In The Know: Bill would limit state question process | 50 lawmakers get no opposition in candidate filing period | Prison homicides twice as high as previously reported | More

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

Oklahoma News

Moms for Liberty’s legislative agenda targets politicians on both sides of the aisle: As Moms for Liberty works to grow its influence in Oklahoma, members have raised their voice at the Capitol and built relationships with political leaders who share their concerns. [Tulsa World]

  • Pornography in school libraries? Moms for Liberty shares Ryan Walters’ cause célèbre [Tulsa World]

State Government News

House Committee Revives Bill Cracking Down on Initiative Petitions: One unexpected turn last week was the revival of Senate Bill 518, a carryover bill from the 2023 legislative session that proposes several hurdles to get an initiative petition on the ballot. The bill was added to the House Rules Committee meeting agenda about an hour and a half before members convened on Tuesday afternoon. [Oklahoma Watch]

Bill proposes mandatory metering of water wells for farming, commercial use: Legislation intended to safeguard the availability of water shared by neighbors has drawn some debate at the Capitol over how much the government should intervene in such matters. [Tulsa World]

Bill would fix oversight in Oklahoma law meant to help domestic violence victims: Oklahoma lawmakers are one step away from closing a gap in a state law designed to help people escape domestic violence and move into a new place more quickly. The year-old law requires public utility providers to waive initial deposit and credit requirements for victims of domestic violence setting up new accounts. But the way the law is worded means victims helped by tribal programs aren’t necessarily eligible for the fee waivers. [The Oklahoman]

Capitol Update: House and Senate standoff threatens timely state budget agreement: Oklahoma legislative leaders disagree over the path forward toward developing the state budget for the next fiscal year. Senate Bill 1415 allows a one-time waiver of interest and penalties up to $10,000 for “voluntary disclosure” of unpaid state income taxes. [KGOU]

Political notebook: Opioid grants, a look at bills moving through Legislature: The Oklahoma Attorney general’s office said it received 101 applications for shares of $23 million in opioid settlement funds to be distributed this year. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Gov. Stitt, engage with Oklahoma’s disability community and advocates. You will gain insight: As a family person, I applaud the governor’s vision of family support. As an Oklahoma disability advocate with a disability, I urge him to recognize and address the systemic barriers that hinder many of us from achieving this ideal. [Richard Anderson / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Investing in a $4.3 million arch is a waste of Oklahomans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars: “Can you imagine coming north on Lincoln and seeing that beautiful arch?” the bill’s author asked fellow lawmakers during a recent committee meeting. Oh yes, I can only imagine the reaction Oklahomans, including our military veterans, will have when they see that lawmakers used their hard-earned taxpayer dollars to invest in a vanity project — all while residents are grappling with huge systemic issues. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Cole expected to get Appropriations gavel this week: All reports from Washington are that 4th District Congressman Tom Cole will probably become House Appropriations Committee Chairman when Congress returns this week. No Oklahoman has ever led Approps, and Cole’s selection would further boost his reputation as one of the most influential members of the House. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

Half of Oklahoma House members seeking 2024 reelection win by default: Half of the 88 members of the House of Representatives seeking reelection won another term Friday without a contest. After the three-day legislative filing period, which ended at 5 p.m. Friday, 44 House members seeking reelection did not draw an opponent. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma State Senate races outlined as filing ends: The 2024 election cycle for the Oklahoma Legislature features far more contested State Senate races than recent years, partially because a pair of Oklahoma City districts saw off-term vacancies and partially because a slate of challengers have filed against incumbents who chose to seek reelection. [NonDoc]

Fifty lawmakers get no opponents as state, federal filing period ends: Forty-nine incumbent state lawmakers and a former legislator won re-election without a fight at 5 p.m. Friday, when Oklahoma’s three-day filing period for state and federal offices closed without them getting an opponent. [Tulsa World]

