In The Know: Budget bill released day before vote | ‘Shortsighted’ unemployment bill | Investment in waitlist for people with disabilities

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.

Oklahoma News

Legislators put off vote a day on $9.8 billion budget bill to give themselves time to read it:  Lawmakers were poised to vote on a $9.8 billion budget Monday evening but decided to wait until Tuesday to have a chance to read it. Both chambers had scheduled Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget meetings for Monday, but the time kept getting pushed back. [Tulsa World]

  • Democracy Watch: Once Again, Oklahoma’s Budget Remains a Mystery as Legislature Enters Final Stretch [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Proposed $9.8B Oklahoma state budget includes tax relief, targeted state worker pay raises [The Oklahoman
  • Lawmakers set to discuss Oklahoma budget proposal worth nearly $10 billion [KOCO

Report from OK Policy: A February 2021 report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget.

Oklahoma House passes ‘shortsighted’ unemployment bill: A bill that would cut the duration of unemployment benefits from the current 26 weeks down to 16 weeks passed along party lines in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday. [The Journal Record] If signed by Stitt, House Bill 1933, by Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, would tie weeks of unemployment eligibility to average unemployment claims statewide: the fewer the claims, the fewer the weeks of unemployment benefits. [Tulsa World

Recently from OK Policy: House Bill 1933 would weaken our economy, threaten families’ financial security, and fail to get more Oklahomans back to work. The legislature should reject HB 1933 and any other bills that would inhibit the ability of the unemployment insurance program to provide the support our workers and our economy need.

Lawmakers to invest in programs for individuals with disabilities: Oklahoma lawmakers plan to make a “historic investment” to clear a decade-long wait list that serves Oklahomans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The $32.5 million investment that lawmakers hope will clear the backlog is expected to be one of the hallmarks of the $9.84 billion budget unveiled Monday evening. [CHNI via Tahlequah Daily Press

State Government News

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell signed off on millions of Foggy Bottom Kitchen expenses: Amid the fallout from the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen scandal, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell would take a more hands-on role in state tourism operations. But Pinnell has already played an active role. As Secretary of Tourism, he personally approved $16.7 million in payments for Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants from the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. [The Frontier

Bill would close loophole on municipal elections: A bill that supporters say will make dark money committees more transparent has cleared a legislative conference committee and is expected to be heard by both houses of the Legislature this week. [Southwest Ledger]

New Oklahoma laws boost funding for medical marijuana enforcement: New laws recently signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt will increase funding for local enforcement of the medical marijuana industry, as well as target illicit sales of cannabis in Oklahoma.  [The Oklahoman

Student mental health bill signed into law: The measure, by Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, and Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, requires mental health facilities providing inpatient mental health care services for minors to share with parents the importance of informing their school about their students’ struggles and care received, according to a press release. [The Lawton Constitution]

Stitt signs bill easing county fire director property requirements: Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed into law a bill removing the requirement that directors of county fire departments own property in their district. [The Lawton Constitution]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma leaders push Biden administration to keep Title 42, ‘stop playing politics’ and ‘secure the border’: Oklahoma officials said Title 42 – the Trump-era public health order that tightened border restrictions to mitigate COVID-19 – is necessary to secure the southern border and to stop the unfettered flow of migrants. [Fox News]

Tribal Nations News

Most condemn Stitt veto of tribe, state coordination: Last Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed House Bill 3501, which received an overwhelming majority of support — 96% — from Oklahoma legislators. The bill would have coordinated state agencies and tribal judicial systems. Local political leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, support a congressional override, saying it would increase public safety. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Cherokee Nation: Governor’s claim of ‘abortion on-demand’ on Tribal lands is ‘irresponsible’: “Speculating on what tribes should do based on a leaked US Supreme Court draft decision is irresponsible. Just as irresponsible is the Governor of Oklahoma and his disguised media campaign which is really meant to attack tribes and our sovereignty.” [KFOR]

Letter: Tribes have a history being partners with state of Oklahoma: Seeing a lot of misinformation being spread throughout Oklahoma about tribal nations, I felt compelled to address the issue head on. Having worked for two of the most progressive tribes in Indian Country for more than 20 years, I have insight that many others do not. [Opinion / Tulsa World]

Choctaw chief: Stitt makes Oklahoma roads more dangerous: This month, the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly passed a measure to help keep dangerous drivers off Oklahoma roads. Despite more than 90% of senators and representatives approving House Bill 3501, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed the measure. Why? Because he refuses to acknowledge what everyone else in the state knows: Native American tribes are valuable partners dedicated to making this the best state possible. [Opinion / The Oklahoman

