In The Know: state Department of Corrections needs additional $84 million

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

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The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says it needs $84 million in additional funds next year, with much of the new funds designated to deal with its record-high prison population. The Board of Corrections approved the budget on Thursday. On the OK Policy Blog, the executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project argued that exonerating innocent prisoners should be a shared priority. A federal judge has sealed documents related a lawsuit brought against Gov. Fallin and the state’s execution team by the family of an inmate who died during a botched execution. The sealed documents including the name of a physician involved in the execution, and state attorneys argue that revealing the name was a violation of state law.

In his Tulsa World column, Wayne Greene reviews a new report and points out that Oklahoma gets more money from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes. Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton argued in the Journal Record that legislators who call themselves pro-life should support such measures as banning texting while driving and disallowing carrying guns on college campuses. A new report from the CDC finds that heart disease death rates in Oklahoma and other Southern states are dropping less quickly than elsewhere in the US.

The editorial board of the Tulsa World writes that the state should invest the money and manpower in implementing the Pinnacle Plan, if only because failure to do so could return the issue to federal court, likely prompting a far more expensive outcome. The state Department of Education’s budget request for next year includes a $2,500 salary increase for teachers. The pay raise is expected to cost $213.4 million. Legislative studies on Thursday looked at revisions to the Reading Sufficiency Act. The consulting firm that runs the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative says that it expects “greater interface” with gay and lesbian couples now that same-gender marriage is legal in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced the first laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Oklahoma for the 2014-2015 flu season. The Osage Nation is challenging development of a windfarm on Osage land. State economic officials say that Oklahoma’s dwindling water supply is impacting the decision of businesses to move to the state. Coal mining in eastern Oklahoma has stalled because demand from steel producers in China has dropped. The Number of the Day is the number of motor Vehicle thefts reported in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox argues that Americans need a constitutional right to vote.

In The News

Oklahoma Corrections Department asks for $84 million in additional funds

The state Board of Corrections on Thursday approved a budget request asking the state Legislature for nearly $85 million in additional appropriations to deal with a record-high prison population. The state Corrections Department is requesting a $555 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, with $26 million of the additional funds to go toward dealing with the state’s ever-growing offender population, which recently surpassed 28,000 for the first time.

Read more from NewsOK.

Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority

It is no longer contestable: innocent people sometimes get convicted of serious crimes. How often? No one knows. But this we do know: since 1989, more than 1,400 people have been released from prisons in America based on evidence of innocence. Twenty-eight of these exonerations occurred in Oklahoma, including 7 people who had been sentenced to death. A peer-reviewed, statistically-validated study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that at least 4.1 percent of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Federal judge seals documents in controversial Oklahoma execution lawsuit

 A federal judge has sealed documents related to a lawsuit brought against Gov. Mary Fallin and members of the state’s execution team following the controversial execution of an inmate in April. The lawsuit contains the name of a physician who may have been involved in the lethal injection, and state attorneys claimed revealing the name is a violation of state law. Family members of the inmate, Clayton Derrell Lockett, filed a lawsuit against the state earlier this month.

Read more from NewsOK.

What does Oklahoma get from the federal government? At least a net $12.5 billion for starters

Let’s cut to the chase here. I’ll lay out the details in a bit, but the bottom line is this: Oklahoma is getting more money from the federal government than it pays in federal taxes. A lot more. About $12.5 billion more per year. That’s the figure I get from a great new report, State Smart, a National Priorities Project product that looks at how much federal money goes into each state and how much tax money comes back.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Read the report here.

Go pro-life for every stage of life

The vast majority of Oklahoma lawmakers proudly describe themselves as pro-life, though it must be noted they almost always restrict the term’s use to debate over reproductive rights. They are simply unable – or unwilling – to imagine pro-life as a life-sustaining or life-enhancing principle, applicable to, say, food insecurity, health care or equal educational opportunity. This myopia was on full display recently when interim studies examined what I would argue are two pro-life issues: banning texting while driving and allowing guns on college campuses.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Heart disease isn’t decreasing as quickly in Oklahoma, compared to rest of nation

Although rates of heart disease deaths have declined overall in the U.S. since the 1950s, the same cannot be said for multiple regions of Oklahoma, a study published Thursday shows. Counties in the state’s eastern and southern regions are not seeing decreases of heart disease deaths like counties in other states, according to a study in Preventing Chronic Disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s peer-reviewed journal.

Read more from NewsOK.

Read the report here.

