In The Know: Behind the ‘grassroots’ movement for Oklahoma school vouchers | Are utilities ready for next winter storm | DEI training in higher ed

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

Column: A better Oklahoma tomorrow requires action today: Oklahoma can be a state where we all have the opportunity and resources to be healthy, live in safe communities and raise thriving families. More than just aspirational talking points, this vision where everyone shares the prosperity of a better Oklahoma is attainable. Achieving it will take deliberate policy actions that prioritize the well-being of our people over politics and ideology. [Shiloh Kantz Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma News

Behind the ‘grassroots’ movement for Oklahoma school vouchers:  Over the last several months, a group calling itself the “Oklahoma Education Reform Coalition” has held an out-of-state planning retreat along with monthly meetings, developed a detailed communications strategy, and worked to gain support among various parent support groups, all in the hopes of getting lawmakers to allow private schools to receive tax dollars, according to dozens of emails, meeting notes and presentation slides obtained by The Oklahoman. [The Oklahoman]

Walters: Oklahoma colleges to spend over $10M on diversity concerning: Oklahoma higher education institutions expect to spend nearly $10.2 million this academic year on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, with $3.4 million of that coming from state funds. The $10.2 million, most of which comes from federal funding and some private donations, dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion programs will cost only three-tenths of 1% of all higher education spending, according to a report from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, which the Tulsa World first reported. [The Oklahoman]

  • Higher Ed Regents detail spending, activities on diversity, equity and inclusion at Walters’ request [Tulsa World]

Are Oklahoma’s Utilities Ready for the Next Major Winter Storm?: It’s been almost two years since a massive winter storm blanketed the central United States with record low temperatures that caused hardship for customers across Oklahoma’s utility and natural gas systems. That extreme weather has pushed energy bills higher as regulated utilities passed billions of dollars from record natural gas prices on to consumers. [Oklahoma Watch] |[News9]

Federal Government News

Biden administration unveils ‘Renters Bill of Rights,’ but what exactly does it include?: The White House recently released a “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights” in an effort it says will “increase fairness in the rental market.” With nearly 35% of the U.S. population living in rental housing, according to the Biden administration, the Blueprint lays out a set of principles to drive action by the federal government, state and local partners, and the private sector to strengthen tenant protections and encourage rental affordability. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Can Oklahoma tax tribal citizens on reservations? Judge dismisses case before deciding: A U.S. district court judge dismissed a lawsuit this week that challenged Oklahoma’s right to tax tribal citizens on tribal reservations. Federal courts can’t hear tax appeals that can be addressed through a state court system, Judge Eric Melgren ruled. [The Oklahoman]

  • Court strikes down challenge by Choctaw Nation couple to be exempt from state income tax [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

Showdown is on as Oklahoma nears Mar. 7 recreational marijuana vote: The showdown is on as groups argue both for and against the legalization of recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. On Mar. 7, voters will decide whether or not SQ 820 advances. The measure would legalize recreational cannabis use — and usher in a slew of regulations surrounding the industry. [Fox 25]

  • Feb. 10 is the deadline to register for the March 7 special election on SQ 82; Feb. 20 is the deadline to request an absentee ballot. [Oklahoma Election Board]

Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating to lead campaign against recreational marijuana: The campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Oklahoma — relatively quiet thus far — is beginning to heat up. On Thursday, supporters of legalization released figures asserting that approving recreational marijuana in the March 7 vote for State Question 820 could boost state tax revenue by $434 million in the first five years. [The Oklahoman]

Mullin taps special interests to help with campaign debt; Stitt reports reelection spending: Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin has tapped special interest groups and lobbyists to help him retire more than $1.2 million in campaign debt, according to a report filed this week that shows the new senator’s campaign account was down to $55,000. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

StateImpact talks with Secretary of Health Kevin Corbett about Oklahoma’s pivot to managed Medicaid: Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, is on its way to profound change. StateImpact talked with its director, Secretary of Health Kevin Corbett, this week about the transition to managed care. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Criminal Justice News

Police chief: OKCPD told not to stop someone solely because they’re on terrorism watchlist: In an affidavit filed Wednesday, Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley said the department provided that training to officers in the agency’s Springlake, Southwest and Hefner Divisions on Jan. 13. [The Oklahoman]

  • OKCPD chief to officers: More cause needed to stop motorists than just terror watch list [NonDoc]

Economy & Business News

Chambers defend rights of businesses to prohibit guns: While the State Chamber, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Tulsa Regional Chamber are all supportive of the Second Amendment and of gun owner rights, they’re also supportive of businesses in Oklahoma that choose to prohibit guns. The chambers also support policies adopted by colleges and other academic institutions in Oklahoma that prohibit firearms on campuses. [Journal Record]

Education News

Column: State’s school board members report having similar public ed needs: Last fall, I asked school board members across the state about their biggest concerns and the biggest challenges facing their districts. Whether I was in Idabel, Oklahoma City or Guymon, the answers were nearly identical: finding and keeping great teachers and having enough resources to meet the needs of all students. [Shawn Hime / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa school board advances two finalists for vacant seat [Tulsa World]
  • City planning and construction services to undergo major reorganization, Mayor Bynum announces [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I think that’s one of the most irresponsible and costly mistakes this agency’s made, maybe ever. The utilities were made whole. All of the financial liability and hardship is on the consumers.”

-Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, speaking about the commission passing along billions of dollars of costs to consumers via decades of surcharges to recoup costs from a 2021 winter storm [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides targeted tax relief to low-income workers, would benefit 19% of Oklahoma taxpayers if its value was increased to 10% of the federal EITC rate. [OK Policy, A Better Path Forward

Policy Note

Strategies for Improving Public Benefits Access and Retention: When people struggle to make ends meet, public benefit programs have the potential to help them meet their basic needs for food, housing, health care, and cash. Within federal laws and regulations, state policy choices, service delivery practices, and technological capacity can make a difference in how easily people can access and retain the benefits for which they are eligible. Prior research has shown that many families and individuals do not participate in the programs that could help meet their needs and for which they are eligible.  In this report, we present a menu of strategies that have the potential to increase access to individual public benefit programs or a package of benefits. [Urban Institute] | [Report, PDF]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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