In The Know: President: Nex Benedict ‘should still be here with us’ | Bill would close some loopholes in private school tax credit | Abortion drug bill passes House | Child Tax Credit vital

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.

Oklahoma News

Nex Benedict ‘should still be here with us,’ President Biden says: The day after the country learned the cause of death for an LGBTQ+ Owasso sophomore who had been bullied, President Joe Biden said: “Nex Benedict, a kid who just wanted to be accepted, should still be here with us today.” [Tulsa World]

  • Nex Benedict autopsy: What to know about Oklahoma medical examiner’s office, toxicology [The Oklahoman]
  • Family of Nex Benedict responds to medical examiner’s report [The Oklahoman]
  • Nex Benedict’s family lawyer highlights trauma noted in full medical examiner’s report [Fox 25]
  • President Biden on Nex Benedict’s death: ‘No one should face the bullying that Nex did’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Classen SAS students, LGBTQ+ advocates march at Capitol for Nex Benedict: ‘We deserve a peaceful childhood’ [The Oklahoman]
  • LGBTQ+ community gathers to march for Nex Benedict at Oklahoma Capitol (video) [The Oklahoman]
  • Over 100 rally outside the Oklahoma State Capitol to honor Nex Benedict [Oklahoma Voice]
  • LGBTQ+ suicide hotlines up more than 230% in Oklahoma following teen suicide, advocates calling for change [KFOR]

Winter Storm Natural Gas Price Lawsuits Languish: More than three years after a massive winter storm blasted Oklahoma and the central United States, utility customers have seen little progress in lawsuits filed against natural gas companies and traders over the huge spike in prices. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Senate advances bill designed to close loopholes in Oklahoma private school tax credit program: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed a bill to close loopholes in a program that provides tax credits to parents to send students to private schools. An interpretation by the Oklahoma Tax Commission means the tax credit or a portion of it could go to pay back taxes owed by the parents and back child support, among other things. The measure is designed to close that loophole. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma Senate pro tem: Dahm’s ‘terroristic’ actions mean some bills could die: On Thursday, the day the Oklahoma Senate had set as its deadline day for advancing bills to potentially become law, Broken Arrow Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm opted to “gum up” the process by devoting hours to reading entire texts of bills on the Senate floor. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said the roadblocks could prevent some bills from clearing the upper chamber. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma state Sen. Nathan Dahm slows state’s budget resolution with filibuster [The Oklahoman]
  • State senators filibuster, delay proceedings during critical final hours to get bills passed [KFOR]

Social media ban for minors passes Oklahoma House of Representatives: Minors’ social media access could be sharply curtailed by legislation kept alive by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday. The 69-16 vote on House Bill 3914, by Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, allowed it to avoid a deadline Thursday and allowed Caldwell to keep working on it. [Tulsa World]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet, Superintendent Ryan Walters, Senator Lankford censure and more (audio): The panel discusses the governor’s veto of a bill designed to save members of his cabinet, Freedom of Information Oklahoma giving awards out to Attorney General Gentner Drummond and State Superintendent Ryan Walters and two top officials announcing their resignation at the State Department of Education. [KOSU]

Opinion: What would Jesus do? He wouldn’t call another person ‘filth’ like Sen. Tom Woods did: I support Sen. Woods’ right to disagree and disapprove of a person’s sexual identity and to call them sinners based on his religious beliefs. But I challenge his description of another person as filth, especially when it’s based on his identity as a Christian. And this may be the most important thing I say in this letter: My disagreement with his words comes from my identity as a Christian, as a follower of Christ. I believe his stance is antithetical to the life and teachings of Jesus. [Gary Hardwick / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Oklahoma bank boycott has unintended consequences that hurt local communities: In 2022, our state Legislature passed legislation that affected companies operating in and with the state by reframing the relationship between the state and those companies based solely on some corporate governance policies. While the laws were designed to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to companies that “boycott” Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry, the implementation has created inconstancies and has caused confusion to local governments and Oklahoma taxpayers that raise concerns about the bill and the need for further review. [Monica Collison / The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Opinion: We need legislation that lifts up ‘the least of these.’ Child Tax Credit does that: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. — This oft-used phrase from the Bible may mean little in today’s political parlance, but it’s never timelier as America is witnessing two trends that pose a problem for any follower of Christ. As leaders in the church, as a sister and a reverend, we knew we couldn’t be silent, which is why we’re speaking out now to our fellow Christians and all persons of faith and goodwill. Here is how our brothers and sisters are hurting. Not only did homelessness in the United States grow by a whopping 12% in the last year, the child poverty rate is now over 12%, which means that more than 1 in 10 children are living in poverty. [Sister Diane Koorie and the Rev. Jon Middendorf / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee chief fears loss of millions in community funding with failure to renew motor vehicle compacts: Cherokee Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Gov. Kevin Stitt might see tribal sovereignty as a “zero sum game,” thinking the tribes keep any revenue they gain from tribal vehicle tags or traffic citations. Hoskin said current negotiations with Stitt’s office over tribal tags are difficult because the two sides are operating on different sets of facts. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Fix federal laws preventing non-Osage headright owners from donating back to tribe: The Osage Reign of Terror was fueled by the acquisition of oil headrights, the right to receive a quarterly distribution of funds derived from the Osage Mineral Estate. The estate is governed by the elected Osage Minerals Council. In 1978, the federal government prohibited Osage mineral rights from being inherited by a non-Osage citizen. By that time, through deceptions and various other means, many were already held outside the tribe. Today, about 26% of all Osage headrights interests are held by non-Osages. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Health News

