In The Know: Oklahoma leaders continue to clash over income tax cuts | Flat income tax would slash revenue | Oklahoma’s only HBCU underfunded | State’s anti-ESG law filled with twists, turns

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

State’s anti-ESG law filled with twists, turns (Capitol Update): Oklahoma politics is sometimes a small world. In 2022, given the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to the state’s oil and gas industry, legislators passed House Bill 2034, the “Energy Discrimination Elimination Act of 2022, known as Oklahoma’s anti-ESG (environmental, social and governance) law.” Last week, the court ruled the act unconstitutional and issued an order temporarily enjoining State Treasurer Russ from enforcing it pending final outcome of the case. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Pressured to cut Oklahoma income taxes, Senate leader says he won’t put it to a vote: State leaders on Monday pressured Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat to make his members vote on another tax cut. Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders met again Monday in public to negotiate a fiscal year 2025 budget. For the third day, they adjourned without an agreement, but are expected to reconvene. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Budget summit day three: A rehash of tax cut arguments, and little progress [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma leaders continue to clash over income tax cuts during day 3 of budget summit [KOCO5]
  • Stitt, Senate leader remain at impasse over proposed income tax cut [Tulsa World]
  • Treat anticipates budget veto amid tax cut discord [Journal Record]

State Government News

House and Senate Align on Ethics Commission Funding Boost: Legislative leaders are aligned on boosting funding for the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, the state’s campaign finance watchdog that has faced persistent budget cuts. The Ethics Commission is set to receive $2.36 million in appropriations in Fiscal Year 2025, according to the House’s budget transparency portal, up from just $687,957 in F.Y. 2024. [Oklahoma Watch]

How a proposed flat-rate income tax would impact Oklahomans: David Hamby, communications director at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said flattening the state income tax as proposed by the Republican majority in HB 2950 would benefit the wealthy and hurt low and middle-income earners. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Corporation Commission may adopt no-go stance on ‘no-bid’ contracts: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is considering dropping so-called no-bid contracts. The move comes after Oklahoma State Auditor Cindy Bird identified large-scale mismanagement of taxpayer money last month related to the practice. [KOSU]

Oklahoma lawmakers approve disaster relief package to rebuild rural towns hit by tornadoes: A new state fund for towns impacted by recent tornadoes will soon be available. Two measures passed Monday to help pay for natural disaster response. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Are interest rates high enough to beat inflation?: The sharp interest rate hikes of the past two years will likely take longer than previously expected to bring down inflation, several Federal Reserve officials have said. [Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Kasey Alerts, proposed FCC code could aid in Oklahoma’s MMIP crisis: In response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP) crisis, the FCC is considering a new event code similar to Oklahoma’s Kasey Alerts that seeks to find missing and endangered adults, a tool for tribal and local law enforcement in the state. [KOSU]

Oklahoma governor’s reservation safety task force is wrapping up. Here’s what is in store: The governor’s task force aimed at resolving jurisdictional disputes on tribal reservations expects to issue a report next week with a “blueprint” to modernize public safety agreements between state and tribal governments. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Ransomware attack still affecting Ascension St. John Health System; ER remains on divert: A ransomware attack is still affecting Ascension St. John after the cybersecurity issue was first reported by the health care system Wednesday, with the midtown Tulsa hospital’s emergency room remaining on divert status. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: We need to prepare now as Oklahoma’s population shifts toward more adults age 60 and older: The opportunities to positively impact the rapidly growing population of aging Oklahomans are evident as we look to the future. By 2050, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to surge by 47%, and — for the first time in Oklahoma history — the number of adults age 60 and older will outnumber children by 2034. [Brett Coble / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

‘Dangerous job:’ Lawmakers weigh setting minimum salaries for some sheriffs, jailers, deputies: Lawmakers are taking a second look at a controversial plan that could use state dollars to supplement the salaries of sheriffs, deputies and jailers working in some of the poorest counties. Supporters of House Bill 4063 are asking legislators to set aside $20 million to fund new minimum salary thresholds for some county jailers, sheriffs and deputies. [Oklahoma Voice]

