In The Know: AG looking at state officials in pandemic relief fund investigation | Hospital closure in SW Oklahoma town | Capitol Update

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

Proposed bills would ensure high-quality legal representation for children, parents (Capitol Update): To stop the cycle of child deprivation, we depend on the work of child welfare staff and our juvenile court system to make decisions about removal, care, placement, and permanency for these children. Although our juvenile courts arguably offer the best chance for generational change, they are often the most unsupported part of the judicial system. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

‘Far from concluded’: Drummond drops lawsuit but vows accountability on GEER funds: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond dismissed a lawsuit today that his predecessor filed in August against a Florida company over its disbursement of pandemic-era education funds to low-income families. [NonDoc]

  • New Oklahoma AG dismisses lawsuit over misspent pandemic education funds [Tulsa World]
  • AG looking at state officials in his investigation of pandemic relief funds [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma Attorney General: Vendor Not To Blame for Misspent Education Relief Funds [Oklahoma Watch] |[The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma AG Drummond drops lawsuit against vendor, says state actors ‘ultimately responsible’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

How a Southwest Oklahoma Town Lost its Hospital, and is Scrambling to Get it Back: The company managing Clinton Regional Hospital pulled out in December, closing the facility and local clinics. Almost 200 staff were left without a job and the southwest Oklahoma town’s most vulnerable citizens are scrambling for health care. [Oklahoma Watch]

Placeholders or hidden legislation? Oklahoma lawmakers file hundreds of ’empty’ bills in 2023: Among the hundreds of bills filed this year by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, you’ll find the School Safety Act of 2023, as well as the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Act, and the Education Act of 2023. The names allude to significant public policy, but closer inspection shows they are among hundreds of proposed laws filed every year before the state’s legislative session that do absolutely nothing. [The Oklahoman]

  • Leslie Osborne: Sound government policies shouldn’t driven by fodder of national talking points [Guest Column / Oklahoman]

State Government News

Attorney and transgender ally fired by Ryan Walters’ administration without citing cause: An attorney known for her support of transgender people and objections to the state’s rulemaking on classroom race and gender discussions was fired last week from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Assistant general counsel Lori Murphy worked at the agency for eight and a half years. [The Oklahoman]

Lawmaker seeks to clarify Oklahoma’s abortion ban: State Senator Julie Daniels, R-District 29, hopes the specific language in Senate Bill 834 would make it crystal clear what is and what isn’t considered a legal abortion in Oklahoma. [KFOR]

State senator files bill that would make some nonprofit hospitals exempt from sales tax: Senate Bill 304 would make organizations operating in buildings owned by a county or local government in counties with less than 100,000 people eligible for the tax exemption. [News on 6]

Bill would give Oklahoma towns more control over marijuana grow sites: A Republican lawmaker from Ponca City has proposed legislation to give municipalities more control over where medical marijuana growers might be allowed to set up operations. [Journal Record]

McGirt ruling factoring into control of Oklahoma mining: Attorney General Gentner Drummond has asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to consider a federal judge’s decision in November ruling that the U.S. Department of the Interior has the power to take over regulation of mining in Oklahoma. [Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs letter opposing new Waters of the United States rule: The new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule is based on how the EPA applied the Clean Water Act before 2015. Half of the country’s governors signed the letter opposing this rule change, saying it would make the Clean Water Act’s protections too broad and burden private landowners. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation to offer free tax preparation service beginning Feb. 1: Beginning Feb. 1, the Cherokee Nation will offer its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to help eligible families prepare to file their 2022 state and federal income tax forms for free. [Claremore Daily Progress]

Voting and Election News

How Oklahoma Lawmakers Seek to Change Elections and Ballot Initiatives: With the 2024 presidential election cycle on the horizon, Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced more than 90 election and voting bills ahead of the upcoming legislative session. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

OKC possible location for new state mental hospital: State mental health officials want to start the planning and design phase of a $137 million psychiatric hospital next month, but first they must commit to the location. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Why an Oklahoma City man is suing the police chief, other officers after 5 traffic stops: A man who has been stopped by Oklahoma City police officers five times since November and says he was placed in handcuffs twice — once at gunpoint — is suing the agency’s chief and involved officers for violating his civil rights. [The Oklahoman]

‘I just want him to stop’: Year-long investigation lingers against Edmond deputy police chief: For more than 12 months, a 33-year veteran of the Edmond Police Department who serves as a deputy chief of police has been under investigation for allegations a fellow officer made regarding racism, sexism and workplace bullying. [NonDoc]

Economy & Business News

Soaring natural gas prices expected to fall in 2023: Oklahomans are facing the highest natural gas prices they’ve ever encountered – but the worst might be just about over, as natural gas prices are predicted to fall during 2023. [Journal Record]

Education News

State Superintendent Ryan Walters takes push for state-funded private school students, home-schoolers to rural OK: Newly elected State Superintendent Ryan Walters may be off the campaign trail, but he has only just begun explaining some of his most controversial ideas to public school educators. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa teacher leader responds to state superintendent’s comments on breaking up of TPS: Speaking in Atoka on Monday, The Tulsa World reported State Superintendent Ryan Walters floated a proposal that TPS should be broken up into smaller districts to improve performance. Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President Shawna Mott-Wright said breaking up TPS is “the dumbest idea ever” because it begs the question of how already stretched finances would be fairly allocated. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘It’s gonna take some time’: Oklahoma school districts fight pandemic learning loss: In October, the U.S. Department of Education released The Nation’s Report Card based on fourth- and eighth-grade students’ 2022 scores on reading and math tests that had been administered for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most states saw declines in scores compared to 2019, Oklahoma’s report card reflected even further deviations below the national average. [NonDoc]

General News

Sue Ann Arnall: Oklahoma City’s unsheltered people are our neighbors, and they need our help: There are leaders in our community and service providers, like Homeless Alliance, City Care and others, who work to provide shelter and services for those who are already homeless. But we also need leaders looking at policies and creating changes to systems that are pushing so many to become homeless. [Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa highway junction awarded $85 million ‘Mega Grant,’ largest in state history [The Oklahoman]
  • State receives $85 million ‘mega grant’ for I-44/U.S. 75 interchange [Tulsa World]
  • Mayor mum on whether changes coming to Engineering Services, other city departments [Tulsa World]
  • OKC Ward 6 Picks: JoBeth Hamon, Marek Cornett to debate [NonDoc]
  • Southside Showdown: OKC Ward 5 debate set for Feb. 2 [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“After a thorough review of this matter, I have concluded that the lawsuit filed by the previous attorney general is almost wholly without merit. It is clear that a number of state actors and other individuals are ultimately responsible for millions in misspent federal relief dollars.”

-Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, announcing the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by his predesssor against a Florida company over its disbursement of pandemic-era education funds to low-income families. [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who identified as Black or African American alone or in combination, according to the 2020 Census. Four counties — Adair, Beaver, Harper, Cimarron — had fewer than 1% of residents identify as Black alone or in combination. [U.S. Census]

Policy Note

Black History Month Theme 2023: Black Resistance: African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction. [Association for the Study of African American Life and History]

Note: February is Black History Month.

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.

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