In The Know: A deeper look at subpoena of state superintendent | Sports betting bill faces pushback over tribal gaming rights | Media literacy needed now more than ever

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: Media literacy needed now more than ever: Media literacy is our ability to detect, analyze, and evaluate the messages we receive from mass media, including social media, TV, ads, music, and more. At its core, media literacy requires us to think critically about the information we receive. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

State Government News

New Oklahoma sports betting bill faces pushback over lack of exclusive tribal gaming rights: Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, filed Senate Bill 1434 to legalize sports betting and allow anyone who can afford upfront and annual fees to launch an online sportsbook operation. [Oklahoma Voice]

A deeper look into why lawmakers issued subpoena to Superintendent Ryan Walters: House lawmakers signed a subpoena on Tuesday asking State Superintendent Ryan Walters for previously requested details about a claim by Walters of 950 out-of-state teachers applying for Oklahoma, details about school districts that aren’t performing “at grade level” and what Walters and the agency are doing to support those districts and information about a $2 million software purchase and how the department might be utilizing the software. [The Oklahoman]

  • Fox 25 Town Hall at Center of State Superintendent Ryan Walters subpoena [Fox 25]
  • ‘I’m going to hold his feet to the fire for one more year’: Oklahoma lawmaker subpoenas answers from Supt. Walters [Fox 25]
  • $2 million contract, teacher hires questioned in subpoena of state school chief [The Center Square]
  • Subpoena is just the latest in tensions between Ryan Walters, Oklahoma lawmakers [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma lawmakers subpoena State Superintendent Ryan Walters after repeated information requests went ignored [KOSU]

Bill should clarify veterans’ tax-exempt status: A local disabled veteran did not know his sales tax-exempt card had expired, and when he sent in the paperwork to renew it, he was informed he was not eligible due to not registering before the deadline. But a bill introduced for the Senate spring session removes that requirement. [Duncan Banner]

Lawton-area state senator Dusty Deevers takes office: Republican Dusty Deevers, of Elgin, was sworn in to represent Senate District 32 in Comanche County on Wednesday. Deevers is a self-proclaimed abortion abolitionist. He has vowed to support legislation introduced by Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, that would allow prosecutors to charge women who undergo an abortion. [Oklahoma Voice]

Health News

Family of Oklahoma child poisoned by fruit pouch fears lasting impacts:  Morgan Shurtleff learned that puree bought at a Dollar Tree store might have been the cause of her daughter’s lead poisoning. FDA officials have raised the prospect that the contamination was intentional. One possibility is that the cinnamon was contaminated for economic reasons, the agency said. [AP via Tulsa World]

Life expectancy is dropping across the US. How long can Oklahoma residents expect to live?: Oklahoma ranked 44th overall in life expectancy among the 50 states and D.C. at 74.1 years. Hawaii leads the country for life expectancy for both males and females. On the bottom is Mississippi. [The Oklahoman]

OU Health receives federal grant to support telemedicine for rural stroke patients: OU Health received $861,190 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support telemedicine for stroke care in rural communities. The grant will help OU Health providers connect with 23 hospitals in rural counties through telemedicine equipment. [KGOU]

OU Health researchers receive millions in grants to study endometrial cancer: The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is receiving $11.6 million from the National Cancer Institute to fund research on endometrial cancer. Uterine cancers are the fifth most diagnosed cancer and the eighth highest cause of cancer deaths among Oklahoma women. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma man declared innocent after serving nearly 50 years in prison: After his case was dismissed in September, Glynn Simmons has now been formally exonerated. He is the longest-serving exonerated man in United States history. [KGOU]

OKC’s network of surveillance cameras help police identify suspected killers: Three Guymon residents have been charged with first-degree murder after a police investigation identified and tracked their getaway vehicle with the help of surveillance cameras. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Nearly 200 eviction cases are set to be heard in Oklahoma County on Thursday: Nearly 200 eviction cases are set to be heard in Oklahoma County on Thursday. Now, advocates and some state lawmakers want to give people more time before they are thrown out of their homes. Lawmakers said Oklahoma has one of the shortest windows when it comes to eviction cases. [KOCO]

