In The Know: A Better Path Forward, budget and tax roadmap for Oklahoma | Planned executions halted | More

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

A Better Path Forward: A Budget and Tax Roadmap for Oklahoma: A Better Path Forward is a comprehensive report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute detailing how the state cut nearly a quarter of the state’s budget capacity and the implications of those decisions. More importantly, the report includes a menu of budget and tax reforms that can provide vital state revenue while bringing more fairness to the state’s tax system. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]

  • From OK Policy, a new report proposing various tax and budget reforms: “A Better Path Forward” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Policy Matters: Finding a better path forward: Anyone who follows Oklahoma government knows our state revenue is extremely susceptible to boom and bust cycles. A volatile revenue base, combined with decades of tax cuts by lawmakers, has left Oklahoma ill-prepared to deliver essential shared services to its residents. Our friends and neighbors who are feeling the greatest impact — and comparatively carrying the largest share of tax burden — are the ones who can least afford it. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

A federal appeals court has halted Oklahoma’s first planned executions in six years: A federal appeals court has halted Oklahoma’s planned executions of John Marion Grant and Julius Jones, ruling that a lower court had “abused its discretion” in removing the men from a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocol and ruling against their injunction request earlier this week. [The Frontier] In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily granted John Marion Grant and Julius Jones stays of their pending executions today, stalling Oklahoma’s first attempt to carry out the death penalty in more than six years. Three other death-row inmates who were plaintiffs in the appeal did not receive stays of their executions. [NonDoc] The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office announced Wednesday afternoon it would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s uncertain how long the Supreme Court will take to respond. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma has historically had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, but a series of problematic lethal injections in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium. [AP News]

Lots of litigation: Catch up on several key court cases: Lawsuits come, lawsuits go and lawyers make money. In the state of Oklahoma, several high-profile lawsuits have been working their way through district and appellate courts at both the state and federal level. Keeping tabs on all the filings, responses and rulings can be incredibly time-consuming and difficult, even for professional newsrooms. This week, NonDoc’s team summarized a handful of noteworthy lawsuits involving state government, tribal sovereignty, influential organizations and interesting individuals. [NonDoc

Health News

Oklahoma launches ‘self-serve’ COVID-19 case investigation portal: The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) says it’s shifting focus from its current system of COVID-19 case investigation to Oklahomans doing the work themselves. The new OSDH Case Investigation (OSDHCI) system is scheduled to launch Monday, Nov. 1, where the public can conduct their own case investigations and contact tracing. [KFOR]

University of Utah research leader will be OMRF’s next president: Dr. Andrew Weyrich, whose discoveries in blood-clotting research have earned him international recognition, will be the next president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He will succeed Dr. Stephen Prescott — a mentor and colleague of Weyrich’s — and interim president Adam Cohen to lead OMRF. Prescott, who was OMRF’s president for 15 years, died in May of cancer complications. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Limited broadband access jeopardizes mental health: The gap between those who have broadband access in Oklahoma and those who do not has been widening for a long time. It was a significant problem for our state before COVID-19 and became a major crisis after we entered the pandemic and a huge range of activities moved online. [Joy Sloan / NonDoc]

State & Local Government News

Judge temporarily blocks parts of new Oklahoma law limiting protests, protecting drivers: An Oklahoma federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked parts of a new law that could limit protests. U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron granted a preliminary injunction to prevent two parts of House Bill 1674, commonly known as the law that grants immunity to drivers who hurt or kill a pedestrian while “fleeing” from a riot, from taking effect Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Mayor outlines plan for spending more than half of city’s American Rescue Plan Act funding: Mayor G.T. Bynum unveiled a proposal Wednesday to allocate $50.2 million of the city’s nearly $88 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. The largest allocation, $17.1 million, would go for public safety, including nearly $9 million for a new fleet of Fire Department vehicles, and $3.6 million to replace old police body cameras. [Tulsa World]

Three key State Health Department resignations were unrelated to commissioner’s exit, interim leader says: Three other recent high-profile resignations at the Oklahoma State Department of Health aren’t tied to the state health commissioner’s departure, the interim leader of the agency said Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • Interim commissioner: state health department ‘well positioned’ despite spate of resignations [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Senate president pro tem announces new leadership: Republican State Sen. Greg Treat on Wednesday announced changes in GOP leadership positions in the Oklahoma Senate. Sen. Greg McCortney was named majority floor leader, replacing Sen. Kim David, who is term-limited and has announced plans to run for the state Corporation Commission. [AP News]

Lawmakers consider allowing counties authority to adopt ordinances: A state lawmaker said she’ll likely author legislation in the coming year to afford county governments in Oklahoma authority to adopt ordinances. [The Journal Record]

‘Treated like every other citizen’: How a former Oklahoman got a nonbinary birth certificate: An Oregon resident who was born and raised in Oklahoma made history this month when they successfully petitioned the state to amend their birth certificate to include a gender-neutral birth marker. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Researchers worry about Census’ gap in 2020 survey data: Researchers are worried about coronavirus-related disruptions to one of the U.S. Census Bureau’s most important surveys about how Americans live, saying a gap in the 2020 data will make it more difficult to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and measure year-to-year changes. [The Lawton Constitution]

