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.

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The state budget will come down to the wire.

Final votes on the $6.9 billion dollar budget bill will come Friday, the last day of session, in the House. A Senate proposal to put a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes, which would generate $257.8 million, will also be voted on.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Tensions are high at the capitol as the legislature adjourns Friday but has not yet passed a budget.

As budget negotiations stop and start on a near-daily basis, House Minority Leader Scott Inman decided to make Majority Leader Jon Echols an offer Wednesday morning on the House floor.

Michigan Radio

The Oklahoma House passed a bill Wednesday to bring in around $123 million a year by modifying the sales tax exemption on car sales.

Car and truck sales are currently subject to a 3.25 percent excise tax. House Bill 2433 would also subject them to a 1.25 percent sales tax. Rep. Johnny Tadlock noted that’s only  state sales tax.

"So, we want to tax the local people where I come from and send the money up to the state, and then continue to hurt county and local government?" Tadlock said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Tulsa City-County Library’s annual Summer Reading Program kicks off May 30.

The program encourages kids and teens to read by offering free events through the summer and prizes for reading a certain number of books. Library CEO Kim Johnson says the goal is to keep students from suffering summer brain drain.

"The Tulsa City-County Library knows that all children need opportunities during the summer to develop new skills and to build their confidence so they return to school ready to succeed," Johnson said.

A bill to raise the gross production tax on around 11 percent of oil and gas wells in Oklahoma that passed committee late Monday night passed the House Tuesday morning.

House Bill 2429 increases the rate for horizontal wells started between 2011 and 2015 from 1 to 4 percent during a four-year incentive period. It would bring in an estimated $95 million a year for two years.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A revenue proposal capping itemized state income tax deductions at $17,000 has passed one chamber of the Oklahoma legislature.

The House passed House Bill 2403 Monday. The three-year cap instituted by the measure should raise $102 million a year.

Rep. Jason Dunnington asked whether lawmakers should be taking action on the measure now, as revenue-raising measures cannot be heard in the last five days of session but can be heard if the governor calls a concurrent special session for work on the budget.

Tulsa Police Department

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said Monday he's voiced his displeasure and concerns to the Tulsa County District Attorney's office over their handling of Betty Shelby's manslaughter case.

Oklahoma lawmakers start approval of a compromise bill to allow expanded long-lateral drilling in the state.

Senate Bill 867, The Oklahoma Energy and Jobs Act, allows horizontal wells more than a mile long in non-shale formations, where they are currently prohibited. Rep. Kevin Calvey said there are two benefits.

File Photo

Though they were not allowed to read it Wednesday night, the jury that found Betty Shelby not guilty had the letter explaining their verdict entered into the trial record.

Jurors believe Shelby acted according to her training when she shot Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16. The jury foreman, who wrote the letter, says the jury thought Crutcher could have been subdued with a Taser before he reached his SUV.

Tulsa Police

Betty Shelby was acquitted of manslaughter late Wednesday night in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, and Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan talked about her future on Thursday morning.

"I know there's going to be questions about Officer Shelby's employment. That is being analyzed right now, as we speak, by city human resources, as well as police human resources and the legal department," Jordan said. "And there should be some result come out of that in the very near future."

The very near future is today.

File photo/Case.edu

Budget shortfalls have hurt Oklahoma’s credit rating, but a tapped rainy day fund may not do more damage to it.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

After a contentious manslaughter trial of one of their own, Tulsa’s police chief acknowledged there are questions about Shelby’s future with the department.

"That is being analyzed right now, as we speak, by city human resources as well as police human resources and the legal department," Jordan said Thursday at a news conference with Mayor G.T. Bynum. "And there should be some result come out of that in the very near future."

Shelby has been on leave since fatally shooting Terence Crutcher on Sept. 16.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Seeking to close the $878 million budget gap with time running out, Oklahoma lawmakers take up a new so-called “big bill.”

All told, the changes are worth $386 million. House Bill 2414 raises cigarette taxes $1.50 per pack, raises gas and diesel taxes $0.06 per gallon, and reduces the time oil and gas production is taxed at 2 percent from 36 months to 18.

Minority Leader Scott Inman said Oklahomans deserve better.

Jury Gets Shelby Case

May 16, 2017
File photo

Jurors are deliberating in the manslaughter trial of an Oklahoma police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man last year.

The jury got the case shortly after noon Wednesday. They must decide whether Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby committed a crime Sept. 16 when she killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.

Shelby could spend between four years to life in prison if she's convicted.

KWGS News Photo

The Oklahoma Association of Realtors is against a proposal to cap itemized state income tax deductions.

House Bill 2403 caps them at $17,000 for three years. OAR President Pete Galbraith said that will affect a big incentive for homebuyers.

"The mortgage interest deduction has always been kind of the holy grail, sacred cow of the housing industry, and unless they were to cap it at $30,000 or $40,000, I just don't see any way that the realtors would embrace this," Galbraith said.

File Photo

The Oklahoma House failed Monday to pass a $1.50 per pack cigarette increase that was a big part of Republican budget plans.

Rep. Leslie Osborn tried to encourage her colleagues to vote yes on House Bill 2372, saying it would help the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, OSU Medical Authority, local health departments and others potentially facing severe cuts.

Betty Shelby Takes the Stand

May 15, 2017
Tulsa Police

Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby took the stand Monday in her own defense.

