In The Know: As session winds down, budget plan remains elusive | Legislature has history of passing unconstitutional laws | 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

New law seeks to improve health education in schools (Capitol Update): Despite all the hoopla this session over the many politically charged bills dealing with wedge issues, there has been some truly positive legislation passed by thoughtful legislators. One of those signed by Gov. Stitt last week is Senate Bill 89, to be known as the “Health Education Act,” by Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, and Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Op-ed: Follow through on SQ 781 by funding treatment and rehabilitation services: Oklahoma has made remarkable progress to reduce our incarceration rate in recent years. Reforms through the ballot box, reforms by the Legislature and administrative efforts have contributed to a consistent decline in our prison population and a reduction in felony charges across the state. In 2016, Oklahoma voters approved two of the biggest criminal justice reform measures in state history: SQ 780 and SQ 781. [Ryan Gentzler / NonDoc]

Oklahoma News

Capitol Watch: With less than a month left, Legislature’s budget plan remains elusive: Welcome to the final stretch. Oklahoma lawmakers now have less than one month before they must finish their business and close out the session. But one of the most important measures of the session still hasn’t seen the light of day. Lawmakers have yet to unveil the state’s multi-billion dollar budget bill that will decide how much state agencies have to spend in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Oklahoma Policy Institute pointed out in a post this week that Oklahoma is one of only five states that haven’t introduced a budget yet this year. And unlike in many other states, Oklahoma rarely allows much discussion or public debate once it is released. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy: Oklahomans deserve budget transparency.

Oklahoma’s Legislature has a history of passing unconstitutional laws: Oklahoma laws on worker’s compensation, trains stopped on the tracks, liquor distribution and medication abortions all have something in common. Local state and federal courts have found these laws, crafted by Oklahoma’s Legislature, are partially or wholly unconstitutional, although some of the rulings are still under appeal. The Oklahoma Legislature has a history of passing bills that are later struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. [The Oklahoman]

Nearly 200 Oklahoma school districts suing state Education Board over charter school settlement: More than 180 Oklahoma school districts have joined a lawsuit fighting a surprise settlement that opened local tax dollars to charter schools. The Oklahoma State Board of Education shocked the state’s education sphere on March 25 when it unexpectedly settled a 2017 lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association. The board agreed to allow charter schools and virtual charter schools to tap into local tax revenue, which was previously reserved for traditional school districts. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Oklahoma Senate Bill 334 would reverse the moment of criminal justice reform: Senate Bill 334 attacks the momentum of criminal justice reform in Oklahoma and the spirit of the voter-approved State Question 780. In 2016, Oklahoma voters passed SQ 780, which raised the minimum limit on property crimes from $500 to $1,000 and made simple drug crimes misdemeanors. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Health News

Local health care professionals push back on managed care for Medicaid: With Medicaid expansion set to begin later this year, Oklahoma’s path to join other states that use managed care for Medicaid patients has encountered a new hurdle. Southern Oklahoma health care providers are speaking out against the measure and warn that a plan to outsource the state’s Medicaid management won’t address Oklahoma’s current needs. Doctors, dentists and behavioral health professionals in Ardmore on Friday instead urged support for an alternative plan currently working through the state legislature that would keep Medicaid administration with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, including potential managed care. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Mask mandates ending in Oklahoma’s two largest cities: Mask mandates intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus are ending in Oklahoma’s two largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The requirement ended Friday in Oklahoma City and comes to an end Saturday in Tulsa, although the mandate continues at places such as city offices in both cities. [AP News] Despite abundant vaccine supply, only about a quarter of Oklahoma adults have completed their vaccine series. [KGOU]