Candidate filing draws 285 hopefuls: Oklahoma saw the fewest number of candidates seeking office in years when the filing period closed Friday. The three-day filing period saw 285 people file for the Oklahoma Legislature, U.S. House and Corporation Commission. It was the lowest since 2012, when 275 filed. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Up-to-date list of candidate filings [Oklahoma Election Board]
  • Final list of federal and state candidates in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Former journalist, 22-year-old among those entering races on last day of candidate filing [The Oklahoman]
  • Corporation Commission seat draws 5, congressional incumbents find opponents [NonDoc]
  • Candidates Head to OK Capitol to File for 2024 Election Cycle [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Oklahoma County filings: Cubit poses sheriff rematch for Johnson; Maughan, Treat, Warren unopposed [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma County Sheriff Race 2024 Rematch [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Tulsa County: 7 seek commissioner post, Don Newberry and Vic Regalado unopposed [NonDoc]
  • Tulsa County sheriff, court clerk assured of reelection as neither draws a challenger [Tulsa World]

Health News

More Oklahomans are being diagnosed with diabetes. This senator wants to see change in insulin costs: Sen. Carri Hicks is co-chair of the Legislative Diabetes Caucus and a sponsor behind Diabetes Advocacy Day, scheduled Monday at the state Capitol. She also is a sponsor of legislation that would keep the cost of insulin — a key to treating the disease — low. She said she now has a much better understanding of the disease — because of her son. [The Oklahoman]

An 1873 law banned the mailing of boxing photos. Could it block abortion pills too?: The Comstock Act prohibits the mailing of anatomy textbooks and boxing photographs as well as contraceptives. [Oklahoma Watch]

Nearly 100 Oklahoma groups apply for opioid lawsuit settlement funds: The Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General has received 101 applications for an initial round of $23 million in grants local groups can use to counteract the impacts of the opioid epidemic. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Prison homicides twice as high as previously reported, new state numbers show: The number of recent homicides in Oklahoma prisons is twice as high as previously reported, new data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections show. The number of homicides puts Oklahoma near the top of the region in inmate killings. [The Oklahoman]

Edmond surveillance: License plate readers, alleged EPS camera access draw privacy concerns: The Edmond Police Department joined about 40 law enforcement agencies across the state when it contracted with Flock Safety in March 2023 to install automatic license plate readers in public, high-traffic areas across the city to aid in criminal investigations, but their use has been widely debated among privacy advocates. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have fought the use of ALPRs, citing the Fourth Amendment and concerns with data collection on innocent motorists. [NonDoc]

How an Oklahoma man double-crossed a Mexican cartel with knockoff guns: Andrew Scott Pierson’s ordeal started on a remote Oklahoma farm and ended in a cartel hot zone after Mexican officers surrounded him and marched him out of Mexico. His journey from America’s heartland to life in a volatile border town started in 2012 with his rise to prominence as a gun expert and cartel go-to guy. It ended with his public downfall two weeks before Christmas in 2018 in the middle of a suburban street. [USA Today via The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma’s Booming Film Industry Has Texas’ Attention: To attract movie and television production, states must try to offer the best incentives. The competition drives spending on Hollywood subsidies ever higher. [The New York Times]

Canoo reports rough going; electric vehicle startup’s CEO remains positive: In the final quarter of 2023, Canoo reported a net loss of $29 million. For the year, it lost more than $302 million. But Tony Aquila, Canoo’s chairman, CEO and an investor in the company, doesn’t see a smashup ahead despite a “going concern” warning that has persisted in Canoo’s regulatory filings since 2022. [Tulsa World]

Last month’s western Oklahoma wildfire property damage estimated at nearly $33 million: OSU extension specialists and members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team estimate over 152,000 acres burned and $32.9 million in total property damage from the spate of western Oklahoma fires earlier in the year. That amounts to roughly $215 dollars per acre. [KOSU]

Even with probable delays to theme park project, Sen. Mullin confident ‘it’s going to change Vinita’: Plans to build a $2 billion Disney-like theme park in Vinita may have plenty of doubters, but U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin isn’t one of them. The Republican from northeast Oklahoma made the comments about the planned American Heartland theme park and resort during an exclusive interview with the Tulsa World last week. [Tulsa World]

