In The Know: Woman arrested at OSDE meeting | Faith leaders, residents protest immigration bill | Treat talks strained relationship with governor | Finding hope in the future

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.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Finding hope in college students, new professionals: Public discourse, especially around contentious legislation, continues to divide us rather than bring us together. It’s disheartening for those of us working towards a more inclusive Oklahoma that supports all our neighbors — regardless of the color of their skin, the size of their bank accounts or the circumstances of their birth. It’s not often I’ll turn to the Zen masters for solace, but I’ve been reflecting on a quote from Thích Nhất Hạnh: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Woman arrested at Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting: A mother was arrested at an Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting Thursday after refusing to leave the room while complaining of poor access in the building for people with disabilities. Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers escorted Audra Beasley, 45, of Oklahoma City, out of the meeting room in handcuffs at the Oklahoma State Department of Education headquarters. Her three children were present. One of them, who uses a wheelchair, burst into tears. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • As her child cried, woman removed from meeting after addressing Ryan Walters, Oklahoma board [The Oklahoman]
  • Woman arrested during public comment at State Board of Education meeting [Tulsa World]
  • Mother, disability rights advocate handcuffed at State Department of Education meeting [Fox 25]

Ryan Walters tells school superintendents to ignore new Title IX guidelines on gender orientation: State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters has sent a memo to Oklahoma school districts calling recent federal rules changes involving Title IX interpretation “illegal and unconstitutional” and saying districts that comply with them would be in danger of violating state and federal law. [The Oklahoman]

  • Walters urges Oklahoma schools to ignore new Biden administration Title IX rules [Oklahoma Voice]

Immigration bill sent to governor as Latino Oklahomans protest: As a crisis continues on the U.S. Southern Border, Oklahoma lawmakers are among counterparts from about a dozen states taking things into their own hands. Their efforts generated backlash from the Latino immigrant community. [KOSU]

  • Group of Oklahoman faith leaders speak out against immigration bill [The Oklahoman]
  • Immigration law could deter victims from reporting crime, Tulsa mayor worries [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahomans Rally Against Anti-Immigration Bill at State Capitol [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Anguish and fear in Florida amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment [NPR]
  • Opinion: Oklahoma’s latest immigration bill threatens public safety by raising fear, emboldening criminals [Jesse Guardiola / Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: House Bill 4156 doesn’t fix immigration problems, only worsens public safety [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Oklahoma already has laws to deal with criminals. New bill could harm immigrant communities more: Aimed at rooting out “bad actors” involved in illegal marijuana grow operations and organized crime who end up in Oklahoma via the southern border, it is concerning that HB 4156 — which mimics similar laws in Texas and Florida — could harm immigrant communities. It could separate families, ruin businesses and create a cycle of mistrust about reporting crimes to law enforcement when someone is in vulnerable, abusive situations. [Clytie Bunyan / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Proposed immigrant legislation penalizes and wrongly criminalizes the undocumented community: Like many migrants, I arrived in Oklahoma at the age of 15 with nothing, and for nearly two decades I have called Oklahoma City home. I have seen it grow, and I have grown with it, and although (proposed) laws like House Bill 4156 have often made me feel unwelcome, I know that Oklahoma has much to offer and has shown that it can provide support and a warm welcome in abundance. [Cynthia Garcia / The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Treat talks about strained relationship with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt: Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said Thursday that Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt appears to have a pattern of vetoing Senate bills. Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said that last year Stitt arbitrarily vetoed a number of Senate bills, causing the upper chamber to deny a couple of his executive nominations. Stitt also appears to be targeting Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond in his vetoes, Treat said. Stitt recently vetoed a bill that would have given Drummond’s office more power. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Senate leader says audit shows lack of transparency and accountability under Gov. Stitt [Tulsa World]

