In The Know: Gov. pushes back on AG’s settlement for mental health lawsuit | Oklahoma Corporation Commission to consider historic OG&E rate hike | Lawmakers boost police pension system benefits

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

Mental health settlement to ensure faster competency restoration treatment: Oklahoma officials: The state has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit alleging it failed to provide timely and legally-mandated competency restoration treatment to jail inmates. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Drummond agrees to mental health lawsuit consent decree, ODMHSAS leader ‘not confident’ in specifics [NonDoc]
  • Stitt hits Drummond on mental health consent decree [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Lawmakers boost police pension system benefits: Oklahoma taxpayers are helping to foot the bill for millions of dollars in expanded pension benefits for police officers. State lawmakers approved the deal in the waning days of the legislative session. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Opinion: Oklahoma is experiencing a law enforcement staffing crisis. New law will retain experienced staff [Mark Nelson / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Corporation Commission to consider historic OG&E rate hike: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission met Monday morning to hear public comments regarding Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s request for a rate increase. OG&E is asking for a 6.6% rate increase. If approved, the average residential customer could pay as much as $19 more per month. This would be the third hike in customers’ bills since 2017. [KOSU]

The lonely, resolute path of Oklahoma legislator Mauree Turner: Being the nation’s first Black, Muslim, nonbinary state lawmaker, let alone the first in Oklahoma, was never going to be easy. Rep. Mauree Turner realized that from the start. Yet it took time to grasp how isolating, debilitating and toxic the legislature would become for them. And how, one day, they would reach their limit. “The whole place feels like wildfire,” Turner says. [Washington PostSubscription may be required.

Federal Government News

Biden’s plan will shield undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation: President Biden is set to announce Tuesday new executive actions that will offer protection against deportation to an estimated half a million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens. The plan grants “parole in place” to undocumented people who have been in this country for at least 10 years. This measure will also allow eligible immigrants to apply for legal permanent status. [NPR/KOSU]

Drummond files response to federal lawsuit against controversial immigration law: Attorney General Gentner Drummond has responded to the federal lawsuit challenging a controversial new state law that would allow local and state authorities to detain and take action against undocumented immigrants. Drummond asserts that the federal government’s case is based on “speculative assumptions about how HB 4156 will be implemented.” [Tulsa World]

Why isn’t extreme heat considered a disaster in the U.S.?: FEMA responds to natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes — disasters with major and obvious damage to physical infrastructure. But the agency has not historically responded to extreme heat. Now, a coalition of environmental nonprofits, labor unions, health professionals and environmental justice groups is asking the agency to change that. In a petition filed Monday, the coalition asks FEMA to add extreme heat and wildfire smoke to the list of disasters to which they respond. [NPR/KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation voters reject constitutional convention: With an overwhelming margin of “no,” Cherokee Nation citizens voted against a referendum calling for a constitutional convention. Tribal nation leaders are required to ask citizens to consider re-drafting every 20 years. Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., several other Cherokee leaders and former constitution reframers had publicly expressed their plans to vote ‘no,’ on the question leading up to the election. [KOSU]

Judge orders railway to pay tribe nearly $400 million: BNSF Railway must pay nearly $400 million to a tribe in Washington state, a federal judge ordered Monday after finding that the company intentionally trespassed when it repeatedly ran 100-car trains carrying crude oil across the tribe’s reservation. [ICT]

Voting and Election News

Downtown OKC arena transit hub, rail system for Norman, Edmond reliant on 2025 election: A possible intercity transit hub at the future NBA arena site could connect Norman and Edmond residents with downtown Oklahoma City, but the plans are contingent on another upcoming election. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Ethics Commission settles with Make Oklahoma Great Again PAC: The Make Oklahoma Great Again Political Action Committee will pay the state $25,000 to settle an Oklahoma Ethics Commission complaint. MOGA failed to register as a political action committee and to file contribution and expenditure reports. As a result, Jonathan Krems will pay $25,000 in civil penalties to the state’s General Revenue Fund as treasurer of MOGA, according to the agreement. 

