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

Tulsa Police Department

A portion of Tulsa’s public safety tax revenue next year could go toward overhauling the police department website and social media accounts as the city ramps up hiring.

"We’re trying to do just an unprecedented level of recruitment and then trying to get the best possible applicant pool for academy sizes that are unprecedented," said Mayor G.T. Bynum.

The best possible Tulsa Police Department recruits, however, aren't being reached through traditional recruiting efforts.

KWGS File photo

Moldy, crumbling and uninhabitable — those are the conditions at some of Oklahoma’s prisons.

The state may issue $116.5 million dollars in bonds for repairs and improvements to the facilities. Senator Roger Thompson said maintenance and repairs have been overlooked for too long.

"Whenever we looked at our prison system a few years ago, because of funding to the prison system, there was not even a repair fund until just two years ago," Thompson said.

The Children's Society

A bill protecting private agencies if they deny child placements on moral or religious grounds is going to Gov. Mary Fallin after passing both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature on Thursday.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 1140 33–7 before noon, and the House passed the measure 56–21 just after 5 p.m.

House Democrats stalled the final vote on the bill by using procedural motions for almost an hour before Republicans shut them down.

A bill to allow Oklahoman's to carry a gun, even without a permit, has passed the state Senate and goes to the governor.

The bill by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm passed on a 33―9 vote shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday as senators met late into the night.

Dahm has been pushing for a constitutional carry provision in state law and called Senate Bill 1212’s passage a major victory for the Second Amendment.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma lawmakers have started the process of striking several proposed ethics rules.

House Joint Resolution 1029 specifically rejects a two-year “cooling off” period for lawmakers and some state employees before becoming lobbyists. Rep. John Paul Jordan said the commission is overstepping its authority.

"The Ethics Commission does not have the ability – or should not have the ability – to regulate the employment of a private citizen. That is not in the state constitution," Jordan said.

File photo

With mandatory life without parole sentences in juvenile cases held unconstitutional, Oklahoma lawmakers have crafted a bill making them possible only in first-degree murder cases.

Senate Bill 1221 would let prosecutors seek and a judge order the sentence. Sen. Kay Floyd said the bill was amended to deal with that subject just last week and with the help of House Speaker Harold Wright's daughter, Angela Marsee, who prosecuted a case the new law could affect.

A group backed by former Oklahoma U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has started its quest to put state lawmakers’ special session tax hikes to a popular vote.

"You know, if people want their taxes raised, then they can vote in favor of it, and if they don’t want their taxes raised, they can vote no," said Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite co-founder Rhonda Vuillemont-Smith.

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Come fall, many retired state employees may get stipends averaging $550.

A bill heading to the governor grants Oklahoma pensioners retired at least five years one-time payments on Oct. 1 based on their retirement system’s funded ratio. They will range from $350 to $1,400.

Many lawmakers say the state must continue work to put retirement systems on solid financial ground. Rep. Forrest Bennett said retirees haven’t received a cost of living adjustment in 10 years.

photopedia.com

A proposal to stop paying refunds of Oklahoma’s wind tax credit is stuck in the legislative doldrums.

The Senate rejected House amendments to Senate Bill 888, which originally ended an ethanol tax credit. Many lawmakers, including Sen. Casey Murdock, were concerned about the effect cutting off refund payments for wind tax credits would have on Oklahoma’s reputation.

Oklahoma Senate

The Oklahoma Senate welcomed a new voice Monday for its chaplain of the day.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski announced to the chamber that as is their custom, they would open with a prayer. Not the Senate’s custom, however, is a Hindu prayer.

Rajan Zed’s Sanskrit and English invocation Monday was the first Hindu prayer in the body’s 110-year history. Zed asked lawmakers to consider the glory of the supreme being; always work with others’ welfare in mind; and pray for protection, knowledge and unity.

File photo

The Oklahoma House signed off Monday on spending $2.8 million more dollars on private-prison per diem rates next year.

That's the estimated cost of lawmakers raising the floor for the payments to $43.30 a day. House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace said a vendor whose contract is expiring asked the Department of Corrections for a bigger increase.

"This number was not their full ask. It was a negotiation to get them to commit to house our prisoners for a multiple-year contract," Wallace said.

Oklahoma's 2019 budget is official.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 1600 on Monday. The $7.6 billion budget is the largest in state history, though per capita spending is still lagging behind its all-time high. It's the first budget in several years without agency cuts.

Trip Advisor

The City of Tulsa is getting money that will help prepare old Route 66 businesses for new life.

The EPA is awarding Tulsa $300,000 for brownfield assessment. City Deputy Chief of Economic Development Michelle Barnett said brownfield sites include old gas stations, garages and dry cleaners and may have a variety of environmental problems to mitigate before they’re turned into a new business.

OPMX

State lawmakers are again trying to OK displays of the Ten Commandments on public property in Oklahoma.

House Bill 2177 would allow displays of historical documents commemorating Oklahoma’s history, including the Ten Commandments. Sen. Micheal Bergstrom said they’re foundational to law.

"If we’re going to ban a document of this historic importance because it speaks of God, then we need to ban the Declaration of Independence," Bergstrom said, adding the Gettysburg Address and Pledge of Allegiance would also have to go. "Obviously, each of these bans would be ludicrous."

Serge Melki

Oklahoma’s $7.5 billion budget is on Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk after passing the House 63–31 this afternoon.

The spending bill assumes oil will stay around $53 a barrel for the next 12 months and natural gas will stay around $2.99 per thousand cubic feet. House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace was asked whether budgets should be based on more stable revenue, like income and sales taxes.

File Photo

The Oklahoma House narrowly passed a bill Wednesday to make wind tax credits non-refundable.

