In The Know: Judge says ‘suck it up’ after executions put strain on prison staff | No attorneys left in State Ed. Dept.? | School board elections on Tuesday

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

A judge says ‘suck it up’ after executions put strain on Oklahoma prison staff: An Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals judge said Department of Corrections staff tasked with carrying out the state’s backlog of executions need to “suck it up.” Judge Gary Lumpkin made the remarks during a hearing Tuesday on the state’s request to further delay the time between executions from 60 days to 90 days to reduce strain on staff. [The Frontier]

The state Education Department’s attorneys all are gone: The Oklahoma State Department of Education’s team of attorneys apparently has no one left, which left the State Board of Education in a unique situation for its monthly meeting on Thursday. Instead of having an attorney employed by the agency present agenda items concerning legal matters to the board, the person presenting those items during the meeting instead was a contracted attorney for the board, which is not common practice. The likely reason? A recent run of departures from the state Education Department. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tensions flared ahead of monthly Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting [Oklahoma Voice]
  • State superintendent faces more criticism over safety of LGBTQ+ students [Tulsa World]
  • Walters announces school choice resource, LGBT advocates rally at state board meeting [Fox 25]
  • Public comment focused on death of Nex Benedict at Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting [KOCO]
  • OSDE approves charter school requests in March board meeting [KFOR]

State Government News

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat warns Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt not to meddle in Senate elections: Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat on Thursday warned Gov. Kevin Stitt against targeting Republican senators who are up for reelection. “It is going to be very unwelcome if he tries to take out members of our caucus, and I know there are strong rumors to that end that he is seeking to take out good members of the Republican caucus. That would not be received well inside this building nor would it be received well outside this building,” Treat said. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • State Senate leader opposes governor’s involvement in legislative races [Tulsa World]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Minimum wage initiative petition, Congressman Tom Cole, Superintendent Ryan Walters and more (audio): The panel talks about a delay in the signature gathering for an initiative petition to raise Oklahoma’s minimum wage as opponents call for a rehearing by the State Supreme Court, Congressman Tom Cole vying to be the next chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations and Budget Committee and another State Department of Education employee resigning. [KOSU]

Opinion: Walters’ turbulence tests Oklahoma lawmakers: In the session’s final nine weeks, Oklahoma lawmakers face two must-dos – one is a required assignment, the other a moral imperative. They are duty-bound, of course, to produce a state budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1. But they also must summon the courage to formally evaluate whether Ryan Walters is properly fulfilling his duties as state superintendent – and whether he should remain in office. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Mullin says border and debt seem foremost on Oklahomans’ minds: U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin said Thursday that the most consistent concerns he’s heard while touring the state this week have involved border security and the federal government’s mounting debts. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Editorial: Gov. Stitt should renew the mutually beneficial Cherokee Nation tag compacts: Gov. Kevin Stitt has an opportunity with the Cherokee Nation car tag compacts to continue an agreement that has been working for everyone. We encourage him to take it. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

Tuesday, April 2 Board of Education General Election and Special Elections: Elections will be held statewide on Tuesday, April 2. Visit the OK Voter Portal to view a list of elections in your community, polling places, view sample ballots, and more. [Oklahoma Election Board]

Tulsa Public Schools District 2: KanDee Washington, Calvin Moniz seek to end high board turnover: Voters in Tulsa Public Schools District 2 are preparing for an April 2 election to select their fourth board member of the 2020s, with both Calvin Moniz and KanDee Washington competing for the highest-turnover school board seat in TPS. [NonDoc]

Tulsa Public Schools District 6: Sarah Smith, Maria Seidler compete for open seat: Voters in Tulsa Public School District 6 will choose between Sarah Smith and Maria Mercedes Seidler on April 2 in the race to succeed Jerry Griffin, who resigned Jan. 2 and left the seat vacant. [NonDoc]

Embezzlement, ties to political groups at issue in Tulsa Public Schools District 5 school board race: Tulsa’s school board election is coming up. One of the more closely watched races is between Teresa Peña and John Croisant in District 5. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Opinion: Enid voters: Do you really want someone tied to white nationalism representing you?: In 2023, the residents of Ward 1, in Enid, elected Judson “Judd” Blevins to be city commissioner. Whether they knew his background at that time is irrelevant. Everybody knows now. He was recalled, and there will be an election on April 2 for that seat. It has been reported he associates with white nationalist/white supremacist causes. He has never renounced or apologized for the beliefs of white nationalism/supremacy, including the belief that Aryans (a geographically and historically misplaced and misappropriated term for white people of European origin) are genetically superior to all other races. [Michael Korenblit / The Oklahoman]

Health News

‘The program is not ready’: Oklahoma provider raises concerns with SoonerSelect: An Oklahoma provider told News 4 she’s concerned the new SoonerSelect program isn’t ready to serve a major portion of Oklahoma. The change impacts about 80 percent of the more than one million Oklahomans enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. [KFOR]

Officials celebrate groundbreaking of Oklahoma’s largest mental health hospital: Officials broke ground on a new $150 million mental health hospital, Donahue Behavioral Health Hospital, that will bring top of the line care for adults and children across Oklahoma. [KFOR]