Oklahoma senator’s failure to report expenditures draws attention: Oklahoma’s attorney general in an unusual move publicly warned a state senator to correct his campaign expenditure report or face possible consequences. A spokesperson for Attorney General Gentner Drummond on Monday said that the move — less than a week before the Republican primary election — was not an attempt to bolster the campaign of a candidate trying to unseat Sen. Cody Rogers. [Oklahoma Voice]

States struggle with unreliable federal funding for making sure elections are secure: U.S. House Republicans are seeking to eliminate funding for election security grants — known as Help America Vote Act, or HAVA grants — in this year’s appropriations process, a move they unsuccessfully attempted last year as well. [Oklahoma Voice]

Key incumbent contests on Oklahoma’s 2024 primary Election Night: After you finish reading 26 election previews for open seats in the Oklahoma Legislature, consider this one last cheat sheet about 14 incumbent lawmakers whose races bear watching this Election Night. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma elections today: Sample ballot, polling places, results: Ready to cast your vote? Here’s everything you need to know about today’s primary elections in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

  • Visit the Oklahoma Election Board’s Voter Portal to see your sample ballots and polling place information. Polls are open until 7 p.m. tonight.
  • Get educated before today’s primary: See all our election coverage here [Tulsa World]
  • Key incumbent contests on Oklahoma’s 2024 primary Election Night [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board rejects clemency for man who raped and murdered former stepdaughter: Richard Rojem is expected to be Oklahoma’s second execution this year after spending nearly four decades on death row. [The Frontier]

Frustrations mount as Cleveland Co. grapples with sheriff budget: ‘This is unprecedented’: Disagreements persisted between Cleveland County commissioners and the local sheriff over budget concerns ahead of the embattled sheriff’s possible reelection Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Cattle numbers decline to lowest in decades: According to Dr. David Lalman, a professor and beef cattle specialist at Oklahoma State University, the precipitous decline in cattle numbers can be blamed mostly on persistent and widespread drought that reduced forage and made it difficult for animals even to find water across sweeping sections of the heartland. [Tulsa World]

Closed-loop battery recycling plant opens in Atoka: A first-of-its-kind lithium-ion battery recycling plant in North America is now operational in south Oklahoma. Green Li-ion has launched the first commercial-scale plant that produces battery-grade materials from recycled lithium-ion batteries. Located in Atoka, the company looks to be at the forefront of the sustainable battery economy. [Journal Record]

Education News

Education groups seek veto of rule linking accreditation to test results: The Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Advocacy Coalition, the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, Oklahoma Edvocates, Oklahomans for Public Education and Pro TPS (Tulsa Public Schools) have asked Gov. Kevin Stitt to veto a proposed administrative rule for the Oklahoma State Department of Education – led by Republican state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters – that would tie a school’s accreditation to the results of yearly high-stakes student tests. [The Oklahoman]

Officials unsure how federal ruling will affect Oklahoma law banning race, gender discussions: Officials on Monday said they were exploring how a federal judge’s decision to temporarily block enforcement of parts of a controversial law that forbids the teaching of some gender and race concepts would impact Oklahoma school districts and universities. [Oklahoma Voice]

TPS board approves relocating special education program: The Tulsa Transition Academy will have a new location come August. Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education approved a trio of agenda items Monday night to renovate the former Grimes Elementary School and have it house the Tulsa Transition Academy on its west side starting with the 2024-25 school year. [Tulsa World]

Community News

Stores are more subdued in observing Pride Month: The more subdued atmosphere underscores the struggle of many retailers to cater to different groups of customers at a time of extreme cultural divisions. This year’s Pride Month is unfolding amid a sea of legislation and litigation over LGBTQ+ rights, especially the ability of transgender young people to participate in sports or receive gender-affirming care. [AP via Journal Record]

Opinion: On the Town: Pride Alliance announces PrideFest lineup and events: The Oklahoma Pride Alliance is gearing up for its PrideFest celebration at the end of the month, announcing its grand marshals for the parade and festival headliner and other events throughout the month. [Lillie-Beth Brinkman / Journal Record]

Local Headlines

  • Tulsa Mayor Bynum to join Saint Francis Health System after leaving office in December [Tulsa World]
  • OKC Zoo unveils ‘ambitious’ 10-year master plan [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahomans should not have to choose between buying prescription drugs, putting food on the table, or keeping the lights on and staying warm.”

-AARP responded in a press release regarding OG&E’s proposed 6.6% rate increase that would cost the average residential customer as much as $19 more per month. This would be the third hike in customers’ bills since 2017. AARP is one of the biggest opponents of the increase because it would increase financial stress for Oklahomans living on fixed incomes. [KOSU]

Number of the Day


Number of state lawmakers who will be elected following today’s primary or the Aug. 27 runoff. Additionally, 50 Senate and House seats were decided during April’s filing period when only one candidate filed for office. [Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

A life-changing habit: Five reasons why you should vote in every election: Voting is a key element of civic engagement and a critical part of the democratic process. As the late civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis said, “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democracy.” [Southern Poverty Law Center]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.