In The Know: Federal judge temporarily blocks Oklahoma’s new anti-immigrant law | State board fails to void Catholic charter school contract | Reactions to Ryan Walters’ bible mandate | Community voices create people-first policy

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: Community voices create people-first policy: To make state laws and policies work on behalf of everyday Oklahomans, our elected officials and policymakers need more input from community members. That’s one of the reasons that the organization I lead, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, is holding listening sessions statewide in July and August. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Federal judge puts temporary hold on Oklahoma immigration law: A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked Oklahoma’s controversial immigration law targeting people in the U.S. without documentation. While Oklahoma may have frustrations with problems caused by illegal immigration, the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law, the opinion by U.S. District Judge Bernard M. Jones said. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Federal judge blocks enforcement of Oklahoma’s immigration law [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Law Criminalizing Immigrants Without Legal Status Is Blocked [The New York Times]
  • Oklahoma’s immigration law halted; AG Drummond says he will appeal [Just the News]

State Government News

Looking at the numerous Oklahoma laws that go into effect on July 1: The best-known bill that was supposed to go into law on Monday, a controversial immigration measure, was halted by a federal judge shortly before it took effect. Below is a look at some of the more high-profile laws that go into effect on July 1, 2024. [KOCO]

Oklahoma Ethics Commission grapples with independent expenditures: Oklahoma’s campaign finance rules called quite clear on the matter: Coordinated expenditures constitute in-kind contributions that are subject to regulation as such. Not so clear is what actually constitutes coordination. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Republican primary election upset shakes up State Senate leadership (audio): Who will succeed Greg Treat as Senate President Pro Tempore? That question seemed to be answered until the senator in line to move into the position lost in the primary. [KGOU]

Oklahoma GOP members look to oust Nathan Dahm as chairman: On Saturday, Oklahoma Republicans met to potentially remove State Sen. Nathan Dahm from his position as the Oklahoma GOP chairman, citing leadership concerns. [KOCO]

Companies Sued By AG Over Natural Gas Spikes Say They Followed Contracts: Pipeline and marketing companies targeted by Oklahoma’s attorney general for their role in the run-up in natural gas prices from a winter storm in 2021 said they did nothing wrong and want the cases dismissed or moved from Osage County. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Broadband Office opens another round of broadband grants: During this cycle of broadband project grants, $159 million in federal funds are available for internet service providers. The funds are through the American Rescue Plan Act’s Capital Project Fund, one of three broadband infrastructure grant programs the Oklahoma Broadband Office is to administer. [KGOU]

McCall winding down term as Oklahoma Speaker of the House: Oklahoma House District 22 Rep. Charles McCall, the longest-serving Speaker of the House in state history, will soon have less responsibility resting on his shoulders. The Republican from Atoka has reached his term limit, and his time as a state representative will come to an end in just a few months. [KTEN]

New Oklahoma hunting, fishing license fees are now active: The rush was on after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the Oklahoma Wildlife Modernization Act in late March, especially for cheaper lifetime licenses for residents and big-game licenses for non-residents before the July 1 effective date. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Tom Cole reminds subcommittee of tribal sovereignty over trust lands: The longtime Oklahoma lawmaker has legislation that “will correct this egregious wrongdoing, and restore the sovereign rights of all federally recognized tribes to put land into trust.” [Indian Country Today/Tulsa World]

‘Tribal courts are essential’ | New Legislations Aims to Strengthen Tribal Court System: The proposed Tribal Courts Support Act seeks to address persistent issues within the current system, which have resulted in delays and inefficiencies in the establishment and funding of tribal courts by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). [Native News Online]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma’s Bacone College filing for bankruptcy, president vows to keep fighting: “Indian University,” now known as “Bacone College” was Oklahoma’s first higher education institution and America’s first Native college. It opened its doors in 1881 with three students in Muskogee. Over 100 years later, the college’s leaders are fighting to keep them. [KOSU]

A sacred boulder stolen to honor Kansas settlers was finally returned to the Kaw Tribe: The Kaw “rematriated” a part of its Kansas heritage over the weekend, a sacred rock they call “grandfather” that they had to leave behind when the tribe was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Catholic Native Schools Project seeks boarding school survivors: Catholic Church leaders launched the Oklahoma Catholic Native Schools Project to expand their understanding of Indigenous students’ experiences at Catholic-run boarding schools from 1880-1965. [KOSU]

