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

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford thinks Congress can come up with a fix for President Obama’s program known as DACA before President Trump pulls the plug on it in two months.

"If we need to be able to extend some access between now and then to be able to protect those individuals, that’s good, but the people who are exposed right now are people that, really, didn’t sign up again and didn’t renew in time again for DACA," Lankford told MSNBC this weekend. "Those that are in the DACA that did their renewal, they are still in protected status and will stay that way.

Catherine Scott

Looking at 42 different measures, financial website Wallet Hub ranked Oklahoma the sixth-worst state to raise a family.

"We got most of these numbers from places like the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, county health rankings and aggregated them to come up with this final number, and, unfortunately, Oklahoma ranked in the bottom 10 as far as places to raise a family," said analyst Jill Gonzalez.

A broad plan to transform neighborhoods north of downtown was heard by the Tulsa Development Authority this week.

The plan builds on the authority’s vision for the Unity Heritage Neighborhoods, calling for dense, mixed-use neighborhoods and walkable thoroughfares — some of which existed 60 years ago.

The first of three phases calls for development of mixed-use neighborhoods concentrated in the area bounded by Detroit and Denver avenues, I-244, and Independence Street; extending Greenwood Avenue to the north; and redeveloping the Evans Fintube site.

AAA Oklahoma

AAA had its hands full this week, helping 6,000 stranded drivers in Oklahoma, 30 percent more than the same time last year.

Persistent, below-freezing temperatures were to blame, sapping juice from batteries and air from tires.

AAA Oklahoma's Mark Madeja said with daytime temperatures above freezing, now is a good time to get those parts checked out.

"Batteries are the bugaboo, always, and then tire pressure — people want to make sure that their tires are properly inflated, because that changes as the temperature drops," Madeja said.

With Oklahoma set to redraw its legislative districts in a few years, a group is pushing to get state lawmakers out of the process.

"We are guided by one simple principle, and that's that legislators should not be drawing their own legislative districts. When we look at the legislature now, we see a vastly unpopular body. Last time the polling was done, it said they had a 30 percent approval rating," said Represent Oklahoma Executive Director Rico Smith.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

VisitTulsa and the Tulsa Stadium Trust are laying the groundwork for a new downtown stadium.

They’re commissioning a study to see whether a 10,000 seat outdoor performance center makes financial sense.

"If you build this at $40 million or $50 million or $60 million, does it work? And does it generate enough economic impact and development around it to pay for those bonds?" said VisitTulsa President Ray Hoyt.

A funding mechanism for the venue has not been publicly discussed among local officials. The project missed the cut for the latest Vision sales tax plan.

State budget cuts forced the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to slide projects out of its eight-year plan for the first time last year.

ODOT Director Mike Patterson said the agency should look at that in a positive light.

"We never gave up on our fiscally constrained eight-year plan, and it worked exactly like it was supposed to. We did exactly what we were supposed to do," Patterson said. "If you have less money, you have to do less things."

File Photo

Builders in Oklahoma expect steady or increased business in most project types this year.

In a survey, 56 percent of Oklahoma builders said they anticipate more business this year than last year while none anticipate less. For the entire U.S., 53 percent of builders expect more business, and 9 percent expect less.

Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr said there are two main reasons for their optimism.

File Photo

Another round of federal elections is just months away, and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford has a bill to guard them against foreign interference.

Provisions of the Secure Elections Act would help push out paperless voting systems and encourage all states to audit their elections after they’re finished. Lankford told CNN states will still be running their elections.

The Children's Society

Oklahoma schools are trying to cut their chronic absenteeism rates.

Overall, about one in 10 kindergarten through 12th grade students miss at least 18 days of school a year. In high school, it’s approaching one in five students.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said schools must take a role in reducing those rates by asking students why they aren’t coming to school and be ready for difficult answers.

"Oklahoma being ranked third-highest in instance of child abuse and neglect in the country is just staggering but is a factor that we must address," Hofmeister said.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education has approved a slight change to a certification program to let teacher assistants lead some classrooms.

The alternative certification is for those paraprofessionals with a bachelor’s degree, experience as a teacher assistant and passing scores on all three state teaching exams.

The switch is from annual credentials renewable up to three years to credentials valid up to three years when they're issued.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • The mother of the man killed by Tulsa Police on Christmas Day says he suffered from mental illness.
  • Oklahoma's mental health commissioner says her agency has lost more than $51 million in recent years.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice plans to visit the Oklahoma County Jail "in the early part of next year" against county commissioners' wishes.

File Photo

What do 24,625 Oklahoma sixth- through 12th-graders represent?

"This is the number of students that were suspended for any amount of time — one day, three days, semester — any amount of time," said Oklahoma State Department of Education Director of Alternative Education Jennifer Wilkinson.

Tulsa Police Department

Tulsa Police shot and killed a naked man carrying a gun on Christmas.

The death is Tulsa's 81st homicide of 2017, one short of matching a record set just last year.

The shooting happened around 3:45 p.m. near 11th Street and Wheeling Avenue. Neighbors reported a naked man running down the street with a gun. One neighbor said he pointed a gun at them.

When officers arrived, TPD says the man ran toward them and pointed the gun at them, ignoring commands to stop. One officer fired several shots, and the man was pronounced dead at St. John hospital.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Tulsa Police shoot and kill a naked man with a gun.
  • 2017 legal bills hit more than $850,000 for Tulsa County Sheriff's Office. 
  • Oklahoma schools gave almost 71,000 in-school suspensions for sixth- through 12th-graders last year.

