In The Know: Bill signed restoring notary requirement on absentee ballots; budget bills now with Gov.; and 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

SB210: Lawmakers had the opportunity this week to take a stand for election integrity. They chose not to: On Thursday, the Oklahoma Senate advanced SB 210, which will cement barriers to voting by mail, to Gov. Stitt’s desk. Passed in the middle of a pandemic, this bill would roll back a state Supreme Court decision from just days ago and continues the shameful shell game that began yesterday in the House. [OK Policy]

Ready … set … shenanigans: In the hoopla over the budget, it was easy to miss that lawmakers were quietly advancing a number of bills that have nothing to do with the health, safety, and economic security of our state (as they indicated would be their priority). Two that I am particularly concerned about are designed to limit citizen engagement. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Stitt signs fast-moving bill to restore notary requirement on Oklahoma absentee ballots: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Thursday evening to restore the notary requirement for absentee ballots. The Senate had passed the bill earlier in the day, and the House approved it Wednesday. The swift action comes just days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that state law had changed in 2002 to allow for a signed affidavit of the voter under penalty of perjury in lieu of a notary’s signature. [Tulsa World] In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Bill 210 stipulates alternatives if a state of emergency has been declared or is in effect within 45 days of scheduled election. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma House approves budget bills, awaits action from Stitt: Oklahoma’s House of Representatives approved multiple Fiscal Year 2021 budget bills on Thursday, and lawmakers now wait for action from Gov. Kevin Stitt. The $7.7 billion budget plan includes cuts of 4% for most state agencies. While education will receive a cut of 2.5% from the state, officials said federal CARES Act funding would fill that gap. [The Oklahoman] Customarily, the budget bill is an agreement among House and Senate leadership and the governor, but this one does not have Stitt’s approval or disapproval. [Tulsa World] Much of the debate in the House centered on projections made by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and affirmed by the Board of Equalization that state revenues will decline by some $1.366 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Journal Record

Infected Grady County jail inmate dies: William Dean Brame was awaiting sentencing at the Grady County jail for his role in a major drug ring run from prison by leaders of the Irish Mob. The Oklahoman learned he became infected there with the coronavirus. The Oklahoma State Department of Health noted the death in a weekly epidemiology and surveillance report but did not identify the inmate or where he had been held.  [The Oklahoman] OK Policy and other organizations have recommended actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system.

COVID-19: Seven more deaths reported, dozens more cases confirmed in Oklahoma: The deaths of seven more Oklahomans from COVID-19 were reported Thursday, and dozens more Oklahomans were confirmed to be infected. COVID-19 has spread to 71 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, and the state has had a total of 260 deaths from the disease. A total of 4,330 cases have been confirmed in the state. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State Government News

Oklahoma unemployment claims soar to new record high in single week: First-time unemployment claims in Oklahoma increased for the second consecutive week, hitting a new record high, according to government figures released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Labor reported 68,237 initial jobless claims were filed in Oklahoma during the week ending Saturday. [Tulsa World] OK Policy: The federal government has taken significant action to shore up the unemployment insurance program — and there’s more Oklahoma can do.

Amid cuts, debate brews on proposed judicial pay raise: The Oklahoma Legislature sent its general appropriations bill and a slew of other finance-related measures to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday, but lawmakers have pushed pause on their pending decision about a judicial pay raise that has become controversial in the wake of 4 percent budget cuts across most state agencies. [NonDoc]

Hunter tweets to Norman mayor: Cities can’t discriminate against churches: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter admonished the mayor of Norman on Thursday to treat churches equally in the city’s reopening plan, leading the mayor to question why Hunter sent his message through social media. [The Oklahoman]

Governor’s emergency powers, legislative budget agreement, absentee voting changes & more (Audio): The latest episode of This Week in Oklahoma politics discusses lawmakers attaching strings to a new round of executive powers to the governor, legislative leaders announce a budget deal and Republicans push through a bill requiring notarization of absentee ballots. [KOSU]

