In The Know: Budget bill passes Senate | Housing groups form their own coalition after governor dissolves official council | OU professors: Eliminating DEI creates a hostile school atmosphere

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

Senate passes budget bill as Oklahoma legislative session nears end: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday sent the lower chamber the state’s general appropriations bill in anticipation of a Friday adjournment. Senate Bill 1125 lays out the framework for the $12.47 billion fiscal year 2025 budget agreement announced last week. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma Senate passes $12.47B general appropriations bill [Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma Senate passes budget, Democrats still call for more bipartisan negotiations [KSWO]

State Government News

Lawmakers Face Policy Decisions in Final Week of Session: With lawmakers facing a May 31 deadline to wrap up business and adjourn sine die, the focus won’t be entirely on budget business this week. [Oklahoma Watch]

Lawmakers allocate $18 million to pay for county sheriff operations, create minimum salaries: House Bill 2914 appropriates $18 million in the upcoming budget to create the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office Funding Assistance Grant program. [Oklahoma Voice]

Nominees for education secretary, state regents and state Board of Education approved: Four key executive nominations by Gov. Kevin Stitt, including his current state education secretary, received confirmation Tuesday by the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee, but the committee’s final meeting of the legislative session adjourned without two other nominations being heard. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: The Voice is suing to view government records. Hopefully other Oklahomans one day won’t have to.: It shouldn’t take litigation to knock loose records that we, as taxpayers, should be entitled to view. But the Department of Wildlife Conservation and its governing commission have dug in their heels. They said it’s none of the public’s business about what is contained in the severance agreement that they signed when they agreed to pay their former executive director, J.D. Strong, over $169,000 to depart. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

Funds for clean school buses coming to hundreds of districts, White House says: As part of its ongoing effort to replace diesel-fueled school buses, the Biden administration on Wednesday said it will provide approximately 530 school districts across nearly all states with almost $1 billion to help them purchase clean school buses. A dozen Oklahoma districts will split millions of dollars in federal funding. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Litigation roundup: Major cases involving Muscogee Nation carry precedential possibilities: Since the July 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma decision upheld the Muscogee Nation Reservation’s continued existence — a ruling cited in subsequent affirmations of other reservations in eastern Oklahoma — the Muscogee Nation has taken an active role in defending its sovereign interests in court. [NonDoc]

Lighthorse Police Focus on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons: Recognizing the persistent violence experienced by First American families and the broader public safety concerns that underlie many of these cases, Chickasaw Lighthorse Chief of Police Chris Palmer says the department employs a multifaceted approach to analyzing and solving MMIP cases. [Native News Online]

Voting and Election News

County commissioner’s overdue campaign finance reports filed after complaint: An Oklahoma County commissioner targeted by protesters who oppose putting a jail at 1901 E Grand Blvd. has filed his tardy campaign reports. The reports reflect Davidson may have received too much money from some donors after the election. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

When should you call 988? Oklahoma’s mental health lifeline can be used before a crisis: The 988 Mental Health Lifeline is a quick way to respond to a crisis, but its services can also be useful in preventing one. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Commissioners request removal of charged Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris: Citing neglect of duty, corruption in office and willful maladministration, the Pittsburg County Board of County Commissioners is seeking the immediate removal of Sheriff Chris Morris, who was charged earlier this month with a felony count of embezzlement of state property. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma County jail has third inmate death of 2024: James Lynn Jetton, 27, of Oklahoma City, died Tuesday, eight days after being arrested again in his 2022 attempted car burglary case. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County gets millions to keep low-level offenders out of jail and into treatment: Oklahoma County, and other counties around the state, received the money that Oklahoma is saving by not putting as many low-level offenders in jails or prisons. The years-long process almost became unraveled this session. [KOCO]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Housing groups launch new homelessness council after Stitt dissolved the official one: The governor cited a need for smaller government last year when he disbanded the mostly unfunded council made up primarily of volunteers and state employees. The group had worked to coordinate funding and services between providers as the number of unsheltered Oklahomans continues to grow. [The Frontier]

High costs drive millennials to new homebuying strategies: Young professional Riley Wilson was ready to become a homeowner but knew “it’s not the best financial decision right now where it’s fully on me.” So, he and his brother Trevor decided to take the plunge together. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma ranked highest home insurance cost in the country: With all the damage Oklahomans see every year it shouldn’t be a surprise, but Oklahoma leads the nation in home insurance rates. The average homeowner spends nearly $5,500 a year. [KFOR]

Education News

OSDE Supt. Walters blames Biden after missing out on nearly $1 million grant: The Oklahoma State Department of Education Superintendent said Thursday that they missed out on nearly $1 million in grant funding last year because of President Biden’s administration. “We are not going to take federal dollars that don’t align with Oklahoma values,” said Superintendent Walters when asked by KFOR why they didn’t apply for the funds. [KFOR]

OU professors say eliminating DEI programs has created hostile atmosphere: The university began making changes after an executive order was issued by Gov. Kevin Stitt earlier this year, including ending some of its programs and changing the name of its DEI office to the Division of Access and Opportunity. [KOCO]

Community News

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma Provides Free Summer Meals for Children: As schools close for the Summer so do school cafeterias. According to Hunger Free Oklahoma, one in five Oklahoma children don’t get the food they need. One Oklahoma organization helps take that worry off the table. [News 9]

Black Rodeo celebrates 121st year with thousands in attendance: Boley, Oklahoma, was the center of the rodeo universe Saturday as thousands packed the historic all-Black town to join the excitement of its famous Black rodeo. It’s been 121 years since cowboys first ran the arena in Boley. Amazingly, the tradition that began in 1903 still holds strong today. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma United Methodists to meet for first time after exits, LGBTQ+ restrictions removed: With a challenging season of church exits behind them and the recent removal of LGBTQ+ restrictions, Oklahoma United Methodists are preparing to gather in Oklahoma City to regroup — and to celebrate ― their new reality. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Coding ‘error’ reveals Edmond City Council has little to spend on one-time discretionary projects [NonDoc]
  • ‘Traffic henge’ at I-44, U.S. 75 due for attention this year, lawmakers told [Tulsa World]
  • How could commuter rail fit in with new downtown Oklahoma City arena? [KOSU]
  • Award-winning Yukon city manager fired abruptly: ‘This is a huge mar on our city.’ [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“This budget has millions of dollars of sweetheart deals for big, private businesses that have no transparency or accountability. This budget gives bigger increases to private schools than to our public schools and those private schools do not have requirements for transparency or accountability for those taxpayers funds.”

– Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, on the $12.47 billion fiscal year 2025 budget agreement announced last week, which she and other Senate Democrats say did not provide enough for education, child care, mental health and health care, and instead shifts more funds to private education and private prisons. [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day

1 in 4

About 1 in 4 Oklahomans (1 million) live in areas considered dental health professional shortage areas, as of March 2024. [U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration]

Policy Note

Can dental therapists fill the gap in oral care?: Dental therapists have been practicing in other parts of the world for decades, but in the U.S. they are relatively few and far between. Like a hygienist, dental therapists can do cleanings as well as some procedures usually reserved for dentists, like simple extractions. They could also be the solution to getting underserved, rural communities better oral care. Today on the show, new momentum for dental therapy and why the American Dental Association is pushing back. [NPR]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.