In The Know: Emergency declared for 12 counties following weekend tornadoes | Gov. weighs signing anti-immigrant bills as students, Catholic leaders speak out | Gov. calls recent audit a political attack

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

Governor declares emergency for 12 counties after storms rake state; at least 4 dead: At least four people were killed, 100 injured and a state of emergency issued for 12 Oklahoma counties after a hours-long severe weather outbreak produced at least 17 unconfirmed tornadoes on Saturday. Two people were dead after one of those suspected tornadoes in Hughes County. [Tulsa World]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt: Sulphur tornado damage the worst he’s seen as governor [The Oklahoman]
  • Extensive storm damage in Holdenville, two deaths and at least 4 injured [KFOR]
  • Preliminary reports show EF3 tornadoes hit Sulphur, Marietta; At least 27 tornadoes hit Oklahoma [KOCO]
  • Tornadoes kill 2 in Oklahoma as governor issues state of emergency for 12 counties amid storm damage [AP via Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma price gouging law enacted in 12 counties amidst state of emergency [Fox 25]
  • Business owners, residents begin going through rubble after tornadoes leave major damage [KFOR]
  • Oklahoma weather: How to help victims of Saturday tornadoes [The Oklahoman]

Amid immigration bill controversy, South OKC high schools hold walkouts: As Gov. Kevin Stitt weighs an impending decision over whether to approve a controversial bill aimed at curbing illegal immigration, students at four Oklahoma City-area high schools walked out of classes Friday afternoon in protest of the legislation. Additionally, the archbishop of Oklahoma City has also spoken out against the bill, which Stitt has stopped short of saying he would sign. [NonDoc]

  • Gov. Stitt praises Hispanic community, says he’s ‘still reviewing’ new immigration bill [The Oklahoman]
  • Opinion: Unintended consequences of immigration bill could have negative impacts for generations [Sen. Michael Brooks / The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Stitt calls scathing state audit a political attack, voices support for tourism director: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday called a recent state audit and demands for a member of his administration to resign a “frustrating” political attack from state leaders preparing to run for higher office. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • In light of audit, Shelley Zumwalt faces difficult Senate confirmation for tourism secretary [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt: domestic violence bill needed fixing; new audit was politically motivated [The Oklahoman]

More than 20 anti-abortion bills failed in Oklahoma. But reproductive health bills are still up for debate: The 2024 legislative session in Oklahoma saw over 20 anti-abortion bills, but none met passage requirements, effectively killing all of them. Abortion is already banned in the state except to save the life of the pregnant person. Still, Republican lawmakers sought further restrictions through bills that would’ve banned emergency contraceptives, adjusted the definition of homicide to include abortions and granted a father the right to disagree with someone’s decision to have an abortion, among others. While none of these bills met passage requirements, some bills that promote reproductive and sexual health are still active. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma bill that would make daylight saving time permanent heads to Stitt’s desk: A Senate bill that would lock Oklahoma into daylight saving time year-round is headed to the governor’s desk after the bill passed the House this week. Senate Bill 1200 would require Oklahoma to adopt daylight saving time as the year-round standard time if a federal law is passed that authorizes states to do so. [The Oklahoman]

Q&A with the director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority: As Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program is about to turn 6 years old, the director of the state agency tasked with its oversight spent time answering the Tulsa World’s questions about the state of the industry. [Tulsa World]

Judicial reform fight not over, OCPA says: Shortly after the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted down Senate Joint Resolution 34, the OCPA said it is not giving up on efforts to turn the tide of the state’s judiciary and place a constitutional reform question on this November’s ballot. [Journal Record]

Political notebook: Legislative session could get messy: This week begins what is often the most confusing portion of the legislative session. Bills that have passed both chambers but in different versions can disappear as if they never existed. Legislation long thought dead can suddenly turn up in the most unexpected places. And the often grueling job of finishing a budget and getting it signed into a law can seem like a Wagnerian opera. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Audit raises questions about state management of federal funds: A critical state audit report and the effect of a little known legislative procedure known as “shucking” highlights a hectic week at the state Capitol. [KGOU]

Opinion: Oklahoma lawmakers shouldn’t be defending physically disciplining disabled children at school: It’s extremely embarrassing that we still allow our disabled children to be spanked, hit and paddled at school. No child should have to deal with that, but it’s truly terrible that we can’t even agree to spare some of our most vulnerable children. Yet, for a second year in a row, our lawmakers are spending considerable time debating the merits of sparing “the rod” when it comes to disciplining children. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

