In The Know: Two Oklahoma Inmates Found Innocent 20+ Years After Murder Conviction

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

Two Oklahoma Inmates Found Innocent 20+ Years After Murder Conviction: At a court hearing Monday, a judge decided two inmates were innocent in a 1994 murder. The two men have served more than 20 years in prison for the crime another inmate claimed he committed. In a hearing Monday, the Innocence Project said it uncovered new evidence that Malcolm Scott and DeMarchoe Carpenter were innocent in the murder of Karen Summers, including a death row prisoner who confessed to the murder before he was executed [News On 6].

Fact Sheet: Medicaid Rebalancing Act Essential to Stabilize & Strengthen Oklahoma’s Health Care System: Oklahoma’s health care system is facing an unprecedented crisis. Read our new fact sheet about the plan to accept federal funds and extend private insurance coverage in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Looking ahead: Lawmakers consider multi-year budget estimates: Lawmakers are considering whether to implement long-term budget estimates, rather than year-to-year projections. Senate Bill 1030 would have state economists and agencies estimate the state’s revenue picture for an additional two years. Now, the official state projection looks ahead only one year. Economists have warned that looking so far forward, especially estimating the state’s tax revenue, is tricky [Journal Record]. Multi-year forecasting is one of a number of reasonable reforms that can help Oklahoma make better budget projections [OK Policy].

Cigarette tax increase considered: With three weeks left in the 2016 legislative session, we’re finally beginning to vote on bills that will shape the 2017 fiscal year budget. On Thursday the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget approved a slate of tax credit and incentive reform measures that will help reduce the state’s $1.3 billion budget gap by $190 million—and more such bills will be voted on in the coming days [Sen. J.J. Dossett / Skiatook Journal].

Oklahoma House passes legislation to capture new revenue: The Oklahoma House has adopted legislation designed to capture about $125 million from a cash-flow reserve fund each year and make it available for lawmakers to spend. The House voted 85-8 Monday for the measure and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The bill is part of a package of legislation adopted by House and Senate appropriations committees last week to raise new revenue and help fill a projected $1.3 billion hole in next year’s state budget [Associated Press].

Budget cuts: Broken Arrow, Union and Bixby school boards approve reductions: School boards in the Broken Arrow, Union and Bixby school districts slashed a total of $14.09 million out of their budgets and nearly 150 jobs out of their employee rosters in separate meetings around the metro area on Monday evening. Broken Arrow school board members prefaced their vote to reduce their Fiscal Year 2017 budget by $7.39 million with stinging comments for state lawmakers [Tulsa World].

New court fee to fund four courthouse armed guards: Tulsa County commissioners on Monday approved a new $10 fee on most civil filings, with the proceeds earmarked for courthouse security. The fee, expected to raise nearly $400,000 annually, will pay for four armed deputies at courthouse entrances. It will also relieve the financially pinched Tulsa Jail of some payroll expenses [Tulsa World]. Oklahomans involved in the court system already pay dozens of fines and fees that can keep them trapped in cycles of debt [Oklahoma Watch].

Nomination battle: Hickman says bill to update judicial selections probably died: House Speaker Jeff Hickman’s compromise legislation to avert a showdown over judicial elections has most likely died, he said. The situation opens up room for a direct challenge to the state’s high court system through an initiative petition, which could be circulated this year. Critics of the judiciary have already begun work on a ballot measure to ask voters whether appellate and Oklahoma Supreme Court justices should be elected, rather than appointed [Journal Record].

A good start on civil forfeiture reform: We’ve finally seen a reasonable plan for addressing problems with the state’s civil forfeiture system come from the Legislature. We agree that the current system isn’t perfect and needs work. There are already limitations on when police can act, but as advocates for gutting the law have demonstrated, the net sometimes captures innocents, who have a hard time getting their assets back [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Suspended Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert enters not-guilty plea in bribery case: Suspended Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Monday to criminal charges brought by a multicounty grand jury. Colbert and his attorneys discussed the plea in Judge Darrell Shepherd’s chambers at the Wagoner County Courthouse before the plea was entered before 5 p.m. [Wagoner Tribune].

Oklahoma’s rise in quakes linked to man-made causes: During this time of year, Oklahomans are accustomed to searching the skies for signs of tornadoes. Today, they’re just as wary of the hazards coming from the ground beneath their feet. Tornado alley is now earthquake alley. Oklahoma is the most earthquake prone state in the continental US. What’s more astonishing is that nearly all of Oklahoma’s earthquakes are man-made [CBS News].

Quote of the Day

“That could be an important step in moving away from an incremental budget process and moving toward a priorities-based, strategic-based budget process. You may have agencies whose needs are based on population demographics, and those demographics may be changing in one direction for a period of time, and their needs will be greater than a simple 3-percent or 5-percent increase.”

-Russell Evans, executive director of the Oklahoma City University Economic Research and Policy Institute, on a proposal to implement multi-year budget projections (Source)

Number of the Day


Total number of elementary and secondary schools in Oklahoma in the 2013-2014 school year

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Immigrants, the Poor and Minorities Gain Sharply Under Affordable Care Act: The first full year of the Affordable Care Act brought historic increases in coverage for low-wage workers and others who have long been left out of the health care system, a New York Times analysis has found. Immigrants of all backgrounds — including more than a million legal residents who are not citizens — had the sharpest rise in coverage rates. Hispanics, a coveted group of voters this election year, accounted for nearly a third of the increase in adults with insurance. That was the single largest share of any racial or ethnic group, far greater than their 17 percent share of the population [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.

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