In The Know: Gov. calls exodus of State Ed. Department staff “a good thing,” says some tribes owe for turnpike fees | Signature collection to begin for min. wage state question | Imagining an Oklahoma without taxes

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

Signature collection for Oklahoma minimum wage state question can begin this week: Supporters of raising the minimum wage can start collecting signatures Tuesday on an initiative petition to put the issue on a ballot. Proponents of State Question 832 have 90 days to collect 92,263 signatures for the proposal to be put on the ballot. [KOSU]

  • Raise the Wage Petitioners to Begin Signature Collection This Week [Oklahoma Watch]

It’s tax day in Oklahoma. What is your tax burden like?: Oklahoma has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country. A tax burden isn’t the dollars and cents you pay in taxes. Instead, it’s the proportion of total income you pay toward state and local taxes. [KOSU]

Opinion: Paying taxes is an American responsibility: On the whole, I get a pretty good return on investment. My life has been enriched with taxpayer funded programs, from my public education to having food safety in stores and restaurants. My payments bring the protection of police and firefighters, clean and running water, paved roads, and recreation through parks, museums and performing arts centers. Even the services I don’t use — such as food assistance or veterans benefits — create a better community for everyone. I’m fine with that. As a colleague likes to say, “I haven’t used the Tulsa County jail one time, and I still have to pay for it.” [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

State Government News

How Oklahoma legislators want to handle immigration concerns: Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, have released details on joint legislation to address continued immigration concerns. The measure, which is expected to be filed this week, establishes the crime of impermissible occupation. [Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma’s GOP lawmakers are calling for a state immigration policy similar to Texas [The Oklahoman]

Stitt addresses State Department of Education departures, illegal immigration: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that the reported exodus of more than 130 people from the Oklahoma State Department of Education since Superintendent Ryan Walters took over “sounds like a good thing” and defended Walters’ handling of the department. [Tulsa World]

  • Democrats renew Walters impeachment calls, Stitt praises OSDE staff exodus [KFOR]

Gov. Stitt says two tribal nations owe millions in unpaid turnpike tolls: Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday he supports legislative efforts to develop a state immigration policy, called for changes in the way the state picks members of the appellate judiciary and said the Legislature should keep $5 billion in savings. The governor also pushed back on the issue of tribal tags, saying two state tribes owed the state millions in unpaid turnpike tolls. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma educators at odds over bill limiting teachers’ union communications: An Oklahoma bill targeting teachers’ associations is gaining some criticism from state educators. SB1513 lays out some ground rules of how schools give teachers’ unions access to their employees. [Fox 25]

Lawmakers’ fingers crossed as regular session enters home stretch: A panel of lawmakers said Friday that they’re hopeful the 59th Oklahoma Legislature can complete its business by the constitutionally mandated May 31 deadline. But, given recent history, they weren’t making any promises. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Veterans agency director steps down: Oklahoma’s Department of Veterans Affairs is seeing another leadership shake-up after Executive Director Greg Slavonic announced his departure from the agency last week. [KOSU]

Young speaker-elect relies on hard work and relationships: At 30, the Creek County Republican who is set to become the next speaker of the House is the third-youngest member of that chamber and younger than all but one state senator. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Major issues remain as legislature heads into last 6 weeks of session: We’re about six weeks from the end of the session when votes and bill movement starts to become a blur. So, let’s talk about some substantial legislation we should be carefully watching. The state budget tops the list. Where does that stand now? [KGOU]

Opinion: Oklahomans may finally get relief from the winter weather event, but lawmakers need to step up too: At long last, there may be some justice for Oklahoma consumers who have had to foot the exorbitant tab of the 2021 winter weather event. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

First Native American woman on federal bench in Oklahoma sworn in: U.S. District Judge Sara E. Hill was ceremonially sworn in Friday afternoon as the first Indigenous woman to sit on a federal bench in Oklahoma. Hill actually has been sworn in since Jan. 6 as a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma and has begun hearing cases. [Tulsa World]

D.C. Digest: Lucas seeks new chairmanship: Third District Congressman Frank Lucas put his name in the hat for the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee. If successful, Lucas would become the rare member to chair three committees. He currently leads Science, Space and Technology and formerly chaired Agriculture. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

Quick decisions: Nine area legislative races decided by June primaries: In Oklahoma, more elections are decided between April 1 and the end of June than ever make it to November. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson faces electoral challenge from previous foe: Oklahoma County voters will have just one Oklahoma County race to vote on when they go to the polls in November to select the nation’s next president. Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, 35, was the only incumbent elected county official who drew an opponent and will face Wayland Cubit, 54, the director of security at Oklahoma City Public Schools. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion, Sen. George Young: Oklahomans deserve a voice in deciding our laws. Keep the ballot initiative as it is: This session, we’re seeing an assault on the rights of the people as some elected officials are working to hamper the people’s ability to change the law through the initiative petition process. House Bill 1105 is headed to the floor of the Oklahoma Senate and would make it much more difficult for citizens to get state questions on the ballot. [Sen. George Young / The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma lawmakers want to criminalize spread of genital herpes, chlamydia, HPV and other STDs: Oklahoma lawmakers are seeking to criminalize the spread of several more sexually transmitted diseases, a move critics say could turn nearly every resident into a felon. [Oklahoma Voice]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Deborah Jenkins: Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency focused on rising housing needs: In this Q&A, Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Deborah Jenkins talks about the role the agency plays in helping to develop more affordable housing options, as well as the overall picture across the state. [NonDoc]

