In The Know: Tulsa senator’s resignation creates seventh legislative vacancy this year

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

Tulsa senator’s resignation creates seventh legislative vacancy this year: Oklahoma state Sen. Dan Newberry has announced he will resign his seat to pursue a private-sector promotion. In a Facebook post, the third-term business-friendly senator said he will remain in senior management at TTCU The Credit Union and plugged his forthcoming book, titled “The Rich Young Ruler.” The Tulsa Republican thanked his supporters for his more than nine years of elected office [NewsOK].

Governor Mary Fallin Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill: Governor Mary Fallin today signed the remaining criminal justice reform bill that was the result of recommendations from her Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, saying it was disappointing other proposed measures that would have had more of a direct impact on Oklahoma’s over-capacity prison population stalled in the House of Representatives. Those measures addressed the governor’s criminal justice reform task force report that said without reform, Oklahoma is on pace to add 7,218 inmates over the next 10 years. That would require three new prisons and cost the state an additional $1.9 billion in capital expenditures and operating costs [My High Plains]. The Task Force’s reforms, most of which failed to pass this year, were the solution that Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Next year’s budget starts over $400 million in the hole: When Governor Mary Fallin delivered her State of the State address in February, she made a strong call for lawmakers to end the practice of balancing the state budget through the use of one-time revenues. Governor Fallin proposed a budget that filled the hole and provided targeted funding increases without one-time revenues, but the bulk of her new recurring revenue relied on the expansion of the sales tax to nearly 150 additional services, which proved to be a total non-starter in the Legislature [OK Policy].

State troopers are back on patrol, but the schools are still closed on Friday: The Department of Public Safety has removed a 100-miles-a-day patrol limit on state troopers. Because of inadequate state funding, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers have been generally limited to driving their cruisers no more than 100 miles a day since December. The limit didn’t apply to troopers on state turnpikes, where 100 percent of OHP costs are picked up by toll-payers, and they didn’t apply to troopers involved in emergency situations [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma needs to invest in order for state to shine: Some of the strongest correlations between poor educational and physical/mental health outcomes are with high poverty. In this day of alternative facts, it’s good to remember Daniel Moynihan’s famous quote: Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Poverty is one of the most difficult barriers to overcome, especially if it’s generational. I mention all of this to say that when government fails to appropriate adequate dollars to state agencies providing core services, individual aspirations are difficult to be realized [Craig R. Knutson / NewsOK].

Medicaid funding still in question: Oklahoma’s medical industry widely depends on state and federal funding that comes from Medicaid, and as of now, what the funding will look like for the next year is up in the air. The fiscal year for state agencies and ancillary organizations starts in less than a month, but vital decisions still haven’t been made. The Oklahoma Legislature increased the budget for the agency that dispenses Medicaid, but because of rising costs and dropping federal funds, it’s still nearly $30 million short. That agency has to decide how to cut that much from its 2018 spending [Journal Record].

Restrictions lifted on alcohol sales in Oklahoma movie theaters: A bill that removes restrictions on alcohol sales in movie theaters was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Mary Fallin. Supporters of House Bill 2186 say it will allow movie theaters to better compete for entertainment dollars, spur new development and provide the state with additional revenue from taxes. Critics were concerned that it would increase underage access to alcohol. The law requires those purchasing alcohol to have a hand stamp or wear a special bracelet after their age has been verified [Tulsa World].

Governor Fallin signs bill to restrict some autopsy details: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a bill that would allow police or prosecutors to request some details of an autopsy be kept from the public if it would compromise an ongoing investigation. Senate Bill 207 was one of 16 measures signed by Fallin on Tuesday. She vetoed three others: House Bill 1210, SB 46, and SB 799 [KFOR].

Oklahoma solutions to the Legislature’s disappointments: The 2017 Legislative session has been described by many, including several prominent legislators, as “dysfunctional.” Having heard both parties aspire to making things different in the 2017 session, little of what was considered to be most important was collaboratively addressed. Lines in the sand were drawn and key opportunities for budget restructuring, budget transparency, teacher salary raises, increased revenue to protect core functions of government, and smart criminal justice reform — were all fumbled away [Dan Boren and John Harper / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma’s Real ID deadline extended again: Oklahoma driver’s licenses will continue to be accepted in lieu of Real ID-compliant identification until at least July 10, the state Department of Public Safety said Monday. The state’s Real ID compliance extension expires Tuesday, but DPS officials said Oklahoma has been granted a five-week “grace period” while the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues processing the state’s application for a formal extension [Tulsa World].

Federal agents arrest 18 undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma: Officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 18 undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma last week. The arrests were a part of a three-day immigration enforcement action the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations conducted in Oklahoma and Dallas from June 1-3. In total, agents arrested 70 immigrants, all of whom were criminals, officials said [NewsOK].

Oklahoma police pension system sues over losing investment: Oklahoma’s 8,000-member police pension system, which invested in an energy company, is alleging the business deceived investors and the value of the system’s investment fell by 20 percent. The allegation is in a 13-page lawsuit the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System filed against Denver-based Jagged Peak Energy Inc. The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Denver, claims the alleged deception violates the Securities Act [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Some have said we are doing this too fast, that it took Texas six years to accomplish what we are trying to do in two. Let’s not forget, we are facing a dire financial situation to the tune of an additional $2 billion to incarcerate even more Oklahomans. While disappointed with the lack of progress this session, I remain committed to criminal justice reform and will continue the push to make Oklahoma smarter on how we confront crime.”

– Gov. Mary Fallin, on the need to pursue criminal justice reform after the bulk of the proposals put forth by the Justice Reform Task Force fell short of passage this year (Source)

Number of the Day


Federal share of Oklahoma’s spending on roadway infrastructure and highway safety in Oklahoma in FY 2015

Source: Governing analysis of U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Annual Survey of State Government Finances

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Democratic Norms Are Under Attack, and Not Just by Trump: Shortly after last year’s election, Andrew Reynolds made a startling assertion. The University of North Carolina political scientist, who had helped devise a formula for measuring the vitality of democracies, wrote a newspaper column claiming his state’s restrictions on voting and its unwillingness to follow established rules “means our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy.” [Governing]

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Tulsa senator’s resignation creates seventh legislative vacancy this year

  1. “. . . doing this too fast.”

    OK started criminal justice and sentencing reform in 1994. It has now failed for the third time.

    OK is “too” something but it is definitely not fast.

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