In The Know: Right-wing groups backing judiciary reform legislation in Oklahoma | Attorney for Nex Benedict’s family releases more details from autopsy report | High suicide and bullying rates inspire bills cracking down on bullying, cyberbullying

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

Benedicts’ attorney says teenager’s fight not ‘insignificant’: Ahead of the release of the full medical examiner’s report of Nex Benedict’s death, attorneys for the deceased teenager’s family say they’re sharing details from the report not yet released. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Analysis: Right-wing groups, Catholic Church are behind effort to change how Oklahoma judges are appointed: Documents show the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank; the Judicial Crisis Network, a national conservative advocacy group; and the Catholic Church, through its arm, the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, are working with several Republican lawmakers to eliminate the Judicial Nominating Commission and replace it with a process that parallels the federal system. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Senate to vote on new budget resolution: The Oklahoma Senate will meet on Monday to vote on a new budget resolution, with the leader saying transparency has been his biggest goal. [KOCO]

Bill giving domestic abuse survivors sentencing relief advances in Oklahoma Senate: As of this week, Oklahoma is on a path to consider whether a person’s exposure to domestic abuse could be a mitigating factor that affects how the state punishes them for committing that crime. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmakers advance bill to restrict state dollars going to people without legal immigration status: Oklahoma lawmakers are considering ways to make the state less attractive to immigrants who don’t have legal permission to be in the country. [KOSU]

Out of 54 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed in Oklahoma this year, 3 are still active: What to know: As the state grapples with the death of Benedict, the circumstances that led up to it and the consequences to come, just three of the over 50 anti-LGBTQ+ bills met passage requirements and are still active. Here’s what they say. [The Oklahoman]

Out of 20+ abortion-restricting bills proposed in Oklahoma legislature, 2 still active: Over 20 bills seeking to further Oklahoma’s strict abortion laws were filed during the 2024 Oklahoma legislative session, but just two met passage requirements and are still active. Here’s what they say. [The Oklahoman]

OKPOP funding, school accreditation measures among those failing legislative deadline: The future of Tulsa’s OKPOP museum grew more uncertain on Thursday when the legislative vehicle for funding its completion ran up against a legislative deadline. Also sidelined were several measures reflecting dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Oklahoma State Department of Education and its governing Oklahoma State Board of Education. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma is latest state seeking to impose age-verification mandate for porn sites: Senate Bill 1959, authored by Sen. Jerry Alvord, R-Wilson, would require online pornography sites to require age verification, allowing parents to block child access.Oklahoma legislators are weighing the merits of the bill in the wake of the adult website Pornhub’s decision to disable its site in Texas due to a similar measure. [The Oklahoman]

Improper merging? Drummond gives Gatz a citation: Much like the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Attorney General Gentner Drummond apparently cares about lanes. He cares so much that he issued a formal opinion telling ODOT director Tim Gatz that he needs to stay in one, and only one. [NonDoc]

  • Why the debate over Cabinet appointments between Gov. Stitt and AG Drummond? | Analysis [The Oklahoman]

Should Ryan Walters spend public money on an outside PR firm? ‘Honest question,’ says governor: Noting state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters was “separately elected,” Gov. Kevin Stitt chose not to say much Friday about a report the agency led by Walters spent about $30,000 of money on an out-of-state public relations firm for the purpose of landing Walters national media interviews. [The Oklahoman]

  • Letters to the Editor: Oklahoma schools chief Ryan Walters needs a time-out to rethink what he’s spewing [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma AG leads 24 states in lawsuit against EPA over new oil & gas emissions rules: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is at odds with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over new rules to reduce methane emissions. Drummond is leading a coalition of states in a lawsuit to stop what he calls “attacks on Oklahoma’s most vital industry.” [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Seminole Nation, Cherokee Nation Get $26M for Transportation Infrastructure: Two federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma are getting a $26 million boost for transportation infrastructure as part of a $3.3 billion federal spend aimed at “reconnecting communities that were cut off by transportation infrastructure decades ago,” according to a press release. [Native News Online]