Coalition of 17 states, including Oklahoma, sue to block federal pregnant-worker protections rule: Oklahoma officials joined the attorneys general of Arkansas and Tennessee filed a federal lawsuit Thursday seeking to halt enforcement of a new federal rule that requires employers to accommodate pregnant workers who want or need an abortion. The rule, finalized last week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, extends the 2022 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act’s definition of workplace accommodation to include abortion. [Oklahoma Voice]

D.C. Digest: Mullin says Trump responsible for passing Ukraine aid package: Former President Donald Trump may have a reputation for coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin says Trump is chiefly responsible for Congress agreeing to aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia. [Tulsa World]

New EPA rules will force fossil fuel power plants to cut pollution: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released a sweeping set of rules aimed at cutting air, water and land pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Environmental and clean energy groups celebrated the announcement as long overdue, particularly for coal-burning power plants, which have saddled hundreds of communities across the country with dirty air and hundreds of millions of tons of toxic coal ash waste. [Oklahoma Voice]

Voting and Election News

The battle for Oklahoma’s 5th District Congressional seat has started early. Here’s what to know: The November general election may seem far away, but the battle has already started in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional district — the only one Democrats are given a chance of winning. The district comprises much of the Oklahoma City metro area, although not southern communities like Moore and Norman. It’s a district that is more urban and ethnically/racially diverse. [The Oklahoman

Health News

Oklahoma needs to get mental health experts back to the table, agency’s new leader says: Two months into the job, Commissioner Allie Friesen knows the direction she wants the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to go. Figuring out how to get it there may take a little more time. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Enhance your life by learning about the wonderful contributions people with autism offer: April is designated as Autism Awareness Month every year. We take time once a year to passively show awareness that autism is present. However, what do we truly know about those living with autism? What do we do for children, adolescents and adults with autism? [Andrea Buffington / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Tulsa TSA agents ignore needs of an autistic teenager, showing need for better training: On April 9, my family experienced a frightening and unnecessary incident at the Tulsa International Airport that highlighted the need for more training for agents about how to work compassionately with autistic fliers. [Holly Clay-Buck / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Prisoner Advocates Ramp Up Lobbying Efforts: Dozens of family members of Oklahoma prisoners descended on the State Capitol on Thursday, urging lawmakers to improve conditions for the incarcerated. [Oklahoma Watch]

Del City residents fear a loss of their way of life if a jail is built nearby: Most may think a small-town vibe is hard to find just minutes away from downtown Oklahoma City. But the vibe inside this community that’s sandwiched between its larger neighbor and Midwest City/Tinker Air Force Base feels real. As Oklahoma City considers whether to grant a special use permit for a new county jail at 1901 E Grand, residents fear that could disappear forever. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Homeless shelters don’t have enough beds in many communities: There just isn’t enough room. April Doshier, executive director of Food and Shelter in Norman, Oklahoma, said the nonprofit’s 52-bed shelter, A Friend’s House, is full “every single night.” If they can’t get space in the shelter, they look for another safe spot, but Doshier said those places are getting harder to find as city staff and police departments face pressure to tear down campsites. [Streetlight News]

Anxiety over squatters, fueled by TikTok, inspires a wave of legislation, including in Oklahoma: Across various news channels and outlets, a visceral fear of some property owners — that an unwanted guest could move into their vacant home, refuse to leave, and then claim ownership — has been a trending story. [Oklahoma Voice]

Economy & Business News

Atoka gains a new business, but is ‘black mass’ it produces at recycling plant safe?: A “green” company based in Singapore has opened in southeast Oklahoma what it says is North America’s first commercial-scale lithium-ion battery recycling plant with no need to export depleted material, so-called “black mass”, to China or elsewhere overseas for processing first. [The Oklahoman]

Why small businesses remain bedrock of economy: Large corporations get more attention, but small businesses continue to be the foundation of the American economy. Forbes Advisor’s small business statistics list for 2024 points out recent data from the U.S. Small Business Administration reveals 33.3 million companies in the country qualify as small businesses, making up 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. [Journal Record]

