In The Know: OK Senate passes bill banning homeless camps on state property | Super Tuesday results in Oklahoma | Private school tax voucher credit used to pay off debts before tuition | Don’t let lawmakers undo voter-approved justice reforms

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

New from OK Policy

ADVOCACY ALERT: Don’t let lawmakers undo voter-approved reforms (HB 3694): Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill that would undo much of the progress our state has made in reforming its criminal justice system. We need your voice to help defeat House Bill 3694 that directly rolls back voter-approved reforms from 2016’s State Question 780. [Together OK]

Oklahoma News

Measure would ban homeless camps on state property: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed a measure that would prevent unauthorized homeless camps on state property. The measure defines an unauthorized camp as any tent, shelter, or bedding constructed for the purpose of or in such a way to permit overnight use on a property not designated as a campsite. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma Senate passes bill to ban any ‘unauthorized camp’ on state land [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority governing board hires new director, sets his salary at $240,000: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s governing board on Tuesday appointed a new executive director following the abrupt resignation of its prior leader. The board promoted the agency’s deputy director Joe Echelle. It set his salary at $240,000 a year. Echelle said his appointment capped off the “end of a strange two weeks” for him and his staff. [Oklahoma Voice]

Is the Oklahoma legislature considering a bill to compile a database of women who have had abortions? (Fact Brief): Yes. Oklahoma House Bill 3216, which passed the House Public Health Committee but is awaiting a general House vote as of Mar. 4, 2024, would mandate a database of patients who have received abortion services in Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Watch]

Long Story Short: State AG dismisses second ClassWallet lawsuit (Audio): The state’s attorney general on Monday, February 12th assumed control of, then immediately dismissed, a lawsuit against Florida-based vendor ClassWallet for its role in two pandemic relief programs for students. [Oklahoma Watch via KGOU]

A young Latino lawmaker hosts an event to engage his community with politics: One young representative from Oklahoma City’s Southside is working to ensure the Latino community is engaged with the political process. The signs show a simmering hunger in the community to participate more in politics. [KOSU]

Bill to encourage accurate water usage reporting passes Oklahoma House of Representatives: Some Oklahoma farmers have permits to use surface water to irrigate their crops. That water use isn’t metered, but irrigators are required to report how much they use each year. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Osage Nation celebrates $40+ million for high-speed internet expansion: Expanded internet access is coming to the Osage Nation. Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and other members of Osage leadership were joined in Pawhuska Monday by senior advisers to President Biden. They ceremonially broke ground on new broadband internet lines and WiFi towers. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Voting & Election News

Trump, Biden easily win victories in Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday presidential primary election: President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump easily won the state’s presidential primary election Tuesday. Democrat Biden received over 70% support while Trump received over 80% of the Republican vote. The election was also historic in that it marked Oklahoma’s first Libertarian presidential primary since that party was formally recognized in 2016. Chase Oliver defeated Jacob Hornberger. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Elections: Norman narrowly tells OG&E nay, Wagoner County stomps 8 sales tax votes [NonDoc]
  • Results: Trump, Biden secure nominations, Oklahoma voters approve local propositions [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahomans choose Trump, Biden in Super Tuesday primaries [KGOU]

‘Uncommitted’ protest votes: Does Oklahoma have ‘no preference’ option?: Across the nation, grassroots groups have led protest votes against frontrunner candidates like President Joe Biden or Donald Trump by checking the “uncommitted” or “no preference” box in at several Super Tuesday states. But in Oklahoma, ballots don’t have a “no preference” choice and also don’t allow write-ins. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Why daily life is so stressful in Oklahoma: Long hours of work for low pay, lack of health care coverage and a high divorce rate are among the factors that contribute to high levels of stress among Oklahomans. New research from wellness company Komowa reveals that Oklahoma is the third most stressful state to live in. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Senate bill would increase pharmacy-to-technician ratio: An Oklahoma Senate bill would increase the pharmacist to technician ratio for pharmacies in the state, but one lawmaker argues the legislation only benefits large businesses such as CVS. [Journal Record]