Opinion: Building a Thriving Cherokee Nation Workforce: The Cherokee Nation strives to be a great place to work, because we want the best and brightest to serve our community. In recent years, Cherokee Nation has made substantial investments in improving our work environment. [Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. / Native News Online]

Voting and Election News

New laws will make ballot initiative process more restrictive, lawmaker says: Dollens, an Oklahoma City Democrat, said House Bill 1105 — signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in late April — was the main vehicle for “stalling most ballot initiatives going forward.” The bill extends the challenge period for a state question proposal from 10 days to 90 days. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Tulsa outpacing state for summer COVID infections: According to a dashboard maintained by the University of Oklahoma and other entities, Tulsa had a “medium concentration” of COVID present in wastewater between June 16 and June 22. Medium concentration is defined as 100 to 199 cases per 100,000 people. [Public Radio Tulsa]

McCurtain County hospital loses funding over century-old law: n November 2022, McCurtain County voters approved a measure to raise the lodging tax on hotels and Airbnbs from 3 percent to 5 percent. The tax funds the county hospital and helps pay for a planned new hospital building. However, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this month the county failed to strictly adhere to a law passed more than a century ago. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County jail refuses inspection, found deficient: For years, the Oklahoma County Detention Center has been plagued with problems and failed site checks, but they failed recently for not allowing an inspection. [KOCO]

After ‘contentious’ negotiations, DOC and GEO Group revise Lawton private prison contract: Following tense last-minute negotiations between state officials and the GEO Group, the Oklahoma Board of Corrections voted Wednesday to revise and renew an agreement with the private prison company that controls the Lawton and Hinton facilities housing about 23 percent of state inmates. [NonDoc]

  • Corrections Board Greenlights Lawton Prison Contract Extension [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Oklahoma Department of Corrections, The GEO Group, reach 1-year contract agreement [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma executes man who raped and murdered former stepdaughter: Oklahoma executed Richard Rojem Jr. at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Thursday after nearly 40 years on death row. [The Frontier]

Glynn Simmons settlement: Oklahoma paying $175,000 for 48 years of wrongful incarceration: The state of Oklahoma has agreed to pay the maximum amount allowed by law to settle a tort claim filed by a man who spent nearly a half century in prison for a 1974 murder he did not commit. [NonDoc]

  • Glynn Simmons’ Free-Man’s Food Truck opens in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]

Gun-toting Judge Brian Lovell faces removal over sexual misconduct, other allegations: A judge in Garfield County currently facing gun charges in Texas and Oklahoma was temporarily suspended today pending a trial on his removal from office after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and ex parte communications surfaced. [NonDoc]

Felony case falls apart against former Kingfisher football coach Jeff Myers: A felony charge of child neglect failed to move forward Thursday against former Kingfisher High School football coach Jeff Myers after a judge ruled prosecutors fell short of meeting their burden of proof. [NonDoc]

OKC police officer accused of rape, domestic assault and battery: An Oklahoma City police officer was arrested and booked into jail Saturday on complaints including rape, domestic assault and battery, and kidnapping. Sgt. Ryan Len Stark was booked into the McClain County jail at 12:43 p.m. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Eviction right-to-counsel program yields $6.3 million economic impact between Tulsa, Oklahoma counties: A pilot project that provides attorneys to tenants facing eviction in Oklahoma’s two largest counties has yielded around $6.3 million in estimated economic benefits over the past two years, according to a recent study. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmaker proposes 3D-printed homes in study to address affordable housing: For many Oklahoma City families, buying a home is not an option. One lawmaker wants to study creative 3D technology to reduce construction costs. Some state leaders are optimistic about its possibilities. [News 9]

Groundbreaking celebrates large mixed-income development in north Tulsa: 36N is being built on property near 36th Street North and Peoria Avenue once occupied by Comanche Park Apartments. Over the next five years, plans call for the construction of 545 units, including 271 subsidized units, 165 workforce units and 109 market rate units. [Tulsa World]

Nonprofit Homeless Alliance asks public for help amid heat wave: Oklahoma summers are hot and likely to get hotter. For those living outside, this can be dangerous and even deadly. The Oklahoma City nonprofit the Homeless Alliance operates a day shelter seven days a week. There people can shower, eat, use the internet and escape the summer heat. [KOSU]

