU Oklahoma]. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol on Tuesday resumed use of devices that read information on cards with magnetic strips [Tulsa World]. Advocates for civil asset forfeiture reform will ask Gov. Fallin to suspend use of the card readers until lawmakers can review them [NewsOK].

Corporate tax is big loser for Oklahoma in May: Oklahoma income tax refunds to wind power and other corporations exceeded what those businesses paid in income taxes last month, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Tuesday. “The month of May saw multiple tax streams sucked dry by low oil prices and another blown away by wind incentives,” state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said. “The state paid more to wind companies in May than the general fund netted from all other corporate income taxpayers combined. How messed up is that?” [NewsOK] The state gives income tax breaks to companies that pay no tax [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma public schools being shorted $16.3 million more in final month of fiscal year: The Oklahoma State Department of Education on Tuesday announced one last revenue shortfall in a devastating year for common education funding. The Common Education Technology Revolving Fund, one of six revenue sources used to fund the state aid funding formula in Oklahoma, came up $16.3 million short. That means local schools will see their June payments from the state — their final of the fiscal year — shorted once more [Tulsa World].

Don’t undo Oklahoma right-on-crime efforts: For years, Oklahoma has maintained some of the harshest criminal sentencing laws in the nation. We’ve done this despite evidence that for many of the people we are locking up, incarceration is far more costly and less effective at ensuring public safety than alternative sanctions. This year, Gov. Mary Fallin named criminal justice reform as one of her top priorities. In April, she signed bills that eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for most simple drug possession crimes, allow prosecutors to choose to charge more misdemeanors rather than felonies, increase the dollar threshold at which property crimes become a felony, and expand eligibility for drug court and community sentencing [Ryan Gentzler / NewsOK].

Steps forward and back in criminal justice legislation this year: The Oklahoma Legislature took some important steps on criminal justice reform in the 2016 session. This progress is the result of a collaborative effort by dozens of stakeholders to reduce penalties on low-level crimes and make alternative sentencing more accessible. Unfortunately, lawmakers’ longer track record of ratcheting up sentencing and expanding the criminal code was also on display this session. These are some of the positive reforms that have been signed into law [OK Policy].

Prison isn’t for everyone: Women in Oklahoma are more likely to be in jail or prison than in any other state. When you include both men and women, Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is the second highest among the states. And the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. There are many reasons — some good and some bad — for these statistics. On the good side, the justice system in the United States is more likely to catch and punish criminals than in many other parts of the world [Trent England / Enid News].

Fallin vetoes dumb on crime bill: On Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed House Bill 3159, which threatened to make the most retributive elements of Oklahoma criminal law even worse at an unknown but potentially enormous cost to the state. The bill dealt with granting “good time” credit to inmates who are serving sentences for the most serious violent criminal offenses. State law already requires that those criminal serve at least 85 percent of their sentences before they can be eligible for parole consideration [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform opens Tulsa campaign office: The group Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform opened its Tulsa campaign headquarters Tuesday to push for approval of state questions that voters will see on the November ballot. Former House Speaker Kris Steele, chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, said Tulsa is a special focus of the campaign [Tulsa World].

OKC school district: Acting superintendent worked without certification: Aurora Lora, the acting superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, has worked for nearly two years without certification required by the state, district officials acknowledged Tuesday. “Per Oklahoma state statute, any school district staff member who carries the title of superintendent or associate superintendent must obtain an Oklahoma Superintendent certification,” district spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon [NewsOK].

OKC, Tulsa combine for grant to make medical data more accessible: The city/county health departments of Tulsa and Oklahoma City have partnered with their municipal governments to apply for a $4.5 million grant that would help make medical data more easily accessible for community initiatives. The long-term economic implications of the grant far outweigh its dollar value, said Alicia Meadows, director of planning and development for the Oklahoma City-area Health Department [Journal Record].

Mystery solved: Douglas winner of $250K OK state job: The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust announced Tuesday Patrice Douglas has accepted a newly created $250,000-a-year job heading up the state agency. Douglas is a former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, a former Edmond mayor and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. House. The announcement came a week after the trust stirred public concern with word that it was starting a lucrative new position and had offered it to an undisclosed person at a time when most state agencies are facing severe budget cutbacks [NewsOK].

2016 State Questions and Elections: Oklahoma’s statewide primary elections are Tuesday, June 28th for Oklahoma voters to decide on primary races for members of Congress, state legislators, district and state judges. On election day, polls will be open 7am – 7pm. Early voting will be held Thursday, June 23rd and Friday, June 24th from 8am – 6pm, and Saturday, June 25th from 9am – 2pm [OK Policy].

Grocers: Oklahoma alcohol law petition provides unfair advantage to liquor stores: Oklahoma grocery store groups who are challenging a petition to overhaul the state’s alcohol laws say the proposal would provide an unconstitutional advantage to liquor stores. An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee on Tuesday heard arguments from the Oklahoma Grocers Association and the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma on a challenge to a proposed ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to allow grocery stores to sell strong beer and wine [Associated Press].

Fallin among governors meeting with Trump: Gov. Mary Fallin is among seven Republican governors meeting with Donald Trump in New York on Tuesday. Fallin’s name has been mentioned in speculation about the vice presidential selection process, but Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has not contacted her to talk about being his running mate, said Michael McNutt, a spokesman for the governor [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“The state paid more to wind companies in May than the general fund netted from all other corporate income taxpayers combined. How messed up is that?”

-Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger (Source)

Number of the Day

$5 million

Amount Oklahoma borrowed from personal income tax collections in May 2016 to pay corporate income tax refunds that exceeded what was collected in corporate income taxes.

Source: Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Rental Assistance to Families with Children at Lowest Point in Decade: The number of families with children receiving federal rent subsidies has fallen by over 250,000 (13 percent) since 2004 and is at its lowest point in more than a decade, despite rising need. To enable low-income children to have a better chance to thrive, policymakers should substantially expand the availability of rental assistance. Demand for rental housing has risen sharply in the last decade due to economic and demographic factors, and many families with children are being squeezed financially as rents rise faster than incomes [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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