Ready-to-build affordable housing coming to Guthrie: The city of Guthrie wants you to build a home and they’re coming up with a plan to help to build two and three bedroom homes that look like historical Guthrie. The program is called the BIG Initiative and the idea is to build and invest in Guthrie by including ready to build housing that doesn’t go for a huge price. [KFOR]

Economy & Business News

War in Ukraine hurting Oklahoma wheat farmers: The livelihood of wheat growers across Oklahoma is threatened by the war in Ukraine. Russia has reopened ports out of the Black Sea, and Ukraine is exporting low-priced wheat, which means American farmers are struggling to match those prices and still make a profit. Some Oklahoma farmers are looking toward alternate crops. [NonDoc]

Education News

Rural Oklahoma schools work to help English Language Learners attain higher education: Hundreds of Oklahoma high school seniors will graduate next month. On top of the end-of-year jitters and finals, prospective college students are completing FAFSA paperwork – but not always in English. Some students and their families need bilingual resources to take their next steps after graduation. [KOSU]

Tulsa Public Schools uses Teacher Empowerment Program to gear up for state testing: With the district’s own projections earlier this semester indicating a need to accelerate academic progress for 700 students to increase language arts scores, 45 TPS teachers are participating in the Oklahoma Teacher Empowerment Program and work with about 1,100 additional students. [Tulsa World]

Community News

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Oklahoma City bombing. What to know: Nearly 30 years ago, the world was shaken when a bomb killed over 150 people in downtown Oklahoma City on a Wednesday morning. With the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing coming up, here’s what you need to know about the bombing, the perpetrators and what fueled their anti-government views. [The Oklahoman]

After two years, foster family gets fishing license for special needs high schooler: Unable to gain the documents and bureaucratic cooperation needed to help the young man obtain an Oklahoma fishing license and identification card, an Oklahoma family felt nearly invisible trying to hand-deliver a letter to the governor’s office detailing the situation, which had dragged on for two years without recourse. [NonDoc]

Opinion: Teaching Oklahoma students about constitutional democracy requires team effort: Regardless of whether this is a time for hope or pessimism, we must come together to teach our children about our constitutional democracy. Improving our highest-challenge schools will continue to require a team effort to bring students out of their classrooms and into the community, as well as diverse volunteers, businesspeople, government officials and other mentors into the schools. [John Thompson / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: After anti-trans rhetoric on Easter, our hope is that love would be resurrected in Walters’ heart: As we move through Easter, our prayer and hope is that love would be resurrected in the heart of Superintendent Walters, and that he would join us in resisting by the power of love those forces in the world that separate, oppress or deny freedom and dignity to all people ― after all, ‘tis the season. [Rev. Lori Allen Walke / The Oklahoman

Local Headlines

  • Oklahoma City Council to decide on new county jail location on East Grand [The Oklahoman]
  • Boardwalk at Bricktown development, skyscraper clear hurdle with OKC Planning Commission [The Oklahoman]
  • Planning commission approves jail site with condition [Journal Record]
  • ‘Micro grocery store’ concept breaks ground in north Tulsa [Tulsa World]
  • A northeast OKC motel is a base for prostitution and other crimes. Neighbors want it shut down [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman Public Library Central closes indefinitely for mold remediation [KGOU]

Quote of the Day

“Why, after more than 100 years, do we suddenly need a huge fee, or a vastly longer protest period, much less criminal background checks? I cannot think of a single incident that points to the need for these requirements. I would argue this is simply being driven by the fact that those in power don’t like it when the public expresses its political will in ways these politicians don’t agree with.”

-Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, writing in an op-ed about bills that would make it more difficult for Oklahomans to bring state questions in front of voters. [Sen. George Young / The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahomans who are among the lowest 20% of earners pay 12.2% of their household income towards state and local taxes, almost twice the percentage that the top 1% of Oklahoma earners pay (6.3%). [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

Policy Note

A Day Without Taxes … or, Be Careful What You Wish For (Archive): I originally wrote this article to make a point about the essential role taxes play in our everyday lives. Local, state, and federal revenue help provide robust public services to build stronger communities, support the future generations of Oklahomans, invest in our economy, and make our state a place where people want to live. The original piece was intended neither as a prediction nor as a challenge to lawmakers. Since then, however, the real Oklahoma has moved closer to the one I feared in my dream. Here’s an update shared on what is traditionally the due date for taxes. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy

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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.