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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Matt Trotter / KWGS

In a rare Friday session promised to be "an important day," the Oklahoma Senate passed three bills affecting revenue that are on the watchlist of education funding advocates.

The Senate debated House Bill 1019XX for nearly three hours after Sen. Josh Brecheen proposed two amendments to change the bill so it would cap or end refunds of wind tax credits.

Majority Leader Greg Treat said the House would reject either change.

Community Service Council

A new report measures equality in Tulsa on a 100-point scale.

There’s an overall score and individual scores for indicators of economic opportunity, education, housing, justice, public health and services.

"The numbers are very bad," said Mayor G.T. Bynum. "We’ve known for a long time in Tulsa that we had a serious issue with, in particular, racial disparity in our city. People felt that in their gut, but they didn’t necessarily have a way to measure it. And the reality is that we have a long way to go."

Oklahoma Watch

Ending the state capital gains tax break is indeed off the table in the Oklahoma House.

Ending the state capital gains income tax deduction could bring in $120.5 million and has been a big piece of the Oklahoma Education Association's demand for increased public school funding. Despite Democrats trying to force a vote this week on the bill doing that as teachers looked on, the legislature is done with it because Republicans struck a deal to pass a more than $400 million revenue package last week.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Terence Crutcher’s parents are suing the City of Tulsa for their son’s death in a September 2016 police shooting.

Crutcher was shot and killed by former Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby. He was unarmed.

Shelby was acquitted of manslaughter in a subsequent trial. Crutcher’s mother, Leanna, said that doesn’t change what happened.  

"My son was killed, regardless of the outcome. Everyone saw the video. I will never get over that, so don’t tell me to get over it," Leanna Crutcher said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

More than 100 teachers, parents and supporters began a week-long march from Tulsa to the state capitol early Wednesday to call for increased public education funding.

Marshall Elementary second-grade teacher Cindy Gaete was at the capitol the first two days of the teacher walkout to tell lawmakers her class is overcrowded and her books are falling apart but said she hopes the 110-mile march adds to the message.

Oklahoma Watch

The first bill containing a recommendation of the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse looks set to become law.

Senate Bill 1078 passed the House 86–0 Tuesday. It makes one change to Oklahoma’s Trafficking in Illegal Drugs Act.

"All this does is it adds fentanyl like we have oxycontin and other opioids at this time. It adds that because it’s a gap in what we’re able to police," said Rep. Tim Downing, the bill's House author and a member of the opioid commission.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

There was dèjá vu in the Oklahoma House on day two of the teacher walkout.

With teachers again filling the gallery, Rep. Scott Inman tried the same thing he did yesterday.

"I move to suspend House Rule 9.1, paragraph 11, to immediately bring up Senate Bill 1086, the capital gains exemption that passed out of the Senate 30—9, for a vote immediately," Inman said, eliciting cheers from the gallery.

KWGS News File Photo

Emergency Medical Services Authority has reached a $300,000 settlement in lawsuits alleging it engaged in a kickback scheme over 15 years in Texas.

EMSA, which manages emergency medical services in Tulsa and three of its suburbs, says the arrangement was a cost-savings agreement with Paramedics Plus in the form of a profit cap.

EMSA could have been on the hook for up to $20 million had it gone to trial and lost.

Tulsa County

Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo wrapped up nearly two decades in public service when he adjourned Monday's board meeting.

Smaligo is stepping down to become president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors of Oklahoma.

Smaligo said now was the time to resign, since ABC’s past leader held the job for 25 years and just happened to retire early in an election year.

"We don’t have to have a special election — those are often costly — and it’s the normal cycle where if people want to run for office, I certainly encourage them to do that," Smaligo said.

Courtesy Tulsa County

More than a year after deciding to greatly scale back the new Family Center for Juvenile Justice, Tulsa County selected Monday  a $28.8 million bid to build it.

"The award is going to Crossland Construction, and it really came in at a point where we — I feel strongly we’re going to get this thing done and done right," said County Commissioner Karen Keith.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Thousands of teachers are ready to visit the Oklahoma capitol for several days in their push for increased education funding.

The revenue package signed into law Friday pays for raises averaging $6,100 and restores $50 million in funding, including $30 million for textbooks. There are a just a couple smaller revenue bills in the queue.

Your Life Matters. Drive Like It.

That’s the message from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for a work zone awareness campaign this month. There are plenty of work zones in Oklahoma right now, including several in the Tulsa metro area. One is being set up this morning for a bridge project on the Broken Arrow Expressway at Sheridan.

ODOT Specialist Jerry Ragsdale was fixing a sign when he was launched from a bucket truck hit by a driver experiencing a medical problem. It took him more than a year to recover from several broken bones and come back to work.

file photo

A Tulsa city councilor is trying to combat chronic absenteeism in local schools.

Councilor Karen Gilbert said she’s working on a truancy ordinance because around one in four Tulsa Public Schools students isn’t showing up.

"How do we educate a new generation of Tulsans when they’re not in the classroom, and how can we get them back in school?" Gilbert said.

Gilbert said Tulsa police stats for this school year show lower test scores and graduation rates aren’t the only problems truancy is causing.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Expect new delays next week on your commute if you take the Broken Arrow Expressway.

Starting Monday, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will narrow the BA to two lanes from three to replace the bridge decks over Sheridan Road.

ODOT Construction Engineer Jennifer Bullard said but temporary delays for improvements are better than the alternative.

"Just this last week, we had a major rainstorm and U.S. 169 decided to fall apart, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid happening in the future," Bullard said.

Governor's Office

Gov. Mary Fallin signed Thursday teacher pay raise bills passed this week, but the primary funding measure is a bit lighter.

