Weekly Wonk: Interim studies on childcare, homelessness | Judges on the ballot | Make your voting plan for Nov. 8

What’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

Interim studies address issues of lack of housing, childcare facilities (Capitol Update): Legislators continued their work last week with interim studies to look at issues they may want to address when session begins in February. Two important studies that caught my attention have to do with lack: Lack of affordable housing and lack of childcare facilities. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What You Need to Know: Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters have a role in selecting judges. On Nov. 8, 2022, Oklahoma voters will decide whether to retain four Supreme Court justices and five Court of Civil Appeals judges. In addition, voters in some counties will vote to elect district and associate district court judges. Judicial elections usually don’t attract as much publicity as other races, so we’re taking a look at how judges are chosen, what’s at stake in the elections, and how you can learn about the candidates. [Cole Allen / OK Policy] | [2022 General Election Voter Resources]

Policy Matters: Get your voting plan together for Nov. 8We are just days away from Oklahoma’s general election on Nov. 8. I’m sure many Oklahomans have the noblest of intentions to cast their votes. But past years show us that far too many eligible voters don’t follow through on their intentions. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

History shows future change isn’t possible without community engagement: Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) and Together Oklahoma will be holding an in-person event November 1st, 2022 at 6:30P.M. to highlight the need for community members to spur future criminal justice reform efforts in Oklahoma. This event will take place in Ardmore at Southern Tech — 2610 Sam Noble Parkway — in Conference Room B. There will also be a livestream on Together Oklahoma and OCJR’s YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter channels. [Together Oklahoma]

Weekly What’s That

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

The Court of Criminal Appeals is one of Oklahoma’s three appellate courts, along with the Supreme Court and Court of Civil Appeals. An appellate court hears appeals from lower court decisions.

The Court of Criminal Appeals is the only appellate court with jurisdiction over criminal cases and thus serves as the final court of appeal for criminal matters. The court of Criminal Appeals hears appeals from district court decisions. The Court of Criminal Appeals was created by statute in 1918 and currently currently has five members, with Judge Scott Rowland currently serving as Presiding Judge. Justice candidates are  appointed by the Governor from a list of three candidates selected by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Justices are up for a retention election every six years.

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

Quote of the Week

“This is a crisis. And it’s not just a crisis for the defendants. It’s a crisis for all of our county jails. … It’s difficult right now for them to find folks to work in the county jail, but it’s compounded when they have to deal with mentally ill people … when their behaviors escalate. (Jail employees) are not trained, they don’t have the knowledge to deal with the types of behaviors they’re seeing.”

-Custer County Special District Judge Donna Dirickson, speaking at an interim study to find solutions to increase mental health and substance abuse treatment access, whether through implementation of State Question 781 or otherwise. [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Stillwater News Press Editorial: The reforms are working

Not everybody saw it, or maybe even read about but there are some issues with the crime rate discourse that followed Oklahoma’s gubernatorial debate between Joy Hofmeister and Kevin Stitt.

During last week’s debate Hofmeister pointed out that violent crime, on average, was steeper in law-and-order Oklahoma than in New York or California. Stitt said, “that’s not true.”

It kind of is, in that the CDC has Oklahoma with a higher homicide mortality rate than those and many other states. Of course, Oklahoma has far fewer people. FBI’s Uniform Crime Data also had Oklahoma with higher violent crime rates, but that data is not always uniform as it relies on voluntary submissions.

In that respect, Hofmeister is correct, it’s not totally incorrect to add context.

The bigger issue, is how the discourse might effect all the good work that has been accomplished to reform criminal justice in Oklahoma.

That kind of talk can scare folks, and scared folks make bad decisions.

In the last few years, Oklahoma lawmakers, and the administration have made strides in criminal justice reform that should not be reversed because people now decide we have to be “tough on crime.”

We still have to be rational as a society, and know that not everything we do now in terms of sentencing reform, prison alternatives and early release will have immediate results.

We have to keep thinking longterm. We have to look at things macroeconomically and not just how it feels when we think justice is being thwarted.

