In The Know: AG sues over religious charter school | Poll: Oklahomans wary of tax cuts | Dark money influencing state elections | 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.

Oklahoma News

AG Drummond Sues Over State Sponsored Religious Charter School: Oklahoma’s attorney general on Friday sued to stop the nation’s first publicly-funded religious charter school. Gentner Drummond filed the petition in the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, seeking to rescind the state’s sponsorship of the school. The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board this week signed a contract with the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to sponsor the school. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma attorney general files lawsuit to overturn Catholic charter school approval [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Drummond files St. Isidore suit; Stitt fills state board, criticizes Sara Hill nomination [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma AG sues state board over virtual Catholic charter school [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma attorney general enters fight against would-be first religious charter school [Tulsa World]

Poll shows concern about tax cuts, dissatisfaction with schools: A majority of Oklahoma voters are concerned that cutting taxes could leave state services vulnerable if the economy weakens, according to a new poll that again shows state voters would prefer a cut in the sales tax on groceries over other options. [The Oklahoman]

A phantom attack ad group surfaces again in an Oklahoma election: Records uncovered by The Frontier show that Common Sense Conservatives LLC is one small piece of a larger, nationwide dark money network that conducts most of its operations out of Ohio, has been involved in numerous federal and state-level campaigns in other states including Oklahoma, and has ties to at least one bogus charity. Outside groups that keep their donors secret have a growing influence on Oklahoma elections. Despite some calls for reform, state lawmakers have yet to take any meaningful action. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Oklahoma Broadband Office flooded with requests to expand internet access: A state office tasked with awarding millions of dollars in federal money to increase access to high-speed internet services has been flooded with applications. The Oklahoma Broadband Office announced companies could apply for $374 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, but applications totaled $5.1 billion in projects, a spokesperson said. [Oklahoma Voice]

Effort to help justice-involved secure employment revived in Oklahoma Legislature: Lawmakers are expected to revise an effort next session to make it easier for people convicted of felonies to get jobs after they have served their time. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt names two new members to state Education Board: Gov. Kevin Stitt has named a school board member from Hammon and the managing partner of an international consulting firm to the State Board of Education. The pair will replace Suzanne Reynolds who resigned earlier this month and Trent Smith, who resigned in May. [The Oklahoman]

Delta-8 THC is unregulated in Oklahoma. State marijuana regulators could change that: Often packaged like candy and displayed prominently at convenience store counters, delta-8 THC products are popular, profitable and, for now, unregulated. [The Oklahoman]

State supreme court refuses to hear compact lawsuit: In a 6-3 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Oct. 16 refused to hear a lawsuit filed by the conservative nonprofit in support of Gov. Kevin Stitt concerning his powers to negotiate compacts with tribal governments within the state. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Officials to break ground on Jim Thorpe building renovations: State officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony Monday to celebrate the start of $70 million in renovations to an 85-year-old state building. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma now requires teens to complete work zone safety course: Oklahoma teens hoping to get behind the wheel now have one extra step in obtaining their driver’s license, according to a new state law. [The Oklahoman]

  • Hefty fines for endangering roadside emergency workers set to take effect in November [Fox 25]

Capitol Insider: Supreme Court to hear tax case that prompted special session: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has set January 17th as the date for oral arguments in Stroble v. Oklahoma Tax Commission, the case that inspired one of the reasons Governor Stitt called for a special session this fall. [KGOU]

Opinion: Now is the time to invest in Oklahoma’s future: $2T in funding is rare opportunity: With nearly $2 trillion in federal funding currently available to boost U.S. innovation, competitiveness and national security over the next decade, now is the time for Oklahoma to fully invest in our future. [Jennifer Hankins / The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern to enter U.S. House speaker race after GOP rejects Jim Jordan: Shortly after a failed floor vote Friday on Jordan’s bid, Republicans held a closed-door meeting where Jordan failed to garner enough votes from his fellow GOP lawmakers to stay in the race as their nominee. Republican Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma told reporters shortly after Jordan’s rejection that he would run. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Kevin Hern says he’s back in House speaker race [Tulsa World]
  • Kevin Hern, of Oklahoma, jumping into race for speaker of the House [The Oklahoman]
  • Members of U.S. House GOP describe threats sparked by votes against Jim Jordan for speaker [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Opinion: Guest: The next speaker must change the narrative of inaction and division [Phil G. Busey Sr. / The Oklahoman]

Stitt critical of former Cherokee Nation AG’s nomination for federal judgeship: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday criticized President Joe Biden’s plan to nominate former Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill to the federal bench. [Tulsa World]

  • President nominates former Cherokee Nation AG as federal judge [Cherokee Phoenix]

