In The Know: Contract ending with Oklahoma’s most violent prison | Gov. names third OSU regent pick | Minimum wage should be a living wage | Capitol Update

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: Oklahoma’s minimum wage should be a living wage: All working Oklahomans deserve to earn a salary that ensures they can take care of life’s essentials. A stagnant minimum wage, however, has made this increasingly more difficult for too many of our friends and neighbors. Hard-working Oklahomans are long past due for an increase in the minimum wage. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Looking at budget items after legislative dust has settled (Capitol Update): The 15-day deadline for bill signing expired last week and Gov. Kevin Stitt largely honored the deal he made with legislative leaders to not veto the state budget if they did four things. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

State Government News

Oklahoma prisons in jeopardy after company to terminate contract: The GEO Group — the company that owns two correctional facilities in Oklahoma — said this week it was terminating its contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for the Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility and that state corrections officials would need to find new housing for close to 4,000 high-security inmates. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma’s Most Violent Prison to End State Contract [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Troubled private prison in Lawton terminates contract with state [Oklahoma Voice]
  • More than 2,600 Oklahoma inmates may be moved from Lawton private prison [Tulsa World

Gov. Stitt withdraws his higher education pick, selects someone new: Gov. Stitt has withdrawn his nomination of Mike Holder to serve on the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents, just days after he called senators into a special session to try to confirm him. Stitt has instead nominated attorney Jennifer Henderson Callahan to an eight-year term, replacing Rick Davis. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Gov. Stitt pulls Holder nomination for OSU Board of Regents [Journal Record]
  • Stitt names a third nominee for Oklahoma State, A&M Colleges Board of Regents [Tulsa World]

New Oklahoma law clarifies foreign land ownership rules: Oklahoma lawmakers tweaked foreign land ownership laws this session to clarify regulations regarding the purchase of property across the state. [KOSU]

Sheriff, DA say state should accept mental health consent decree: Officials at the state’s mental health agency have proven “that they need legal oversight to force them to do what they should be doing” and should accept a proposed consent agreement that is pending in federal court, Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma AG praises appeals court ruling that blocks new Title IX rules from taking effect: Oklahoma’s top attorney celebrated a court decision that blocks the Biden administration from redefining Title IX. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the U.S. Department of Education’s attempt to include sexual orientation and gender identity in Title IX was invalid. [Oklahoma Voice]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Primary elections, Superintendent Ryan Walters spending, HB1775 blocked and more (audio): The panel talks about the primary elections, spending by State Superintendent Ryan Walters on public relations and the State Supreme Court ruling in favor of Edmond Public Schools to choose which books to keep in its library. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Sulphur tornado: Chickasaw Nation launches $6 million campaign to rebuild downtown: The Chickasaw Nation announced Thursday the tribe is launching a $6 million fundraising drive to not just rebuild and preserve what is left of downtown Sulphur but to also provide architects and consultants to restore the look and feel of the city’s storefronts. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Opinion: Support medical education to get Oklahomans more healthy: Across Oklahoma, 75 out of 77 counties contain a Health Professional Shortage Area. These are areas known as “medical deserts” where primary care providers are few and far between. This shortage can become cyclical when younger generations never know or see a physician they can aspire to become someday. [Dr. Johnny Stephens / Tulsa World]

Opinion: If you give syphilis a chance, it’ll surge back into a national scourge: The culture war isn’t helping. Just when we need to talk openly about sex, lawmakers want to smash it out, particularly among youth, by calling it indoctrination or porn. It’s not. It’s about getting people accurate information to stay safe and healthy. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma is set to execute its longest-serving death row prisoner: Richard Norman Rojem Jr., 66, has been on death row for nearly four decades for the 1984 kidnapping, rape, and murder of his former stepdaughter Layla Dawn Cummings, age 7. Oklahoma has scheduled the execution of Rojem on June 27. It would be Oklahoma’s second execution this year. [The Frontier]

Parole and probation rules limit travel. That can be complicated for people seeking abortions: Over half of the 800,000 women under community supervision live in states with abortion restrictions, making the path to access more difficult — or impossible. [Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Prisoners rejoining society with an education will build a stronger Oklahoma workforce: Oklahoma has been facing severe labor shortages since the pandemic lockdowns. For every worker available in the state, there are nearly two job openings. They are hardly alone, as labor shortages have swept most of the country since the COVID-19 pandemic. But Oklahoma has found a solution in a surprising place: The state’s prisons. [Noah Berry and Conor Norris / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Tulsa’s Tech Transformation: Black Tech Street hosts White House Cyber Director visit: In a major nod to Tulsa’s burgeoning tech scene, the White House Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) will visit the city as part of a nationwide tour focusing on enhancing the U.S. cyber workforce. This tour is a key component of the government’s Cyber Workforce and Development Strategy. Tulsa’s own Black Tech Street, an organization dedicated to rebirthing historic Black Wall Street as a world-class innovation hub, will host the event. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma, society talk about STEM, but actions, attitudes show it’s not really a priority: Like it or not, the U.S. economy increasingly runs and grows on the basis of our ability with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). As an economy and as a country, we are struggling to find people with STEM skills. This isn’t a new issue; it’s quite old. The United States has been struggling to find these skills for decades. We simply don’t have enough people born in the U.S. with enough skills for the jobs available in STEM and haven’t for decades. Why? [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Ryan Walters faces lawmakers about oversight of federal funds: State Superintendent Ryan Walters faced a panel of lawmakers Thursday morning about a new report that puts his handling of federal funds for public schools under a microscope. [Tulsa World]

  • Judge allows lawsuit filed by private school against Ryan Walters, state board to move forward [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • Tulsa County Election Board rejects Paul Tay challenge to Karen Keith candidacy [NonDoc]
  • Ardmore job fair helps make connections for Dollar Tree workers impacted by tornadoes [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“Having a regular, meaningful job is the best way to prevent recidivism. Gainful employment reduces the advantages that criminal activity offers, as those with work already have a source of income.”

-Noah Berry and Conor Norris, writing in an op-ed about the recently enacted House Bill 3158 that opens up training for teaching cosmetology courses within a state correctional facility. [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


Percentage of LQBTQ adults (25+) in Oklahoma who are raising children. [Movement Advancement Project]

Policy Note

The Impact of 2024 Anti-Transgender Legislation on Youth: The national landscape shows that states are sharply diverging in their policies about transgender youth. More than 90 percent of transgender youth live in states that have proposed or passed laws restricting their rights. [Williams Institute / UCLA School of Law]

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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.