State must sustain effort on Pinnacle Plan

Oklahoma’s foster care system isn’t going to fix itself, and it isn’t going to be fixed on the cheap. The state has not made a “good faith effort” at attracting new foster homes, bringing down worker caseloads, reducing shelter use for children through age 6, staffing a hotline and finding permanent homes for foster children, according to a report from an independent oversight panel last week.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Education Department budget request includes $2,500 salary bump for teachers

The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s budget request for the 2016 fiscal year includes additional funds to cover $2,500 across-the-board salary increases for teachers in exchange for five additional instructional days. State education officials told the state board of education that the increases on the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers would also represent a “first step” in addressing the statewide teacher shortage.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Superintendent candidates both against A-F system at debate

Both state superintendent candidates criticized the A-F system of evaluating schools during a debate Thursday night. Republican Joy Hofmeister likened the system to a “carnival fun house mirror,” saying it distorted reality. Democrat John Cox said it was an unfair “finger-pointing system.” The two candidates addressed questions about the system, as well as the repealed Common Core standards and failing schools during the debate, which was held at Metropolitan Baptist Church and hosted by KTUL, Channel 8. About 70 people attended.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Senate Education Committee Explores Revisions To Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act

Members of the Senate Education Committee looked into various aspects of the Reading Sufficiency Act including its impact on English language learners and students on an individualized education plan Wednesday during a combination of legislative studies. “The earlier in a student’s life we can identify if they are starting to fall behind, that’s an advantage to that child,” said Chairman John Ford, R-Bartlesville. “One of the main reasons for the Reading Sufficiency Act is to avoid social promotion.”

Read more from KGOU.

Marriage Initiative Expects to Serve More Gay Couples

The company that runs the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative said it anticipates “a greater interface” with the gay and lesbian community after a federal court ruling overturned Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages. However, at least one of the initiative’s programs will remain off limits to same-sex couples.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Health Department: First cases of flu confirmed in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced the first laboratory-confirmed cases of flu in Oklahoma. One diagnosed person is an Oklahoma County resident who is under the age of 5. The child was not hospitalized for influenza. The other case is a Tulsa County resident who is also under the age of 5 and was hospitalized for influenza. According to the OSHD, the percentage of influenza-like illness among outpatients remains low.

Read more from KOCO.

Wind farm faces new challenge from Osage Nation

Along a windswept highway with a view that stretches for miles across the Osage County prairie, tribal officials spotted a front-loader dumping limestone into a rock crusher. They suspected the activity, first seen last month north of Fairfax along Oklahoma 18, was connected to the Osage Wind Project, a sprawling wind farm in the early stages of construction. The Osage Nation has fiercely opposed the wind farm since it was first announced, and the tribe has been involved in multiple lawsuits against the development.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahloma’s dwindling water supply takes economic toll on state, officials say

A decade ago, leaders of companies interested in relocating to Oklahoma would ask state officials about available workforce, regulations and other issues. Today, industry officials still ask about those matters, Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Larry Parman said. But another concern has made its way onto the list — a ready, dependable supply of water. Parman spoke Thursday in a panel discussion about water’s role in economic development at the Oklahoma Governor’s Water Conference and Research Symposium in Oklahoma City.

Read more from the NewsOK.

Eastern Oklahoma Coal Mining Comeback Stalls as Demand From China Falls

In May of last year, it looked like impoverished areas of eastern Oklahoma would be getting a lifeline. Coal mining, once a vital industry there, appeared to be headed for a comeback thanks to booming international demand. Local residents were excited about the prospect of hundreds of new jobs when StateImpact first visited Heavener, but the mining project has stalled. Ouro Mining Company’s massive Heavener Project along the Oklahoma-Arkansas border was supposed to be producing coal — and jobs — by now.

Read more from StateImpact.

Quote of the Day

“So as once we talked about getting [coal] from McAlester to Muskogee, now we’re talking about getting it from Sallisaw to Peking. But the dynamics are the same. What does it cost to get it? What’s the cost to get it from here to there? And what is the market? Is the demand high enough to cover what it costs to get it?”

– Bob Blackburn with the Oklahoma History Center, on a stalled mining project in eastern Oklahoma. Developers originally planned to sell coking coal to steel manufacturers in China, but a drop in the price of coal has suspended activity at the mine (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of motor vehicle thefts reported in Oklahoma in 2013.

Source: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Americans don’t have a constitutional right to vote — it’s time for that to change

On Saturday, the US Supreme Court decided — in a ruling that lacked any accompanying explanation — that a controversial voter ID law in Texas will be in effect this November, notwithstanding a contrary decision from a trial court. The legal arguments around these kinds of voter ID laws, which tend to disproportionately disqualify non-white voters, hinge on whether they constitute a form of illegal (or unconstitutional) racial discrimination. But the fact that the legal, political, and constitutional arguments need to get pushed into a narrow racial discrimination frame is itself a symptom of the real problem: it’s about time American citizens obtained a constitutional right to vote.

Read more from Vox.

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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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