Officials lower number of people injured in ‘group disturbance’ at Lawton prison to 3, down from 30: The incident was the second violent incident that occurred last week at the facility. Just three days earlier, an inmate-on-inmate assault sent two to the hospital with minor injuries. In addition, the company is facing a civil rights lawsuit from an Oklahoma mother whose son died at the Lawton prison in January 2023. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Three states have new camping ban laws this year: This year, state lawmakers in at least three states—Oklahoma, Florida and Kentucky—have passed laws banning public camping. The laws followed a legislative push from conservative think tank Cicero Institute. But homeless service providers have said these laws dehumanize unsheltered people and aren’t a solution to homelessness. [Streetlight]

Tulsa to revisit fines for people who block sidewalks: The newest version of the proposal would see offenders owing up to $100 excluding fees for blocking without a permit “any street, alley, crosswalk, sidewalk, driveway or trail” in the public sphere used by pedestrians, bicycles or vehicles. Previous versions of the amendment included jail time and higher penalties, but those have been edited out since Mayor G.T. Bynum first introduced the measure in 2022. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma lawmakers fail to advance anti-retaliation protections, leave renters vulnerable: House Bill 2109, which would add anti-retaliation protections to our Landlord Tenant Act, failed to advance for the second year. Without anti-retaliation protections in place, if a tenant reports a safety or health concern, such as mold, lack of running water or a/c in their residence, a landlord can legally retaliate against the complaint by raising their rent, decreasing services, or even by filing for an eviction. [KTUL]

Economy & Business News

Why mom-and-pop liquor stores say they’re doomed if Total Wine & More comes to Oklahoma: State officials are bound by law to limit liquor store ownership to individual people who live in Oklahoma, not companies, whether based here or out of state. The law has protected mom-and-pop bottle shops for decades. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Langston University underfunded at 45¢ for every $3.14 OSU receives: State Sen. (D-Tulsa) Monroe Nichols calls on the state’s legislature and the Oklahoma State University Board of Regents to prioritize funding for Langston University. Langston has been underfunded by $418 million over the last 30 years. It’s also the state’s only Historically Black College and University (HBCU). [Black Wall Street Times]

  • ‘Begin to make it right’: Lawmaker calls for increased Langston University funding [Fox25]

Proposed new administrative rules from Ryan Walters to be focus of House committee meeting: Opponents have claimed Walters and the board do not have the authority to create new rules, saying the state Legislature first must direct an agency to create rules on a given subject. Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond last year wrote an opinion — which has the force of law absent of a court decision — that reiterated that principle. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Leadership program’s end will rob Oklahoma women of critical resources, entry point into politics: The University of Oklahoma’s recent decision to shutter a longstanding program intended to encourage, empower, and educate female Oklahoma college students to pursue civic and political service careers has deeply unsettled me. The program was, unfortunately, collateral damage of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion executive order and as such the university is no longer offering the program after this year’s class. [Emily Stacey / Oklahoma Voice]

Community News

‘Change hearts’: Local, global advocacy encouraged at Oklahoma’s Muslim Day at the Capitol: The “Muslim Day at the Capitol” theme of “Local Advocacy for Global Justice” appeared to resonate with attendees as they participated in the 10th annual event sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Oklahoma chapter. Monday’s Muslim Day event was the first held since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, resulting in the start of the Israel-Hamas war. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Iconic Oklahoma Route 66 bridge reopens following upgrades [KOSU]
  • Tulsa city councilor drops appeal of decision denying him entry into Oklahoma Bar Association [Tulsa World]
  • Man’s body recovered south of Barnsdall, Oklahoma days after tornado [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

 “The state income tax generates about one in three of all state dollars. That could mean that every state agency sees a 33 percent budget cut or that any number of state services could be shuttered.”

– Dave Hamby, OK Policy Communications Director, commenting about how important it is to protect income taxes as a source of revenue for the state, and for the Senate to continue to reject a flat income tax rate that would largely benefit Oklahomans making $130,000 or more. [KOSU]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s tax base, which relies heavily on inherently unstable Gross Production and Corporate Income taxes, is ranked the ninth most volatile in the country. [Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency]

Policy Note

Cities and counties might be at risk of losing billions if they don’t obligate American Rescue Plan funds correctly: State and local governments have until December 31, 2024, to “obligate” the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) they received as part of 2021’s American Rescue Plan Act. Community partners and other stakeholders are concerned that some recipient governments will not obligate their full allotment of funds, perhaps through misunderstandings of the rules. With time running short, it is imperative that advocates take steps to encourage governments in their area to make certain they have obligated the funds correctly. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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.