In The Know: $500 million proposed tax cuts | Proposal to make state questions harder to pass | Equitable economy recovery

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

(Oklahoma and COVID-19: Two Years Later) Smart investments are the key to an equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession: Oklahoma’s legislature has the power to create an equitable and more robust economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic by pursuing investments that simultaneously promote growth and equity. While macroeconomic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product (the size of an economy) and the unemployment rate (the percentage of people who want work but can’t find it) are useful for measuring the overall health of an economy, they conceal inequalities and long-standing structural challenges that hurt many Oklahomans’ ability to provide for themselves and participate in our economy. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy

(Fellowship Deadline Approaching) Join the team as a Fall 2022-2023 Fellow: We are currently hiring for two paid Fellow positions: a Policy Fellow and Communications & Operations Fellow. These one-year fellowship opportunities are for Fall 2022-Fall 2023. The deadline to apply for a Fellowship is Wednesday, March 30 at 5:00 PM (CST). [Learn more and apply]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma House rings up $500 million in proposed tax cuts: The cavalcade of tax cut proposals continued in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday with votes to temporarily suspend the state sales tax on groceries, permanently reduce personal income tax rates one-quarter point, and give property tax relief to higher income senior citizens. [Tulsa World

New from OK Policy: This legislative session, the Oklahoma legislature is set to consider several proposals that would significantly cut state revenue. Rather than cutting taxes, legislators must consider the state’s long-term fiscal health and its structural deficit by maintaining revenue streams this year and for years to come.

Lawmakers advance proposal to make state questions harder to get on ballot, pass: A package of proposals that would make it harder for many state questions to pass, or even make it on the ballot, are moving forward in Oklahoma’s Legislature. [Oklahoma Watch] Lawmakers on Tuesday advanced measures that could stymie initiative petitions like the ones that put into place medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. Noting that those measures got onto the statewide ballot with signatures collected mostly in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, lawmakers have proposed new rules that would require the support of more voters in rural areas. [The Journal Record

New from Together Oklahoma: Protect the State Question Process: Several bills have been filed this session that would make it harder for citizens to get a measure passed through initiative petition. Use our form to contact Oklahoma House leadership and tell them you oppose any legislation that would make it harder to pass an initiative petition.

Proposal to eliminate some Oklahoma court fines and fees has bipartisan support: A bill that would reduce court fines and fees associated with criminal convictions is gaining support in the legislature. Senate Bill 1458 by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, unanimously cleared the upper chamber on March 14. Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, is carrying the proposal in the House. [Oklahoma Watch

 Recently from OK Policy: This session, lawmakers should restructure how we fund vital court services to alleviate the financial burden of criminal fines and fees in communities statewide. Right now, the majority of court funding comes from court fines and fees, and most criminal court collections are levied against the poorest Oklahomans in rural and urban communities. 

House Bill assessing juvenile court fees passes to Senate: On Monday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously (91-0) passed House Bill 3205, which now heads to the Senate. Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater) said that the bill could significantly reduce court costs for juveniles going through the criminal justice system. Talley, who has spent time in adult prisons and juvenile facilities, said this bill would benefit the youth and the state. [Stillwater News Press]

State Government News

Voters could decide to revamp judicial selection under Senate measure: The Senate on Tuesday advanced a measure to let voters decide whether to dramatically alter how the state selects judges and the court system. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma’s House passes a near-total abortion ban: Oklahoma’s state House on Tuesday voted 78-19 to pass a near complete ban on abortions, legislation that far surpasses Texas’ six-week ban. The bill is now headed to the Senate and, if passed, will be the strictest anti-abortion bill in the country. [19th News

A bill could unlock opioid settlement money in Oklahoma, allowing millions to be disbursed to local governments: Oklahoma was one of the first states to successfully sue drugmakers for their role in the opioid epidemic, but almost none of that money has been spent so far. Now, a bill moving through the legislature — SB1275 — could change that. [KGOU

Oklahoma right-to-garden bill passes despite criticism: House lawmakers this week narrowly passed a measure that critics say could strip cities and counties of the ability to regulate vegetable gardens and mediate disputes between landowners. [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma bill would bring mental health assistance to educators: Legislation meant to extend mental health benefits to Oklahoma teachers has made some progress at the Capitol. House Bill 4109, authored by Rep. Mark Vancuren, R-Owasso, would make an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) available to school employees, much like a program currently available to other state employees. [The Journal Record

House passes bill calling for live-streaming of school board meetings: The Oklahoma House of Representatives took another stab at education reform last Monday, endorsing a bill that requires the state’s larger school districts to live stream school board meetings. [Southwest Ledger]

A bill to prioritize scholarships for Tulsa Race Massacre descendants passes through Oklahoma House: A bill that enhances a scholarship program originally intended for the descendants of survivors and victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre passed in the House, Monday afternoon. [KGOU

Bill seeking incentives for cryptocurrency mining sees bipartisan support: A piece of legislation exempting cryptocurrency mining in the state from sales tax on electricity and other items was discussed in the state Senate Tuesday. Author John Montgomery of Lawton said cryptocurrency is already being mined in Oklahoma. [Public Radio Tulsa

Oklahoma House advances bill to protect controversial tool to ‘guide’ elephants in Hugo: As a Hugo foundation that is home to retired circus elephants comes under fire from animal welfare groups, Oklahoma lawmakers are moving to ensure the facility can continue operating as is. [The Oklahoman