U.S. Department of Defense

Oklahoma U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe supports the inclusion of $4 billion for missile defense in a federal spending bill signed Friday.

President Donald Trump requested the funding earlier this year.

"Over the last 30 years, we've witnessed our missile defense programs go through dramatic investment changes from administration to administration," Inhofe said.

OETA

Oklahoma has learned its share of nearly $3 billion for the Children’s Health Insurance Program included in a short-term spending bill signed by the president today.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority's allotment is $44.4 million.

"We have begun to recalculate our state fiscal year 2018 budget, and we believe we are close to being able to sufficiently fund our CHIP program through June of this year," said OHCA CEO Becky Pasternik-Ikard.

Former Oklahoma House Minority Leader Scott Inman announced Friday he is returning to the legislature.

"After much consideration and consultation with my family, I have decided to honor the trust and faith shown to me by the citizens of Del City and south Oklahoma City when they elected me to serve as their representative for the sixth time in November of 2016. Today, I am announcing my intent to return to the Oklahoma House next session to complete the important work facing our great state," Inman said in a statement.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed Friday afternoon bills making supplemental appropriations to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Department of Human Services.  

The House signed off on the measures Friday morning.

The additional funding — $17.7 million for OHCA and $26.5 million for DHS will fund services for poor, elderly and disabled Oklahomans through April. That includes stopping Medicaid provider rate cuts and programs to keep elderly people who need minimal care stay in their homes rather than go to nursing homes.

Wikipedia

Oklahoma’s 280 alternative education programs taught more than 11,000 students last year.

More than 3,000 of them were seniors.

"Of those seniors that they served, they had a 93 percent graduation rate. So, of those students that were on track to drop out, they were able to enter one of these 280 programs and get back on track and graduated," State Director of Alternative Education Jennifer Wilkinson told the State Board of Education this week.

Wilkinson said Oklahoma’s philosophy is a big part of that success.

pixabay.com

Tax breaks on oil and gas production will cost Oklahoma nearly $400 million this year and next.

Gross production tax collections this year are projected to be $638 million. That's $397.5 million less than what they would be if the rate were the standard 7 percent rather than at incentive rates for the first years of production. The state will also pay out $2 million in tax credits and adjustments.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Oklahoma House gaveled in and out Thursday, but that's not because they didn't need to be at the capitol.

The Constitution required the House be in session for an official second reading of bills sending supplemental funding to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Department of Human Services. Representatives will vote on those measures Friday morning after a third official reading.

The measures will pay OHCA and DHS bills through April, meaning provider rate cuts will be stopped.

KFOR-TV

A University of Oklahoma regent who likened gay people to pedophiles during an Oklahoma City public affairs TV show says he will resign before the start of the upcoming academic year.

Vice Chair Kirk Humphreys said Thursday he does not want to be a distraction and announced plans to resign at a board meeting during which members were scheduled to discuss "any board member(s) as it may pertain to board leadership positions."

file

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has asked for an investigation of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

The request went to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and the House Special Investigative Committee.

"There was an audit done at the tourism department, and, subsequently, the auditor was let go after he made his findings known," said OPEA's Tom Dunning. "It's that sort of thing that really kind of sends up red flags about how tourism is operating."

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is nearly law.

Sen. Jim Inhofe said the tax reform plan passed by Congress Wednesday will be a boon for Oklahomans.

"The average family of four in my state of Oklahoma will get an increase in their take-home pay of $2,000," Inhofe said on the Senate floor in the lead up to votes on the bill.

Additional funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Department of Human Services is just a House vote away from approval.

The full Senate approved measures Wednesday giving OHCA $17.7 million and DHS $26.5 million to get them through April. The funding will halt provider rate cuts by OHCA.

KWGS News file photo

Did you know a low-water dam is still in the works for Sand Springs?

Tulsa County Commissioners approved a sponsor agreement for it this week with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a reminder the county can pay for the project and a commitment to preserve any historically significant finds during construction.

"I like to tell everybody that this is, like, a 50 step process and this is step No. 25 of that 50 step process, so I'd say we're a little bit more than halfway there — just barely — on getting this to fruition," said District Two Chief Deputy John Fothergill.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma’s second extraordinary session of 2017 is moving right along.

House and Senate budget committees passed bills Tuesday to fund the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Department of Human Services through April. The agencies are in line for $17.7 and $26.5 million of an estimated $50 million coming from the early end of gross production tax incentives on some oil and gas wells. But Rep. Jason Dunnington noted there’s some lag time here.

State of Oklahoma-File photo

The former Oklahoma State Department of Health Chief Operations Officer testified Tuesday to the House investigative committee.

Deborah Nichols laid out a timeline of the agency’s finances starting around January 2016. That’s when the agency pulled the plug on a remodel of three floors of its headquarters days before the bid was signed because the money for the project wasn’t there.

"So, that was one of the first red flags," Nichols said. "You don't — you don't know that you don't have $8 million. You either have it or you don't have it."

Oklahoma Watch

Two federal agencies are now participating in a probe of financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The FBI and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will partner with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter's office to investigate issues relating to the use of federal funds at the health department.

The partnership means the management of state and federal funding is under scrutiny.

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