Abortion-inducing drug ban advances in Oklahoma legislature: A bill that would make it a felony for non-medical professionals to deliver abortion-inducing drugs passed the Oklahoma House floor on party lines with a vote of 77-18. People would not be prosecuted for obtaining an abortion-inducing drug under House Bill 3013 from Representative Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-Piedmont). Instead, she said the bill is meant to target people who provide these pills, whether that’s through sharing the medication or delivering it through the mail. [KGOU]

  • Oklahoma legislator wants to ban some abortion drugs [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Comanche County Commissioner John O’Brien charged for embezzlement, sexually explicit texting:  Comanche County Commissioner John O’Brien could face removal from office after he was charged Wednesday with criminal counts of embezzlement and inappropriate use of a county cell phone to send sexually explicit messages to a county employee, District Attorney Kyle Cabelka said today. [NonDoc]

The LeFlore County prosecutor who put her away says she should be free, but she’s still in prison in Oklahoma: Mike Sullivan was the district attorney in LeFlore County on the Arkansas border for eight years in the 1990’s. But there’s one case in particular that still bothers him. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Why OU is investing $50M in renovating National Weather Center and building radar facility: A $50 million plan to boost the University of Oklahoma’s top-ranked meteorology program has moved another step toward becoming reality. [The Oklahoman]

What led to Sean McDaniel’s resignation as OKCPS superintendent? Emails shine a light: Communication issues between Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel and members of the district’s board of education, particularly regarding the district’s treatment of charter schools, seemed to be a source of friction leading up to his unexpected resignation last month, emails obtained by The Oklahoman indicate. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: What’s standing in the way of valuable civics education? Overcrowding, teachers’ fear of retribution: Student government teaches public service. Good government requires young people to become active voters once they reach the age of 18 and beyond. That understanding led OICA to offer a program called Kid Governor® to provides curriculum to fifth-grade classroom teachers developed to teach about state government, voting and elections. [Joe Dorman / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Ryan Walters’ response to Nex Benedict’s death only causes more pain for Oklahoma’s LGTBQ+ families: Losing a child is a sad and painful time for family and friends. Expressions of sympathy and love are needed in times like this. One would expect the state schools superintendent would rise above his tired script of blaming one group or another for what ails Oklahoma’s education system to focus in this moment on healing for Nex’s family and the Owasso school community. Instead, Ryan Walters turned it into a political statement. [Clytie Bunyan / The Oklahoman]

Community News

Silenced Voices, Erased Futures: New Frontline For Justice And Freedom: The fabric of African-American history is woven with the relentless pursuit of freedom—a journey marked by struggle, resilience, and undying hope for equality. Today, this journey faces a new adversary. With the proposed ban on TikTok that was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives Tuesday, citing national security, we must recognize the gravity of this situation. This isn’t merely an isolated legislative move but part of a broader, disconcerting trend where the principle of ‘liberty’ is increasingly replaced with ‘ban.’ [The Black Wall Street Times]

After a year, Oklahoma City’s MLK neighborhood is still changing the narrative: ‘We can do this’: A group of residents are seeking to change the narrative about an Oklahoma City neighborhood from a high-crime, low-income and recreationally dry area into a safer, resource-filled and life-affirming community. [The Oklahoman]

New LIFE Senior Services campus, senior center opens in Tulsa: Tulsa-area senior adults in search of fitness, social activities and other services geared toward their needs will now be able to find many of them at one handy location. [Tulsa World]

Local Headlines

  • Tulsa City Council kills ordinance barring public money from undocumented immigrants [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“The Bible contains over 2,000 passages instructing us to protect the poor. It’s time we did.”

-Sister Diane Koorie and the Rev. Jon Middendorf, writing in an op-ed about why supporting the Child Tax Credit is morally important while also providing economic stability for families and communities. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma has the nation’s 16th most regressive tax system, which means lower-income residents pay a larger percentage of their income to taxes than high-income individuals. Regressive tax systems tend to have a disproportionate impact on lower-income individuals because they impose a higher burden on their limited financial resources. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

Policy Note

Eliminating Income Taxes Would Be an Expensive Giveaway: With the 2024 state legislative season in full swing, anti-tax special interests and their allies in state capitals are up to their usual tricks, but with an alarming twist. Governors and legislative leaders in a dozen states have made calls to fully eliminate their taxes on personal or corporate income, after many states already deeply slashed them over the past few years. The public deserves to know the true impact of these plans, which would inevitably result in an outsized windfall to states’ richest taxpayers, more power in the hands of wealthy households and corporations, extreme cuts to basic public services, and more deeply inequitable state tax codes. Policymakers should immediately hit the brakes. [Governing]

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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.