Effort for ‘tech hub’ funding in Tulsa gets big political boost: Advocates working to secure millions in federal funding for Tulsa to become a “tech hub” got a recent political boost. But even before U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., met with leaders of Tulsa Innovation Labs last week, he said he was already on board. [Tulsa World]

Education News

‘Libs of TikTok’ creator, Ryan Walters’ appointee Chaya Raichik added to SPLC extremist list: This week the Southern Poverty Law Center added Chaya Raichik, the creator of social media platform “Libs of TikTok,” to its file of individual extremists and extremist movements. The Extremist Files database contains profiles of various groups and individuals, including Fred Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church, and David Duke, founder of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. [The Oklahoman]

Donor-funded bonuses for TPS admins: What teachers association, former school board president say: The Tulsa World’s recent report on hundreds of thousands in local donor funds being directed to Tulsa Public Schools administrators as bonuses in recent years has drawn strong reactions from local teachers and a former school board president, and even a new revelation from the nonprofit foundation that handled the payments. [Tulsa World]

Stitt appoints Norman business owner to the Oklahoma State University board of regents: Susan Bergen, a Norman business owner and conservationist, is the latest appointment by Gov. Kevin Stitt to the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, which oversees Oklahoma State University and four other state higher education institutions. [The Oklahoman]

Community News

Air quality improved but racial and ethnic disparities in deaths and disease widened, study finds: Deaths and disease linked to air pollution have dropped across the United States over the past few decades, but not all communities are equally reaping the benefits. A new peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspective found that the ethnic and racial disparities in rates of premature deaths and disease attributable to particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide have widened between 2010 and 2019. [KOSU]

How Oklahomans protest is the focus of new TU photo exhibit: Tulsa World photographers Mike Simon and Stephen Pingry are included in a new exhibit of more than 70 photos showing how Oklahomans have exercised their right to protest. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: In anti-LGBTQ+ climate, we should not be surprised that children die by their own hands: In a state awash in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, which is propagated by the highest state authorities, we should not be surprised that fights erupt, or that children die by their own hands. Being gay or trans is not a choice. It is who people are. If people are rejected and hated in their very person, should we be surprised by tragedies such as that of Nex Benedict? We should not be surprised, but we should be appalled. [Nancy Snow / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Judd Blevins was voted out of Enid. We never should’ve elected him to begin with:  Even after Enid city commissioner Judd Blevins tepidly admitted and confirmed his activities and motivation of fighting so-called ‘anti-white hatred,’ some folks in town continue to support him.
[Cindy Allen / The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Life of Kenneth Blair, known to many as “Santa Blair,” celebrated by hundreds at services [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa mayor says new Gilcrease Museum will be much more than a place to view great art [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I just think they’re trying to make the bar so hard that it’s nearly impossible to do it. But for them, are they changing the process for how they get to put things on the ballot through a referendum? To me, it just smacks of we don’t trust you, voters.” 

-Amber England, who ran the successful campaign to implement Medicaid expansion in 2020, speaking about recent legislative attempts to increase barriers to the citizens’ ability to put state questions on the ballot. [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma families with children under age 18 that have household incomes of less than 200% of the federal poverty level and at least one parent worked 50 or more weeks during the previous year. The federal poverty definition consists of a series of thresholds based on family size and composition. In 2022, the 200% poverty threshold for a family of two adults and two children was $29,678. [KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

The promise and perils of America’s safety net: In the United States, millions of people benefit in some way from the so-called social safety net, a series of programs meant to help Americans in need. Because of how hard it is to navigate the system, many people who qualify for housing, food or medical assistance struggle to get and keep their benefits. The PBS NewsHour looks at different forms of welfare in the U.S., who they serve, and how they’ve become ensnared in political fights. [PBS Newshour / YouTube]

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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.