In The Know: Legislative maneuver reintroduces proposal for schools to hire chaplains | Battle between governor and AG continues with new legal filings | Expanding the state board of ed?

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.

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers ‘shuck’ bill to reintroduce initiative to put chaplains in public schools: Oklahoma Republican lawmakers “shucked” a bill about law enforcement recording access and replaced it with new language to allow public schools to employ religious chaplains or accept voluntary chaplains to “provide support, services and programs for students.” [KGOU]

  • Chaplains for public schools proposal reemerges in new bill [The Oklahoman]

Governor’s appointments face ‘imminent legal peril’ if AG’s opinion stands, court filings say: Attorneys for Gov. Kevin Stitt doubled down on the governor’s appointive authority last week, new documents filed in a lawsuit between Stitt and Attorney General Gentner Drummond show. At the same time, Drummond answered the governor’s complaints with a terse six-page response that left little to the imagination. [The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoma State Board of Education may soon be expanding: A bill that would expand the size of the Oklahoma State Board of Education by four members — all appointed by the state Legislature, and not Gov. Kevin Stitt — cleared the state Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, but with a caveat. House Bill 2562 would result in an 11-member board if signed into law. The bill received approval by an 11-2 vote, but not before its title was stricken, an amendment that could result in negotiations between Senate and House leadership being necessary before the bill could be passed. [The Oklahoman]

Missouri, Oklahoma attorneys general form coalition challenging Biden student debt relief program: Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey is seeking to squash a nearly eight-month-old program that has waived $1.2 billion in student loans for 153,000 borrowers and limited the payment amounts for 8 million others. He is joined by the attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Dakota, Ohio and Oklahoma in a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Education’s SAVE Plan, an income-driven repayment plan launched in August of last year and is set to be fully implemented in July. [Oklahoma Voice]

House committee favors scrapping Judicial Nominating Commission: A proposal that could lead to a historic change in the way Oklahoma appellate and Supreme Court judges are selected advanced a step at the Capitol on Tuesday. Senate Joint Resolution 34 proposes a statewide vote on whether the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission should be scrapped. It proposes a method of selecting judges more in line with the federal system, one that would give the governor the authority to nominate higher level jurists. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director to step down in May: The executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs will be stepping down at the end of May, he announced on Tuesday. Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Greg Slavonic took the role of interim director in March 2023 and originally planned to stay only six months. [Tulsa World]

Long Story Short: State Supreme Court Hears St. Isidore Arguments (audio): Oklahoma Watch reporters discuss the oral arguments in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court that will shape the next step for what could be the nation’s first religious public school, a gubernatorial task force’s report on dark money campaign contributions, and the Legislature’s budgetary impasse.  [Oklahoma Watch]

Federal Government News

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma tapped by GOP as House Appropriations chairman: Republican Rep. Tom Cole will likely become the next chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee — and the first Oklahoman to ever serve in the post — after gaining the approval of the GOP Steering Committee on Tuesday evening. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • For the first time, an Oklahoman will lead the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Choctaw Nation finalizes car tag compact, but larger tribal tag issues remain: Despite rising concerns about motorists with tribal tags not paying tolls on Oklahoma turnpikes, a bill addressing that issue stalled in committee on Tuesday. SB 1907 would have allowed the Department of Public Safety to forward tribal tag information accessible through the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to the turnpike authority. The bill failed to clear committee. “The inability to collect tolls from Tribal Nations is an issue created by OTA due to their lack of planning and consultation prior to implementing a new collection system,” said the Oklahoma Intertribal Tax Association in a statement. [Tulsa World]

  • Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma renew plate agreement amid broader controversy over tribal tags [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Uncontested: Nearly Half of Legislative Races Have Already Been Decided: For the third consecutive general election cycle, most Oklahoma voters won’t elect their state lawmakers in November. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Rep. Kevin McDugle drops reelection bid: Republican state Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, will not seek reelection in state House District 12 after all. His withdrawal leaves the Republican nomination in HD 12 to Mark Chapman, a Broken Arrow businessman whom McDugle described as “a friend for a long time, a client of mine and we go to church together.” [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma bill would make medical care requiring prior authorization more transparent: A bill moving through the Oklahoma Legislature seeks to put more transparency into the prior authorization process used by health insurance companies. House Bill 3190 would require insurance companies to post online prior authorization requirements for medical treatments. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative Honors Black Maternal Health Week: Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative (TBEI), a local nonprofit focused on reducing health disparities among pregnant women, is hosting a series of local events in conjunction with Black Maternal Health Week, April 11-17, 2024. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Criminal Justice News

