In The Know: $215 million affordable housing program in the works | Private school tax credit launches Friday | Help Oklahomans get covered, stay covered

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Help Oklahomans get covered, stay covered: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has been working to ensure that all Oklahomans who have received health insurance through SoonerCare (the state’s Medicaid program) can stay insured as coverage rules changed following the pandemic. But for many individuals, action is needed to ensure eligible folks can keep their health care. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma’s private school tax credits to launch Friday with influx of applicants expected: About 130 private schools across Oklahoma have registered for a new tax credit program launching this week that offers $5,000-$7,500 to students’ families. The Oklahoma Tax Commission will start accepting applications for the tax credits at 8:30 a.m. Friday at [Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

State GOP in conflict with U.S. senators on judicial nomination: In apparent opposition to the state’s two Republican U.S. senators, the chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party is campaigning against confirmation of Sara Hill as a federal judge for the Tulsa-based Northern District of Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Opinion: Anticipating a surge in influenza this year, tribal communities must get ready: November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate and recognize the history, contributions and lives of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives past and present. One dangerous risk facing our tribal communities today is communicable disease, most notably influenza, also called the flu. [Tom Anderson / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Cherokee Nation does business on world stage: As the largest Indigenous nation in the United States with more than 460,000 citizens, Cherokees can be found all across the globe. Cherokee Nation Businesses has global reach, too, with trading partners and business operations on six continents. At the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit held in California, I spoke about the unique role that the Cherokee Nation and other Indigenous peoples play in the global economy. [Chuck Hoskin Jr. / Journal Record]

Opinion: Lack of recognition, respect for tribal sovereignty beyond sovereign tribal land borders: The United States has a complicated history with its Indigenous communities, one that continues to reverberate through the present. Among the myriad challenges faced by Native American tribes, now we’re dealing with the unjust ticketing of tribal members for driving vehicles with tribal tags outside sovereign tribal land boundaries. This practice highlights a deep-seated disparity in the treatment of Indigenous people and calls for urgent attention and rectification. [Shelly Ketcher / The Oklahoman]

Health News

Opinion: Telemedicine key to rewriting Oklahoma’s health narrative: As a fourth-generation Oklahoman living in a rural setting, I’m no stranger to the very real health disparities our small-town communities face. A national study including 36 million working-age individuals with private insurance shows that telemedicine encounters increased 766% in the first three months of the pandemic. [Dr. Johnny Stephens / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

3D printed device to turn pistols into automatic weapons increasingly used in crimes in Oklahoma, police say: Federal authorities are stepping up enforcement and warning the public about what are known on the streets as “Glock switches.” These are small devices that are used to convert semi-automatic handguns, like the popular Glock, into weapons that can fire dozens of rounds in seconds. [The Oklahoman]

Execution still planned for Thursday in Oklahoma City double-murder case: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections was preparing Wednesday to carry out the state’s 11th execution since lethal injections resumed two years ago. Phillip Dean Hancock was set to be executed Thursday morning for fatally shooting two men in Oklahoma City in 2001. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa police will ‘hold fast’ on standards, chief says, despite chronic recruiting difficulties: Despite a persistent shortage of officers, Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said Wednesday that he adamantly opposes loosening his department’s prerequisites. The Tulsa Police Department is about 150 officers below authorized strength and has been similarly shorthanded for some time. Its 800 or so sworn officers are about 60 fewer than when Franklin became chief nearly four years ago. [Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Agency finalizing rules for Oklahoma’s $215 million affordable housing program: New homes and rental properties could hit the Oklahoma market in the next two years if rules for a $215 million state-funded construction loan program are approved by the end of the year, officials said. The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, which will oversee the state’s new Housing Stability Program, is crafting rules to administer it. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma City’s first permanent winter shelter is now open to house 300 during cold months: The Homeless Alliance recently opened its permanent winter shelter at 501 N Indiana, just two blocks from its Day Shelter. The shelter can house 300 individuals and their pets. It’s a low-barrier shelter, meaning guests will not need a form of identification or enroll in a program. [The Oklahoman]

