In The Know: Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races

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

Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races: On Tuesday, a few thousand residents in the Oklahoma City area and in Broken Arrow will decide which four candidates will compete in a legislative general election this fall. In Broken Arrow, voters are replacing state Rep. David Brumbaugh. The Republican lawmaker died at 56 in April. In the metro, voters will choose among candidates from Oklahoma City, Mustang and Yukon to replace former Republican state Sen. Kyle Loveless, who resigned amid an ethics investigation [Journal Record].

Treasurer Miller: Tax collections are up; recession is over: Oklahoma’s highest-ranking economist continued his rosy forecasts on Monday, when he released July’s tax collections. Compared to this time last year, collections are up almost 9 percent, a $73 million increase over last July. Oil and gas production taxes are up more than 37 percent from July of last year. State Treasurer Ken Miller wrote in a news release that July marked the 10th consecutive month with an increase over the same period last year. All other revenue, including personal income taxes and sales taxes, was up as well [Journal Record].

Gov. Fallin’s rising profile on criminal justice reform: A recent conference in Washington, D.C., underscored just how nonpartisan the issue of criminal justice reform is becoming — not to mention Gov. Mary Fallin’s rising profile on this issue. Fallin was among those who spoke at an event sponsored by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law and the Coalition for Public Safety, which works to reduce the nation’s prison population [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

I am the face of cuts to Medicaid: Decisions by Oklahoma legislators are shameful, hurtful, an embarrassment to the state, and certainly do not represent me or my Oklahoma values. I am living proof that cuts to Medicaid are devastating. I live it. Please let me tell you of my experience. I have Friedreich’s ataxia. Not many people have even heard of it. FA is a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder that affects about one in 50,000 people in the United States. Currently, there is no cure or treatment [Christin Haun / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Supreme Court set to hear challenges to revenue measures: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Tuesday on challenges to revenue measures passed during the 2017 legislative session. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for three challenges at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. August 7. Each challenge goes up against bills passed near the end of last session during budget talks. The day begins with a challenge of a 1.25 percent sales tax on Oklahoma motor vehicle purchase passed by lawmakers last session [FOX 25].

Tulsa school board approves new hires, still has 25 vacancies two weeks before school starts: Tulsa Public Schools is still searching for 25 teachers two weeks before of the beginning of the school year and just days before teachers are to begin work. Superintendent Deborah Gist said the number of vacancies was current as of Monday. The Tulsa school board approved dozens of new hires as part of the back-to-school hiring push Monday night [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma public colleges improve diversity, but cannot consider race in admissions: Affirmative action on college campuses was a hot topic last week when The New York Times reported the Trump administration planned to have the Department of Justice investigate race-conscious admissions policies. The Times reported Tuesday it obtained a document showing the plan to redirect resources in the department’s civil rights division “toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.” [NewsOK]

‘Prosecutorial discretion’ makes Oklahoma’s justice system a roll of the dice: All Oklahomans must abide by the same laws. If you break the law, you’re sentenced according to the same statutes. In theory, this should mean that people convicted of a crime in urban Oklahoma County will receive a similar punishment to those in rural Cimarron County …. In practice, however, a person’s chances of being charged with a felony or going to prison vary widely from courthouse to courthouse. That’s because prosecutors — which include District Attorneys and their assistants — have nearly unchecked power to decide whether to bring criminal charges against people who are arrested, what to charge them with, and, consequently, how severely they’re punished [OK Policy].

Conservation Commission finds alternative funding: State budget woes cut the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s field workforce by more than a third, but the agency’s officials have found financial alternatives in an attempt at regrowth. The commission works with farmers and other residents across the state to promote ecological stewardship. The agency isn’t necessarily a regulator. It doesn’t establish any rules or punish landowners who opt out of the agency’s practices. Its officials said that a voluntary program is more effective than ruling with a heavy fist [Journal Record].

Governor’s task force to examine Corporation Commission: An agency that regulates two of the largest industries in Oklahoma could still get an overhaul, even though legislative action to reform it failed to pass. Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday signed an executive order to examine the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, its mission, workload, funding, staffing levels and overall structure. Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague will oversee the task force and provide a recommendation by fall 2018 [Journal Record].

