In The Know: Instability around budget talks escalates in Senate | President Biden approves federal disaster declaration for 3 counties in OK | Minimum wage petitioners working on signature gathering | Bill protecting private school tax credits from state garnishment heads to governor | Stitt vetoes bill requiring farmers and ranchers to track water use | Mammograms should start at age 40

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: Modernizing Sales Tax Relief Credit would help families, seniors: As state officials earnestly enter budget negotiations to close this year’s legislative session, lawmakers can find common ground on delivering tax relief to Oklahoma families and seniors by modernizing the Sales Tax Relief Credit. Updating this tax credit is the most fiscally prudent proposal floated this session to deliver targeted fiscal relief for taxpayers. It would put hundreds of dollars into the pockets of families and seniors who need it most. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

  • From OK Policy: Strengthening the Grocery Tax Credit would provide fiscally smart tax relief to working Oklahomans

Oklahoma News

After sacking Thompson, Treat replies to Stitt email by looping entire Legislature: As his six tumultuous years leading the upper chamber approach their term-limited conclusion, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat underscored the current state of his Republican Caucus late Wednesday by responding to an email from Gov. Kevin Stitt and carbon copying the entire Oklahoma Legislature. [NonDoc]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt calls legislative leaders to an unusual budget summit conference on Monday [The Oklahoman]
  • Continued disputes, shake up in Senate fiscal leader mean prolonged budget talks [KOSU]

State Government News

‘A hateful policy.’ Oklahoma immigration law criticized as groups plan legal action: Reaction was swift after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill authorizing state law enforcement officials to arrest people guilty of “impermissible occupation.” Opponents of the new law, which goes into effect July 1, said they would go to court to stop the measure, saying that it encourages racial profiling and attacks residents contributing millions in tax dollars to the state each year. [The Oklahoman]

Bill barring use of private school tax credit to offset delinquent taxes heads to governor: Legislation barring the use of a private school expenses tax credit to offset taxes or other debts landed on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk Wednesday after final passage by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. [Tulsa World]

In a deep red state, Oklahoma attorney general embraces policy nuance, shirking party politics: In Attorney General Getner Drummond’s telling, the law will always trump party politics as long as he is attorney general. The 60-year-old rancher and banker, became Oklahoma’s top legal officer a year and a half ago. Now, almost halfway through his term, many voters have come to view him as a welcome check and balance to the governor’s most controversial positions and, more broadly, to the GOP’s march further right on issues such as religion in schools. [The Oklahoman]

Minimum wage petitioners hope for best in signature gathering, validating: Organizers of a campaign to raise Oklahoma’s minimum wage are hopeful that if they collect enough signatures on an initiative petition a statewide vote won’t be delayed by the process of validating signatures. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma has a new state legume: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 2248 designating the soybean as Oklahoma’s state legume into law earlier this week. [KOSU]

Stitt vetoes bill that would require Oklahoma irrigators to track how much groundwater they use: Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed a bill that would have required farmers, ranchers and other commercial irrigators to track how much water they pull from Oklahoma’s aquifers. Lawmakers said House Bill 3194 could help Oklahoma understand and protect its groundwater stores. [KOSU]

Opinion: Legislative supermajority ignoring evidence-based policy and will of the people: The Oklahoma Legislature is continuing a concerning trend this session, one that ignores policy proven to solve societal issues and advocates for new laws that undermine impoverished and marginalized Oklahomans. This pattern is predictable, destructive and continues a cycle of imprisonment that already casts a dark cloud over our state. [Rep. Amanda Swope / Tulsa World]


Federal Government News

President Joe Biden approves federal disaster declaration as Oklahomans recover from deadly storms: President Joe Biden declared a major state of disaster for three Oklahoma counties related to the deadly weekend storms. The declaration makes federal funding available to impacted Oklahomans in Hughes, Love and Murray counties. [Oklahoma Voice]

UnitedHealth CEO savaged for failings in massive cyberattack on health care: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford asked for a ‘target time when everyone will be made completely whole.’ Capitol Hill lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday grilled UnitedHealth Group’s CEO over the largest-ever cyberattack on the U.S. health care industry, which has crippled payments to providers and pharmacies and left millions of patients clueless about whether their information is now on the dark web. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Chickasaw leaders, Lankford discuss next steps with FEMA officials following deadly Oklahoma tornadoes: FEMA officials visited the city of Sulphur to assess the damage from Saturday’s storm and offer help to those affected. They also met with Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby and Sen. James Lankford at the Artesian Hotel to discuss the current situation in Sulphur. [KOSU]

Osage Nation police investigate historic landmark vandalism: Osage Nation police are investigating damage to the Million Dollar Elm in Pawhuska discovered earlier this week. [KOSU]

Tribal election previews: Ponca, Ottawa and Kiowa citizens set to vote: With 38 federally recognized tribal governments, Oklahoma tribal elections are almost always in the works, and this month will feature a Star Wars Day election in the Kiowa and Ottawa tribes on May 4 and a May 18 election for the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma. [NonDoc]

Voting and Election News

How do you counter misinformation? Critical thinking is step one: Late last year, in the days before the Slovakian parliamentary elections, two viral audio clips threatened to derail the campaign of a pro-Western, liberal party leader named Michal Šimečka. The first was a clip of Šimečka announcing he wanted to double the price of beer, which, in a nation known for its love of lagers and pilsners, is not exactly a popular policy position. [NPR/KOSU]

Health News

How Oklahoma’s transition to managed Medicaid happened and what’s next: Most of Oklahoma’s Medicaid population is transitioning to managed care. This means that instead of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority paying providers directly, it’s paying private companies to coordinate some enrollees’ care. [StateImpact Oklahoma / KOSU]