Gov. Kevin Stitt asked to close Oklahoma competitive bidding ‘loopholes’: Lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk on Wednesday that would require purchases of equipment, products and services by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to go out for bid. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma AG calls for resignation of cabinet secretary after audit shows agency mismanaged millions [Oklahoma Public Media Exchange via KGOU]
  • Golf, Pickleball and cooking classes: State audit reveals funds meant for emergency rent relief instead spent on entertainment [KFOR]
  • Sen. Treat: Scathing state audit findings cause ‘grave concern’ [KFOR]

In light of audit, Shelley Zumwalt faces difficult Senate confirmation for tourism secretary: Shelley Zumwalt — the embattled executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and the governor’s choice for tourism secretary — could face a difficult confirmation process in light of a newly released audit, the leader of the Oklahoma Senate said Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

Senate overrides veto of Oklahoma victims’ bill: The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday overrode Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto of a bill that could have benefited criminal defendants who were also victims. The Senate voted 46-1 to override Stitt’s veto of Senate Bill 1470, dubbed the Oklahoma Survivors’ Act. [Oklahoma Voice]

Bill banning Oklahoma schools from using corporal punishment on students with disabilities advances: A bill that would prohibit schools from using corporal punishment on children with certain disabilities passed the Oklahoma Senate Tuesday.
House Bill 1028 by Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater) and Sen. Dave Rader (R-Tulsa) was introduced last year and garnered national attention when the House failed to pass it. [KOSU]

Oklahoma school chaplain bill passes House, continues to Senate: The Oklahoma House passed a bill permitting chaplains to be hired or to volunteer in public schools, but lawmakers tightened qualifications needed for the role. Senate Bill 36 will return to the state Senate for consideration after the House approved it in a 54-37 vote on Wednesday. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Controversial bill allowing chaplains in Oklahoma’s public schools advances [The Oklahoman]
  • Amended public school chaplain bill gets Oklahoma House of Representatives approval [Tulsa World]

Senate leader’s car tag legislation clears House with overwhelming vote: A bill, inspired by the near-fatal car accident of the Senate pro tempore’s son, cleared the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday on an 89-2 vote. Although the bill will have to go back to the Senate for adoption of a perfunctory amendment, all other hurdles have been cleared and can then go to the governor for signature. [The Oklahoman]

Mandatory retirement age for judges pushed by Oklahoma House leaders: Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House of Representatives took another run at forcing out judges it doesn’t like with new legislation on Thursday that would mandate retirement at age 75 for appellate justices. [Tulsa World]

More people escaping domestic violence eligible for utility fee waivers in Oklahoma: A gap in a state law meant to help domestic violence victims move into new places more quickly will soon be closed after Gov. Kevin Stitt approved a fix. Public utility providers will be required to waive certain setup fees for people escaping domestic violence with the help of a tribal program or shelter. [The Oklahoman]

Senate declines to hear bill inspired by ‘Welch girls’ case; family vows not to give up: A bill named for the two teenage victims in one of Oklahoma’s most notorious cold cases was effectively killed Thursday by the Senate in a turn of events for surviving family members and the bill’s co-author. [Tulsa World]

Cursive is making a comeback: Gov. Stitt signs law requiring it to be taught in schools:  [Tulsa World]

Soybean could get Oklahoma symbol status: The soybean could be joining the strawberry and watermelon as state symbols. The Senate on Wednesday sent Gov. Kevin Stitt House Bill 2248 that would designate the soybean as the state’s legume. [Oklahoma Voice]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: New state audit, Survivors’ Act veto, tribal compacts and more (audio):  The panel discusses about an audit showing questionable contracts by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and then-Director Shelley Zumwalt during the pandemic, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoing a bill to protect victims of domestic abuse and lawmakers sending Stitt a controversial immigration bill. [KOSU]

