In The Know: Senate unveils budget | House advances tax cuts | Mid-sized cities face affordable housing and homelessness challenges | Initiative petition process should be preserved

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

Oklahoma Constitution allows for people to legislate themselves through initiative petition (Capitol Update): Quite often, some legislators who disagree with the decisions the people have made, try to change the rules for initiative petitions to diminish the people’s legislative authority. Seems like a bad idea. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma astronaut Tom Stafford known for Apollo 10 mission dies at 93: Thomas P. Stafford, an Oklahoma-born astronaut who made history with the Gemini and Apollo space projects, died Monday. He was 93. [The Oklahoman]

  • NASA astronaut Tom Stafford, famed for U.S.-Soviet orbital handshake, has died at 93 [KOSU]

The Oklahoma Senate has sent a $12 billion budget to the House. What’s on the bipartisan plan?: The Oklahoma Senate laid its budgetary cards on the table Monday, passing a simple resolution that would allocate about $12 billion for the fiscal year 2025 budget. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma budget process moves to negotiations after resolution passed in Senate [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma senators prioritize education, health and social services in budget proposal [KOCO]
  • Oklahoma senate unveils proposed budget. Senators warn the final version will be different [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Oklahoma Senators pass preliminary 2025 budget [News 9]

State Government News

Oklahoma House advances tax cuts, but new Senate budget leaves them out: House Republicans are pushing the conversation about more tax cuts forward with a slate of bills passed late last week. The Senate’s proposed budget, however, doesn’t account for slashes to any more of Oklahoma’s revenue streams. [KOSU]

  • House speaker pushes for more tax cuts: ‘We don’t have a money problem in Oklahoma’ [Tulsa World]

‘We’ll correct it’: 47 OK school districts don’t receive promised teacher pay raises from OSDE: Oklahoma’s Speaker of the House confirms 47 school districts have yet to receive teacher pay raises from the State Department of Education this school year. According to officials, formula funding for this salary increase falls somewhere between $500 million and $700 million. [KFOR]

McCall suggests the state House could limit Ryan Walters’ ability to hire outside PR firm: Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall said Monday lawmakers would consider putting limits on the ability of the Oklahoma State Department of Education to spend state funds for personal promotion, following a report the agency spent $30,000 to hire an outside public relations firm to set up national media interviews for state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters. [The Oklahoman]

  • McCall: Legislature could pass bill to limit Walters’ spending on travel, PR [KFOR]
  • Oklahoma House Speaker may consider banning education funds for personal promotion [FOX25]

Capitol Insider: Outlining work schedule as legislators move into session’s second half (Audio): The middle of March is spring break time for lawmakers. We look ahead at the work to be done in the tumultuous final weeks of the 2024 legislative session. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County Detention Center detainee died over the weekend, jail says: The Oklahoma County jail has had its second inmate death of 2024. Jack Raymond Alexander Jr. died at a hospital Sunday two days after he was found attempting to hang himself in his cell, the jail’s communications director said. The jail has had more than 40 deaths since a trust took over its operation on July 1, 2020. [The Oklahoman]

‘Sham’ cancer charity pocketed millions instead of giving to families, lawsuit alleges: Oklahoma has joined the Federal Trade Commission and nine other states in a lawsuit against a cancer charity authorities say is a sham. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Edmond, Norman, Shawnee face affordable housing and homelessness challenges: When Edmond City Council members received a citywide housing study at an August meeting, they sought to start a conversation with community members about how to address the city’s lack of affordable housing. Instead, what ensued was an hour of intense public comments that underscored the robust challenges and major disagreements often defining housing and homelessness conversations in Oklahoma’s mid-sized municipalities. [NonDoc]

Economy & Business News

Gas prices continue to rise, but refinery output could reverse trend: Gasoline prices continue to rise, but an increase in refinery output could eventually reverse the trend, a national analyst said Monday. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Attorneys for Ryan Walters, state ed board defend their actions against Edmond district: Edmond Superintendent Angela Grunewald said the lawsuit was filed after Walters and the state agency threatened to have the state board lower Edmond’s accreditation because two books, “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, are in the libraries of the district’s three high schools. [The Oklahoman]

If schools won’t ban kids’ cellphones, some lawmakers, including Oklahoma’s, say they will: ‘In every single class, half the kids were on their phones the whole time. I can’t imagine ever having a guest lecturer when I was in school and not being focused,’ Oklahoma Sen. Adam Pugh said. His bill would require local public school districts to develop policies banning students’ phones from campuses. It was not heard on the Senate floor. [Oklahoma Voice]

HB 1626: Tulsa Reconciliation Education Bill Advances to Senate: HB 1626 advances to Oklahoma Senate, with 69 yes votes and 18 nays. This would amend the Tulsa Reconciliation Education and Scholarship Program if passed in the Senate and signed by Governor Kevin Stitt. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion: Ryan Walters acts like a bully. To expect him to properly address bullying is not realistic: Bullying is conduct that cannot be objectively justified by a reasonable code of conduct, and whose effect is to threaten, undermine, constrain, humiliate and harm the reputation, self-esteem, self-confidence or ability to perform. Unfortunately, the Oklahoma public education system is now experiencing the harmful effects of the bullying of Ryan Walters. [Janis Blevins / The Oklahoman]

Community News

Free Mom Hugs volunteer labeled a ‘groomer’ by far-right group. Here’s how she responded: A volunteer for Free Mom Hugs, an Oklahoma-based LGBTQ+ advocacy group, became the center of far-right malice after a Moms for Liberty co-founder called her a “groomer” on social media. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Changes in ambulance service leave rural Edmond residents with service roulette [The Oklahoman]
  • Del City hires law firm tied to OKC councilman, could scuttle jail zoning [The Oklahoman]
  • How far $100,000 goes in OKC compared to other cities [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“It was amazing that people stood in line to complain. Basically, they said, ‘If you can’t afford to live in Edmond, we don’t want you here.’ We have to change that mentality. What I’ve been trying to do as mayor is show that Edmond is a welcoming community.”

– Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis referencing the public pushback against affordable housing in Edmond. A city survey showed that Edmond needed more than 8,900 units of housing of all kinds. [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma renting households considered extremely low income, that is whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income. This represents more than 133,000 Oklahoma households that rent. [National Low Income Housing Coalition]

Policy Note

Housing First Is Still the Best Approach to Ending Homelessness: Homelessness hit a record high in 2023, amid a widespread shortage of affordable housing and the end of pandemic relief programs. As homelessness has trended upward in recent years, some have falsely blamed the rise on Housing First, an approach to addressing homelessness that involves quickly moving people into housing and then providing them voluntary, individually tailored services. Misconceptions about Housing First ignore decades of evidence of its effectiveness. To end homelessness, policymakers at all levels should invest in evidence-backed solutions, such as permanent supportive housing. [Urban Institute]

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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.