Mammograms should start at age 40, new guidelines recommend: Final guidelines released Tuesday from the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce urge all people assigned female at birth to get screened for breast cancer every other year, starting at age 40. [KOSU]

Why are Alpha-Gal cases increasing in Oklahoma? What to know about the tick-caused allergy: Alpha-gal syndrome is an allergic condition — also known as alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy — associated with a bite from a lone star tick. A study released by the CDC in 2023 revealed that Oklahoma has some of the highest rates of alpha-gal syndrome in the country, specifically northeast Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Ahead of Southern Baptist Convention meeting, national leader gives abuse task force updates: Churches in the Southern Baptist Convention will need ongoing aid to prevent sex abuse and effectively respond to abuse allegations, one of the denomination’s leaders said during a recent visit to Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

‘Baseball caps’ and ‘beans’: How deciphering code words unearthed an Oklahoma drug trafficking ring:  The two-year investigation culminated earlier this month when an Oklahoma City federal judge sentenced Antonio Ortiz Herrera, 46, of Edmond, to 22 years in federal prison for his role in a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine and cocaine throughout the United States. [The Oklahoman]

City Council discusses latest version of sidewalk obstruction ordinance amendment: More than a year and a half after it was tabled, city councilors on Wednesday resumed their discussion of a proposed ordinance amendment originally intended to address complaints about homeless people blocking sidewalks and other rights of way. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa County juvenile detention officer arrested, accused of child human trafficking: A Tulsa County Juvenile detention officer has been arrested for allegedly having sexual relations with one of the juveniles. Jonathan Hines has been charged with child human trafficking, taking a cell phone into a jail, and destroying evidence. [KTUL]

Opinion: Three Tulsa City Councilor say ‘enough’ to rising domestic violence problem in Oklahoma: Oklahoma ranks first in the nation for domestic violence. A 2023 study found that Tulsa County saw a dramatic escalation in incidences of domestic violence in recent years. In 2022, 911 received 17,000 domestic abuse calls, and police made 1,200 domestic abuse arrests. [Laura Bellis, Lori Decter Wright and Vanessa Hall-Harper / Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Anita Arnold opened doors for Black Americans in business. Now she’s sharing Oklahoma’s Black history: Anita Arnold, 84, animated and outspoken, is executive director of the Black Liberated Arts Center just north of the state Capitol. Formed in 1969, the center’s aim is to use the vehicle of fine arts and history to expose the OKC community to African, African American and Black culture. [The Oklahoman]

Asian Americans in business work to break through ‘bamboo ceiling’: Two decades ago, Asian American career coach Jane Hyun coined the term “bamboo ceiling” to describes the cultural and professional barriers that hinder Asian Americans’ progression up the corporate ladder.­ [The Journal Record]

Education News

Loaded gun confiscated at Carver Middle School, Tulsa Public Schools says: Tulsa Public Schools confirmed that a loaded gun was confiscated from a student at Carver Middle School on Wednesday. According to student witnesses, the pupil in question, an eighth-grader, pulled out a gun during a midday coding class. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma missed deadline to include test scores in US News Best High Schools in Oklahoma list: The Oklahoma State Department of Education missed a deadline to allow US News & World Report to include Advanced Placement test scores in its annual Best High School rankings. Because those scores make up nearly a third of each school’s cumulative ranking, the resulting list parents use to see which schools get their children ready for college doesn’t show the full picture, educators say. [The Oklahoman]

OU students hold pro-Palestine rally on campus: As the war in Gaza wages on, OU students joined the growing number of students across the country calling for their universities to cut ties with companies supporting Israel. [KGOU]

  • University of Tulsa students rally against human rights violations in Gaza [Tulsa World]

OU to close Gender + Equality Center, rename multicultural programs, services: Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students David Surratt told student leaders Wednesday afternoon that OU’s Gender + Equality Center will close and the Division of Student Affairs will see several changes following the spring semester as a result of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s December executive order calling for a review of diversity, equity and inclusion programming and services in higher education. [KGOU]

Community News

Former homeless teen from Tulsa now brokers celebrity deals in Los Angeles: For about 95% of the year, Shayla Smith-Garcia lives out of a suitcase catering to her celebrity clients at comic cons, conventions, meet-and-greets and other public appearances — a far cry from her life as a homeless teenager in Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Oklahomans weigh in as United Methodist Church lifts ban on LGBTQ+ clergy ordination: “It’s about time.” That thought bubbled to the surface on Wednesday when the Rev. Valerie Steele, of Oklahoma City, learned that her long-held hope had been realized: the United Methodist Church overturned a 40-year ban on ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Marietta left reeling, but starting recovery after tornado put lives, jobs, supplies at risk [The Oklahoman]
  • How Sulphur girls golf is carrying on at state tournament after tornado hits town [The Oklahoman]
  • Sulphur woman recounts hearing an EF-3 tornado shred her home around her [Tulsa World]
  • Despite potential cuts, the OKC budget proposal could be highest ever: Here’s what we know [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Through attempts to make the petition process harder, the majority has sought to silence the voice of Oklahomans, which weakens representation in communities and makes pushing back against future punitive policies nearly impossible.”


– Tulsa Rep. Amanda Swope said in an opinion editorial about the legislative practice of ignoring evidence-based policy and the will of the people. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

Estimated buying power in 2024 for Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit, which was set at $40 per person in 1990 and has not been adjusted since. The Sales Tax Relief Credit was created to deliver targeted fiscal relief to low- and moderate-income Oklahoma taxpayers. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

Violent Crime Is Falling Nationwide — Here’s How We Know: Preliminary FBI data, however imperfect, confirms a sharp downward trend in crime, undercutting attempts to blame criminal justice reform for pandemic-era spikes in violence. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.