In The Know: New anti-immigrant law draws second legal challenge | Open primaries would increase civic engagement | Officials push against using state funds for national publicity for state superintendent

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

Controversial Oklahoma immigration law draws second legal challenge: A second federal lawsuit was filed Thursday against a controversial Oklahoma immigration law. Padres Unidos de Tulsa, an advocacy organization, and Ximena Monserrat Lopez Mena, a 20-year-old Oklahoma City resident and Mexican national who was brought to the United States as a baby, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Civil rights groups file federal lawsuit to block Oklahoma’s unconstitutional HB 4156 [ACLU]
  • Can states pass immigration bills? Why Oklahoma’s could violate federal law. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

OFOP calls for veto override of police pension bill: If the legislature doesn’t override Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto on a measure relating to the state Police Pension and Retirement System, the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police say an ongoing officer shortage will continue to increase. [Journal Record]

Gov. Stitt outlines vision for OK business court: Gov. Kevin Stitt elaborated on his vision for an Oklahoma business court this week, but it’s at least two years away from implementation. The governor reiterated his priorities moving forward during the final Budget Summit 2024 meeting Wednesday morning, one of which includes the creation of a court system to handle business-related disputes. [Journal Record]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Immigration lawsuit, Oklahoma County Jail, budget agreement and more (audio): The panel talks about the State of Oklahoma facing a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice over its new immigration law, the Oklahoma City Council denying a special permit for a new Oklahoma County Jail near Del City and a budget agreement from state lawmakers. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma TV, film projects highlighted in symposium commemorating Indian Citizenship Act: The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 recognized Native Americans as citizens in the country. But, it did not ensure their right to vote or solidify other citizens to respect them. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

NOTE: Friday, May 24, is the last day to register or update your registration info for the June 18 primary election. June 3 is the last day to request an absentee ballot. Learn more from the Oklahoma Election Board

Opinion: Open Oklahoma primaries for better voter turnout and less divided government: If everyone were allowed to vote in the primary, it is likely that Oklahoma would have better laws. When lawmakers are entrenched in their party ideology, they ignore the greater demands. In Oklahoma, that can been seen in the successful citizen petition initiatives such as Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reforms, alcohol sales reforms and medical marijuana. Ironically, the Legislature is seeking to make those petitions harder to pass. [Adam Kupetsky / Tulsa World]

Health News

Opinion: Oklahoma students are experiencing mental health challenges. The Legislature must do more to help: Many Oklahoma students are experiencing mental health challenges. The tragic events in the wake of tornadoes hitting Oklahoma are a chilling reminder that just living in Oklahoma can cause trauma due to extreme weather patterns. Furthermore, Healthy Minds Policy reports that in a statewide survey of middle and high school students in Oklahoma during the 2019–20 school year, 60% of students experienced high or moderate psychological distress, 17.2% of students considered suicide and 9.8% of students made at least one suicide attempt. [Priscilla Ramirez / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Wrongful death lawsuit against OKC moved to Oklahoma City federal court: The lawsuit accuses Oklahoma City police officers of negligence and reckless conduct during a police chase the plaintiffs say was entirely unnecessary, and for violating the right to equal protection of the law for the Oklahoma City woman who died in the collision. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Housing boom in most of the US could ease shortage, but cost is still a problem: The United States has added almost 5 million housing units since 2020, most heavily in the South and most of them single-family homes, making a housing shortage look conquerable in much of the nation. Still, even more homes need to be built — especially single-family homes, experts say — and continuing high interest rates are hurting potential homebuyers. [Oklahoma Voice]

Editorial: Tulsa City Council needs to end the ongoing appeal over code enforcement violations: For too long, the Tulsa City Council has put off making a decision on what ought to be a straight-forward appeal of nuisance citations on several boarded-up properties owned by one developer. Instead, some councilors conflate that decision with the challenges of homelessness. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Ryan Walters’ PR Contract Should Be Banned, GOP Lawmaker Says: Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters would be barred from spending state funds on a national publicity contract with Washington, D.C.-based Vought Strategies under spending limits a Republican lawmaker said he would introduce as part of the fiscal 2025 state budget. Their services aren’t an appropriate use of public money because they prop up Walters’ political aspirations, former state auditor Gary Jones, House Speaker Charles McCall, and others said. [Oklahoma Watch]

After months of little movement, state Education Board votes on 17 teacher licensing actions: After months of taking heat from critics concerning the pace of suspension and/or revocation of teaching licenses, state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters and the Oklahoma Board of Education took action Thursday on 17 licensing issues, more than the board handled throughout all of 2023. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma education department suspends 9 teachers, critics say there’s more to be done [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Nine teaching certificates suspended by state board [NonDoc]

June hearing set in case of Norman teacher who became target of Ryan Walters’ criticism: The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Thursday to set a June license revocation hearing date for Summer Boismier, a former Norman High School teacher. [The Oklahoman]

State providing more funds in support of Tulsa’s summer school programs: The Oklahoma State Department of Education is providing additional funds to support Tulsa Public Schools’ summer programming. At Thursday’s Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting, State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced that TPS will receive an additional $180,000 to support the “Ready. Set. Summer!” day camp-style summer school for elementary and middle school students that starts in June. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Tulsa boasts land of higher education opportunities: With access to nine higher education institutions in the Tulsa region and over 500 degree programs, students have the opportunity to attend a college or university that meets their needs and aligns with their personal and professional goals. That’s a lot of options. [Sarah Wyatt / Tulsa World]

Community News

‘Focus: Black Oklahoma’: Kasey Alerts, after-school programs, criminalizing homelessness: This episode of Focus: Black Oklahoma features stories on the FCC considering a new way to alert the public when adults go missing, the end of funding for some after-school programs and a new state law criminalizing homelessness. [KOSU]

Opinion: Oklahoma’s history fosters rich tradition in military service: An alchemy of Oklahoma’s history and culture must be how nearly every metric measuring military service ranks the state near the top. Take the challenges faced nationally in U.S. military enlistment. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Remember this Memorial Day the lives it took to keep U.S. safe and at peace: Since the Civil War, Arlington National Cemetery has grown to more than 400,000 graves, representing patriots from every conflict, including a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Cemeteries dotting the country, including those in Tulsa, will be honoring fallen soldiers with flags, wreaths and events. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Local Headlines

  • Parties fight to finish Uncommon Ground Sculpture Park agreements by June 10 deadline [NonDoc]
  • MAPS 3 officially completed Wednesday with the south OKC senior center launch [The Oklahoman]
  • Fowler ends bid for Tulsa mayor, another candidate to announce [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“When half of the Oklahoma races are not contested, candidates in those offices never have their positions or beliefs challenged. They remain beholden to parties and platforms rather than to the people they represent.”

-Adam Kupetsky, writing in an op-ed about the advantages of open primaries for civic engagement in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]  

Number of the Day


Percent of eligible voters in Oklahoma who cast ballots in the 2022 general election, which was the nation’s sixth lowest voter turnout rate for those elections. [Election Lab

Policy Note

Rising Immigration Has Helped Cool an Overheated Labor Market: The United States has experienced a substantial influx of immigrants over the past two years. In 2023, net international migration surpassed its pre-pandemic peak. This flow of immigrant workers has acted as a powerful catalyst in cooling overheated labor markets and moderating wage growth across industries and states. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

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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.