In The Know: Criminalizing homelessness is harmful, ineffective | Gov vetoes bill giving nurses more medical authority | Statewide filing period to begin Wednesday

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.

New from OK Policy

Throwing people in jail for experiencing homelessness doesn’t solve the problem: Senate Bill 1854 and House Bill 3686 would prohibit unauthorized camping on state-owned land. Violators would be subject to fines or even jail time. Not only are these proposals harmful and cruel, they are counterproductive. Research shows us that the best way to combat homelessness is to increase access to affordable housing. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Filing period begins for Oklahoma elections; noncompetitive races common: Many people no doubt think of elections as being decided in November, when most general elections are held. In Oklahoma, though, a lot of elections will be decided this week. Aside from the school board elections in many jurisdictions on Tuesday, the three-day filing period for county and state offices, and Oklahoma’s five congressional seats, begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday. And, if history is any indication, many of those positions will be decided when the books close at 5 p.m. Friday. [Tulsa World]

  • 2024 candidate filing period: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., April 3-5. State and federal offices file at the Secretary of the State Election Board at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. County offices file with county election board secretaries. Go to for packets and further details.

State Government News

Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoes bill that would allow nurses to prescribe without supervision: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed providers like nurse practitioners to independently prescribe certain drugs, saying these professionals shouldn’t have this power. [KGOU]

  • Gov. Stitt vetoes bill giving some nurses more authority to prescribe medication [The Oklahoman]

Commission to review a dozen economic development incentives this year: A dozen incentives established by the state to encourage economic development will be reviewed this year as part of an ongoing process to help ensure that they deliver desired results. [Tulsa World]

After year of tweaks, electric utilities try to plug ROFR-type transmission bill into Senate: One year after two proposals dealing with so-called “right of first refusal” requirements for certain new electric transmission projects fizzled in the Oklahoma State Senate, a new version that advanced from the House of Representatives has drawn heavy lobbying from proponents and opponents in the upper chamber. [NonDoc]

Domestic Violence Survivorship bill goes to House floor: A Senate bill that establishes the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Survivorship Act has passed through the House Judiciary Civil Committee and is now up for consideration on the House floor. [Journal Record]

Rhonda Baker, a key education figure in the Oklahoma House, won’t seek reelection: Rep. Rhonda Baker, a key figure in Oklahoma education as chair of the state House of Representatives’ Education Committee, has announced she doesn’t plan to seek reelection this year. [The Okahoman]

Roundup: Stitt eyes #okleg elections, vetos APRN bill, nominates OU and OSU regents: Keeping tabs on policy developments and political dynamics in the state of Oklahoma can feel like shoveling sand off the beach with a fork. As another wild week featuring electrical-cord chaos and above-freezing snow comes to a close, make sure you’re up to speed on a few items of note, mostly involving decisions by the governor. [NonDoc]

Political Notebook: Ground broken on new state mental hospital, board picks, campaigns & elections: Ground was broken in Oklahoma City last week for the Donahue Behavioral Health Hospital to replace 134-year-old Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman. [Tulsa World

Capitol Insider: Democrats renew call for committee to investigate State Superintendent: Democratic lawmakers have again called on Speaker of the House Charles McCall to form a bipartisan committee to investigate State Superintendent Ryan Walters. [KGOU]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Cole expects quick Congressional response to bridge collapse: Rebuilding Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge is a legitimate function of the federal government, 4th District Congressman Tom Cole told CNN. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

A group formed by one candidate’s husband is buying ads in Tulsa school board races: Tulsa school board candidate Maria Seidler says there was no illegal coordination between her campaign and a group her husband founded that bought mailers attacking her opponent. [The Frontier]

Enid voters will decide whether to keep or recall city commissioner with white nationalist ties: Voters in one of Enid’s six city council districts will decide whether to keep current City Commissioner Judd Blevins despite his associations with white nationalist groups. [KOSU]

Tuesday, April 2 Board of Education General Election and Special Elections: Elections will be held statewide on Tuesday, April 2. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the OK Voter Portal to view a list of elections in your community, polling places, view sample ballots, and more. [Oklahoma Election Board]

