In The Know: State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP

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

State Senate loss may be a lesson for state GOP: J.J. Dossett’s win this week over a Republican in a Republican district should be a wake-up call to GOP decision-makers, the party’s Tulsa County chairman said. Mike Ford said his party should learn a lesson from the special election defeat, which saw a Democrat take Owasso’s Senate District 34 for the first time in a quarter century. Dossett beat Republican David McLain on Tuesday to fill a seat left empty by former state Sen. Rick Brinkley, who resigned after pleading guilty to fraud charges. Ford said that, while calling potential voters, his volunteers heard about budget cuts and education issues – topics he said could plague GOP lawmakers who want to get re-elected [Journal Record].

First State Student Advisory Council Meets At Oklahoma Capitol: Sixty-seven high school juniors and seniors from around Oklahoma met inside the Capitol Thursday morning, marking the first session of the state’s new Student Advisory Council. They took up the big task of correcting Oklahoma education giving a voice that’s not often been heard in the debate over the state of Oklahoma schools; theirs [News9].

ACLU links Medicaid expansion to criminal justice reform: The Oklahoma Legislature should move quickly to expand Medicaid, using the extra funds for health care coverage and to address criminal justice issues, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma said this week. By expanding Medicaid coverage ACLU Oklahoma leader Ryan Kiesel said the state would receive millions in much-needed cash which could be used to increase mental health coverage, a key component in modernizing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system [CapitolBeatOK]. You can read the full report here. President Barack Obama is asking Congress to include three years of 100 percent federal funding for any state that newly extends coverage [Wall Street Journal].

Ryan Gentzler joins OK Policy as criminal justice policy analyst: Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to announce that Ryan Gentzler has joined the organization in a new policy analyst position that will focus on criminal justice issues. With the addition of an analyst focused on criminal justice issues, OK Policy will be able to expand its research on how to reduce incarceration while protecting public safety, expand proven community-based alternatives to jail and prison, and make it easier for Oklahomans with felony records to rebuild their lives after incarceration [OK Policy].

New leader of Oklahoma lawyers group plans to focus on judiciary independence: Longtime Oklahoma City attorney Garvin A. Isaacs will be sworn in Friday as the new Oklahoma Bar Association Board of Governors president. “Some members of the Oklahoma Legislature want to pass a law that allows appellate judges to be elected. We must educate the public about the dangers associated with these current legislative proposals,” Isaacs said. “It is time for members of the Oklahoma Bar Association to stand up for a judicial system free from any influences caused by campaign contributions.” [NewsOK]

Scientists Urge Preparation and Politicians Rally Response As ‘Unprecedented’ Quakes Continue in Oklahoma: A string of widely felt earthquakes is rattling residents and seismologists, who are warning that parts of Oklahoma could be primed for more severe shaking. More than 5,700 earthquakes shook the state in 2015 — a record year of seismic activity in Oklahoma. “This is definitely unprecedented,” says Daniel McNamara, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. “I’m freaked out and I don’t even live there. It’s just incredible. Really — I’ve never seen anything like it.” [State Impact Oklahoma]

Angry residents voice earthquake concerns at Edmond forum: Angry residents in this Oklahoma City suburb chastised policymakers on Thursday for not taking action sooner to restrict oil and gas wastewater injection wells that have been linked to a dramatic rise in earthquakes. More than 300 people packed a ballroom at the University of Central Oklahoma campus after two powerful earthquakes rumbled Edmond recently — a 4.3-magnitude quake on Dec. 29 and a 4.2 temblor days later. Many voiced concern about home values and possible foundation problems and called for a moratorium on the disposal of wastewater, which scientists have linked to the quakes [Associated Press].

Oil prices aren’t the only reason for Oklahoma’s budget problems: Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders have tried to lay the blame for our budget woes on plummeting energy prices and the refusal of OPEC nations to reduce oil production. Yet while low oil and gas prices are clearly a big part of what’s happening, that’s far from the whole story. The fact is, Oklahoma’s chronic budget deficit dates from well before the oil price collapse [David Blatt / Tulsa World].

Millions for streets, sidewalks, facility repairs could be lost in Vision 2025 plan: A plan to capture future Improve Our Tulsa revenue to pay for Vision 2025 projects would not only significantly reduce funding for street rehabilitation but also eliminate funding for sidewalk construction, traffic signals, facility repairs, small area plans and dozens of other projects, according to an analysis done by the city’s Finance and Engineering departments. The report focuses on the city’s capital improvement needs from fiscal years 2020 through 2023 [The Frontier].

Lawmaker wants to increase smoking age to 21: Oklahoma State Rep. Ben Loring said that he will be introducing a bill later this year that will raise the age limit for purchasing and using tobacco products to 21. “Hawaii is the first state to put a law to that effect in place,” Loring said. “I’ve heard a lot of neat stories from a town in Massachusetts that did this 10 years ago, and their adult smokers are one half the number of all of the towns in Massachusetts, so it works. It saves money for the state in the long run, as well. We won’t be having to pay all of the health costs that are associated with it.” [Miami News-Record]

Bill filed to restrict use of restrooms by ‘biological gender’: A state lawmaker has filed a bill that would govern the use of restrooms. Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, is the author of Senate Bill 1014. The bill would make it “unlawful for a person to use a gender-specific restroom when that person’s biological gender is contrary to that of the gender-specific restroom.” The measure would direct the state Board of Health to create rules to implement the measure. Toby Jenkins, executive director for Oklahomans for Equality in Tulsa, said the measure is aimed at transgender individuals. He called the measure mean-spirited and a violation of personal privacy [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Our state faces a serious financial crisis. We don’t have the money to pay our bills. Expanding Medicaid coverage would help solve that problem and, at the same time, take steps toward reforming our criminal justice system.”

-ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, speaking about a new report from the organization on how accepting federal funds for health care  could be used to increase mental health coverage, a key component in modernizing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2014 revenues that came from the lottery.

Source: Census Bureau via Washington Post

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hungry, Homeless and in College: Three months after starting college, Brooke Evans found herself without a place to live. She was 19. She slept in libraries, bathrooms and her car. She sold plasma and skipped meals. It was hard to focus or participate in class, and when her grades fell, her financial aid did, too. Eventually, she left college and began sleeping on the street, in debt, without a degree. As researchers who study why students don’t finish college, we happen to have first met people like Ms. Evans in universities and community colleges in Wisconsin. But just how common was it across the country for college students to struggle to come up with enough money for food or shelter? [New York Times]

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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