  • Mayor, health officials mark ‘new chapter’ of COVID-19 response as mask ordinance expires [The Oklahoman]
  • Unmasking an ordinance: Tulsa businesses weigh in on elimination of COVID-prompted mandate [Tulsa World]
  • Over 110,000 people are late for second COVID-19 vaccine dose in Oklahoma, officials say [The Oklahoman]
  • Doctors Hope Shifting COVID Vaccination To Their Offices Helps Boost Effort [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Mapped by ZIP Code [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Despite tribal funding, Stitt questions I-35 flyover ramp to Riverwind Casino parking lot: The original agreement for improvements to a State Highway 9 and Interstate 35 interchange included construction of a flyover ramp from I-35 to a new roundabout that would connect to the Chickasaw Nation’s Riverwind Casino parking lot, a document obtained from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation shows. That component of the now-delayed interchange redesign has been criticized by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration as a “pet project,” despite the Chickasaw Nation’s commitment of $10 million of the total $17 million estimated cost. [NonDoc] Transportation Commissioner T.W. Shannon wants Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter to determine what role Gov. Kevin Stitt has in determining which highway projects will proceed. A request for an opinion and a resolution saying the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s 8-year plan should be free from political influence are agenda items on the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday meeting agenda. [Tulsa World]

Oklahomans are stuck with a $4.5 billion bill after February’s winter storm. Here’s why: You can pay me now or pay me later for the energy you use. That’s the message being sent by power providers seeking to recover nearly $4.5 billion from Oklahoma customers for costs related to February’s winter storm. And despite objections from members of the community and some state legislators, Oklahomans ultimately are going to have to foot the bill. [The Oklahoman]

Senate approves Stitt’s executive nominations: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday approved the nomination of Tricia L. Everest of Oklahoma City to serve as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of public safety. She replaces Chip Keating in the position. After her confirmation, Everest submitted a letter to Oklahoma County’s commissioners resigning as chair and trustee of the Oklahoma County jail trust. [The Oklahoman]

Op-ed: Oklahoma bill preventing race, gender trainings holds Oklahoma back: This year marks the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the many dark stains on Oklahoma’s past. Instead of using this moment to tell the truth and confront a painful history, our lawmakers are advancing legislation that stifles honest conversation in our education systems. HB1775 would keep our children and college students from seeing the full picture of our history. [Bailey Perkins / The Oklahoman]

Op-ed: On efforts to seat more women on public boards and commissions: Although women represent half of the U.S. population, labor force and businesses, we are underrepresented in rooms where decisions are being made, including public appointed positions where women’s voices desperately need to be heard. [Erika Lucas / The Oklahoman]

Activists, ACLU vow to challenge bill protecting motorists who hurt or kill rioters: Last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 1674 from Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, and Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore. The bill shields drivers from criminal or civil liability if they injure or kill someone while fearful for their life and attempting to “flee a riot.” State law defines a riot as three or more people acting violently or using force after threatening to do so. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Former Oklahoma governor criticizes anti-protest bill [AP News

Capitol Insider: Polarizing bills highlight week at the capitol: It was that kind of week at the state Capitol. It was a week when a state senator was called out on the Senate floor by the chaplain during an opening prayer for derogatory comments the senator made against the Vice President of the United States – suggesting, without evidence, that she traded sexual favors for political advancement. The comments drew considerable backlash and prompted an unusual legislative executive session to discuss possible action on the matter. And, that was not necessarily the biggest story of the week. [KGOU]

Editorial: Faces and heels: WWE metaphors, doppelgängers for the 2021 Oklahoma Legislature: The 2021 Oklahoma Legislature has turned into one hell of a theatrical Royal Rumble, at least among members of House and Senate leadership. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-OKC, are feuding over federalism, while budget chairpersons Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, and Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, have seen their relationship become over-exposed on film … or at least the state’s film industry rebate program. [Tres Savage / NonDoc]

Implementation deadline for state’s marijuana seed-to-sale tracking program pushed to summer amid court battle​: The state of Oklahoma’s contract with a Florida-based cannabis “seed-to-sale” tracking company could change after an Okmulgee County judge signed an order that temporarily stops enforcement of a requirement that businesses fully integrate with the platform. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Update: Where $63 million in federal relief aid for private schools went in Oklahoma: Private schools across Oklahoma have qualified for more than $63 million in federal relief aid, the latest data shows. Last week, Stitt’s office fulfilled a request by Oklahoma Watch made Jan. 26 for enrollment at the nearly 100 private schools in that program. A combined 28,000 students attended these schools this year, the data shows. That figure includes all students at most, but not all, private schools across Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Watch]