National group says new Shawnee ordinance won’t solve anything in the city: After Shawnee passed an ordinance to fine people sitting or lying down on public streets and sidewalks in their downtown area, a national group said it wouldn’t solve anything in the city. The National Homeless Law Center said homeless people in Shawnee don’t have enough places to go, and the main priority should be housing options. [KOCO]

  • Edmond, OKC women come together to show love to people facing homelessness [KOCO]

Opinion: Tulsa Girls’ Home providing room for traumatized girls to find resilience, love and hope: Amid the heartening stories of resilience, it’s crucial to acknowledge the harsh realities faced by girls in Oklahoma’s foster care system. According to recent statistics, over 6,500 children are navigating the complexities of the foster care system in Oklahoma, with half of them falling within the vulnerable age group of 6 to 17. Among these girls, concerns grow exponentially for those aging out of the system without finding a family. [Brittany Stokes / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Employers prefer older workers, survey says: Nearly 40% of U.S. employers avoid hiring recent college graduates for positions they are eligible for in favor of older candidates, a new survey reveals. Conversely, new graduates of Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are not struggling to be hired. The 2022 Employment Outcomes report issued by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education shows 86% of state-system graduates are working in the state one year after graduation. [Journal Record]

OKC COVID -19 economic recovery among the best in the nation behind Las Vegas: Downtown Oklahoma City is among the resilient in North America, overcoming pandemic shutdowns of offices, restaurants, hotels and concert venues that continue to cripple some of the country’s largest cities, according to the Brookings Institute. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Flagship public universities likely to cut more humanities, staff — especially in rural states: Many public colleges nationwide have begun cutting back on the humanities. Reductions are only expected to grow across the country, particularly in rural areas where campus budgets are lower, enrollments are more likely to be falling, and where the pressure for career-oriented majors may be greater. But critics argue that such changes in emphasis will sap states of intellectual firepower, leaving them with fewer leaders and citizens who are well-rounded [Oklahoma Voice]

State Department of Education holds final meeting of the year to discuss accreditation process: The State Board of Education meets for the final time this year today. The agenda includes another discussion about State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ proposal to change accreditation rules, among other things. [News9]

  • Oklahoma education leaders to vote on whether to block gender changes to school records from previous years [KOCO]

Students are reading through the winter break: More than 300 elementary school students have signed up for Tulsa Public Schools free literacy tutoring program. The three-hour tutoring sessions are offered at five sites throughout the city during winter break. [Tulsa World]

General News

‘Stirs the pot.’ Oklahoma Catholic leaders react to pope’s decision on same-sex blessings: One of Oklahoma’s top Catholic leaders said people may confuse Pope Francis’ decision allowing priests to offer blessings for same-sex couples with the pope giving the OK for priests to officiate at same-sex weddings. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • TU names inaugural head of Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute [Tulsa World]
  • Susan Bynum selected as new OU-Tulsa vice president [Tulsa World]
  • Meet the 2023 Tulsans of the Year: These people pushed to make Tulsa a better place [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Where taxpayer money is concerned we must be diligent. The time for playing political games is over, and the time for answers is at hand.”

-Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, who chairs the House education budget subcommittee, writing in a statement about the House subpoena for State Superintendent Ryan Walters. House members have been seeking records from the State Department of Education. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The number of states, including Oklahoma, that will still keep the federal minimum wage of $7.25 as of January 2024. On Jan. 1, 22 states are increasing minimum wage above the federal rate. [Axios]

Policy Note

The value of the federal minimum wage is at its lowest point in 66 years (2022): The value of the federal minimum wage has reached its lowest point in 66 years, according to an EPI analysis of recently released Consumer Price Index (CPI) data. Accounting for price increases in June, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is now worth less than at any point since February 1956. At that time, the federal minimum wage was 75 cents per hour, or $7.19 in June 2022 dollars. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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.