In The Know: A look at upcoming session | Supreme Court to hear Glossip case | Judge disqualified on religious charter school case | Independents are Oklahoma’s fastest growing political group

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.

State Government News

Tax relief proposals, education measures headline filings for 2024 legislative session: The 2,226 bills and joint resolutions filed by Thursday’s deadline for the regular legislative session that begins Feb. 5 include the usual number apparently intended mainly to get attention or make a statement. Larger and more consequential, though, is the share dealing with the large and small details of running state government. [Tulsa World]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt won’t consider state employee pay hike until Oklahoma lawmakers pass a tax cut [Oklahoma Voice]

What to watch for during Oklahoma’s 2024 legislative session: The first Monday in February marks the beginning of the Oklahoma legislative session. And Oklahoma lawmakers are gearing up to consider thousands of bills. [KOSU]

Bill would strengthen communication between governor and line of succession: After not knowing he was acting governor in the aftermath of a devastating storm that hit Tulsa last summer, Oklahoma’s Senate President Pro Tem has filed a bill that would require the governor to notify his chain of command when they leave the state.[Public Radio Tulsa]

Ryan Walters’s yearlong feud with a lawmaker might have thawed. What changed?: After almost a year of growing tension, state Rep. Mark McBride and state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters surprised many at the Capitol last week when suddenly they were making nice. [The Oklahoman]

ACLU Oklahoma seeks reversal of ban on transgender youth care: On Wednesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO heard opening arguments. The lawsuit was originally filed by the ACLU on May 2, 2023, only one day after it was signed into law. However, lower courts have previously dismissed the case. This prompted the ACLU to appeal the dismissal in the Court of Appeals. [The Black Wall Street Times]

How former DHS Director Justin Brown helped transform foster care in Oklahoma: In the next two years, it’s possible that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services may ask a court to be released from a foster care improvement plan due to meeting all its goals. Credit for that transformation is going to former DHS Director Justin Brown. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Call for special session gets cool reception: Governor Kevin Stitt wants legislators to convene a special session to cut the state’s income tax rate before the regular legislative session begins on February 5. [KGOU]

Opinion: Pointless special session calls raise serious questions about time management, priorities: This marks Oklahoma’s 8th special session call since the start of 2020. That we need so many special sessions is beyond ridiculous for a Legislature that already has four months every year to get state business done. Yet, here we go again. Stitt has ordered legislators back into special session to consider a personal income tax cut. This time, legislators must return a week before the regular session begins. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Fellow Republicans attack Lankford over border security negotiations: Immigration hardliners and Trump loyalists are after U.S. Sen. James Lankford after an anti-immigration organization published what it says were details of a border security agreement being negotiated by Lankford and two other senators. Lankford has said the reports are not accurate and that no final agreement has been reached. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

‘Healthy and positive’: Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation sign new tobacco, vehicle compacts: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby signed compact agreements on tobacco taxation and motor vehicle registration earlier this month, culminating nearly a year’s worth of negotiations that included personal emails, meetings between representatives and a summer saga of temporary legislative extensions and veto overrides. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma governor, Chickasaw Nation reach tobacco tax, car tag agreement [The Oklahoman]

Low turnout causes Cheyenne and Arapaho constitutional amendments to fail: Three proposed constitutional amendments failed Thursday after only 11.3 percent of Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes voters mailed back ballots for the proposals, which would have broadened the candidate base for executive and legislative offices. [NonDoc]

Voting and Election News

Independents are Oklahoma’s fastest growing voter block. What does that mean for Republicans?: Unaffiliated voters are the fastest-growing large voting block in Oklahoma, according to the latest statistics released by the Oklahoma State Election Board. Nearly one of every five Oklahoma voters registered as an independent. Four years ago, independents made up just 15% of voters — now it’s just shy of 19%. [The Oklahoman]

  • Political notebook: Oklahoma GOP widens voter registration lead [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers File Dozens of Election and Voting Bills: With the 2024 presidential election less than 10 months out, Oklahoma Watch evaluated bills that seek to change what ends up on the ballot and how, when and where you can vote. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

Oklahoma agency launches campaign to promote safer opioid, prescription drug management: The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services [ODMHSAS] is launching a new initiative to educate how to safely use, store and dispose of opioids and other prescription meds. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

US Supreme Court will hear death row inmate Richard Glossip’s retrial case: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear death row inmate Richard Glossip’s newest complaints about his 2004 retrial. The decision means his execution will remain on hold. [The Oklahoman]

  • Supreme Court to Hear Case of Oklahoma Death Row Inmate [New York Times]