Editorial: Oklahoma GOP’s ‘path to zero’ personal income tax could put state into dire straits: Oklahomans also deserve much better state services than what we’ve been getting. It does no good to have zero income tax if state buildings are crumbling, parks are deteriorating, public schools can’t find teachers, CareerTech has thousands on job-training waiting lists and employers struggle to find a skilled workforce. It’s still difficult to obtain a driver’s license or file for unemployment. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation, Gov. Kevin Stitt continue tribal tag compact negotiations: The Cherokee Nation and Gov. Kevin Stitt continue to disagree on the terms of a tribal tag compact. Earlier this week, Stitt’s official social media posted an infographic regarding the compact, sparking a direct response from the Cherokee Nation. In the reply, the Cherokee Nation said no agreement had been reached, but if there was, “tribal citizens and Council of the Cherokee Nation would be the first to know and not through the governor’s social media page.” [KOSU]

History fuels high rates of Native American death at hands of police, experts say: Recent findings that Native Americans are more likely than any other racial group to die in encounters with law enforcement have deep roots, experts say. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

Opinion: Oklahoma Republicans stifle citizen petitions, ignoring own power-hungry past: Oklahoma Republican leaders fighting to make it harder for citizens to put a state question before voters have forgotten how their party used the mechanism to gain power. Voters need to pay closer attention to the legislative changes happening now that chip away at the right of citizens to use an initiative petition to shape laws. It’s a check on power enshrined in the Oklahoma Constitution. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma man sues EMSA after private info compromised in data breach: A former EMSA employee who was a victim of a massive data breach this year has sued, claiming the company failed to protect his sensitive information. More than 600,000 people were affected by the data theft at EMSA, Oklahoma’s largest ambulance service. [The Oklahoman]

Chronic wasting disease: Death of 2 hunters in US raises fear of ‘zombie deer’: Two hunters who ate meat from deer known to have chronic wasting disease − or “zombie deer disease” − developed similar neurological conditions and died, raising concerns that it can pass from animals to humans. [The Oklahoman]

OU’s Stephenson Cancer Center to open Tulsa hospital: A university-based cancer hospital located in Oklahoma City is expanding to Tulsa, where it will focus on providing research-driven cancer care to all of northeastern Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma prison advocates rally at the State Capitol calling for criminal justice reform: Oklahoma prison advocates who are friends and family of incarcerated inmates rallied at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Thursday. They are calling for criminal justice reform. Representative J.J. Humphrey led the public discussion along with groups dedicated to changing the system for good. [KFOR]

Oklahoma man detained in Turks and Caicos faces 12 years after ammunition found in bag: The family of an Oklahoma man is seeking funds to bring him back to the state after he was detained in the Turks and Caicos Islands when airport security found four bullets in his luggage. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

New law allows Oklahoma cities to remove discriminatory covenants, making them ‘null and void’: Municipalities in Oklahoma will soon be able to remove illegal, discriminatory covenants within their charters. Senate Bill 1617 was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week. The new act allows municipalities to update and remove illegal discriminatory covenants from existing plats and deems them unlawful, unenforceable and invalid. [KOSU]

North Classen TIF district spurs questions about OKC’s housing needs: If it’s approved, the proposed TIF district would encompass properties along Classen Boulevard from Northwest 36th Street to Northwest Fifth Street in an effort to spur more development in the Oklahoma City Asian District and areas to the south. The proposed district widens near downtown and would include parts of Pennsylvania Avenue to the west, and Robinson Avenue to the east. [NonDoc]

Education News

Ryan Walters says he’s fired 130 people, but public documents say otherwise: State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters falsely claimed on Thursday he has fired 130 people from the Oklahoma State Department of Education since he took office in January 2023. [The Oklahoman]

Education Watch: No Quick Fix for Teacher Turnover, But Some Solutions: The Legislature approved boosting teacher pay in 2023 as part of its education funding package. And yet, 6,065 teachers employed in Oklahoma that year didn’t return for 23-24. That’s up from 5,950 the year before and 5,234 the year before that. The bottom line: pay alone can’t fix the teacher pipeline, which has been broken for over a decade. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Board of Education approves new Oklahoma City charter school: A new charter high school has been approved to open its doors in southwest Oklahoma City in August. The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday to accept the charter application for Proud to Partner Leadership Academy. [Oklahoma Voice]

