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

Matt Trotter/KWGS News / KWGS

The Tulsa chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police files a grievance with the state bar against District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

Tulsa FOP Chairman Jerad Lindsey said Kunzweiler was under pressure to charge Officer Betty Shelby with manslaughter after she fatally shot Terence Crutcher, who was unarmed.

"Many of us look nationwide to similar situations and the outcome of those, whether it be Ferguson or wherever, and I believe that there was a want and a need by all parties involved to not have that happen in Tulsa," Lindsey said.

File Photo

The Oklahoma House approved a budget bill Tuesday freezing the state’s standard income tax deduction at current federal levels.

House Bill 2348 means Oklahoma’s standard deductions would be $6,350 for single filers, $12,700 for joint filers or $9,350 for heads of household for this tax year forward. Otherwise, they would increase with the federal standard deduction.

"We can have this be higher than the federal deduction. We can have it be lower than the federal deduction," said Rep. Lewis Moore. "It is what is required revenue-wise to provide for the people of Oklahoma."

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Federal agencies gave the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office $690,320.23 Monday out of money seized in a years-long synthetic drug investigation.

Operation Mega Buzz began with a 2012 search warrant on a home in Broken Arrow, and it grew to a multi-agency federal investigation of a criminal organization with a presence in eight cities across five states. The organization smuggled chemicals into the United States from China for use in manufacturing K2.

Small Business Administration

It's National Small Business Week, but running store owner and Tulsa Small Business Connection Chair Lori Dreiling said they have a big impact.

"Small businesses make up 85 percent of businesses in the Tulsa region, and we create two out of three jobs," Dreiling said.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued a Small Business Week proclamation Monday at city hall and said the city is dedicated to helping them grow here, citing some famous examples.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson announced Monday he's running for governor.

Edmondson said the state is giving away too much to special interests at the expense of Oklahoma families. He cites one oil company making $21 billion from 2008 to 2015, which would have meant $2 billion in taxes at the 6 percent corporate rate.

"They paid $71 million. They paid an effective tax rate of 0.3 percent," Edmondson said. "Now, they're not breaking the law. They're following the laws that they bought and paid for."

KWGS News File Photo

The Oklahoma legislature Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget wrapped up this week by passing 13 bills Thursday.

Altogether, the measures represent nearly $47 million in revenue.

A reworked proposal to tax pro sports tickets was among the bills. A previous proposal subjected tickets to sales tax. House Bill 2361 would generate an estimated $2.7 million by instituting a $1 fee on tickets that cost $50 or less and a $2 fee on tickets that cost more than $50.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak wants the state to lead the way in trying out new health care ideas.

That sort of innovation was the focus of a summit at OSU’s Health Sciences Center on Friday.

The daylong event featured presentations on topics like transparent pricing, using wearable devices to predict health risk and using telemedicine to help primary care doctors in underserved communities treat complex conditions.

Doak said he wants Oklahoma to be a testing ground for the best ideas.

KWGS News File Photo

Oklahoma lawmakers' deadline to pass an education budget is nearly a month behind us now.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said considering the ongoing difficulty collecting the forecasted amount of revenue, she wouldn't want the budget lawmakers would have passed April 1, anyway.

In the news:

  • Budget work is underway at the capitol, but public schools are still in the dark for planning their budgets.
  • The Oklahoma Senate approves "small loans," a short-term loan critics say preys on poor people.
  • Local immigration reform advocates join a national organization headed by tech industry leaders.

An Oklahoma coalition has joined a national immigration reform movement.

The new Oklahoma chapter of FWD.us involves business, community and faith leaders. Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Francisco Trevino said it’s important businesses take the lead because they understand the economic implications of immigration.

By 2025, three-fourths of the workforce is going to be Hispanics. What are we going to do without 11 million people that are not going to be able to work if they're not here?" Trevino said.

The state Senate approved a bill Thursday creating short-term loans known as “small loans.”

House Bill 1913 allows installment loans up to $1,500 either in a single loan or in total across multiple loans. Lenders can charge up to 17 percent interest per month, and terms are capped at 12 months.

Opponents say the finance charges on small loans end up being three to four times those allowed on installment loans known as "B loans" currently authorized by state law. In 2014, there were 77 consumer loans taken out for every 100 Oklahoma adults.

Thursday's top stories:

  • Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum presents an $824 million budget to the city council.
  • Tulsa police arrest 92 people in a four-day sweep focused on violent crime.
  • PSO bills will go up this summer.

City of Tulsa

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum presented his first budget to the city council Wednesday night.

The total proposed fiscal year 2018 budget is $824 million. While the expected $269 million general fund is flat, additional funding from the Vision renewal is in play.

Bynum said his budget represents action rather than talk.

File Photo

The Oklahoma House gave final passage Wednesday to a bill increasing a fee on criminal and traffic fines.

Senate Bill 38 increases the Forensic Science Improvement Assessment from $5 to $10. The money goes to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Rep. Cory Williams said such fee increases contradict criminal justice reform efforts.

okhca.org

The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill Wednesday requiring annual reviews of SoonerCare enrollees’ eligibility.

Sen. James Leewright says Medicaid enrollment errors are costly.

"In Illinois, they found that 14,148 people were receiving benefits but were actually deceased," Leewright said. "Arkansas, we had 43,000 Medicaid enrollees that weren't even residents of the state."

A citizen-led campaign to redesign the City of Tulsa flag presented its three finalists Wednesday.

About 400 designs were submitted, and more than 600 people responded to a survey to help guide those designs.

"The question we found to be most productive in providing the best input was, 'What event in Tulsa's history is most important?'" said Joey Wignarajah. "In any good flag, so much of what makes it important is the narrative behind it. When you look at the American flag, all of us learned the importance of the American flag."

