The Weekly Wonk: Growing prison population, protections for pregnant workers, and more…

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler investigated what’s driving Oklahoma’s prison population growth. Policy Analyst and Oklahoma Assets Network Coordinator DeVon Douglass explained how the state has a chance to expand protections for pregnant workers. Steve Lewis’s weekly Capitol Update discussed Gov. Fallin’s suggestions for filling the budget hole. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that there’s no easy way out of the state’s budget crisis.

On the blog, Blatt explored Gov. Fallin’s suggestion to broaden the sales tax base to include more services. OK Policy intern Amanda Rightler curated tweets from January’s 2016 State Budget Summit. Presentations and other material from the State Budget Summit can be found here. Former OK Policy intern Elizabeth Armstrong argued that Stillwater’s “Complete Streets” initiative should be implemented by other Oklahoma cities. 

Upcoming Events

  • Do you want to be get engaged and be more informed on legislative issues? If so, please join OK Policy for a 1-hour webinar on Thursday, February 18th, at 1:00 pm as we discuss our legislative priorities for the 2016 session. You’ll hear from our Executive Director, David Blatt, and from our policy staff, Gene Perry, Carly Putnam, DeVon Douglass and Ryan Gentzler, about the key bills and issues we’re following in five areas: budget and taxes, education, health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity. Click here to register. Participation is limited to the first 100 people who sign up.
  • OK Policy, The Community Service Council, Metropolitan Human Services Commission in Tulsa, and Tulsa Community College will host State Treasurer Ken Miller on Friday, February 19, from 12pm to 1:30pm for “Up Close – Oklahoma’s Budget Crisis.” The event is free and lunch will be provided, but space is limited! Click here to register. For more information, contact Dan Arthrell (
  • On Saturday, Feb. 20, 2pm-4pm, residents of the Tulsa metro are invited to a Together Tulsa Action Planning meeting where you can get to know your neighbors and build on our strategy for advocating with our legislators to create public policies that work. You can RSVP on Facebook here. On Thursday, March 3, 6pm-8pm, residents of the OKC metro are invited to a Together OKC Action Planning meeting. You can RSVP on Facebook here.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was quoted in a Reuters piece on the effects of low oil prices in oil-producing states. He also spoke to KGOU about the effects of suspending certain tax cuts for low-income Oklahomans. The Oklahoma Observer’s Arnold Hamilton cited Blatt in his weekly column, and The Enid Observer spoke to Blatt about Gov. Fallin’s proposed budget. An article at NonDoc summarized the State Budget Summit. 

Weekly What’s That

Open Meetings Act

Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act (25 O.S. s. 304) requires all public bodies to file advance notice of regularly scheduled and special meetings with the Secretary of State, as well as advance notice of changes in date, time, or location of regularly scheduled meetings. Under the Act, agendas for regular and special meetings must be posted in a publicly-accessible location for at least 24 hours prior to its meeting, and agendas must identify all items of business of the meeting. Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“The truly bottom of the barrel oil prices that started in November are just now hitting collections and will continue doing so for the next several months. All tax categories are feeling the pain.”

– Preston Doerflinger, director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, on falling state tax revenues. January’s collections were 17.2 percent below estimates (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Native Times

In Oklahoma, we rank 49th in teacher pay, 44th in pupil funding and 41st in K-12 achievement rates. Success for Oklahoma public education means success for all our children, not just Cherokees, so proper funding is imperative. Our legislature is responsible to the will of the people, so while tax cuts sound fine to the average citizen, they are devastating to the programs that build a healthy state with an educated workforce. The sweeping tax breaks have not spurred growth and have hurt Oklahoma.

Numbers of the Day

  • 145,329 – Number of health insurance plans selected by Oklahomans in this year’s open enrollment on
  • 9,685 – Number of farmed bison in Oklahoma in 2012.
  • $45 million – Estimated sales tax revenue lost by Oklahoma state and local governments to online retail sales by Amazon in 2014.
  • 7.4% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s workforce that is unionized, 2015.
  • 20.3 – Age-adjusted drug overdose death rate per 100,000 people in Oklahoma in 2014, 10th highest in the US.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Rules to make school meals healthier are working [CNN].
  • Better funding for schools leads to better long-term outcomes for students [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].
  • Here’s how to fix the country’s failing schools – and how not to [New York Times].
  • These restaurant owners say the time has come to end tipping [Buzzfeed].
  • Black Harvard graduates have the same shot at a job call-back as white state college grads [Quartz].


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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