In The Know: Bill on crime classification system | Competitive bidding waived for Canoo | Lawsuit over birth certificate designations | 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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma bill proposes crime classification system: Oklahoma Senate Bill 1646 is focused on creating a classification system for felony offenders and placing a cap on court fines. “You have felonies that are Class A and Class B, and that is what we are looking at due to the fact that we have so many crimes that are misdemeanors, repeat offenses,” said state Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-District 19). An analysis of the Oklahoma Crime Reclassification Act of 2022 states that Oklahoma has the second highest incarceration rate in the United States. The analysis further observes the sentencing practices. “Certain crimes need diversion, substance abuse treatment,” said Sarah Edwards, a member of Oklahomans for Justice Reform. “It gives judges discretion to allow for those diversions instead of setting a mandatory minimum.” [KTEN]

Recently from OK Policy: SB 1646 modernizes Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code. Lawmakers should focus on solving Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis while investing in strategies that actually reduce crime.

Oklahoma officials waived competitive bidding to give EV startup Canoo a potentially lucrative statewide contract: On the promise of new jobs, Oklahoma officials waived competitive bidding requirements to award electric vehicle startup Canoo a statewide contract to buy up to 1,000 electric vehicles over five years. Carly Atchison, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kevin Stitt, said the contract for vehicles could be considered a kind of job-creation incentive, part of the governor’s strategy to make Oklahoma more attractive to businesses. Oklahoma is competing against neighboring states like Arkansas and Texas for jobs, she said. [The Frontier

Transgender Oklahomans sue Gov. Kevin Stitt over order blocking birth certificate changes: Three transgender Oklahomans who are seeking to alter the gender designation on their birth certificates are suing Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state’s health commissioner over an executive order that they say blocks such changes. [The Oklahoman] The birth certificate policy “facially and intentionally discriminates on the basis of transgender status,” says the lawsuit, filed Monday in Tulsa federal court. [Tulsa World] Defendants include Stitt, Interim Commissioner of Health Keith Reed and State Registrar of Vital Records Kelly Baker. [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa

Official Report: Black Tulsans face alarming wage, health & justice gaps: The “Tulsa Equality Indicators Annual Report for 2021” shows Black Tulsans lagging in every measurement of wellbeing. The most startling areas of concern were the gap in income between Black and white households, the skyrocketing rates of infant mortality among Black Tulsans, and the poor record of criminal justice in the Black community. [The Oklahoma Eagle

State Government News

House bill targets catalytic converter theft: Anyone with a pair of pliers and a car jack and the theft of a catalytic converter on their record could be in serious trouble under legislation approved Monday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 4375, by Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, would create a new felony for convicted catalytic converter thieves found in possession of “two or more of the following tools: 1. Battery-powered reciprocating saw; 2. Reciprocating saw blades; 3. Pliers; 4. Wrenches; or 5. Vehicle jack” with the intent of using them in the commission of a crime. [Tulsa World]

Gov. Stitt targeted unions in State of the State address, but legislature avoids major action: During his State of the State address last month, Gov. Kevin Stitt criticized teacher unions for pushing liberal curriculum theories and keeping school buildings closed, while erroneously claiming union dues are automatically withdrawn from teacher paychecks without their approval. But after an initial deadline this month for proposed bills to be advanced out of committee, no legislation that would further restrict a union’s ability to collect dues or sign up new members advanced. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma House passes virtual charter school reforms: The Oklahoma House of Representatives moved to tighten financial oversight of charter schools, and particularly virtual charter schools, with unanimous passage Monday of two major reform bills. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Senate passes bill to change health commissioner requirements: A new bill going through the Legislature would make it so the state’s health commissioner would no longer need to be a doctor, or have a background in health. The Senate passed State Bill 709 31-15, which was authored by Senator Greg McCortney, on Monday. It now heads to the House for a vote. [KSWO]

Oklahoma restricts women’s rights to abortion with six new bills: Oklahoma continues to restrict women’s rights to an abortion with several new bills. The Oklahoma Senate recently passed six pieces of legislation limiting a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. [The Black Wall Street Times

City of OKC, EMSA support bill allowing fire departments limited transport of patients: A bill that would allow fire departments across the state to take patients to the hospital in life-threatening situations has been approved unanimously by the state Senate and soon could be considered by House members. [The Oklahoman

House GOP moves to regulate Oklahoma medical marijuana as industry waits for enforcement: In an effort to address concerns and criminal activity in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry, House Republicans have made clear their intentions to rectify problems without over-burdening legitimate businesses. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Report recommends closure for Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center: Department of Veterans Affairs officials cited declining enrollment and increased demand for long-term and outpatient care as grounds for recommending the closure of Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center once a new hospital and other veterans health facilities are built and open in Tulsa. [Muskogee Phoenix] The recommendation seemed to surprise U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford and 2nd District Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who were involved in working out an agreement with the Trump administration VA to build a downtown Tulsa VA complex with a combination of federal, state, local and philanthropic funding while turning the aging Muskogee facility into a treatment facility. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation celebrates one-year anniversary of official recognition of reservation: A year ago on Monday, a ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) recognized that the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision applied to the Cherokee Nation, thereby affirming that the Cherokee Reservation was never disestablished. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Voting and Election News