Federal judge dismisses civil rights lawsuit filed by Terence Crutcher estate against city, former police officer: A federal judge on Monday dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by the estate of Terence Crutcher Sr. against the city of Tulsa and one of its former police officers. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren granted summary judgment to Betty Jo Shelby, finding that qualified immunity bars the Crutcher estate’s Fourth Amendment claim of excessive force against the former Tulsa police officer. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County officials to vote on offering millions for land for new jail: Oklahoma County’s Board of County Commissioners could vote Wednesday to hang a “sale pending” placard on a sign offering 71 acres at 1901 E Grand for sale. The $5 million offer is to acquire land as the site of the future county jail. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Not acceptable’: New details on Oklahoma County Detention Center plans revealed [Fox 25]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Central information hub launched for city of Tulsa’s homelessness, mental health programs: Accessing information about all city of Tulsa programs related to homelessness, housing and mental health should be much easier now that a central information hub has been created, officials said. [Tulsa World]

New WIC Rules Expand Healthy Food Options: On Tuesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vislack announced finalized updates to the WIC program. Formerly known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, WIC is a federal nutrition program for pregnant people, new parents, and young children. Nearly 40% of all infants in the US participate in the service. The USDA expects the new rules to go into effect within the next two years. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Education News

State Superintendent reveals 117 Oklahoma schools removed from federal improvement list: On Tuesday, State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced more than one hundred schools were coming off a federal list for improvement. 117 out of 191 schools were taken off the Comprehensive Support and Improvement site list, a federal designation that Walters said closely mirrors the state report card’s system designation as “F” schools. [Fox 25]

Lawsuit to force OU to reveal hidden investigation moves forward: There has been movement in a lawsuit against the OU Board of Regents. NonDoc, a nonprofit publication based in Oklahoma, sued the board after it refused to provide documents on investigations into alleged financial and sexual misconduct involving the university and its former president, David Boren. [KFOR]

Oklahoma HS sports: Preliminary injunction voids amendments to OSSAA’s private-school rule: A lawsuit has resulted in a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association from enforcing its recent amendments to a rule focused on private schools, multiple sources told The Oklahoman. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Reading opens a world of possibilities. Give Oklahoma kids resources to read well: Oklahoma’s students are facing a reading crisis. According to the Oklahoma State Report Card for 2022-23, reading proficiency declined by 0.9%, with 26.3% of students reading at grade level or higher. There was also a 5.7% decrease in Oklahoma eighth-grade reading, where only 19.3% students marked as proficient. [Pamela Keller / The Oklahoman]

Community News

OKC metro area Muslims set to unite for first-ever prayer event at OKC Fairgrounds: A Muslim prayer gathering will take place at the OKC Fairgrounds for the first time on Wednesday in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

OKC-based ‘I’ve Had It’ podcast features Vice President Kamala Harris in latest episode: Hosts of the Oklahoma City-based podcast “I’ve Had It” took their petty grievances to the White House in the show’s most recent episode where U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris shared what she’s “had it” with. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • ‘Disrupt our way of life’: Concerned residents voice opposition to Enid-area solar farm [Fox 25]
  • Oklahoma City says ‘no’ to Sunset Amphitheater zoning request [The Oklahoman]
  • Flamboyant Tulsa attorney’s law license suspended [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“(SB 36 opens the door for) a multitude of adults to come into our schools and have influence with our children without any level of education, certification qualification. It opens the door wide for anybody claiming to be a faith leader to have access to our children. It’s dangerous, and we should be unequivocally opposed for the protection of our young people.”

-The Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Faith Network, speaking out against a proposal that would allow school districts to hire paid chaplains to provide school counseling. [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


Percentage of Tulsans experiencing homelessness who were over the age of 55, according to the 2024 point-in-time count. [Housing Solutions]

Policy Note

The Nation’s Homeless Population Is Aging Dramatically: Over the past 30 years, in fact, the homeless population has gotten substantially older. The percentage of homeless single adults aged 50 or older has climbed steadily, from 11 percent in the early 1990s to 37 percent in 2003, and now to nearly 50 percent in the 2020s. The population of homeless individuals who are 65 or older is predicted to more than double by 2030. But now more people are falling into homelessness for the first time in their later years due to high housing costs. [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.