Matt Trotter

Reporter

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN. 

He has a master's degree from Arizona State University, where he spent a semester on the first reporting staff of Cronkite News Service's Washington, D.C., bureau. As a grad student, he won awards for multimedia journalism and in-depth TV reporting.

Matt is from Southern California, so he's slowly following Route 66 across the United States. He would have made it Chicago by now, but he's not a fan of long drives.

Ways to Connect

Rep. Forrest Bennett

Oklahoma Senate leaders gave their thoughts on House Democrats’ slate of proposals to bring in $1.4 billion.

Democratic Leader John Sparks said a $1.50 cigarette tax hike is popular enough to pass, but lawmakers need to get serious about reversing income tax cuts.

Oklahoma took a step this week toward joining an initiative supporters call a "reset button" on laws and regulations holding back economic growth.

House Bill 2132 says Oklahoma agrees to the Prosperity States Compact. It allows communities to band together and form "prosperity districts," where many state and local regulations are automatically repealed and governing boards replace any local forms of government.

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An effort to boost Oklahoma’s childhood vaccination rates was voted down Thursday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 83 from Ervin Yen required parents to watch an informational video about vaccine risks and benefits in order for their child to qualify for a nonmedical exemption for immunization.

Yen tied recent outbreaks of formerly well-controlled diseases to celebrity Jenny McCarthy’s statements that vaccines cause autism.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Oklahoma Senate killed a measure Thursday to stop cities from offering enhanced anti-discrimination protections.

Senate Bill 694 would limit employment, housing and public accommodations protections to those classes in state law: race, color, national origin, sex, religion, creed, age, disability or genetic information. Cities and other local governments would not be able to offer such protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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State lawmakers pass a bill to set up a long-term investment fund using 20 percent of Oklahoma’s annual gross production tax revenue.

House Bill 1401 calls for off-the-top money to start going into the Oklahoma Legacy Fund once the state sees at least flat general revenue fund collections. Rep. David Perryman said right now, that’s a bad idea.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A caravan of trucks with a police escort delivered Wednesday the major pieces of the playground to A Gathering Place for Tulsa.

Two metal frames and four wooden towers — some roughly five stories tall — made the trip from the east Tulsa warehouse they’ve been at for the past year.

Before that, they were being made in Germany by play equipment firm Richter Spielgerate. Julian Richter said he’s proud to finally see the structures at the park.

Someone has crunched the numbers on the difference in tax subsidies between the Affordable Care Act and its possible replacement.

Trumpcare, Ryancare, the American Health Care Act ― whichever name you prefer for congressional Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, as currently written, it will cost the average Tulsan $3,225 in tax subsidies.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Oklahoma House sent controversial new abortion restrictions to the Senate Tuesday.

The Oklahoma House approved House Bill 1549, also called the Prenatal Nondiscrimination act of 2017. It bans abortion when the fetus will have Down syndrome or a birth defect.

Bill author George Faught said people are being allowed to play God, which drew fire from Rep. Regina Goodwin.

"At what point did you decide that that's within your ability to decide for all women in Oklahoma?" Goodwin said.

Tulsa Transit

On a 75–8 vote Monday, state lawmakers passed a bill to allow some Oklahomans to carry a gun while riding public transit.

"This is a request bill from the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association. It's also endorsed by the NRA," said Rep. Greg Babinec. "House Bill 1721, the Bus Passenger Safety Act, allows any person with an SDA to carry on a bus."

Babinec was referring to the state's self defense act license required to carry a gun in public.

Oklahoma City Rep. Forrest Bennett said he has some expertise on the matter.

Department of Public Safety

The Oklahoma House passes a measure allowing people to opt out of having their pictures or fingerprints in a state database of driver license and ID card holders.

House Bill 1465 applies only to ID not compliant with the REAL ID Act and says data associated with noncompliant ID must be kept in a separate database by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. Republicans Mike Ritze and Jon Echols said it’s a matter of privacy and personal security.

"Are you aware that the whole DPS system has been breached twice by the Chinese?" Ritze said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa opens to the public the process of designing a new pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas river.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said there have been good talks about the bridge with city engineers, River Parks and the Gathering Place.

"After hearing a lot of those discussions and seeing a lot of great ideas, I did not have faith in my own tastes to pick a design ... nor should I be picking that in a vacuum," Bynum said.

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After nine hours of deliberations spread across two days, a jury awarded $10 million Monday to the family of an Army veteran who died at the Tulsa County Jail.

Elliott Williams died in October 2011 from complications of a broken neck and dehydration. After a misdemeanor arrest in Owasso, Williams was left on the floor of a medical cell for five days without receiving attention.

Williams' family was seeking $51 million in damages.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Within about three years, the Gilcrease Expressway will finally connect I-44 and Highway 412.

The City of Tulsa, state of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority are teaming up to build 5 miles of four-lane toll road that will finish a Gilcrease loop envisioned for around 50 years. Turnpike board Chair Kell Kelly expects it will have the same impact as the Creek and Kilpatrick turnpikes.

File photo-Tulsa Police

The community policing commission launched after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a Tulsa police officer delivered its recommendations Friday.

The Tulsa Commission on Community Policing has 70 recommendations falling under pillars of building trust, crime reduction, officer wellness, policy, technology and training. Many of the recommendations focus on collaboration between police and the community.

photopedia.com

The Oklahoma House passed a plan Thursday to end the state’s wind energy tax credit ahead of schedule.

The renewable energy tax credit, which covers wind, hydroelectric, solar and geothermal energy producers, is set to expire in three and a half years, but House Bill 2298 would eliminate it for wind projects in three and a half months.