Opinion: The Answer to America’s Addiction Crisis Could Come Out of Tulsa (Audio): Nicholas Kristof has spent a lot of time reporting on addiction. “My own community in Oregon has suffered a great deal from it. I’ve lost a lot of friends to it,” he says. In a recent trip to Tulsa, Okla., Kristof visited Women in Recovery, an addiction treatment program showing what’s possible. [Nicholas Kristof / The New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

One prisoner called 911 for help at an understaffed Oklahoma prison: With no correctional officers nearby, a prisoner ran into an unlocked office looking for a phone after a knife fight left one man bleeding at the Allen Gamble Correctional Center in Holdenville. The prisoner called 911 three times. [The Frontier]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Climate change threatens 41% of rental homes, report says: More than 18 million rental units in the United States are in areas at substantial risk of climate hazards like wildfires, floods and hurricanes, according to a January report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. [Streetlight News]

Economy & Business News

How lesser prairie chicken continues to impact Oklahoma oil production: Conservation efforts to preserve the lesser prairie chicken – ongoing for more than two decades – have intensified with the grassland bird’s listing under the Endangered Species Act one year ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the bird as “endangered” in part of its current five-state range and “threatened” in the rest effective March 27. [Journal Record]

Education News

Parental Choice Tax Credit used to pay off debts before tuition: News 4 has taken a closer look at how some of the money from the Parental Choice Tax Credit has been spent after receiving emails from Oklahomans who said some of the money from their tax credit went to pay unpaid taxes, student loans, and other debts before going to their child’s tuition. [KFOR]

Some ridiculed Deer Creek students for licking toes for charity. Others praise them.: It’s a tradition at lots of high schools — students doing cringy things to raise money for good causes. This year, however, Deer Creek High School students and their fundraiser’s beneficiary became the targets of right-wing ire by licking peanut butter off their classmates’ toes. [The Oklahoman]

Could Oklahoma school support staff soon be receiving a one-time stipend from the state?: Support staff at Oklahoma’s public schools would receive one-time $2,500 stipends under a proposal approved Tuesday by the Oklahoma Senate’s education budget subcommittee. [The Oklahoman]

Bills to hire chaplains for public schools dead for now, but critics remain vigilant: Proposed legislation that would allow Oklahoma public schools to hire faith-based chaplains did not make it out of committee, meaning it is unlikely to move forward during the 2024 legislative session. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa schools enhance literacy through emergency reading initiative: Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) is teaming up with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to bring reading levels to a basic and proficient level. The goal is to provide high-intensity tutoring so that TPS students will be proficient at their required reading levels by the end of the school year. [KTUL]

Opinion: Sex ed changes in Oklahoma would leave kids at risk of sexual violence: Oklahoma legislators are considering a bill that would make it harder for students to protect themselves from sexual assault and abuse. House Bill 3120 would flip state law on its head and require parents to opt students into health education classes about their bodies, staying safe in relationships and avoiding predators. Current law gives parents the choice to hold their students out of these lessons. [Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs / The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Once an individual has entered the criminal justice system, that creates yet another barrier to getting back into housing. Housing is the proper response to homelessness. Needless fines are simply a step backward.”

– Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City, on why SB 1854, a bill criminalizing camping on state-owned land, will only trap unhoused Oklahomans in a vicious cycle of homelessness. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma voters who in 2016 approved State Question 780, which included a provision to raise the felony threshold for theft to $1,000. It was part of a justice reform package to reduce the state’s prison population and increase access to community level treatments. [Ballotpedia]

Policy Note

What the Panic Over Shoplifting Reveals About American Crime Policy: The panic over retail theft offers a real-time look at the making of American crime policy. In the absence of reliable data, and in response to perceptions of lawlessness, legislators have doubled down on punitive policies. Many have even created a new category of retail crime in response to the industry’s concerns. In some states, elected officials have capitalized on the shoplifting uproar in an attempt to roll back recently enacted criminal justice reforms. [The Marshall Project]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.