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

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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.

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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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A highly respected brewery clears what is likely to be its biggest hurdle toward setting up shop at 18th Street and Boston Avenue.

American Solera is currently set up in west Tulsa, but founder Chase Healey is eyeing 108 E 18th St. for a new taproom. Microbreweries are considered "low-impact manufacturing and industry" uses under the zoning code. That area is zoned commercial.

Healey said the brewing process involves an all-electric system and doesn’t produce any unpleasant fumes.

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Oklahoma Senators are working on a plan to move the state to a floating fuel tax.

Sen. Eddie Fields said the idea comes from Michigan and Georgia, but his Senate Bill 499 has a slight difference.

"In Georgia, the governor has his or her ability to change the mechanics of that. I've taken that language out of our Senate bill to take the governor out of that equation, so this would just be basically something with the tax commission," Fields said.

Department of Public Safety

Oklahoma’s decade-long opposition to implementing provisions of the federal REAL ID Act appears to be over.

State senators approved the fast-tracked compliance bill on a 35 to 11 vote, sending it to the governor’s desk for Mary Fallin’s signature. Sen. David Holt led presentation of House Bill 1845 on the floor.

OSSAA

An Oklahoma Senate panel rejected a proposal Monday to let charter school students participate in extracurricular activities at the public school they would otherwise attend.

Shawnee Republican Ron Sharp said allowing that would be unfair to schools.

"It would have an unfunded mandate, because you have to provide uniforms. You have to have extra coaches," Sharp said.

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The State Department of Education could be told to take a look at a new form of school district consolidation.

The Oklahoma Senate Education Committee passed a bill Monday directing the education department to study administrative services. By Dec. 1, 2018, there would be a list of districts recommended for Regional Education Administrative Districts.

Senate Bill 514 author Gary Stanislawski said the biggest change with READs would be a single administration for several districts.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma lawmakers are being asked to approve an expansion of a law allowing certain county officials to hire outside counsel.

House Bill 2231 was unanimously approved by a House committee. It would let sheriffs hire an independent attorney to assist deputies involved in shootings. Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office attorney Terry Simonson said it can be difficult for deputies immediately after a shooting.

Impact Tulsa

Tulsa-area students are doing better at third-grade reading and at continuing their education after high school.

A new report from Impact Tulsa shows from 2015 to 2016, Hispanic third-graders gained about a quarter school year in reading proficiency and low-income students nearly three weeks. Meanwhile, postsecondary enrollment climbed from 63 percent among 2013 grads to 67 percent among 2014 grads, with nonwhite student enrollment going from 56 to 65 percent.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Broken Arrow intends to tear down the house where five family members were murdered in July 2015.

"Our purpose — the city's purpose — for the first responders, for the neighborhood, is to make this property go away. It's doubtful that anybody would buy it, but we want to make sure nobody does," said Councilor Mike Lester.

Lester is leading the effort to turn the Bever family home into a symbol of healing for neighbors and for first responders, like Broken Arrow Police Sgt. Stephen Garrett.

Oklahoma’s new school assessment and accountability system got its first approval by lawmakers Thursday.

State and federal law changes led to the overhaul, which involved a months-long study for the State Department of Education by a 95 member task force. The State Board of Education approved the new system in December.

Several House Democrats debated against the system, which preserves the school report cards derided by educators. Minority Leader Scott Inman said federal law doesn’t require them.

FDA

The Oklahoma House has approved a bill to let schools send home extra food with needy kids.

Oklahoma City Democrat Jason Dunnington said right now, schools — his kids' included — often end up throwing out uneaten, extra food from breakfast and lunch.

"One in four children in Oklahoma suffer from food insecurity, and this is just a common-sense way of trying not to waste good food, send that home with kids that need it for themselves and their families," Dunnington said.

Dunnington co-authored House Bill 1875 with Guthrie Republican Sen. AJ Griffin.

After lengthy debate, an Oklahoma Senate panel advanced a bill Wednesday to let Oklahomans get identification compliant with 2005's federal REAL ID Act.

Lawmakers forbid state participation in the REAL ID Act’s implementation 10 years ago. House Bill 1845 lets Oklahomans choose compliant or non-compliant driver licenses and ID cards. Shawnee Republican Sen. Ron Sharp said there are some flaws in the bill, but it’s time to act.

KWGS News

Revenues are "pathetic" and Oklahoma is "out of tricks," Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger told the State Board of Equalization.

The board certified Tuesday an $878.2 million budget hole — $10 million dollars deeper than it was two months ago —and declared fiscal year 2017's first revenue failure.

Revenues declined from 4.4 percent below estimates in December to 5.7 percent below this month. State Treasurer Ken Miller said forecasting is difficult with an economy reliant upon commodities.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

A foundation has been set up to accept private dollars on behalf of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

"Law enforcement personnel, professional training, top-notch equipment and a transparent, community response requires additional funding to accomplish the goal of providing the best public safety in Tulsa County," said Tulsa County Sheriff’s Foundation Chairman Tim Harris.

The initial goal is $300,000 in private donations to fund body cameras for all deputies and to hire someone to oversee a new citizens advisory board.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

An Oklahoma senate panel approved a bill Monday to prevent city and county governments from outdoing state laws on employment and public accommodations.

The bill initially prevented local governments from going further than any state law. A committee substitute focused it on employment and public accommodations laws.

Senate Bill 694 author Sen. Joshua Brecheen sparred with Sen. Kay Floyd over the need to preemptively protect business owners' expression of sincerely held religious beliefs through refusing service to LGBTQ people.

KWGS News

Developers looking to get in on Tulsa’s revitalization of Route 66 can apply for loans to help with environmentally problematic sites.

The city received $1.1 million from the EPA for a revolving loan fund. Money can be loaned out to help clean up things like old gas stations. Michelle Barnett oversees the city brownfields program and said funding can be used for more than soil and groundwater issues common to old service stations.

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