In The Know: Bill would give tourism committee more authority | AG opinion on religious charter schools | Capitol Update

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

Senate announces committee chairs for upcoming session (Capitol Update): Changes in committee chairs can occur because of openings created by retirements from the senate, requested changes by chairs who prefer a different committee, the politics of the recent pro tempore race, and the ripple effect of the other changes. Looking at the movement, it would be a good guess that all four reasons were at play. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

State Government News

Oklahoma Attorney General: Law against religious charter schools may be unconstitutional: Oklahoma’s law barring public charter schools from being run by sectarian or religious organizations could be a violation of the First Amendment, according to an opinion from Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmaker wants to give tourism commission more authority: A senator wants to give the state’s tourism commission more control over the agency, a move the state’s lieutenant governor believes could prevent future misspending like what took place recently with restaurants at state parks. Senate Bill 4, authored by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, would give the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission the power to review agency contracts and fire the agency director, who is currently hired by the governor. [The Oklahoman]

Fusion Center: Gov. Kevin Stitt moves intelligence entity from OSBI to DPS: A new executive order has reignited concerns about whether moving functions from OSBI to DPS might give Gov. Stitt — and future governors — undue influence over and access to information regarding criminal investigations. Specifically, OSBI and decisions about its director are governed by an independent commission, whereas the director of DPS can be hired and fired at will by the governor. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation seeks public comment on proposed rule changes: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has released its annual suggestions for changes to rules for hunting and wildlife management, and Oklahomans can provide feedback over the next month. [KOSU]

DDS launches regional meetings for families coming off waitlist: The Oklahoma Human Services Developmental Disability Services division (DDS) has launched regional family meetings across Oklahoma to assist families who are moving onto DDS services from the waitlist.This summer, Oklahoma Human Services began processing applications from over 5,100 Oklahomans as part of ending the 13-year wait list for DDS services. With funds from the Legislature and an increase in provider rates, all Oklahomans in need are projected to receive services by June 2024. [Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma senator proposes bill for rating system of books in public schools, libraries: Oklahoma State Sen. Warren Hamilton (R-McCurtain) proposed a bill that would establish a system to rate books rather than banning them in public schools and libraries. The system proposed by Hamilton would follow the standard movie ratings of G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17. [KTUL]

Tribal Nations News

Life in Native America: Winter draws people closer for traditional storytime with honored tales: As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, families and friends start to gather around the warm glow of fireplaces. Winter is the time for many to be in fellowship with their people, and for Gayle Ross, a prominent Cherokee storyteller, a warm winter fire is also perfect for traditional Native American storytelling. [Tulsa World]

Senator-elect Markwayne Mullin speaks about tribal cases and McGirt ruling: Oklahoma Senator-elect Markwayne Mullin is weighing in on tribal cases, the McGirt ruling and the Castro-Huerta ruling. He said the Tribal Nations and Federal Courts were never designed to take on the burden of what state courts used to handle. [Fox 23 News]

‘We believe’: Freedmen descendants say the time is now for Muscogee Nation citizenship: The undercurrent of tension that ran through the morning showed how complex the debate over Freedmen citizenship remains within the Muscogee Nation, even as the push gains attention across the U.S. Tribal officials say the nation’s constitution sets out requirements for citizenship regardless of race. But Freedmen descendants say race is the dividing line. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma’s flu numbers are rising while RSV cases may be slowing: With winter on its way, Oklahoma is already seeing some of the highest influenza positivity rates and hospitalizations the state has had in years. The state had relatively mild flu seasons for the last few years, likely due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions. But with safety measures like masking now tossed to the wayside, the flu and other respiratory viruses kept at bay are circulating once again. [The Oklahoman]

Bill would prohibit gender-reassignment treatment for those younger than 21: Recently filed bill would prohibit gender-reassignment procedures for those under the age of 21. House Bill 1101 would prohibit health care professionals from providing, attempting to provide or making referrals for puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender-reassignment surgeries. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Civilian oversight of police is popular, but does it work?: In the wake of protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a record number of cities have created or revamped civilian review boards to provide accountability for police misconduct. During 2020 and 2021, 25 major U.S. cities launched civilian oversight agencies — more than were created in the five preceding years combined, according to a University of Chicago study. [News 21 via NonDoc]

Oklahoma pot farm illegally obtained permit before 4 slain: The Oklahoma marijuana farm where four people were killed and one was wounded was operating under an illegally obtained license to grow marijuana for medical purposes, an Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics spokesman said Friday. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

City of Edmond wants in on the action in booming downtown and seeks a development partner: Downtown Edmond is on a roll and the city itself wonders if it can catch a ride and speed it up. With more than $135 million in private investment downtown in the past five years, officials think a 5,000-square-foot warehouse within city-owned Festival Market Place could be leased and developed for more economic growth. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

New law increases public school choice but some districts already bursting: The impact of Oklahoma’s move to allow student transfers between school districts year-round has been a study in contrasts for two Tulsa-area districts. Senate Bill 783, which was enacted in January, resulted in at least 11,000 new transfers across the state before school began in August. Among the top five districts picking up new transfer students is Sand Springs Public Schools — a ranking that came as a surprise even to local officials. [Tulsa World]

General News

Oklahoma Broadband Office urges residents to check their internet service: State Broadband Office warns billions of dollars towards securing high-speed internet for Oklahomans could be on the line if the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t receive accurate information on current internet access. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

How three OKC neighborhoods are experiencing revitalization through a city-funded program: Brightly colored murals adorning buildings. Freshly planted trees promising future shade along new sidewalks. An aging house exhibiting new life after rehabilitation, a brand-new affordable home filling a once empty lot. A new street sign topper displaying the neighborhood name. Plans for a new park and a neighborhood plaza bringing hope of fun days ahead. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“You can’t just simply say ‘Oops we made a mistake’ and keep doing what you’re doing. You have to fix the problem.”

– Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, in an interview with KOKH about his proposed bill that would restore oversight powers to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission after 2018 legislation that moved those powers to the governor. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating a state contractor’s questionable spending to launch a chain of restaurants at state parks. [The Oklahoman] | [Fox 25]

Number of the Day


Black males represented 23% of referrals to Oklahoma’s youth justice system in 2019, while only 8.5% of the state’s male child population are Black. Native males represented 17.8% of youth referrals, while 10.4% of the state’s male child population are American Indian/Alaska Natives.
[Better Tomorrows: A Landscape Analysis of Oklahoma’s Youth Justice System, OK Policy] | [Data Snapshot

Policy Note

Racial Disparities in Tulsa’s Youth Legal System: Despite significant reductions in youth crime over the last two decades, research has repeatedly found that in nearly every jurisdiction in the United States, Black youth and other youth of color experience the youth legal system differently than their White counterparts. Although strides have been made to create a more equitable youth legal system across the country, data indicate that racial disparities continue to exist at every stage of the system, including arrest, detention, adjudication, and disposition. [Center for Juvenile Justice Reform]

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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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