  • 5 OKC metro-area school districts have bond proposals on the ballot [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa-area school districts have board, bond elections Tuesday [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa school board District 2 election: Meet the candidates [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa school board District 5 election: Meet the candidates [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa school board District 6 election: Meet the candidates [Tulsa World]

Why shrinking Democratic voter registration in Oklahoma is a reason for lower raw vote count: The most important thing to remember is that voter turnout will always be low if there is not an operational campaign that activates lower-propensity voters. This holds true regardless of party or election. Not having a competitive election generally means not having an active campaign to engage voters. [Jeff Berrong / The Oklahoman

Health News

Tulsa Health Department aiming to raise awareness about how racism, other biases affect health: The Tulsa Health Department is trying to educate the city on how racism and other biases affect health. A conference will be held at OSU Tulsa next month. [Tulsa Public Radio]

After the closing of Juno Medical-Tulsa, what’s the state of health care for North Tulsa?: The out-of-the-blue closure of Juno in Tulsa has left its patients, including many with dire medical needs, in a lurch. More broadly, the question surfaces as to why health care is so difficult for vast segments of the North Tulsa community? [Oklahoma Eagle]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma set to carry out first execution of 2024: Michael Dewayne Smith is scheduled for execution on April 4 after spending more than 20 years on death row. If carried out, he will be the first person Oklahoma has executed in 2024. [The Frontier]

The prison system struggles with violence and a flat budget. But lawmakers are focused on bringing back the rodeo: Late last fall, as state lawmakers prepared for the 2024 legislative session, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt began talking about the need for tax cuts. But Oklahoma Department of Corrections leaders took the governor seriously. At the beginning of the year, corrections officials said they supported the governor’s hold-the-line plan. [The Oklahoman]

Lawmakers Advance Bill Protecting Execution Drug Suppliers: The House Judiciary Committee advanced Senate Bill 1702 on March 27, making it eligible to be heard on the House floor. The proposal specifies that the confidentiality of death penalty records should be broadly construed so as not to unintentionally reveal the identity of an individual or business involved in carrying out the death penalty. [Oklahoma Watch]

Did Prosecutors’ Sex Shaming Help Send Brenda Andrew to Death Row?: The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear an appeal in an Oklahoma case, which, as one judge put it, “focused from start to finish on Ms. Andrew’s sex life.” [New York Times]

Opinion: Public-private partnerships help provide Diversion Hub resources to help prevent incarceration: Diversion Hub serves over 2,000 clients annually, many of whom need long-term help to overcome chronic problems. Some of these problems are intergenerational poverty and systemic racism, which trap people in a cycle of incarceration and degrade economic mobility. [Meagan Taylor / The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Tenant Advocates Push for Right to Free Counsel: A nationwide push toward ensuring tenants’ rights to access legal services is emerging. The Right to Counsel in eviction cases has been adopted in four states and 17 municipalities. Oklahoma advocates defend Right to Counsel by referring to the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. [Oklahoma Watch]

Hope is alive in neighborhood struggling to recover from legacy of two blighted schools: An Oklahoma City neighborhood saddled with two abandoned and blighted former schools is hoping for a better future with developers looking at converting both properties into housing. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

How are avian flu dairy cow cases impacting herds?: A couple of Oklahoma’s border states have dairy herds with avian influenza but none have been detected in the Sooner State yet. [KOSU]

‘Control of your destiny’: Growth in state film industry brings Oklahomans back from L.A.:  As hundreds of people gathered in the second-floor rotunda March 25 for Oklahoma Film and Music Day at the state Capitol, many of them were Oklahoma natives who have returned to the Sooner State in recent years to take advantage of opportunities to work in the entertainment industry that didn’t exist when they left. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Deferred maintenance to Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities reaches nearly $1.5 billion: Last fall, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education told legislators that the state’s campuses have almost $1.5 billion worth of leaky roofs, worn out heating and air conditioning, bad wiring, environmental hazards, chipped paint and buildings that need to be updated or demolished. [Tulsa World]

Why the State Board of Education held off voting to sponsor an OKC charter school: A proposed charter school twice rejected for sponsorship by Putnam City Public Schools will have to wait two more months before learning if the Oklahoma State Board of Education will serve as its sponsor. [The Oklahoman]