Tulsa selects site for low-barrier shelter/residential care center for the homeless: City officials have been talking for years about the need to establish a non-congregate, low-barrier homeless shelter. Now that’s about to happen — but they’re not calling it a low-barrier shelter. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Norwegian solar company announces $620M expansion to Tulsa: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday that NorSun, a solar energy company that produces monocrystalline silicon wafers for the global solar energy industry, selected the airport for its first factory location in the U.S. [Journal Record]

Education News

The Ryan Walters Bible mandate begs a prayer for relief: After their 6-1 ruling this past week that a proposed Catholic charter school is unconstitutional, Oklahoma Supreme Court justices may be licking their chops at another opportunity to affirm separations between church and state. [NonDoc]

  • Walters’ Bible mandate for public schools is religious coercion, local pastor says [Journal Record]
  • The Bible in Public Schools? Oklahoma Pushes Limits of Long Tradition. [The New York Times]
  • CAIR-OK Condemns OSDE Requirement for Bible Instruction in Classrooms as Unconstitutional [Council on American-Islam Relations]
  • What to know about Oklahoma’s top education official ordering Bible instruction in schools [AP]
  • As Ryan Walters mandates Bible instruction in public schools, Satanic Temple plans educational offerings [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Is Walters’ call for putting the Bible in schools a legal issue or just for generating attention? [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Catholic charter school pledges to ‘fight’ Court ruling. State fails to void its contract.: Leaders of an Oklahoma Catholic charter school said they will “continue to fight” to open the school after the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected their attempt to operate as a state-funded entity. Meanwhile, a state board in Oklahoma City failed to comply with the state Supreme Court’s order to rescind the founding contract for St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Education Watch: Supreme Court Decision Prompts Special Meeting of the Virtual Charter Board [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Catholic charter school says it will fight ‘discrimination’ as it delays accepting taxpayer dollars [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • There’s another lawsuit pending against St. Isidore and the ruling could matter [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • St. Isidore board votes to comply with court order while virtual charter school board vote hits snag [StateImpact/KGOU]
  • Opinion: Public money stays secular as court rejects church school [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Oklahoma board rejects judge’s advice to keep Summer Boismier’s teaching license intact: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday unanimously voted to reject the judge’s recommendation and instead instructed its own attorney to put together a list of findings, signaling the board members could vote to revoke Boismier’s certification despite being advised against it. [Oklahoma Voice]

Letter to the Editor: Take school test scores into consideration with poverty, trauma: It cannot be stressed enough how children’s learning can be negatively affected by their experiences of traumatic events. Children who live in poverty are often hungry, and those who are reliving domestic violence or even experiencing abuse and/or neglect while at home cannot learn in a classroom without support, safety and consistency from a caring adult. [Mary Kevin McNamara / Tulsa World]

Community News

‘One giant family’: PrideFest offers ‘safe space’ for city’s LGBTQ+ community: The theme for PrideFest this year was “Queer Justice: Colors of Change” and it marked the festival’s fourth time being held downtown. [The Oklahoman]

  • Pride month ends with OKC Pride Parade downtown [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • OKC’s 2028 Olympics bid awaits LA council approval [Journal Record]
  • Safety concerns mean QuikTrip customers may see locked doors, anti-loitering domes [Tulsa World]
  • Broken Arrow fireworks permit requirement eliminated; here’s the law in other area cities [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Eviction prevention is not a magic bullet. But it’s a key, key strategy to keep existing housing affordable. Without it, it’s the bathtub overflowing. You can sit there and watch it overflow and flood the house. Or you can turn it down, maybe turn it off. You’ve got to do something to stop the flow.”

– Michael Figgins, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma executive director, on the success of The Right to Counsel Program, which has been implemented in Tulsa County and Oklahoma County, and yielded around $6.3 million in estimated economic benefits over the past two years, according to a recent study. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Hourly wage needed for a full-time worker to afford a two-bedroom rental in Oklahoma. [National Low-Income Housing Coalition]

Policy Note

Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing: For far too long, accessible, safe, and affordable housing has been out of reach
for millions of the nation’s lowest-income renters. Although most indicators show that the economy is strong, the lowest-income renters continue to confront significant challenges finding and maintaining access to safe and affordable rental housing. Insufficient wages, rising rents, and an inadequate housing safety net all contribute to the problem. Substantial, long-term investments in affordable housing solutions are desperately needed to address this crisis once and for all. [National Low-Income Housing Coalition]

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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.