‘Infuriated’: Boy’s attorneys speak after Behenna drops murder charge in Choctaw game shooting: When Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna dismissed the case against Dayvion Hamilton on Friday, his attorneys felt relief for the young man who had been charged as an adult, detained four months while unable to pay a $10 million bond, and proverbially convicted in the court of social media. [NonDoc]

Five Criminal Justice Bills to Watch in 2024: Proposals to mandate pretrial data collection, crack down on domestic abuse and expand expungement eligibility are among the criminal justice bills eligible to be considered during the 2024 regular legislative session. [Oklahoma Watch]

Listen Frontier: Reporter Ashlynd Huffman talks about her story on Oklahoma’s anti-red flag law (audio): Tara Currin’s ex-boyfriend, Robert Lee Harrison Jr., showed up at her job with a gun and shot her eight times in March 2022, even though he was legally barred from having firearms. [The Frontier]

An Atheist Chaplain and a Death Row Inmate’s Final Hours: Devin Moss spent a year ministering to convicted killer Phillip Hancock. Together, they wrestled with one question: How to face death without God. [New York Times]

Opinion: Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ primary goal should be rehabilitation: Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board held an open meeting on Jan. 8 to consider stricter guidelines for commutations, which means prisoners may soon find themselves grasping at straws to seek reductions for harsh prison sentences. [Tony Green / The Oklahoman]

Education News

In Catholic charter school case, judge disqualified: After a short hearing Friday, the Oklahoma County District Court chief judge for the month of January disqualified the judge presiding over a lawsuit seeking to block a Catholic charter school. [NonDoc]

  • Judge disqualified in lawsuit against launching Oklahoma’s first religious charter school [The Oklahoman]
  • Judge disqualified from Oklahoma Catholic charter school case [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma sets new record for emergency certified teachers: Oklahoma has set a new record this school year for issuing emergency teaching certifications, a sign the state’s teacher shortage has progressed. The state issued a new all-time high of 4,676 emergency certifications from June through December, representing teaching hires for the 2023-24 school year. The previous record was set last school year with 4,574. [Oklahoma Voice]

How many graduates of Oklahoma colleges are staying here and working? More than you think: More than three-fourths of graduates from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are employed in Oklahoma five years after graduation, according to the most recent Employment Outcomes report prepared by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. [The Oklahoman]

Lack of career counseling hinders workforce development, study finds: A shortage of school academic guidance counselors is one of the reasons Oklahoma has been unable to meet employers’ workforce needs, a report released last week says. [Tulsa World]

New minor based on Indigenous trauma studies offered at TU: The University of Tulsa has created a new trauma studies minor that explores historical trauma effects and treatments based on an Indigenous psychologist’s theories. [Tulsa World]

Can another use for OKC’s Capitol Hill High School building be found before new school is built?: The Oklahoma City school district is locked into plans to build a new home for Capitol Hill High School, but the project does not, currently, include a plan or funding to destroy the school’s historic building on the same campus. [The Oklahoman]

General News

How Emeka Nnaka is bringing hope and a future to ‘forgotten’ kids | Faces of Hope: Emeka Nnaka’s story — of how he rebuilt his life after a paralyzing football injury — is tailor-made to motivate, and for several years now the Tulsan has been sharing it with audiences around the country. [Tulsa World]

Black History Saturdays back for another year in North Tulsa: Black History Saturdays returns to Tulsa for a second year after making national waves. Launched during Black History Month last year, the classes offer the community an opportunity to immerse themselves in the kind of history and contributions from Black Americans and the African diaspora that they can’t find in public schools. [The Black Wall Street Times]

OKC’s David Holt, US mayors announce international diplomatic initiative with coalition: Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt is helping lead a bipartisan coalition of American mayors and global leaders in raising awareness of international diplomacy’s effect on local communities, officials announced this week. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • New TIF district to fund infrastructure for Broken Arrow amphitheater project [Tulsa World]
  • Audit: Payne County employee spent tax dollars for decades on personal items, including ‘literally the kitchen sink’ [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“It isn’t just the amount of time an offender serves. It’s how the state invests taxpayer dollars during the time we have them in custody.”

-Tony Green, writing in an op-ed about the need to rethink Oklahoma’s corrections system to focus on rehabilitation and restorative justice. [The Oklahoman]  

Number of the Day


In July 2021, 30.4 children received a summer lunch for every 100 children who received a lunch during the 2020–2021 school year. [Food Research & Action Center]

Policy Note

Rural Families with Low Incomes Prefer More Flexible Summer Meal Options: For many children, especially those from families with low incomes, summer vacation comes with a catch—no guaranteed meals at school. Several options exist for children to access food when school is on break, all of which are geared toward reducing food insecurity. However, there is no single solution to summer child hunger, and too often, the debate about which options schools should provide doesn’t consider what options families prefer. [Urban Institute]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.