Voting and Election News

Lawmakers Advance Bills Cracking Down on Ballot Initiatives, Ranked Choice Voting: House Bill 1105, which would increase the legal challenge period for initiative petitions from 10 to 90 days, require circulators to pay $50 each for an OSBI background check and implement a refundable $1,000 filing fee, cleared the House on a mostly party-line vote. Rep. Daniel Pae of Lawton was the only Republican to vote no on the bill. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma election filing begins April 3. New state law changes filing procedures.: Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax expects between 250 and 300 candidates to file for the legislative, U.S. House and one Corporation Commission posts. All 101 House seats and 26 Senate posts will be up for grabs. Odd numbered Senate seats are on the ballot plus two even-numbered districts, District 46 and District 48. [Oklahoma Voice]

Enid City Commissioner Judd Blevins Faces Recall Election: A recall election has been set for an Enid City Commissioner seat after residents raised concern over the past behavior of current seat holder Judd Blevins. The election has been scheduled for April 2, 2024. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion: Ranked choice voting ban would be a slap in the face to Oklahoma military members: There’s a helpful tool that makes it easier for military voters to make their voices heard. It’s called ranked choice voting (RCV), or instant runoff voting, and it’s made the process easier for tens of thousands of military voters across the six Southern states where it’s used. [Jeff DeGarmo / The Oklahoman]

Health News

Is there a stomach bug going around Oklahoma? What to know about norovirus, symptoms: When norovirus cases spike, these are symptoms you should watch out for, and measures you can take for prevention. Last spring, the country saw a spike in stomach bug cases, and it looks like that trend is repeating itself. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Criminal justice reform a theme of Oklahoma’s legislative session: This year, criminal justice reform is a big push from state lawmakers as legislators work on bills to keep Oklahomans safe. [News 9]

Newly released DA texts show anger over AG stance on death row inmate Richard Glossip: In harshly worded texts last year, a district attorney from southwest Oklahoma called Attorney General Gentner Drummond a “shiny” politician and “douche” for his position on death row inmate Richard Glossip. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

As OKC grows, rising costs create housing insecurity: Oklahoma City is a big-league city with a big-league basketball team and a soon-to-be brand new $900 million big-league arena funded primarily by taxpayers. But the OKC metro also faces complicated big-league problems regarding affordable housing that are causing more people to become unhoused all around the country. [NonDoc]

Shawnee update on “No Sit, No Lie” ordinance: A new “No Sit, No Lie” ordinance went into effect in Shawnee in January, over concerns that the homeless population was hurting business downtown. However, some were worried it would put a target on people who were already struggling. [KFOR]

Economy & Business News

New scorecard rates nation’s grid managers on connecting renewables: Across the country, electric demand is growing and could explode if green goals like electrifying home heating, industry and transportation come to fruition. At the same time, many states, utilities and businesses have pledged to decarbonize, helping push older coal and gas power plants that have struggled to stay economically competitive into retirement. [Oklahoma Voice]

Community News

Opinion: High suicide and bullying rates plague Oklahoma. Maybe our own actions are to blame.: As Oklahoma reels from at least two recent suicides of teenagers whose parents said they had been bullied – including nonbinary teen Nex Benedict – the state’s Republican leaders are finally saying it’s time to do more. State Attorney General Gentner Drummond is pressing for stronger anti-bullying protections following two teen suicides that were apparently related to bullying. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Women inspire with nonprofit innovations: Unlike some sectors known for poor gender parity, the nonprofit space is brimming with an inordinate amount of strong, talented women. [Marnie Taylor / Journal Record]

Local Headlines

  • Edmond voters will decide on a lodging tax increase: Here’s what to know about the proposal [The Oklahoman]
  • City Councilor Jayme Fowler says he’ll reintroduce his immigration proposal [Tulsa World]
  • New sign ordinance takes effect in Oklahoma City [KFOR]

Quote of the Day

“[I]n a state where one party holds a supermajority in the Legislature and all the principal executive branch positions, any reform that would weaken the ability of the judiciary to protect against the excesses of the majority party should be viewed skeptically.”

– James Davenport, Rose State political scientist, and Keith Eakins, professor of political science at the University of Central Oklahoma, in an essay for the States Newsroom website saying that the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs and other right wing groups are pushing for change in the judicial nominating process because they believe state courts previously checked efforts by the dominant Republican Party. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of the 10,468 people held in Oklahoma jails who were being detained awaiting trial but had not posted bail. [U.S. Department of Justice’s 2019 Census of Jails via R Street]

Policy Note

Is Bail Reform Soft on Crime? Not When Done Well: Evidence-based changes focused on fairness and effectiveness make for safer communities, better uses of government resources and protection of individual freedom. Some states’ policies can serve as guideposts. [Governing]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.