As Israel-Hamas War Sparks Campus Protests, Oklahoma Higher Education Officials Take Free Speech Training: A few recent events on Oklahoma college campuses have shown examples of what is covered by free speech laws. But as social media amplifies political polarization, making sure campuses continue to be centers of robust discussion and peaceful protests without trampling on individual rights remains a tricky balancing act for those in academia. [Oklahoma Watch]

Bilingual resource guide for immigrants developed by Tulsa middle-schoolers: As part of their unit on immigration, each section of Ana Barros’ seventh grade geography classes at Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences met with representatives from different entities that work with Tulsa’s immigrant community to learn more about the help they provide to newcomers. After meeting with Amairani Perez Chamu, manager of the Tulsa City-County Library’s Hispanic Resource Center at Martin Regional Library, one class decided to research, compile, design, edit and publish a 44-page guide in English and Spanish listing resources available to Tulsa’s immigrants, including descriptions of services offered and how to contact the providers. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Private schools contend OSSAA treats them unfairly, but private and public students aren’t the same: The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) and its board recently were required to develop a response to an injunction set in place by a judge. This response was made necessary due to a lawsuit filed by Bishop McGuinness, Mount Saint Mary, Heritage Hall, Crossings Christian and Oklahoma Christian Schools. [Corey Holland / The Oklahoman]

Community News

Legal roundup: OC invokes autonomy doctrine, Walters request denied, 1 of 2 UCO lawsuits dismissed: With so many different lawsuits to keep up with across the state, it can be difficult to stay apprised of every motion an attorney files and each ruling a judge hands down. The following roundup makes a quick effort to chronicle updates on cases NonDoc has been following. [NonDoc]

‘These are unprecedented times in Oklahoma,’ says Hall of Fame historian Bob Burke: Oklahoma City attorney Bob Burke may know more about Oklahoma history than any other living person. Here are just a few of Burke’s thoughts about Oklahoma’s history, some of the people who made that history and how he thinks history should be taught to a new generation. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Tulsa City Councilor Grant Miller arrested Thursday night [Tulsa World]
  • Advisory committee for Tulsa’s Kirkpatrick Heights-Greenwood Master Plan named [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Union school board accepts long-time member’s resignation [Tulsa World]
  • OKC’s development has the vibe of the ’80s oil boom. Are we destined for another bust? [The Oklahoman]
  • Asbestos concerns stop renovations in Oklahoma County building, putting ARPA dollars at stake [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahomans also deserve much better state services than what we’ve been getting.”

-Tulsa World editorial, noting that lawmakers should be focused on using existing state resources to fix current problems and strengthen state services, rather than jeopardizing future state budgets through unfocused revenue cuts. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


The number of groups in Oklahoma — Hispanics, American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN), and Blacks — who had significant health care inequities when comparing how well the health care system in Oklahoma works for various racial and ethnic groups. On of a scale of 100, Oklahoma’s health care system for Hispanics delivered outcomes and quality in 4th percentile, which was the lowest among any group in the state and among the lowest for any group nationwide. For Black Oklahomans, the health care system scored at the 10th percentile, while the health care system was in the 11th percentile for AI/AN residents of Oklahoma. For white Oklahomans, health care quality and outcomes in the 47th percentile, which was the highest of any group in the state but third lowest nationally. [The Commonwealth Fund] | [Fact Sheet for Oklahoma / Commonwealth Fund]     

Policy Note

Advancing Racial Equity in U.S. Health Care: For nearly two decades, the Commonwealth Fund has tracked health and health care in each state, seeking both to understand how the policy choices we make affect people’s health outcomes and to motivate the change needed to improve the health of all communities across the United States. But assessing how well a state performs on average can mask the profound inequities that many people experience. This report evaluates disparities in health and health care across racial and ethnic groups, both within states and between U.S. states. [The Commonwealth Fund]

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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.