‘This is the moment’: Tiffany Crutcher meets with other families of victims of police violence in D.C., urging legislators to pass reform bill: Tiffany Crutcher, a Tulsa native, spent the latter portion of last week in Washington, D.C., alongside others with family members who were killed by police, meeting with White House officials and legislators, urging the leaders to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act’s passage. [Tulsa World]

US Senators introduce Native American language bill named for Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling: The chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Thursday introduced a piece of legislation meant to help with Native American language preservation efforts, named for late Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Black Freedmen struggle for recognition as tribal citizens: As the U.S. faces a reckoning over its history of racism, some Native American tribal nations that once owned slaves also are grappling with their own mistreatment of Black people. When Native American tribes were forced from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern United States to what is now Oklahoma in the 1800s — known as the Trail of Tears — thousands of Black slaves owned by tribal members also were removed and forced to provide manual labor along the way. Once in Oklahoma, slaves often toiled on plantation-style farms or were servants in tribal members’ homes. [AP News]

Forum highlights at-large candidates for Cherokee Nation Tribal Council: Ideas about issues facing the Cherokee Nation and its citizens were the focus of a candidate forum hosted by the Central Oklahoma Cherokee Alliance on Thursday night. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma City police investigate video of officer shoving, arresting Black man: Oklahoma City police released body-worn camera video Friday of a Thursday encounter that ended with a Black man being shoved by an officer to the pavement and arrested. The incident first was disclosed in a 27-second video dated Thursday and posted on a channel, The Junkyard News. The view in that video is from across the street. [The Oklahoman]

Tricia Everest resigns as chair of Oklahoma County Jail Trust: Tricia Everest, founding chair of the Oklahoma County Jail Trust, has resigned effective Friday, April 30. The short resignation letter cited her confirmation as the Secretary of Public Safety with the State of Oklahoma as the reason. Below is the whole of her resignation letter. [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

Op-ed: We need a holistic approach to rebuild Oklahoma’s economy: When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Oklahoma in the spring of 2020, we couldn’t have known the toll it would take on Oklahomans, our economy and our local businesses. It was devastating to watch our neighbors shut down their storefronts and to see our friends and family members lose their jobs. Now, over a year since the pandemic began, how does our state continue to build and foster an even stronger economy? [Shelley Zumwalt and Jennifer Grigsby / The Oklahoman]

Attorneys ask court for $1.3 million in fees in OKC panhandling challenge: Attorneys who won a free-speech challenge to the city of Oklahoma City’s 2015 panhandling ordinance are seeking $1.3 million in fees for legal work conducted throughout five years of “hard-fought” litigation. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Mandatory vaccinations not likely for returning students, OSU’s incoming president says: Students returning to Oklahoma State University for in-person classes this fall most likely won’t be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the university’s incoming president said. [The Oklahoman]

Here’s a look at how Proposition 1 of TPS’ upcoming bond package would fix up aging facilities: Proposition 1 would allocate $166,755,000 for the district’s buildings, including $14.7 million for accessibility upgrades under the Americans with Disabilities Act, $30.5 million for security upgrades across TPS facilities, $7.5 million for new furniture, $8 million for maintenance and repairs and $15.6 million for roofing costs, including complete replacements at 17 sites. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Noise in Nichols Hills — marchers take the rattle of protest to the elites [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“It’s bad for the state. It costs us money. It costs us reputation, and whatever we tried to accomplish with that bill, is not going to be accomplished.”

-Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, speaking about unconstitutional legislation considered — and passed — by Oklahoma lawmakers [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


The percentage of statewide criminal court debt collected through fines and fees in a given year. The majority of court debt goes uncollected ever year, revealing a deeply inefficient collections system.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

It’s Time to Reject Fines and Fees as a Solution to Budget Problems: The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the budgets of many cities, counties and states into disarray. City revenues, for example, are down about 13% on average, even as costs have soared. Now policymakers must choose how to respond. The last recession provides an important lesson: Don’t try to solve budget problems on the backs of the people who can least afford it. [Route Fifty]

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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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