State ed board again postpones action on revoking license of former Norman teacher: Lacking a legal staff, the Oklahoma State Department of Education delayed — yet again — the teaching license revocation hearing of former Norman High School teacher Summer Boismier. [The Oklahoman]

Superintendent Ryan Walters announces new Oklahoma school choice resource office: Oklahoma has a new Office of School Choice. State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced the office at this month’s State Board of Education meeting. [KOSU]

Ryan Walters’ appearance at an Oklahoma State University event suddenly canceled: A scheduled appearance by state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters at a “town hall” event on Friday afternoon at Oklahoma State University was canceled, event organizers said in a social media post. [The Oklahoman]

Five Epic days and counting: Josh Brock testimony against Harris, Chaney to resume (in May): On a fifth grueling day of testimony in the preliminary hearing for the embezzlement case against Epic Charter Schools co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney, former chief financial officer Josh Brock took the stand as part of a plea agreement and described how his former bosses attempted to shield their management company’s use of money from public scrutiny. [NonDoc]

  • Former Epic Charter School CFO testifies against co-founders in exchange for plea deal [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Longtime Epic Charter Schools CFO agrees to 15 years’ probation in exchange for testimony [Tulsa World]
  • Former Epic Charter Schools CFO testifies against co-founders in racketeering case [The Oklahoman]

School voucher proponents spend big to overcome rural resistance: Over the past two years, states where rural opponents, sometimes aligned with labor groups and teachers unions, have sought unsuccessfully to head off the widening push. School choice can come through vouchers, refundable tax credits or education savings accounts.[Oklahoma Voice]

Tulsa Public Schools Reckoning Imminent: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Ebony Johnson is pulling out all the stops to improve the academic achievement scores of Tulsa students in the state testing that is scheduled to take place in April. In February, the Oklahoma State Board of Education formally adopted new rules setting minimum standards for student test performance. The board’s apparent objective is to sanction the TPS school district if it fails. [Oklahoma Eagle]

Opinion: Oklahoma’s education meeting campouts are becoming a problem. Maybe a raffle is the solution: The current sign up process locks out the voices of people who have a vested interest in our public schools, but don’t have the time or luxury of sleeping outside all night. It locks out people who live in rural parts of the state, parents with school-age children, those who have a job, people with disabilities and those who work night shifts. They have just as much right to speak their truth as everyone else. It’s time for Walters’ team to rethink how they’re handling this public comment section. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Community News

Podcast: Community journalism, origin stories and an ‘interrupting duck’ (audio): A sculpture park saga, deep dives on housing and homelessness, a police investigation: I’ve covered numerous topics since we launched the Edmond Civic Reporting Project in May 2022. [NonDoc]

Opinion: Why would you not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? Political division has made problems worse: I asked my students why they didn’t stand for the pledge. The top two answers made up 80% of the answers: No one else stands, so why should I?, and it’s not that important to our generation. There was a third answer, which shook me to the core. One of the sweetest and smartest girls said this … “They hate me.” I should tell you that she was of color. [K. John Lee / The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • OKC mass recycling event offers proper disposal of eWaste, tires and more [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“Sometimes you find things that are really bad. I mean really bad examples of discrimination. Or tenants being forced to live in just uninhabitable situations.”

-Michael Figgins, Executive Director at Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, speaking about the need for tenants to have legal counsel. LASO is working on a statewide pilot to expand Right to Counsel and their free assistance to tenants in areas in Tulsa and Oklahoma City where eviction rates are higher than average. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahomans experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2023. [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development]

Policy Note

Dismantling the Harmful, False Narrative That Homelessness Is a Choice: When asked what the most common misconception is about people experiencing homelessness, Mental Health Center of Denver supportive housing provider Takisha Keesee knew her answer right away: “That they want to be homeless.” This myth enables apathy and maintains the nation’s status quo of too many people experiencing homelessness in an urgent affordable housing crisis. On any given night in the US, about 550,000 people experience homelessness, and almost 89,000 are chronically homeless. Almost 200,000 people live unsheltered in the US. Many times, people sleep outside because it is simply their best option. This doesn’t mean they are choosing to be homeless. It means they don’t have a lot of other choices. [Urban Institute]

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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.