Opinion: It’s time for Okla. Legislature to recognize valuable contributions of physician assistants: As a Physician Assistant with over a decade of experience, I experienced firsthand the devastating consequences of a disparity in the right to practice for PAs and Nurse Practitioners, which not only jeopardized my livelihood but also undermined patient access to quality care. With a bill pending on Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk that solely addresses independent practice for NPs and not PAs, Oklahoma is poised to follow Illinois should he opt to sign it and the Legislature fail to take action. [Nicole Mason / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Legislators raise more concerns about increase of violence in Oklahoma prisons. ‘It’s serious and real’: A state legislative leader says he’s concerned that violent incidents, deaths and rapes will increase in Oklahoma prisons if something doesn’t change. [The Oklahoman]

Death row inmate James Chandler Ryder spared from execution because of mental health issues: A death row inmate cannot be executed for a fatal 1999 bludgeoning because he is mentally incompetent, a judge has ruled. James Chandler Ryder was to have been the first inmate executed in Oklahoma this year. The Feb. 1 execution was called off after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 100-day stay in December. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s Prison Rodeo could be closer to coming back despite bill getting pushback: Oklahoma’s Prison Rodeo may be coming back as it’s possible a bill to fund the event and a new stadium is one step closer to becoming law. [KOCO]

Someone tried to steal a house? OKC family home nearly taken through fraudulent records: Oklahoma County Clerk Maressa Treat said Thursday that property thefts obtained through title changes are a national problem that also is being seen in Oklahoma County. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City councilwoman raises concerns over police access to school cameras: An Oklahoma City leader is sharing her concerns after council voted to allow police to monitor school camera feeds. [Fox 25]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Opinion: Oklahoma continuing momentum for reducing barriers to professional licenses: Opening access to work for people with criminal records is incredibly important, as enhanced economic opportunities can help prevent recidivism, or relapses into criminal behavior. [Benjamin Ayanian / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Fair or foul? Report finds grocery stores might’ve padded profits under cover of inflation: A report from the Federal Trade Commission found that some grocers potentially took advantage of inflationary conditions and supply chain disruptions to pad their profits. Whether that was right or wrong is in the eye of the beholder. [Fox 25]

Education News

State Superintendent Ryan Walters says school choice just got easier with new office in Education Dept.: The Oklahoma State Department of Education announced a one-stop-shop for parents to choose their child’s school with the launch of the new Office of School Choice. [KOCO]

Document shows 16 OSDE employees are working as subs in Tulsa school district: Sixteen employees from the Oklahoma State Department of Education are, indeed, serving as substitute teachers in the Tulsa Public Schools district, records obtained by The Oklahoman show. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tulsa Public Schools officials update state board on Teacher Empowerment Program participation [Tulsa World]

Epic Charter Schools paid co-founder’s personal credit card charges, forensic auditor testifies: A forensic auditor for the state testified Thursday that Epic Charter Schools’ student Learning Fund was used to pay more than $375,000 in personal credit card charges by one of the school’s co-founders who received at least $23 million from the school. [Tulsa World]

  • Fourth day of Epic Charter Schools preliminary hearing [KFOR]

Oklahoma school removes Bible verse display following a claim that it was unconstitutional: A Putnam City school took down a bible verse that was displayed inside the building after the Freedom From Religion Foundation said it was unconstitutional. [Fox 25]

Stitt appoints OU alum, Texas oilman to fill open seat on university’s board of regents: Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed Tyler, Texas, businessman Kenneth Waits to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. [The Oklahoman]

Community News

What box will you check? US changes how it categorizes people by race and ethnicity: For the first time in 27 years, the U.S. government is changing how it categorizes people by race and ethnicity, an effort that federal officials believe will more accurately count residents who identify as Hispanic and of Middle Eastern and North African heritage. [KFOR]

Local Headlines

  • Concern over Tulsa USPS center’s fate reaches City Hall [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Development guru: Norman needs a plan [Journal Record]
  • Development agreement lays out more details of $800 million data center in east Tulsa [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Who’s to say next month you won’t come in and say I need 120 days? This stuff needs to stop, and people need to suck it up, realize they have a hard job to do, and get it done in a timely, proficient, professional way.”

-Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin, speaking during a hearing Tuesday on the state’s request to further delay the time between executions from 60 days to 90 days to reduce strain on staff. The Court of Criminal Appeals set an aggressive execution schedule in 2021 with plans to execute 25 prisoners in less than three years, eliminating 58% of Oklahoma’s death row. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of Oklahoma adults who identify as transgender. [Williams Institute / UCLA School of Law]

  • Sunday, March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility that celebrates the lives and contributions of trans people, while also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination, and violence the community faces 

Policy Note

2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health: The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health demonstrates that rates of suicidal thoughts have trended upward among LGBTQ young people over the last three years, making our life-saving work all the more important. Capturing the experiences of nearly 34,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the United States, with 45% of respondents being LGBTQ youth of color and 48% being transgender or nonbinary, our fourth annual national survey is one of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted. [The Trevor Project]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.