In The Know: Budget debates on the horizon | State Supreme Court rejects Ryan Walters’ involvement in religious charter school case for third time | Lawmakers pitch plan to rehab crumbling state parks

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

Tax cuts and flat budgets: What’s next for lawmakers in Oklahoma’s big budget debate: This week, the Oklahoma Senate went public with its plan for the state’s budget. Outlined in a simple Senate resolution, the plan would earmark close to $14 billion for fiscal year 2025. The resolution also includes a $312 million line item to pay for a cut in the state’s portion of the grocery sales tax. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

State senator’s bill would enhance punishment for prompting suicide: Following two student deaths in Oklahoma, a state senator has introduced a bill to enhance penalties for individuals who bully people who later die by suicide. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma bill restricting state dollars to those without legal immigration status advances: Oklahoma lawmakers are considering ways to make the state less attractive to immigrants who don’t have legal permission to be in the country. Opponents of the bill say it’s racist and too broadly applicable. [The Oklahoman]

State parks are crumbling. Oklahoma lawmakers are pitching an 8-year maintenance plan to fix it.: Across the state, Oklahoma’s parks are careening from one emergency infrastructure crisis to the next as legislators have struggled to figure out a viable, cost-effective and palatable long-term solution to maintain over $1 billion in assets. [Oklahoma Voice]

Republican infighting continues in Oklahoma Legislature: Infighting among Republicans in the Oklahoma Legislature continued Tuesday with the Senate leader refusing to apologize and defending previous remarks he made about a Broken Arrow senator’s “terroristic” actions. [Tulsa World]

  • OK Senate Pro Tem doubles down on describing fellow Republican lawmakers as ‘terroristic’ [KFOR]

Oklahoma’s push to weaken penalties for cockfighting is frustrating opponents of the bloodsport: A proposal to weaken cockfighting penalties cleared the Oklahoma House. A political action committee is raising money to support farmers who raise game fowl. And in a video since pulled from YouTube, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt recorded a message supporting the group known as the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, saying he would “cheer you on from the sidelines.” [KFOR]

Long Story Short: State Dollars Prop Walters’ National Media Blitz (Audio): Jennifer Palmer talks about a state Education Department contract to get more national press for state superintendent Ryan Walters. Paul Monies has continued to follow the fallout from the huge run-up in natural gas costs from a winter storm in early 2021. Keaton Ross talks about two legislative proposals that would make it more difficult to get a state question on the ballot. [Oklahoma Watch]

Opinion: Oklahoma Senate measure on how judges are selected is a power grab for partisan politics: Under Senate Joint Resolution 34, the governor would appoint justices with confirmation by the Senate, inserting partisan politics into the process for the first time in some six decades. SJR 34 would end the right of our residents to vote on retaining those justices. [Sen. Kay Floyd / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma remains one of only 12 states without legalized sports betting. Why?: The short answer: Philosophical differences about power and money; and, specifically, over how much money would go to tribes, how much would go to the state and whether Gov. Kevin Stitt and tribal leaders can reach a so-far unattainable agreement. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Council joins opposition to bill shielding poultry farms from pollution lawsuits: Leaders from Oklahoma’s Five Tribes are asking the state legislature not to move forward with a bill that would shield some poultry farmers from lawsuits, even if they pollute streams, rivers or lakes. [KOSU]

Life after the Oscars: This is the legacy of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ according to Osage Nation: Despite earning 10 nominations, including best picture, Martin Scorsese’s historical drama “Killers of the Flower Moon” was shut out at this year’s Academy Awards. But the lack of wins for the made-in-Oklahoma movie didn’t stop the Osage Nation — along with the film’s breakout star, Lily Gladstone, the first Native American to be nominated for best actress in the nearly 100-year history of the Academy Awards — from shining in the Oscars spotlight. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Let’s Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Native Right to Vote by Being the Margin of Victory: American Indian and Alaska Natives (AIAN) suffer with the worst of the worst outcomes. We were the last to be granted citizenship with the right to vote in 1924. A hundred years later, it’s imperative that we fully engage in the democratic process by registering and voting in the 2024 US House, Senate and Presidential election. [Aaron Payment / Native News Online]

