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Capital City: Commissioners open to idea of tax for jail

Good Tuesday morning. 

Senate Republicans will present their legislative agenda at a press conference this morning. Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat has proposed the creation of an office to provide additional oversight of state agency spending and performance. (Treat will also be this week's guest on Political State)

The Oklahoma House of Representatives is also continuing to hold public hearings to review the five largest appropriated state agencies’ budgets. Today is Department of Education and the Health Care Authority. 

Commissioners open to tax for new jail ... All three Oklahoma County commissioners said they'd be open to the idea of proposing a countywide sales tax to fund a new jail. But voters would need to approve any new tax. 

Brian Maughan, commissioner for District 2, said he favored building a lower-security satellite facility to house low-risk inmates. Rather than locking inmates away in high-security cells, jail officials could house them in dormitory-style beds, he said. 

Kevin Calvey, commissioner for District 3, said he would also be open to the idea of a jail annex to house minimum- and medium-security inmates. Although he'd prefer to avoid raising taxes, Calvey said he'd be willing to propose a sales tax increase if it were the only workable option.

Carrie Blumert, the commissioner for District 1, said she'd support a plan for a facility that offered mental health and substance abuse treatment and connected people with service providers. 

Jenks schools join in lawsuit ... A years-long dispute about miscalculated motor-vehicle revenues from the Oklahoma Tax Commission will have a new chapter as more districts plan to sue the agency. (Tulsa World

Jenks Public Schools at a special meeting Monday night unanimously approved a contract with Spencer Fane LLP to challenge the commission’s decision to withhold future revenues from districts who were initially overpaid.

Eight districts, including Sand Springs and Muskogee, previously sued the commission and won in 2016. In December, the commission announced it would begin paying those 271 districts in January for missed revenues.

Bill would require court date notification ... Missing a court date may not be penalized, under certain circumstances, if Oklahoma lawmakers approve newly proposed legislation. Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, has introduced House Bill 1020, which would require courts to institute a system to notify people — by phone or website — of their court date no later than 72 hours after the court date has been set. A person would not be convicted of failing to appear if his court date does not appear on a website available to the public. “People shouldn't be put in jail for missing a court date they didn't know was occurring,” McEntire said.

Prosecutors criticize sentencing proposal ... At a district attorneys legislative breakfast in Tulsa last week, hosted by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Foundation, District 11 District Attorney Kevin Buchanan, who represents Nowata and Washington counties, said making recent criminal justice reform retroactive would be "incredibly complicated."

If passed, Buchanan said prosecutors would be tasked with having to try to sort out the value of property involved in a crime to determine whether it was a misdemeanor or a felony under the new law, reports the Tulsa World

Rep. Ty Burns, R-Morrison, echoed the concerns regarding making State Question 780 reforms retroactive.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I can tell you the district attorneys are not sending people to prison for a first-time drug offense,” Burns said. “That’s not something that they do, so making that a misdemeanor and retroactive creates a problem because they are talking about career criminals.” 

Former Midwest City lawmaker dies ... The Rev. Jeff Hamilton, a former state legislator and metro minister, died Saturday. He was 85. Hamilton, of Midwest City, represented District 101 in the state House, serving four terms before retiring in 1994. During the Democrat's time in the Legislature, he served as chairman of the health-mental health committee and co-authored the "living will" bill with Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington.

Thanks for reading. Got questions, suggestions or complaints? Email me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

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Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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