Oklahoma has been reducing recidivism, getting people back into society and keeping parents with children.

This approach will work in the longterm if we can avoid kneejerk reactions to fiery rhetoric.

[Editorial / Stillwater News Press]

Numbers of the Day

  • 91% –Percent of households with incomes below $35,000 who spent their child tax credits on food, utilities, rent or mortgage, clothing, or educational costs. [CBPP]
  • 7% – Growth of rent in Oklahoma City during the past 6 months, which is the nation’s 10th highest rate increase during that period. The median cost for a 1-bedroom rental unit is $908 in Oklahoma City and $912 in Tulsa. Since March 2020, rent in Oklahoma City has increased 27.9% and 27.5% in Tulsa. [Apartment List National Rent Report]
  • 47th – Oklahoma’s national rank for education spending for 50 states and the District of Columbia, ahead of only Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada [Education Data Initiative]
  • 4 – Number of days early voting is available for Oklahoma’s Nov. 8 general election. Early voting will be available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2 through Friday, Nov. 4, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5. House Bill 2663, passed in 2021, added early voting on the Wednesday before general elections. [Oklahoma Election Board]
  • ~40% – The increase in the number of Tulsa’s unsheltered population for the January 2022 point-in-time headcount when compared with the previous year. Tulsa officials counted 1,063 unsheltered individuals. For Oklahoma City, the 2022 annual count was 1,339 individuals, which was a 15% decrease from the previous year, but higher than the 2018 and 2019 counts. [Tulsa World] | [The Oklahoman]

What We’re Reading

  • Policymakers Should Expand Child Tax Credit in Year-End Legislation to Fight Child Poverty: The Child Tax Credit expansion drove child poverty sharply downward in 2021. Combined with other relief efforts, the expansion helped lower child poverty by more than 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, reaching a record low of 5.2 percent, Census Bureau data released last week show. The credit’s expansion expired at the end of last year, but policymakers can renew this successful poverty-fighting policy in year-end bipartisan tax legislation. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Soaring housing costs have renters mulling how they’ll vote in the midterms: For millions of other renters across America, soaring housing costs have them not only reassessing their housing situation but also their political allegiance just weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm election that will determine which party controls Congress and governor’s mansions across the nation. [USA Today]
  • One country, two histories: What does it mean to be an American?: Two approaches to American history that have captured public – and critical – attention recently are best known by their dates. The 1619 Project reframes U.S. history, focusing on slavery and its ongoing legacy. The 1776 Report, commissioned by President Trump and released in January 2021, and the separate 1776 curriculum – produced by Hillsdale College in Michigan – champion a traditional view of America’s founding. Visits this spring to classrooms where both approaches are being used offer insights into the differences in what’s highlighted in each – but also show the similarities: extensive discussion, reading and analyzing texts, and expectations for students to contribute to society. Educators at the schools talk about the need to create informed citizens, ready to participate in the work of democracy. [Christian Science Monitor]
  • Democracy on the ballot—What do election deniers want?: There are many candidates on the November ballot who think the 2020 election was fraudulent (so-called, “election deniers”). A substantial portion of them seem poised to win. So, what will their victories mean for elections in 2024 and beyond? To better understand this question, we have looked at as many campaign proposals as we could find, beginning with candidates for secretary of state, governor and attorney general because these offices hold the most power and responsibility over elections. This piece will attempt to describe the agenda(s) of those who are running as election deniers with respect to how elections are run in the United States and to assess the impact on democratic elections should they succeed. [Brookings]
  • Policing Doesn’t End Homelessness. Supportive Housing Does: Instead of addressing the root causes of unsheltered homelessness — a lack of housing and supportive services — many cities have leaned into punitive responses that criminalize homelessness, such as arresting people for sitting or sleeping in certain public places. But this approach is costly and ineffective. Police don’t solve homelessness, they only move it around—to other neighborhoods, jails, and emergency rooms—rather than connecting people with the housing and services they need. [Urban Institute]


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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