Clifton Adcock/Oklahoma Watch

A bill preventing gun regulations in Oklahoma from anyone but state lawmakers failed to advance from the Senate Tuesday.

House Bill 2322 was another of several recent preemption bills considered by the legislature. Others have dealt with oil and gas regulations, and protection from discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons.

Sen. Kay Floyd said the measure goes too far because it would affect current state law.

“Authorized Use Only” signs reinvigorate opponents of a deal to sell part of Tulsa’s Helmerich Park.

About 40 protesters gathered there midday Tuesday.

A deal reached last month will see 8.8 of the 65 acres at 71st Street and Riverside Drive sold. As a result, the city abandoned that portion of the park. Former Mayor Terry Young said that’s not the right process.

"The people have not abandoned this park, and so it cannot be declared so by the city council. It's a matter of law," Young said.

Oklahoma Watch

A bill expected to net millions in revenue next year by expanding the definition of “noncompliant taxpayer” goes to the governor.

House Bill 2343 says the definition now applies when filings are missed on any tax but income for two out of 24 months. Currently, the definition only applies to missed sales tax filings and payments.

Sen. Roger Thompson said the change doesn't mean the Oklahoma Tax Commission will suddenly have broad powers to go after anyone in the state.

A new A–F school grading system appears set to become law in Oklahoma.

To comply with new federal education law, House Bill 1693 says schools will get several A–F grades on individual indicators along with one overall letter grade. The bill sets Oklahoma's indicators as statewide assessments, high school graduation rates, statewide academic measures for elementary and middle schools, English language proficiency for English learners, and one yet to be determined.

KWGS News

City of Tulsa water and sewer rates are set to increase again this year, and stormwater rates will likely go up, too, after no increase last year.

The city water and sewer department said those rates need to go up 5 and 9 percent to keep up with the cost of maintaining the systems.

Because of less spending and more revenue this fiscal year, the department had more money to put into its capital fund. Department rate modeler Eric Lee said that helps defer rate increases.

KWGS News File Photo

City of Tulsa and Tulsa Public Schools officials got together Wednesday to discuss education funding they describe as “beyond crisis.”

Loose ideas for local funding came up, including a package for voters to decide on and special taxing districts to benefit education. TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said there are still a lot of legal unknowns when it comes to funding outside the state aid formula.

OETA

The Oklahoma legislature's Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget passed five measures at its first meeting Monday afternoon.

Altogether, they represent an estimated $27.9 million increase in state revenue, or 3 percent of the $878 million budget hole.

A proposal to scale back Oklahoma’s film tax incentive was among the measures. House Bill 2344 caps annual payments of the rebate at $4 million rather than $5 million. Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Deby Snodgrass said the incentive review commission wanted to eliminate the rebate.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma House Democrats had a unified message on the floor Tuesday.

Whether it was a measure about student loans or airport inspections, nearly every Republican running a bill during the morning session was asked the same questions: Does this bill have any recurring revenue? Does this bill have any impact on this year's budget?

There was the occasional testy exchange, such as when Rep. Cory Williams asked Rep. Elise Hall about her specialty license plate bill.

pixabay.com

State representatives passed a bill Monday changing some requirements for royalty payments oil and gas companies must make to landowners.

Among the changes is removing a provision those payments earn compound interest if energy companies hold onto the money longer than they’re supposed to.

"That is nothing but a gift to the oil companies," said Rep. David Perryman. "Why should we give the oil company the benefit of using your constitutents’ and my constituents’ money? Why do we have to be their banker?"

Brumbaugh Family

The Oklahoma House paid tribute Monday to Rep. David Brumbaugh, who died suddenly this weekend at 56.

House business waited half an hour as Brumbaugh’s colleagues honored the three-term state legislator. Members sang "Amazing Grace," and a few spoke about Brumbaugh. The Rev. Derrek Belase’s invocation focused on him.

"Rep. Brumbaugh’s deeds will live on well beyond his life, and most of them will not be found in House journals dating back to 2010, as important as those are, but in the way that he lived, led and loved," Belase said.

A proposal for a $6,000 teacher pay raise over three years moved forward in the Oklahoma Senate this week.

That includes a $1,000 raise next year. How likely is it that will happen?

"Right now, not very. I think — still think — we end up with a framework to move forward, but we've got a lot of ground to make up in just the normal budget before we start spending more money," said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz.

Schulz said lawmakers are passing the measure to keep a vehicle for teacher raises alive, but the language is likely to change.

File photo

Oklahoma House and Senate leaders have said this session will be all about the budget. Speaker Charles McCall says the real work is about to begin.

"Multiple vehicles have been introduced. We will start rolling language into those next week and moving those through committee to the floor of the House," McCall said. "I'm very excited about the timing of this. As I've said in the past, we are ahead of schedule."

Bills requiring only a simple majority will come first, and those requiring a three-fourths supermajority will be taken up later.

Oklahoma lawmakers continue work on a bill to allow out-of-state companies to sell health insurance in the state.

Senate Bill 478 will go to conference committee if it passes the house, as it was changed to apply only to individual coverage. Critics maintain out-of-state insurers will skimp on Oklahoma-mandated coverage. Rep. Lewis Moore addressed concerns the bill would be bad for families who just recently saw autism coverage become required by state law.

A House committee advances a science education bill panned by critics as unnecessary and an opening for misinformation.

Rep. David Brumbaugh says the intent of Senate Bill 393 is to promote critical thinking by exposing students to a broader range of scientific data than what textbooks offer.

"Aristotle, even this far back, talked about that, that, you know, the mind that can entertain, uh, different thoughts without, you know, changing their mind but looking — reason obeys itself, OK?" Brumbaugh said.

Pages