Federal Government News

Sen. Inhofe introduces Impact Aid bill: U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is one of three Senators introducing legislation to advance Impact Aid programs closer to full funding and to increase funding for public school districts on federal land, which are tax-exempt and therefore have significantly less tax revenue to meet their schools’ and students’ needs. [The Lawton Constitution]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation Public Health shows heroic efforts past two-years: The Cherokee Nation has administered more than 270,000 COVID-19 tests and implemented several public health safety measures in the past two years as this week marks the two-year anniversary of the tribe’s first positive COVID-19 case within its tribal health care system. [Cherokee Nation / Indian Country Today]

Former Osage chief: ‘Flower Moon’ film project ‘elevates the Osage perspective’: Talking to students about the real history behind “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a former Osage Nation principal chief said Tuesday he has good reason to believe the movie based on the book will get the story right. [Tulsa World

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Democrat Harris-Till joins 5th District race: Joshua Harris-Till, the former president of the Young Democrats of America, said Monday that he would run for the 5th District congressional seat held by Republican Rep. Stephanie Bice. [The Oklahoman

EPS District 2 runoff: Williams, Hobgood disagree on race, gender education: The next representative for District 2 of the Edmond Public Schools Board will be either a local parent-teacher organization member or one of the board’s most outspoken critics. [NonDoc

EPS District 5 forum: Grande accuses EPS board of ‘discriminating against kids’ with COVID protocols: At a forum held in the John Ross Elementary School gym Monday night, candidates Marcus Jones and Michael Grande answered questions about their respective visions for Edmond Public Schools if elected to the school board’s District 5 seat. [NonDoc

Urban League, Councilwoman Nice to co-host OKCPS candidate forum: Alongside moderator Councilwoman Nikki Nice, Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, Inc. (ULOKC) will co-host a virtual candidate forum featuring Adrian D. Anderson and Dr. Sharri Coleman, the two candidates running for OKCPS District 5 seat on Tuesday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. [The Black Wall Street Times

Health News

‘I fear the long-term effects’: Before his death, a nurse warned of the pandemic’s toll on health care workers: In early 2020, Michael Odell sensed that Covid-19 would hit hard. A young intensive care nurse who traveled to hospitals needing an extra hand, he told his family that demand for people like him was surging. [STAT]

Criminal Justice News

Authorities investigating death of Bryan County inmate: The death of an inmate at a county jail in southern Oklahoma is under investigation, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Derek Michael Brandes, 36, was found unresponsive in his cell in the Bryan County jail and taken to a hospital in Durant where he was pronounced dead, according to an OSBI statement. [AP via Tulsa World

Economic Opportunity

For renters with disabilities, many homes aren’t accessible: In the United States, 1 in 4 adults has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mobility disabilities that limit movement are the most common kind, impacting 1 in 7 adults. Yet much of the nation’s housing lacks basic accessibility features that ensure anyone can enter and navigate the home or fully use bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens. [Big If True

An endowment fund for NE OKC’s new rec center means no financial barriers for participants: Today, a new recreation center named for the longtime public servant nears completion in Douglass Park, which stretches from NE 10 to NE 4 just west of Interstate 35. Ahead of its opening later this year, the community has created an endowment fund of more than $100,000 for the Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center. [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

Massive new wind center opens operations in Oklahoma: The Traverse Wind Energy Center, billed as one of the largest wind facilities in the world and the largest ever built in a single phase in North America, has commenced commercial operations in Blaine and Custer counties in north central Oklahoma. [The Journal Record

Education News

Yet another lawsuit filed in Epic Charter Schools’ messy divorce from co-founders: Epic Charter Schools’ messy divorce from its co-founders has resulted in yet another lawsuit. A former subsidiary now known as Community Strategies-CA Inc. filed a breach of contract suit this month in Oklahoma County District Court, seeking at least $430,573 from the school board of Epic One-on-One and Epic Blended Learning Centers, which are both Oklahoma-based charter schools. [Tulsa World

After Native American boy’s hair is cut, school officials and parents raise questions: The father of a 7-year-old Native American boy says two classmates who had been bullying his son cut off the boy’s braid in their first-grade classroom. Mid-Del Public Schools officials say they will not disclose any details about their investigation into what happened. [The Oklahoman

General News

Eight to be inducted into Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame: Eight women to be inducted soon into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame have made wide-ranging, valuable contributions to the state. They include health care professionals, a storied entertainer, gifted business leaders, a farmer-rancher and, perhaps most importantly, advocates committed to making life better for other people. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

Mayor to governor: “We’ll show you”: It was a resounding ‘no’ to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority from the Norman City Council after it voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to resist two new toll roads planned in their city. The OTA plans to build two turnpikes in Norman — one along Indian Hills Road to connect Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City and another in east Norman, an extension of the Kickapoo Turnpike west of the Lake Thunderbird watershed. [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“The fines make things tough. They want you to be rehabilitated and get out and be a thriving model citizen, paving your own way, but they have their hand out the whole damn way.”

– Robert Lavern, a 53-year-old from Talala, Oklahoma, who was released from the William S. Key Correctional Facility in late 2020 and struggled to pay a monthly supervision fee as he worked to reintegrate into society and secure employment. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Percentage of working-age people outside of the labor force who report not looking for work because of home or family obligations

[Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

New from OK Policy: Smart investments are the key to an equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession

Policy Note

Child Care Remains Central to an Equitable Recovery: “Our economy expands with higher labor force participation; it thus benefits us all to have more people in the workforce . . . Prioritizing reliable child care can accomplish this by pulling more mothers into the workforce and increasing productivity among employed parents.” [Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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