Supporters claim Senate Bill 888 will save the state $500 million to $750 million over the next decade. Opponents worry the move will hurt the state’s business reputation.

Rep. Scott Fetgatter said Oklahoma needs to stop attacking industries, a habit he said goes back to General Motors losing state tax credits decades ago.

KWGS News

Tulsa’s utility authority is requesting water and sewer rate increases again this year.

The utility authority said it needs 2 percent water and 9 percent sewer rate increases to keep up with debt service, improvements and increasing costs. Those increases translate to monthly bill increases of $2.50 for utility customers considered "low users," billed for 3,000 gallons of water and 2,000 gallons of sewer. The average customer's bill would go up by $5.02, and "high users" — 12,000 gallons of water and 8,000 gallons of sewer — would see $7.54 increases.  

Matt Trotter / KWGS

State senators approved Oklahoma’s 2019 budget on Wednesday.

The $7.5 billion spending plan is the largest in state history, though that's tempered by the state's population being the highest it's ever been. 

A historic revenue package and improving economy let lawmakers avoid cuts despite a $167 million budget shortfall being forecast in February. But several Democrats bemoaned the legislature not taking up additional revenue measures, like undoing income tax cuts.

Stay calm, turn off your car, keep your hands on the wheel.

Instructions like those telling Oklahomans what to do when they get pulled over are a new part of the state drivers manual. The inserts are the result of a partnership between the Department of Public Safety and Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus.

DPS Commissioner Rusty Rhoades said other instructions include turn off the radio, don't make any sudden movements and turn on your interior lights if it's nighttime.

Tulsa Police

The Tulsa County District Attorney charges an alleged drug dealer with first-degree murder for his customer’s overdose death.

Jillian Searle’s mother found her unconscious from a heroin overdose in their home March 21. Searle, 19, later died.

Detectives say 29-year-old Taylor Rogers admitted to selling her a gram of heroin around 24 hours earlier and believed the drug killed her. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said detectives built a good template with the case, which has led to a first-degree murder charge against Rogers.

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Larger shares of Tulsa Public Schools high schoolers are graduating.

The district reports a graduation rate of 76.9 percent for the class of 2017, up 4 percentage points from the class of 2014. The district tracks graduation rates in four-year cohorts.

TPS Secondary Instructional Leadership Director Stacey Vinson said bringing back students who left school has helped push the graduation rate up. That work includes a door-knocking campaign the district instituted last year.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • An arrest has been made in a nearly 20-year-old northeast Oklahoma murder case.
  • Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter stays on the ballot after the state election board tosses an opponent's challenge to whether Hunter meets residency requirements.
  • Jim Bridenstine is sworn in as the new administrator of NASA.

Google

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A new survey shows the support that has been provided to Oklahoma communities as a result of the Google Data Center in Pryor.

An analysis by Oxford Economics shows the data center is making its mark on the community with about 400 employees that have a combined direct income of approximately $31.5 million.

The Oklahoman reports that the economic impact survey measures direct, indirect and induced jobs and income generated.

Wikipedia

While how they’ll do it is still up in the air, Oklahoma lawmakers will take up bills affecting the wind industry before the session is over.

Negotiations continue on a possible gross production tax on wind energy. The stalemate is between House Democrats, who want assurances that will be the last tax change for the industry, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat, who does not want that put into law.

Joel Kowsky / NASA

It's official: Jim Bridenstine is now the administrator of NASA.

Bridenstine was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence Monday afternoon at NASA headquarters in Washington.

Pence said Bridenstine is taking charge of the agency at a time when interest in its goals are on the upswing and so are its responsibilities.

"Under Space Policy Directive 1, we will send American astronauts back to the moon, and after that, we will establish the capacity with international and commercial partners to send Americans to Mars. And NASA will lead the way," Pence said.

State of Oklahoma-File photo

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter remains on the ballot after a Republican challenger contested his candidacy.

Gentner Drummond tried to make the case that Hunter’s time with D.C. lobbying firms between 2002 and 2015 meant he was not a bona fide resident of Oklahoma for 10 years prior to filing for the 2018 election and therefore ineligible. 

In addition to arguing Hunter gave up his homestead exemption in Oklahoma, indicating he was no longer a resident, Attorney Garry Gaskins pointed election board Chair Steve Curry to a TV interview with Hunter.

Tulsa police tallied the city's 11th homicide of the year early Sunday in an apparent murder-suicide.

Police found a 33-year-old woman dead in a bedroom at 12227 E 38th Place. She had been shot with a small-caliber rifle. A 44-year-old man was dead in the same room, and police say evidence points to the man killing the woman and then turning his gun on himself.

Serge Melki

Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2019 state budget will likely be revealed this week.

House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace said there’s more for lawmakers to appropriate this time around.

"We are down to, I would say, less than 1 percent of the overall budget. We’re going to have about $7.6 billion to appropriate this year. Some final decisions have to be made between the speaker, the pro tem and the governor, and we’re very close," Wallace said.

This budget has a major difference from budgets of the past few years.

Monday's top stories:

  • State lawmakers expect Oklahoma's budget will be finished soon.
  • More testimony is planned for today in the murder trial of Michael Bever.
  • Rain helps firefighters control blazes in western Oklahoma.

NIEER

The latest State of Preschool report takes a bit of the shine off Oklahoma’s pre-K program.

The annual report says Oklahoma puts quantity over quality, getting the nation’s fourth-highest proportion of four-year-olds, 73 percent, into preschool but meeting just seven of 10 heightened quality standards.

National Institute for Early Education Research CEO Steven Barnett said there are great benefits to pre-K, especially for kids in low-income families.

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