Oklahoma House Republicans on Thursday passed a bill to repeal the $5 nightly lodging tax in the funding package, House Bill 1010XX. It was worth an estimated $50 million in revenue, but Senate Republican leaders would not release the funding bill for the governor to sign with the lodging tax in place.

Wikipedia

Tulsa civic and business leaders thanked state lawmakers Thursday for passing bills this week to give teachers a raise.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he’s never been so happy to be proven wrong as he was after last night's Senate votes on teacher raises averaging $6,100 and a funding package for them.

"I thought that we would be holding an advisory on what people should expect in the weeks ahead because our schools would all be closed because the legislature had failed to take action," Bynum said. "They proved me wrong. They proved themselves as leaders in our state."

Tulsa International Airport

Hotel shuttles, limos and similar vehicles may soon be charged a monthly fee to make trips to Tulsa International Airport.

Tulsa City Council should vote next week on a ground transportation policy from the airport improvement trust that requires commercial vehicles get a permit. Airport CEO Mark VanLoh said around 40,000 vehicles came through last week, causing traffic congestion.

"The Department of Homeland Security suggested to us we should probably get a handle on that and find out exactly who’s coming on the curb commercially, who’s doing business there," VanLoh said.

Tulsa-area residents with mental illness or addiction die 27 years sooner than all Oklahomans, and local overdose and suicide rates are both about double the murder rate.

Additionally, one in seven adults has a mental illness, and one in 20 has a serious mental illness. Those statistics are from a new report on the region’s mental health care system. 

A new group intends to go all out in opposing proposed tax increases that would help pay for teacher raises in Oklahoma.

Republican organizer Ronda Vuillemont-Smith said Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite is prepared to take action.

"Citizens have the power to repeal legislation via a veto referendum, which we plan to pursue should HB1010XX or HB1033XX or any other burdensome tax increase be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the governor," Vuillemont-Smith said.

Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs

Oklahoma lawmakers are again trying to shutter the embattled Talihina Veterans Center.

Identical Senate and House bills would let the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs issue $35 million in bonds for a new long-term care facility. The Oklahoma Veterans Commission would choose where it’s built.

Rep. Josh West said the stakes are high.

"If we don’t do something, then the federal government’s going to shut this facility down, and my fear is we lose 175 beds for veterans in the state of Oklahoma," West said.

Oklahoma Watch

Proposed Medicaid work requirements continue moving through the Oklahoma legislature.

The Senate Health and Human Services approved House Bill 2932 on Monday, sending it on to the Appropriations Committee.

While the governor has directed the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to come up with work requirements for able-bodied adults ages 19 to 64 by September, House Bill 2932 specifies they work, volunteer or do a combination of both an average of 20 hours a week.

Sen. Adam Pugh said he’s running the bill because he watched his mother work three jobs growing up.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a slate of tax increases Monday night intended to fund a teacher pay raise and potentially stop a teacher walkout set to begin April 2.

Oklahoma Watch

Changes seem likely for one of Oklahoma’s most popular corporate tax incentives.

A Senate bill tweaking the Quality Jobs Act has advanced to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. Rep. Matt Meredith asked Rep. Leslie Osborn just how much the measure will change for an incentive the state paid out $70 million for last year.

"If they start performing well and they’ve done what they need to be doing, after a certain period of time they come off that Quality Jobs Act?" Meredith said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

With a teacher walkout one week away, bills to give and pay for teacher raises look to be headed to the Oklahoma House floor tonight.

Lawmakers were still drafting the bills, which are amended versions of measures from the second special session that has not yet been adjourned, late Monday afternoon.

Measures that will be considered include tobacco and fuel tax increases, caps on wind tax credits and itemized deductions, and allowing ball and dice games at casinos. 

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said nothing’s a done deal yet.

Google Street View

A Vision sales tax–funded citywide study of Tulsa’s retail environment is underway.

Wisconsin-based Place Dynamics is doing preliminary work now, gleaning what information it can about Tulsa through data sources like the U.S. Census. City Planning Director Dawn Warrick said they hope to figure out weaknesses in Tulsa’s various retail areas.

"That includes where we have what we would call ‘leakages’ in areas that are over-served or that are underserved with certain types of retail and then kind of a strategy as to what to do about that," Warrick said.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Italian tissue paper manufacturer Sofidel is building a $360 million plant in the Rogers County town of Inola.

Sofidel’s new, nearly 2 million square foot facility should be running by 2020 and will be able to produce 120,000 tons of toilet paper, facial tissues and other products each year. That volume will require 300 workers. Inola Mayor Larry Grigg said that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Pixabay

Oklahoma House Republicans have sent the governor a bill dating back to last session to institute third-party Medicaid auditing.

Rep. Terry O’Donnell said the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s regular checks are not robust and let ineligible people remain on the Medicaid rolls. Rep. Chad Caldwell said the health care authority reviews a lot of information.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

This week, the Oklahoma Senate fell two votes short on a plan to fund a 12.7 percent across-the-board teacher pay increase, while House Republicans announced an unfunded proposal for six years of stepped raises.

Neither plan has the blessing of the Oklahoma Education Association, which is demanding a $10,000 raise over three years for teachers.

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma Senate sent the House a measure Thursday that will end the state’s capital gains income tax deduction.

The incentive allows corporations and individuals to deduct from their taxes the full profit on sales of property in Oklahoma or a stake in an Oklahoma company. The state’s incentive evaluation commission determined the credit was used mostly by taxpayers making more than $1 million a year and cost the state $465 million over five years.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma public school teachers want a $10,000 raise by April 1, or they’re walking out April 2 — and many Tulsans support them.

Civic and business leaders hosted a lunch hour rally Thursday at downtown’s Williams Green attended by dozens of teachers and many parents and community members. Mai Cazenave is the parent of a Booker T. Washington high schooler. She said students end up feeling their teachers’ financial stress.

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