Voting and Election News

Voter registration deadline for June 28 election approaching: The deadline to register to vote in the upcoming election is less than three weeks away. Friday, June 3, 2022, will be the last day to apply for voter registration to be eligible to vote in the June 28 primary election, according to a press release from Garfield County Election Board. [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma GOP attorney general candidates to debate: NonDoc’s political debate series will continue next month with Law School: A Republican primary debate between Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor and challenger Gentner Drummond. The June 16 debate between attorney general candidates is free and open to the public, and you can RSVP to a Facebook event page to be reminded of the event and its livestream. [NonDoc

Health News

Hearing loss reversal treatment from Oklahoma takes major step toward development: Scientists at the Hough Ear Institute in Oklahoma City have taken an important step toward developing a treatment that could restore the ability to hear for people who’ve experienced hearing loss as they age or from repeated exposure to loud noises. [The Oklahoman

Criminal Justice News

Misdemeanors, municipal crimes, and old warrants: The true story of what happened to people released under HB 1269: In November 2016, Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly for SQ 780 to make simple drug possession and some low-level theft crimes misdemeanors rather than felonies. This change would have a number of benefits: misdemeanor crimes could not be subject to prison time and the state would save money by reducing its reliance on punishment to respond to substance use-based crimes. The hope, embodied in SQ 781 which passed at the same time, was that those savings would be redirected into substance use and mental health treatment. []

Does Gov. Kevin Stitt really vet all those recommendations for early release of inmates?: Gov. Kevin Stitt has a team that vets and reviews all recommendations made by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, a spokesman said last week after new criticism emerged about his decision-making. The new criticism came from an Oklahoma County grand jury that investigated the Pardon and Parole Board after some prison inmates were released by mistake. [The Oklahoman

Gun homicide rate for Black males 21 times higher than white males: A newly released report found that young, Black males aged 10 to 24 died by gun homicide more than 21 times as often as White males in the same age group. The overall rate for gun homicide deaths across America took a drastic jump from 2019 to 2020, rising by almost 35%, to the highest level in more than 25 years. [The Black Wall Street Times]  

Economy & Business News

Lawton hopes to attract defense contractors with FISTA Innovation Park: The Lawton Central Mall sits in the center of a sunken concrete parking lot, its drab exterior marred by the shadowed outline of store signs that were taken down as shops left the facility. On its west side, where Sears used to be, a white canvas draped along the external wall creates a sharp contrast. It reads “FISTA Innovation Park.” [NonDoc]

Unemployment still declining: By the end of April, continuing claims for state unemployment compensation dropped to a level last seen two decades ago, while nationally the total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits remained at its lowest level in more than five decades. [Souhwest Ledger]

General News

$1 million to fight racial disparities pledged by Tulsa Commemoration Fund: Tulsa’s first-of-its-kind Commemoration Fund, which describes itself as an effort “run entirely for and by people of color,” will donate more than $1 million this year to groups “addressing diverse racial disparities” in the city, officials announced recently. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma Local News

City never informed homeless advocates, service providers of plan to clear homeless from the streets: A city official met with Tulsa’s largest association of homeless advocates and social service providers the day before Mayor G.T. Bynum proposed changing a city ordinance to make it easier for police to remove homeless people who are obstructing sidewalks and other public rights of way. But the city’s representative on the A Way Home for Tulsa leadership council never mentioned what was to come the next day, according to the chairwoman of the group. [Tulsa World

Commissioners approve Douglas street closure, recognize Drug Court: In a lengthy and well attended meeting of the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), the Board voted to approve a resolution granting permission to Tinker Air Force Base to close a substantial portion of Douglas Boulevard for a future expansion of the base. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“The public should absolutely know how we are spending tax dollars. It is a shame the public and most of the Legislature doesn’t know at this time.”

– Sen. J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso), noting that the legislative session ends next week and they did not see a budget until Monday evening [Tulsa World]

Report from OK Policy: A February 2021 report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget.


Oklahoma’s rank nationally in mental health spending

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

Years after voters approved landmark criminal justice reforms, counties are still waiting for mental health funding: The money Oklahoma saved from sending fewer people to prison was supposed to finance county mental health programs. But the Legislature has never sent any money to the fund and no rules have been written for how the money can be spent. [The Frontier]

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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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