Education News

Todd Lamb formally inaugurated as UCO president; no role for major donor critical of his selection: Almost a year after the announcement of his hiring drew concern from faculty and opposition from the school’s biggest donor, former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb was formally inaugurated Friday as the 22nd president of the University of Central Oklahoma, the state’s third-largest university. [The Oklahoman]

Artificial intelligence is No. 1 on OU’s academic agenda: Universities have been involved in developing Artificial Intelligence for decades, but now that it’s here, schools across the country are on a mad dash to embrace it, harness it and control it. University of Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz Jr. said issues surrounding AI are No. 1 on OU’s academic agenda, and there is a university-wide push underway to figure out how it can be used in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the studio. [Journal Record]

Ken Levit named to Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education: Tulsa philanthropy executive Ken Levit was named to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education on Friday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [Tulsa World]

Community News

Oklahoma grapples with American phenomenon of family annihilation: What we can learn: Police are describing the fatal shootings Monday of the Candy family in Yukon as a murder-suicide and a “massacre.” But Jonathon Candy’s actions also carry a different name: “family annihilation,” a violent phenomenon that each year takes hundreds of lives across the United States — and one that has shocked Oklahoma communities more than a dozen times since 2020. [The Oklahoman]

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados: Glenn Lewis, the City of Moore’s former mayor and one of the longest-serving mayors in the state, died Sunday morning, family reported on social media. He was 68. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Grassroots activism is essential in challenging Islamophobia and promoting social justice:  Now, more than ever, we must invest in American Muslim civic engagement and leadership. As someone who grew up in the post-9/11 era, I’ve witnessed firsthand the harmful effects of Islamophobia and xenophobia. However, the good always outweighs the bad with our communities coming together in collaboration and resilience. [Tasneem Al-Michael / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Hate has no home here? ‘Antisemitism has been called the longest hatred’: After having just observed the anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, it seems timely to comment on what would counter the widespread antisemitism since the savage Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the severe response. It’s worth underscoring that these events are happening in the Middle East. The intimidation and ostracism of Jewish students on campuses are happening in America. Our American context also includes Islamophobia, homophobia, anti-Asian hostility, anti-Hispanic sentiment and anti-Black racism. Our anger is bipartisan, if little else is. [Alan Levenson / The Oklahoman]

Opinion, OKC Mayor David Holt: We must learn the lessons of April 19, 1995, when Americans killed Americans: The violence that occurred on this day 29 years ago did not just appear out of thin air. It was not just a chemical reaction. It was the natural and logical byproduct of certain human behaviors. It was the inevitable end of a dark path, and it is a story humans have repeated for centuries. [OKC Mayor David Holt / The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Tulsa City Councilman Grant Miller arrested for domestic assault [NonDoc]
  • City Councilor Grant Miller arrested on domestic violence accusation [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKC Mayor David Holt coming to Tulsa to talk about city’s evolution and new developments [Tulsa World]
  • Former Tulsa police major wins civil rights lawsuit against city [Tulsa World]
  • Tests show no asbestos concern inside county building where renovations are underway [The Oklahoman]
  • Trust issues: Edmond’s Uncommon Ground Sculpture Park on ‘life support’ [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“House Bill 4156 is flawed legislation that harms communities, separates families and weakens our economy. It fails to address the real criminal issues we face in Oklahoma – seeking a misguided sense of justice at the expense of mercy.”

-Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, writing in a statement about how the anti-immigrant bill HB 4156 would inadvertently target men and women who are living productive lives with their families and contributing to our communities. [Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Number of the Day


Median household net worth for Black Oklahomans, which was the lowest in the state for all racial and ethnic groups. Their net worth was six times lower than the state average of $90,890 and nine times lower than the average for white Oklahomans ($133,550), who had the highest household net worth. [Prosperity Now]

Policy Note

Black Women Best Framework Points the Way to Equitable and Just State Tax Reform: States and localities can realize more equitable, thriving economies by proactively addressing the historical marginalization and persistent exploitation of Black women through their revenue policies. State tax policy is not race-neutral but rather functions as a support system that upholds whiteness in politics and prosperity. Applying the Black Women Best framework — an economic principle that argues that policymaking to address the economic well-being of Black women can consequently improve economic conditions for everyone — would allow policymakers to address harms for those who have been historically excluded while promoting widespread opportunity and prosperity for all. [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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.