Inhofe, GOP senators introduce bill that would prevent unvaccinated workers from being fired: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., joined U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. — the author of the bill — and several other Republican senators Tuesday to introduce the “Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act” in an effort to prevent unvaccinated essential workers from getting fired due to President Joe Biden’s September action mandating that employers with more than 100 employees require their employees to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, according to a news release. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

‘Blindsided’ by Tulsa’s call to overturn McGirt, commission asks Bynum to withdraw SCOTUS brief: The Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission wants Mayor G.T. Bynum to withdraw a brief filed last week in support of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma. [Public Radio Tulsa] The friend-of-the-court, or amicus, briefs were filed in the United States Supreme Court by law enforcement agencies, business groups, four states and two cities in support of Oklahoma’s petition to overturn McGirt v. Oklahoma, the landmark ruling that affirmed the tribal reservation status of much of eastern Oklahoma. [KOSU] After more than an hour of public comments from a standing room only crowd, the Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission voted unanimously at a special meeting Wednesday night to send a letter to Mayor G.T. Bynum and the Tulsa City Council requesting that the city withdraw its amicus brief in Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta. [Tulsa World]

Arrest, protective order disclosures part of Cherokee Nation effort to combat domestic violence: A Cherokee Nation task force has launched to continue work on improving the tribe’s response to domestic violence as a new policy will require tribal employees to disclose their arrest history, as well as protective orders. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma human services department works to stabilize child care sector with grants, support: Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) announced this summer that additional coronavirus relief dollars authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be used to provide stabilization grants to the child care industry as well as incentivize quality improvement, access to care and workforce development in order to support Oklahoma children and families. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Organization hosting event to help Oklahomans with rental assistance: Oklahomans who need help with rental assistance can get help at a local event. Community Cares Partners has partnered with OKC First Church of the Nazarene to help families apply for rental and utility assistance through Emergency Rental Assistance funds. [KFOR]

Economy & Business News

U.S. demand for oil surges, depleting tanks in Oklahoma: Crude oil tanks at the Cushing, Oklahoma storage and delivery hub for U.S. crude futures are more depleted than they have been in the last three years, and prices of further dated oil contracts suggest they will stay lower for months. [Reuters]

Beef prices expected to surge through 2021: Beef prices at the grocery store that have surged with the pandemic won’t be going down any time soon, experts say. “Prices are starting to go up for cattle producers. They already have for consumers,” said Derrell Peel, professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University. [The Journal Record]

Education News

‘Best of what our state has to offer our children’: Oklahoma top teacher finalists announced: The 12 finalists for next year’s Teacher of the Year award were announced during a special event Tuesday morning at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. All finalists were selected to be teachers of the year for their individual districts or schools after their applications were reviewed by a panel of educators, lawmakers and civic leaders. [The Oklahoman] The group represents a broad spectrum of teachers, teaching styles, school districts, and classroom settings. [OKC Free Press]

College enrollment appears to be dropping in Oklahoma: A preliminary survey of Oklahoma’s higher education institutions shows that college enrollment has fallen roughly two percent in fall 2021, when compared to fall 2020. The figures come from a preliminary report given to Oklahoma’s State Regents for Higher Education last week. [KOSU]

General News

Mexican government announces plan for OKC consulate: Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Monday its intention to open two new consulates, one in Oklahoma City and another in New Jersey. The OKC consulate and the New Jersey consulate are being created to increase the capacity of the Mexican government’s consular network and deal with recent demographic changes in the Mexican community in the U.S. [NonDoc] Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard cited a backlog in services created by the pandemic and a desire to adjust along with demographic changes of the Mexican community within the United States as rationale for the additions and modifications to existing consulates. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council moves forward on urban chickens, EMSA staffing changes [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“Our current tax structure also requires low- and middle-class taxpayers to pay a higher portion of their income than wealthier Oklahomans. These tax policy choices contribute to and perpetuate inequities based on race, ethnicity, gender and location, making it harder for historically marginalized groups to catch up and get ahead. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

— Quote of the Day from OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose on the release of OK Policy’s latest report, “A Better Path Forward,” a comprehensive analysis of Oklahoma’s budget and tax systems. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma is the 5th highest tax state for low-income earners. In addition, Oklahomans carry tax obligations unequally: The lowest 20 percent of earners pay 13.2 percent of their income in taxes, while the top 20 percent (making $89,100 or more) pays just 8.2 percent.

[Source: A Better Path Forward by the Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

A Better Path Forward: A Budget and Tax Roadmap for Oklahoma: During the past two decades, Oklahoma lawmakers have reduced state government spending by 22 percent (adjusted for inflation and population growth). This means that each year our elected officials and policymakers have fewer dollars to answer today’s needs or to invest in our state’s future success — about $2.1 billion fewer last year. With the state’s loss of nearly a quarter of its capacity to support essential services, Oklahomans are not getting the public education, health care, social services, and infrastructure they need. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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