Stitt signs nurse independence compromise: A compromise years in the making. Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday signed legislation to expand the authority of nurse anesthetists. Stitt signed Senate Bill 801 which updates how the state regulates certified nurse anesthetists. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt signs HIV post-mortem bill called ‘redundant’ by LGBTQ advocates: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed on Thursday a bill concerning the disclosure of HIV status of the recently deceased. Advocacy groups asked him to veto it for being unnecessary and discriminatory. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma to start issuing REAL IDs July 1: Oklahoma will begin issuing REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses at select locations on July 1. The state was originally scheduled to start issuing the licenses this month, but the planned rollout was upended by COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

USDA pours $71 million into broadband services in Oklahoma, Kansas: The United States Department of Agriculture announced that it is investing $71 million to provide broadband service in underserved rural areas in Kansas and Oklahoma. [Tulsa World] Rep. Frank Lucas and Rep. Markwayne Mullin announced the projects that will serve nearly 11,500 residents, 59 farms and 49 businesses. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy guest post: Broadband is more important than ever — here is how Oklahoma can respond.

Criminal Justice News

State Question 805 campaign asks Supreme Court to require signatures be accepted: Leaders of the State Question 805 campaign want the Oklahoma Supreme Court to settle a dispute between the group and the secretary of state over signature filing so the question can appear on a 2020 ballot. [The Oklahoman]

For cops who kill, special Supreme Court protection: The U.S. high court’s continual refinement of an obscure legal doctrine has made it harder to hold police accountable when accused of using excessive force. A lawsuit in federal district court in Oklahoma, alleged that the three officers used excessive force in the death of Johnny Leija of Madill. [Reuters]

Education News

COVID-19 changes school enrollment in Oklahoma City: After having to overhaul its enrollment process, Oklahoma City Public Schools received 500 early childhood pre-enrollees in two days through online applications. [The Oklahoman]

Judge, senator and closed charter school sued by terminated employees: Two terminated employees of the closed charter school Seeworth Academy have filed extensive lawsuits against Seeworth’s corporation, former Superintendent Janet Grigg and six board members, including Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals Judge Barbara Swinton and Sen. Kay Floyd, D-OKC. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Family and Consumer Science teachers leverage pandemic to teach home-life skills: Family and Consumer Science teachers have seen a sudden spike in a need for the skills they teach during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for teaching the subject, which has evolved from the days when it was home economics and designed to prep women for home life, has been magnified by stay at home orders. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

General News

Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association suspends tribes that signed compacts with Gov. Stitt: The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association has suspended the membership of two tribes that signed controversial compacts with Gov. Kevin Stitt, it announced Thursday. The tribes are the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. [The Oklahoman]

A wait-and-see approach: Event organizers weigh options as June 1 nears: If all goes well, conferences and other large gatherings would be allowed to resume in Oklahoma on June 1. But just because it is allowed doesn’t mean that is going to happen. Event organizers, uncertain of what the next few months will bring, are opting to either cancel or host their June events online. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Big drop in state revenue reflected in Tulsa’s sales tax remittance [Tulsa World]
  • Stillwater mayor says mask requirement couldn’t ‘practically’ be enforced; city officials wanted to protect store employees from future threats [Tulsa World]
  • A return to normal: Payne County commissioners resume in-person meetings [Stillwater News Press]
  • Enid City plans decrease in sales tax revenue for FY 2021 budget [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“No Oklahoman should have to risk their health and the health of their family members to vote in an election. SB 210 was rushed through the Legislature in response to an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision issued just this past Monday holding that Oklahoma voters’ signature on absentee ballot affidavits is sufficient to prove their identity.”

-Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day       


The average daily SNAP food assistance applications in Oklahoma from March 16 to April 15, 2020. This is three times the prior average of 460.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A gloomy prediction on how much poverty could rise: The coming wave of hardship is likely to widen racial disparities, with poverty projected to rise twice as much among blacks as among whites. Poverty is also likely to rise disproportionately among children, a special concern because brain science shows that early deprivation can leave lifelong scars. [New York Times]

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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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