A slow and steady assault on Democracy: Redistricting and the ethnic vote: In the almost decade old wake of the 2013 Supreme Court’s decision that deemed the preclearance requirement of Section 5 (Voting Rights Act 1965) as unconstitutional, many state legislators and constituents remain engaged in a conflict centered within redistricting. As the racial and ethnic demographics of the Greater Tulsa Area continue to evolve, revealing a greater representation of Non-Hispanic White voting constituencies, Tulsans are challenged to address the question “Should the right of representation be protected? [The Oklahoma Eagle

Former President Donald Trump endorses Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt again: The former Republican president endorsed Stitt four years ago, and on Monday, said the governor has done a “fantastic job” since taking office. Stitt is running for a second term, and already faces opposition this reelection cycle. [The Oklahoman

Amid rumors he will challenge Stitt, ODVA’s Joel Kintsel concerned by computer ‘intrusion’: Indications that Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs director Joel Kintsel may challenge Gov. Kevin Sittt in the 2022 Republican primary have spurred awkward conversations between Veterans Commission members, Stitt’s chief of staff and Kintsel, who also has requested an investigation into suspicious activities observed on an ODVA computer. [NonDoc

Kendra Horn files for Jim Inhofe’s Senate seat: Former U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn filed as a candidate for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, entering the race to replace longtime Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe. [The Oklahoman]

Reaction to attorney’s election lawsuit varies: An Enid attorney’s effort to halt the special election to fill outgoing U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe’s seat isn’t as far-fetched as some critics think, a University of Oklahoma law professor said Tuesday. [Southwest Ledger]

Rep. Stephanie Bice tours congressional district with Democratic colleague: Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, gave a tour of her congressional district on Monday to Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-California, as part of the American Congressional Exchange Program sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

OKC Police Dept has two in-custody deaths so far in 2022: After going all of 2021 without any in-custody deaths, the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) has had two deaths of people in their custody in just ten days of early March. [OKC Free Press] According to a department release, 65-year-old Charles Kim Moore was pronounced dead at Integris Baptist Hospital sometime after 4 p.m. on Saturday.  [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Climate disasters worsen affordable housing crisis: As natural disasters become more frequent and extreme due to climate change, many low-income renters are vulnerable to hazards like flooding, tornadoes and fire. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of occupied rental units in the United States are in areas that pose at least a moderate risk of natural disasters stemming from climate change. More than a fifth of those units have rents under $600. [Big If True

Economy & Business News

At this rate, Oklahoma City could sell out of homes in 15 days: Reports of cooling in housing, if you see any, have to do with winter weather, not the market. February ended with fewer than 1,000 homes listed for sale in the Oklahoma City area. [The Oklahoman]

Skyrocketing gas prices may be leveling off; Tulsa has lowest average in U.S.: After another record average U.S. price late last week, skyrocketing gasoline prices may be leveling off at least in the short term, AAA Oklahoma and a national analyst said Monday. [Tulsa World

Education News

Oklahoma Christian University professor says he was fired after gay guest speaker’s presentation: A tenured art and design professor at Oklahoma Christian University who was fired Monday, March 7, says he was dismissed because a guest speaker who is gay delivered a class presentation that the private university deemed inappropriate. [NonDoc

Oklahoma Local News

Oklahoma City bicyclists hope to boost safety along the downtown streetcar tracks: Jim Reilly is one of at least 30 people who have gotten their bike tires stuck in the streetcar tracks — the results of which have varied from minor cuts and bruises to broken bones, and one cyclist with a traumatic brain injury, according to responses to a survey created by local cyclist Perrin Duncan. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Certain crimes need diversion, substance abuse treatment. It gives judges discretion to allow for those diversions instead of setting a mandatory minimum.”

– Sarah Edwards with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, speaking about SB 1646, which modernizes Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code [KTEN]

Recently from OK Policy: SB 1646 modernizes Oklahoma’s outdated criminal code. Lawmakers should focus on solving Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis while investing in strategies that actually reduce crime.

Number of the Day


The difference between the median earnings for women and men in Oklahoma, the 9th highest gender wage gap in the U.S.

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Note: Today, March 15, 2022 is Equal Pay Day. This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

Policy Note

Women Represent Majority of Workers in Several Essential Occupations: Thirty-four million women work in jobs officially classified as essential; and women represent the majority of workers in several occupations, including health care, education, personal care and sales and office occupations. Because women make up a large portion of the essential workforce, they have played a critical role in the U.S. economy and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. [U.S. Census Bureau]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.