Shelby, who is white, is being tried on a first-degree manslaughter charge in the death of Terence Crutcher, who was unarmed and black.

Shelby’s attorneys called her to the stand around 11:30 Monday morning, asking her about her training and career. Shelby said she’s pulled her gun dozens of times in her 10 years as a police officer and sheriff’s deputy but never fired because the person at gunpoint always followed her orders.

File photo

The full Oklahoma Senate signed off on a plan Friday to give the State Board of Education $60 million from the Rainy Day Fund.

Sen. Kay Floyd asked Sen. Kim David whether there’s a problem with that plan.

"Do we have $60 million in the Rainy Day Fund right now?" Floyd said.

"By the time that this appropriation is made, the money will be in the Rainy Day Fund," David said.

"Do we know how much is in the Rainy Day Fund right now?" Floyd said.

File photo

With tensions over the budget increasing at the capitol, Oklahoma lawmakers will take up a new proposal to cap itemized deductions.

Like House Bill 2347, House Bill 2403 caps them at $17,000. HB2403, however, exempts charitable contributions.

"So, if a blessed individual donates $100,000 to a charity, they will be able to get the full amount of that deduction on their state return," said Oklahoma Tax Commission Director Tony Mastin.

Oklahoma Watch

A revenue bill passed Thursday by the Oklahoma House could make some corporations pay a tax twice within 10 months.

House Bill 2356 makes the franchise tax due May 1 instead of July 1 starting next year for any entity that paid the maximum amount the year before.

It will boost revenue $12 million next year, but Rep. Shane Stone said he’s against the measure.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Weather impacts going back to last year have piled up enough to delay the opening of A Gathering Place for Tulsa and the reopening of Riverside Drive, which has been closed during construction of the park.

Gathering Place Director Jeff Stava said they’re now looking at late spring to summer 2018 rather than late this year.

KWGS News

With a jury in place Wednesday morning, both sides give their opening statements in the trial of a Tulsa police officer charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.

The jury for Betty Shelby’s trial is made up of three men and nine women. Two women are black, and the alternates are a black man and a Hispanic woman.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

After several canceled meetings last week, the Oklahoma legislature's joint appropriations and budget committees approved several new revenue bills late Monday afternoon.

A cigarette tax hike returned as a standalone measure, House Bill 2372. Rep. Leslie Osborn said the$1.50 per pack increase will mean $215 million for the state, up from roughly $150 million the tax commission estimated last year for a similar measure.

"They've looked at the very latest trends on sales in all of our 77 counties. We feel that we're very secure with the [$215 million]," Osborn said.

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Oklahoma state representatives take the formal position that the U.S. Supreme Court overstepped its authority making any abortion-related rulings, including the landmark Roe v. Wade.

Rep. Chuck Strohm said the U.S. Constitution leaves criminal code authority to the states, and Oklahoma has outlawed abortions for reasons other than saving the mother’s life.

A measure criticized as a way to deter protests is now law in Oklahoma.

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed House Bill 1123, which went into effect immediately. It adds two felonies with harsh penalties for trespassing at and damaging or intending to damage sites deemed "critical infrastructure."

Refineries, various utility facilities, oil and gas pipelines, dams and cell phone towers are among the things defined as critical infrastructure.

Oklahoma Senate

The Oklahoma Senate’s top Democrat disagrees with several Republican lawmakers who complain his party is holding up work to close the $878 million state budget shortfall.

One example Republicans cite is the so-called "Big Bill," which increases cigarette and fuel taxes. It passed joint committee but never made it to the House floor and is now rumored to be shelved.

Senate Minority Leader John Sparks said that’s not the fault of Democrats, who oppose it.

Time is running out and tensions are high when it comes to Oklahoma’s budget.

Gov. Mary Fallin this week criticized lawmakers for a lack of progress making up an $878 million shortfall, and she raised the possibility of vetoing their budget, effectively forcing a special session. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said that’s not in the cards.

"We will get our work done. We will get a budget passed. We will get it on the governor's desk, and it will go into effect," Schulz said.

But Schulz also said state agencies should prepare for the worst.

KWGS

Citing costs faced by North Dakota in the wake of Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the Oklahoma House passed a bill creating liability for anyone who compensates protesters.

House Bill 2128 says anyone who compensates, remunerates or provides consideration to someone who causes damage while trespassing may be held liable.

Rep. Mark McBride faced a barrage of questions from Democrats, including Rep. Cory Williams, who asked what constitutes compensation under HB2128.

"It means just what we want it to on this bill. How about that?" McBride said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A day after Gov. Mary Fallin chastised lawmakers for a lack of progress in closing Oklahoma's $878 million budget gap, the Senate sent her four bills worth a total estimated $7.4 million in new revenue next year.

One of those bills given final passage by the Senate, however, won’t have an impact until 2023. House Bill 2358 ends a fuel tax discount on July 1, 2022. Senator Roger Thompson said the discount was instituted to benefit retailers doing all the administrative work.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Broken Arrow now owns the property where two brothers murdered five of their family members in 2015.

The city embarked on a fundraising campaign in February with plans to turn the former Bever family home site into a memorial garden.

"For me, it was helping ... those people on Magnolia Court [and] our first responders to make this property go away and create something that was healing and that would bring some tranquility to them and some healing not only to Broken Arrow, but to the metropolitan area," said Broken Arrow Councilman Mike Lester.

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