Health News

New gene therapy treatment in Oklahoma can help the visually impaired, blind: There’s a new treatment in Oklahoma for the visually impaired. The Dean McGee Eye Institute collaborated with OU Health to offer Gene Therapy for an eye disorder that can cause severe vision loss. [KFOR]

New way for states to cover pricey gene therapies will start with sickle cell disease: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last year approved two breakthrough gene therapies for sickle cell disease patients. Now a new federal program seeks to make these life-changing treatments available to patients with low incomes — and it could be a model to help states pay for other expensive therapies. [Oklahoma Voice]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

‘A gateway’: OKC betting Key to Home program can reduce homelessness: Key to Home’s goals are simple: Get people into housing, stabilize their lives, and help them solve problems that drew their path to the streets in the first place. Those efforts can encompass career training, job placement, and mental health and substance abuse resources. [NonDoc]

Economy & Business News

Study finds inflated THC potency at Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensaries: In the study, 15 samples of popular strains from three Oklahoma dispensaries were tested. All of them had an over-reported THC potency, according to the report from Havard Industries. [KOSU]

Education News

Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects Ryan Walters’ involvement in religious charter school case for third time: For a third time, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has turned down a request from state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters to insert himself into a lawsuit that seeks to stop the creation of what would be the nation’s first public religious charter school. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Legislature must disapprove of proposed education rule that would harm 60 districts: Under the rule, annual district accreditation could be downgraded based exclusively on student performance on standardized state tests. Anyone who remembers No Child Left Behind from the early 2000s may recall that the landmark federal legislation went from generating great hopes to being widely denounced as one of the biggest federal policy blunders of all time. [David Blatt Community Advisory Board / Tulsa World]

Community News

Transformative Generosity: MacKenzie Scott’s $2 Million Gift to Terence Crutcher Foundation: MacKenzie Scott’s philanthropic initiative, Yield Giving, has named the Terence Crutcher Foundation as one of the recipients of its Open Call grant program. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Editorial: Tulsa leaders were right to reject political stunt preying on illegal immigrant fears: National rhetoric has resurfaced on immigration during this presidential election year. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and the majority of the Tulsa City Council deserve praise for fighting fear-mongering and keeping the focus on actual city problems that they can address. [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

Local Headlines

  • OKC to remember those who died experiencing homelessness: ‘They were members of our community” [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC woman’s petition receives 1,500 signatures to improve safety along Highway 9 [News 9]
  • Oklahoma County commissioners meeting to discuss new jail site as legal fight starts [KOCO]
  • City of Grove goes after developer for millions in damages [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“I believe this budget falls short of reducing maternal mortality, tackling the housing crisis and ending child hunger. I remain committed to working on bipartisan solutions to fund core services that are truly reflective of the people we serve.”

– Sen. Carri Hicks (D-OKC) said in her remarks on the Senate floor before the chamber passed its preliminary budget resolution Monday. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day

$2.6 billion

Estimated value of the land held in permanent trust by the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office, which owns and manages about 726,000 surface acres and 1.2 million mineral acres of land in the state. In fiscal year 2023, the Commissioners of the Land Office distributed $129.4 million to common schools (K-12) and 13 colleges and universities. [National Association of State Land Trusts] | [Commissioners of the Land Office]

Policy Note

Misplaced Trust: Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, the Morrill Act used land taken from Indigenous nations to fund a network of colleges across the fledgling United States. By the early 20th century, grants issued under the Morrill Act had produced the modern equivalent of a half a billion dollars for land-grant institutions from the redistribution of nearly 11 million acres of Indigenous lands. But the Morrill Act is only one piece of legislation that connects land expropriated from Indigenous communities to these universities. [Daily Yonder]

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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.