In The Know: Bills on income tax moves quickly | Crippling court fines and fees | New Stitt appointee for state Board of Education

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

ARPA funds offer start to transform nursing needs, but state will need to step up in the long run (Capitol Update): The first public hearing by a legislative working group of the American Rescue Pandemic Act (ARPA) Committee was held last Thursday. The working group, led by co-chairs Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and Sen. John Haste, R-Tulsa, will do the nuts and bolts work of evaluating various project proposals for using the federal funding before sending them on to the full ARPA committee with their recommendations. The group previously made a decision to first recommend projects dealing with the preexisting nursing shortage in Oklahoma that was aggravated by the pandemic. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

House subcommittee votes to bring back income tax triggers: A plan to flatten Oklahoma’s graduated income tax to a single rate and then reduce and possibly eliminate it altogether zipped so hastily through a state House of Representatives subcommittee on Monday the author did not even have time to explain it. The bill did not carry a fiscal impact statement. [Tulsa World] If passed, it would cut the income tax by 0.5% every year for ten years until it drops to zero. However, this would only happen in years when state revenue goes up by a certain amount. [KOCO]

Report from OK Policy: A Better Path Forward: During the past two decades, Oklahoma lawmakers have reduced state government spending by 22 percent (adjusted for inflation and population growth). This means that each year our elected officials and policymakers have fewer dollars to answer today’s needs or to invest in our state’s future success

The pandemic speeds a push to wean Oklahoma courts off crippling fees: One bill seeks to eliminate court fees that generate an estimated $41 million a year for the state. Critics say fines and fees are an unreliable source of funding that unfairly burden the poor. About 80 percent of criminal defendants are indigent, and the collection rate on court debts is only 25 percent, according to information presented by Tim Laughlin, director of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, at an interim study at the Oklahoma state Capitol last year. [The Frontier

Previously from OK Policy: Oklahoma’s fines and fees system worsening the economic crisis for families and courts. Reforming our state’s fines and fees system has been a long-time need for Oklahoma families, and previous reform attempts have fallen short.

Stitt appoints Sarah Lepak to State Board of Education: Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed QuikTrip senior environmental project manager Sarah Lepak to serve on the State Board of Education this afternoon. The appointment must be confirmed by the Oklahoma State Senate, where Lepak could face questions about being another Stitt appointee to the State Board of Education without a direct background as an educator, administrator or school board member. [NonDoc] Lepak is the adult daughter of Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore. [Tulsa World] Her LinkedIn profile shows she previously worked as assistant general counsel at Gateway Mortgage Group, the mortgage group Stitt founded and headed before his election as governor. [AP News]

Health News

New Oklahoma Covid numbers are mixed bag: Newly Diagnosed Cases: 760 for Monday; 1,523 for Sunday; 7-Day Average of Cases: 1,621; Current Active Cases in Oklahoma: 20,209 [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma State Department Of Health Launches HIV Self-Test Program: State health leaders say Oklahoma is one of seven states in the country with the highest rural rates of HIV. The State Health Department is trying to change that by launching a new self-test program. [News 9

State Government News

Super Bowl commercial critical of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt: A Super Bowl commercial from a local political action committee suggests Gov. Kevin Stitt is failing to make Oklahoma a Top 10 state. The 30-second commercial from The Oklahoma Project played off Stitt’s oft-used campaign catchphrase and says Oklahoma is among the bottom 10 states for education and public safety. [The Oklahoman] The group noted that Oklahoma is in fact in the bottom 10 in key categories. In September 2021, Oklahoma ranked 49th in education and 43rd in public safety, and had a higher rate of violent crime than New York and California, according to the commercial. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

House committee to consider bills limiting power of school boards: At Tuesday’s ethics and election committee meeting, Piedmont Republican Representative Denise Crosswhite-Hadar is presenting three bills expected to impact local schools and school boards. [News 9]

Bill to reduce penalty for cockfighting participation advances to Oklahoma House: A bill seeking to reduce punishment from a felony to a misdemeanor for participating in cockfighting rings has cleared a legislative committee and is headed to the Oklahoma House. [The Oklahoman] The federal animal protection act, however, makes it a felony to fight any animals. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Medical marijuana sales slowing down: The temperature isn’t the only thing that’s dropped recently. The heated growth during the first two and a half years of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry has been cooling off in recent months. [Southwest Ledger]

ODOT to begin $14M bridge expansion along U.S. 169 in Owasso this spring: Residents and commuters will see a major road construction project, and perhaps significant travel delays, on U.S. 169 and 76th Street North in the coming months. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Latest Oklahoma County jail death being investigated as a possible fentanyl overdose: Another Oklahoma County jail inmate died Sunday, possibly from an overdose of the drug fentanyl. Kyle Steven Shaw, 36, was pronounced dead at the jail at 5:34 a.m. Sunday after life-saving efforts failed, the jail said in a news release. [The Oklahoman] Shaw is the third detainee death of 2022. [OKC Free Press] A trust took over operation of the jail from the sheriff’s office in 2020. Since then, it has come under fire because of inmate deaths, escapes and other incidents. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

Greg Conder: Gradually raising the state’s minimum wage won’t cause widespread inflation: I have been conflicted on the issue of raising the minimum wage for some time. We typically associate at or near minimum wage jobs with the restaurant and hospitality industries. [Opinion / Tulsa World]

Recently from OK Policy: While raising the minimum wage would not likely be a big deal to financially stable Oklahomans, it would be a lifeline to the one in three Oklahoma workers earning less than the living wage for a single person.

Economy & Business News

Is nuclear an energy option for Oklahoma?: Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the day the last effort to build a nuclear power plant in Oklahoma came to an end. Last week, a lawmaker requested a study to examine if a nuclear site is now a feasible option in Oklahoma, as state officials look at ways to diversify power sources. [The Journal Record

Economists: Interest rate hikes coming: The pandemic-era economy – marked by federal relief dollars flowing into personal bank accounts and ultra-low interest rates – is coming to an end. Oklahoma economists say consumers will notice changes soon and throughout 2022. [The Journal Record]

Judge turns away defendant’s dismissal request of Continental Resources’ minerals lawsuit: A judge has turned away one man’s attempt to toss a civil suit filed by Continental Resources against him and others that accuses them of using the energy company’s confidential drilling plans to get rich. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Broken Arrow students, parents speaking out over bullying concerns: A group of students and parents are speaking out about bullying concerns going unaddressed at the Broken Arrow Freshman Academy. [Tulsa World]

General News

‘Beyond Apology’ offers process for examining how to address harms caused by 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Last year, as part of the centennial commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, city councilors and the mayor signed off on a nonbinding resolution recognizing and apologizing for the municipal government’s role in that infamous chapter in the city’s history. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“While those who have committed offenses need to pay some of the cost, it is my belief that they should not have to carry the entire weight of the court system”

– Senate Budget Committee Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about a bill he filed (Senate Bill 1458) which would remove a huge chunk of court fees from state law [The Frontier]


NOTE: February is National Black History Month, a time to honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history.

Number of the Day


Percent increase of Oklahoma’s population who reported being Black alone or in combination between the 2010 and 2020 Census.

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Policy Note

Black History is Oklahoma History: As an educational organization and a dedicated community partner, the Oklahoma Historical Society has long believed that one important step toward ending racism and injustice is a better understanding of our shared history. By providing resources that give context for the Black experience in Oklahoma, we hope to spark civil discourse and open dialogue about the role of race in the history of our state. While these conversations about our past may not be comfortable, they are necessary to understand where we have been and how we can best move forward together. [Oklahoma Historical Society]

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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.

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