  • The chill is gone: Homeless Alliance takes sting out of winter with new shelter [Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Opinion: Building a career in construction is easier than you think: I never thought I’d find myself working in the construction industry. Then I discovered that my background in public administration and economic development was the perfect fit for a dynamic field with one of the happiest workforces. Additionally, in a tight labor market, salaries are on the rise, which many workers naturally enjoy. This is especially true for women, who will find one of the smallest gender pay gaps in our workforce. [Cody Mosley / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Gavel to Gavel: New law on foreign land ownership in effect: Oklahoma recently has implemented new rules regarding alien ownership of real property that will affect every closing within the state. [Kelly S. Kinser / Journal Record]

Education News

Bacone seeks help to prevent auction of Indigenous-serving college in Muskogee: While the interim president of Bacone College was scrolling the news, she was surprised to find the Muskogee institution is going up for auction Dec. 14. The sale would resolve a lawsuit filed by MHEC LLC against Bacone for over $1 million. The firm alleges the school failed to pay for extensive HVAC work done on campus — work officials said was never supposed to happen before the institution was financially capable. [Tulsa World]

After outcry, in-person requirement removed from proposed alternative education rules: Two weeks after a contentious public comment hearing at the Oklahoma State Department of Education over proposed accreditation standard changes for alternative education, a requirement that students attend in-person classes has been removed from the new rules set to be voted on this week. [NonDoc]

Group calls for Ryan Walters to resign over video on prayer at Prague Elementary: In the wake of a controversy over prayers led over the intercom at Prague Elementary School, the Freedom From Religion Foundation called Wednesday for the resignation of state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters. The group said it “will not back down in the face of your grandstanding” after Walters criticized the organization for objecting to the school prayers. [The Oklahoman]

Mentor programs in Oklahoma could see grant funding boost: Mentoring programs that benefit students in grades K-12 in Oklahoma could be in line to receive some grant funding to advance goals. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence offers two types of Boren Mentoring Initiative Grants. Programs in their first three years of operation can apply for startup grants of $3,000, while programs that have been around for longer may be eligible for $1,500 grants to help fund training, material purchases or other needs. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma universities confront nursing shortage: The University of Oklahoma and Marian University’s Oklahoma City campus have rolled out programming in the area to address a critical shortage of nursing care professionals. Oklahoma ranks 46th in the U.S. for nurses per capita, with just 7.5 nurses per 1,000 residents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Chronic water leaks, mold shut down Norman library [Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma County commissioners looking for ‘plan B’ for new jail site  [The Oklahoman]
  • More than just Thunder: Could a new NBA arena redefine the concert scene in OKC? [The Oklahoman]
  • Opinion: Volunteers needed to help low- and moderate-income Tulsans file taxes [Janae Bradford / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The imposition of fines and tickets on tribal members for driving vehicles marked with tribal tags outside sovereign tribal lands not only represents a financial burden for the individual but also serves as a manifestation of broader issues of systemic problems: a lack of awareness or outright disregard for the legal and sovereign status of tribal nations.”

-Shelly Ketcher, a Cherokee Nation citizen and a businesswoman with offices in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas, writing in an op-ed about the importance of creating dialogue and partnerships between state authorities and tribal governments to ensure the rights of Indigenous people. [Shelly Ketcher / The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$1.87 billion
Oklahoma’s 2021 tax cuts are projected to cost the state $1.87 billion in lost revenue during the next five years (2024-2028). Because of Oklahoma State Question 640’s supermajority requirements for raising new revenue, these revenue cuts are unlikely to return when the state faces future economic downturns. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

States’ Recent Tax-Cut Spree Creates Big Risks for Families and Communities: State policymakers nationwide have embarked on a tax-cutting spree over the past three years, using the cover of temporary budget surpluses stemming from robust federal aid in response to COVID-19 and the economic recovery that followed. The tax cuts — most of which are both permanent and tilted toward wealthy households and corporations — will weaken state revenues by large and growing amounts over time, limiting these states’ ability to maintain support for schools and other vital public services or make new investments that can strengthen the economy and promote opportunity. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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.