Tulsa County commissioners vote to impose $69-a-day rate on city to hold municipal prisoners: Tulsa County commissioners kept their promise on Monday and turned up the steam on the long-percolating jail dispute with the city. Yes votes by Commissioners Ron Peters and Karen Keith extended the $69-a-day rate charged to hold municipal prisoners in the county jail to all municipal inmates, including those also held on state charges, beginning Sept. 1. The third commissioner, John Smaligo, opposed the resolution, saying the city should be paying even more [Tulsa World].

Gay man says leaders tried to run him out of Oklahoma town: When Randy Gamel and his husband were looking for a retirement home, a six-bedroom fixer upper in the tiny western Oklahoma town of Hitchcock caught their eye. They bought it in 2014, and Gamel moved to the quiet community from Fort Worth, Texas, to start upgrades. He set out to make himself a part of the agricultural community of a little more than 100 residents. He befriended neighbors, took an interest in town politics and soon became the town clerk. But it wasn’t long before Gamel began feuding with longtime locals over how the town should be run [Associated Press].

Assessing the impact of state budget cuts: Budgets for government agencies in Oklahoma have been up and down in recent years as the state has experienced extreme revenue shortfalls. Though the cuts have not affected each agency uniformly, they have had a major impact on state services. The shortfalls have caused agencies to see an average cut in funding of 25 to 30 percent in the last 10 years, said Scott Martin, former member of the House of Representatives and former chair of the budget and appropriations subcommittee on education [Norman Transcript]. This year’s budget left Oklahoma services massively underfunded [OK Policy].

Former Death Row Inmate Settles Lawsuit Against Oklahoma: A former Oklahoma death row inmate freed after a court found prosecutorial misconduct has settled his lawsuit against a former prosecutor and the state of Oklahoma for an undisclosed amount. The Oklahoman reported Saturday Yancy Douglas accepted the settlement in the federal case in which he initially sought $32 million for wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution and other claims [News 9].

Quote of the Day

“I live with my primary caregivers, my aging parents, and I qualify for the in-home, self-directed state Medicaid waiver programs. A personal service aide visits daily to assist with meals, a lift needed for toileting, light housekeeping, bathing, dressing and transportation to appointments. It would cost $80,000 a year for me to live in a nursing home but only $30,000 a year for a caregiver to come to my house. The program saves the state money by keeping me in my home.”

 -Christin Haun, an Oklahoman with a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder, in a letter to legislators criticizing cuts to Medicaid (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s occupied housing units that are mobile homes, 2011-2015.

Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Another Possible Indignity of Age: Arrest: It was the sort of incident that happens at facilities that care for people with dementia. At a residence for older adults in San Francisco last summer, Carol King momentarily left a common sitting area. When Ms. King returned, she found that another resident had taken her chair, a nurse who witnessed the episode later reported. She grabbed the usurper’s wrist. Though staff members intervened promptly and nobody appeared injured, the other resident (who also had dementia) called 911 to say she had been attacked. Soon, Ms. King’s son, Geoffrey, was summoned and four police officers arrived [New York Times].

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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.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: Tuesday special election to narrow OKC, Broken Arrow races

  1. Although the role of prosecutors as the major drivers of overincarceration not only in OK but the entire country has been clear for a couple of decades, it’s good to finally see would-be reformers recognizing it. The next step will be figuring out what to do about it, things like popular initiatives to change laws that limit discretion as well as changing penalties, plea bargaining guidelines enforced by independent parties, and statistical analysis and reporting of the districts and counties contributing the most inmates beyond sentences which are shown to have the lowest recidivism associated with them.

    The best source for info and opinion on prosecutors right now is His book is getting the necessary attention and other media finally are getting a clue. Might still not pay off, but it’s better than messing with sealing and caulking joints while DAs are setting the house on fire like reformers, even those like Speaker Steele in OK, have been doing.

  2. That Mary Fallin is invited by a reform group to speak on criminal justice reform tells you all you need to know about the level and extent of the average reform effort intelligence and insight right now.

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