Opinion: Strong prevailing wage standards help America’s economy and workers: The trickle-down strategies of the last several decades — defined by tax cuts for the wealthy — didn’t work and led to stagnating incomes for everyone else. [Karla Walter / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Robyn Whitecloud tries to oust Speaker William Lowe from Muscogee Nation Council: Elected speaker of the Muscogee Nation Tribal Council two years ago while only in his first term, William Lowe faces challenger Robyn Whitecloud, who worked nearly 20 years for the Tribal Council, in the Nov. 4 general election for the Okmulgee District’s Seat A. [NonDoc]

‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ brings up historical trauma, but there is mental health help: In anticipation of the release of Killers of the Flower Moon, the Osage Nation’s health care system has set up a hotline for citizens. People may experience past trauma that the movie may bring up. “Trauma is not the end of our story,” a tagline reads along with the hashtag #whazhazheheals on the nation’s website. [KOSU]

  • ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is shining the Hollywood spotlight on the tiny Oklahoma town of Fairfax. Here’s how they’re handling it [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

In HD 39 forum, GOP candidates talk Stitt, state issues: Four Republican candidates for the vacant House District 39 seat in Edmond participated in a candidate forum at the University of Central Oklahoma, where they discussed their platforms and their thoughts about Gov. Kevin Stitt during his five years in office. [NonDoc]

Trump Dominates Early Presidential Fundraising in Oklahoma: Former President Donald Trump has built a significant fundraising advantage among Republican candidates. Oklahoma donors gave $617,565 to Trump’s presidential campaign fund between January 2022 and September 2023, more than three times what any other candidate received. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

Health insurance marketplace opens in state on Nov. 1: The health insurance marketplace in Oklahoma is set to open its doors for the 2024 coverage year on Nov. 1. This marks the first day when individuals and families can enroll in, re-enroll in, or make changes to their health insurance plans. [Tulsa World]

  • From OK Policy: Together OK will host OK Wellness Watch event to help Oklahomans re-enroll in SoonerCare [Learn More]

Criminal Justice News

Woman reports sexual assault while she was unconscious in OKC hospital: An Oklahoma City woman claimed in a police report and lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted while recovering from major surgery at a local hospital. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

‘A defining moment for Tulsa’: City earns ‘Tech Hub’ designation: The federal government has named Tulsa a “Tech Hub” — a designation that opens the door to up to $75 million in federal funding for a local consortium working to establish the region as a global leader in advanced autonomous technologies. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma leads nation in energy sector job losses: While Oklahoma continues to employ more people in the oil and gas industry than any state other than Texas, it has seen the nation’s biggest losses of jobs in the energy sector in recent years, according to a new report from the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. [Journal Record]

Education News

Oklahoma’s second round of federal COVID-era education dollars to be handled with more oversight: After the first round of certain federal COVID-era education funds for Oklahoma ended in chaos, the second round is being handled with significantly more oversight. StateImpact’s Beth Wallis spoke with Oklahoma Watch education reporter Jennifer Palmer to talk through what this new money is being used for, who’s managing it — and who’s not. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Family & Children’s Services CEO retiring after 50 years with the agency she transformed [Tulsa World]
  • Susan Neal to retire as Gilcrease Museum director [Tulsa World]
  • Edmond water bills continue to increase as reported line breaks climb [The Oklahoman]
  • Does Oklahoma County have enough money to build the new jail that it needs? [The Oklahoman]
  • Vinita annexes land for $2B theme park; groundbreaking set for RVs, cabins area [Tulsa World]
  • Eden Village of Tulsa tiny home community to break ground on Thursday [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The board members who approved this contract have violated the religious liberty of every Oklahoman by forcing us to fund the teachings of a specific religious sect with our tax dollars.”

-Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, speaking about his office joining a lawsuit to overturn the state’s approval of the nation’s first religious charter school [Oklahoma Voice

Number of the Day


Oklahoma experienced a 33% decline in oil and gas jobs since August 2019. The state experienced a significantly larger decline in its mining industry — almost completely comprised of oil and gas — than any other state producing both oil and natural gas during that period. Oklahoma’s 33% job loss since 2019 far exceeds the national average of 11%. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

Policy Note

Could religious charter schools upend American education?: The prospect of religious charter schools threatens to upend American education, far beyond Oklahoma. If religious charter schools become a reality, they could rejuvenate religious education, particularly Catholic schools, which have been losing students for many decades. Such schools could continue the successful conservative campaign to allow more public funding to go to religious education. They could lead to fewer students, and thus less funding, for public schools. Charters of all types could be deemed private schools for legal purposes, reducing anti-discrimination protections for students and teachers. [Chalkbeat]

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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.

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