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Oklahoma voters decided in November drug possession should be a misdemeanor, but state representatives passed a bill Thursday saying it may be a felony in certain circumstances.

House Bill 1482 says drug possession within 1,000 feet of a school or in the presence of a child under 12 may be a felony. Purcell Republican Tim Downing said Oklahomans didn’t know what they were voting for.

Tulsa Sports Commission

The Tulsa Sports Commission announces eight beneficiaries for this year’s Tulsa Federal Credit Union Tulsa Run.

River Parks Foundation is the primary beneficiary for the 40th running of the 15K. It will receive $25,000, which will go toward its privately funded park patrol program.

Oklahoma House members passed a measure Wednesday to ensure strict penalties when a police officer is killed.

House Bill 1306, titled the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017, says people convicted of or pleading no contest to first-degree murder of an officer shall get the death penalty or life without parole unless there’s an "overwhelming amount of mitigating evidence."

Rep. Casey Murdock told his colleagues while the bill was being heard the intent is for the death penalty to be preferred in such cases. A previous version mandated only the death penalty.

A hotline is now available to specifically help Native American survivors of domestic and dating violence.

StrongHearts Native Helpline's initial service area is Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

"One of the problems in Indian Country is there's a huge lack of services, and there really hasn't been any efforts to create a database that pulls together all of the resources that are available," said StrongHearts Assistant Director Lori Jump.

Jump said violence against women is an epidemic in Indian Country.

Oklahoma Lottery

The Oklahoma House approved a bill Tuesday supporters say will mean $110 million more dollars over five years for common education.

House Bill 1837 changes the lottery’s minimum funding requirement from 35 percent of net proceeds to the first $50 million. Rep. Leslie Osborn said the state budget crunch makes that tweak a good idea.

State lawmakers are considering taking away the annual payment going to Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

Rep. Scott Biggs proposes allocating TSET’s 75 percent share of the state’s nearly $80 million annual tobacco settlement payment to a new rural health care fund. Biggs said TSET’s investment earnings are plenty.

Of the myriad issues facing Oklahoma lawmakers this year, one is probably at the top of everyone’s mind: teacher raises.

"We are very interested and compelled to give teachers a pay raise that they have earned, they have deserved. And we'll see that in this upcoming session, I'm sure," Sen. Gary Stanislawski said four months ago on election night.

At a December forum with legislators, Rep. Michael Rogers said they’d been dissecting the issue to figure out how raises would be structured and how much it would cost.

Clifton Adcock/Oklahoma Watch

Some elected officials in Oklahoma could carry a gun on the job under a proposal making its way through the state Senate.

Senate Bill 6 from Josh Brecheen authorizes Oklahoma members of Congress and officials ranging from the state superintendent to corporation commissioners to carry a gun while in the performance of official duties

"You schedule a town hall — how many of us remember a few years ago the congresswoman who was a target?" Brecheen said.

KWGS News File Photo

Some Oklahoma lawmakers believe teachers unions should be recertified by their members on a regular basis.

House Bill 1767 calls on school district boards of education to hold secret ballot elections at least every five years to determine whether bargaining units still have the support of the employees they represent.

Currently, such an election can be called almost any time by 35 percent of a unit’s employees. Rep. Todd Russ said his bill is an attempt to increase transparency.

With the expectation of significant economic growth in the next couple years, the Tulsa Regional Chamber kicks off a 16 week labor study.

The study will look at areas ranging from commute times to the gap between education and industry. Zac Carman is CEO of product review company Consumer Affairs, which he says grew from three employees to 230 after relocating here.

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More recommendations from the governor’s criminal justice reform task force progressed in the legislature Thursday.

A Senate panel approved a bill breaking burglary down into four tiers rather than the current two. Sen. Wayne Shaw said that idea came from a judge.

"What we've simply done by breaking these down into four tiers is allowing them to have sentences that are more in line with the crime that's being committed," Shaw said.

Textually.org

A measure seeking to ban handheld phone use at some times while driving advances on the last day for legislative committees to pass bills.

As advanced, Senate Bill 132 prohibits any handheld smart phone use in school or construction zones. The bill expands Oklahoma’s recently adopted ban on texting while driving.

"This legislation — I do believe passed two or three years ago — it was texting when driving, but the problem for law enforcement and many is you can do more on an electronic device than text," said bill author Sen. J.J. Dossett.

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The Oklahoma Senate signs off on the state’s new school assessment and accountability system.

While the House spent 99 minutes on the matter a week ago, the Senate approved the standards without questions or debate in under six minutes.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski presented House Joint Resolution 1028 on the floor.

"The HJR approves the standards in whole, without instructions," Stanislawski told his colleagues.

The Senate approved HJR1028 34–8.

Work continues on criminal justice reform in Oklahoma with the approval of two measures by a House committee.

House Bill 2281 from Rep. Terry O’Donnell raises the felony threshold and reduces the penalties on several property crimes, including using a stolen debit or credit card or receiving stolen property.

"Our prisons are at 122 percent of capacity, and we've got to figure out a way to get nonviolent people either more quickly released from jail or figure out if they've learned their lesson in less than seven or eight years," O'Donnell said.

Oklahoma state representatives easily passed a bill criticized as a way to deter protests similar to those over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

House Bill 1123 makes it a felony to trespass at what’s deemed "critical infrastructure" with the intent of vandalism or interrupting operations, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and a year in prison. It also makes it a felony to actually cause damage, punishable by up to a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

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