In The Know: Budget bills rushed through committee | Gov. announces end to pandemic unemployment assistance | 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 and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Wait and hurry up: Oklahoma’s inside-out budget process: Though public budgeting is rarely considered exciting, it’s an essential element in making democracy work. Budgets turn our vision of community into reality and lay the groundwork for a strong economy by making investments in our education, health, safety, and infrastructure. Because budgets affect us all, both immediately and into the future, they should be made in public view with public input. While most states show this is easily accomplished, Oklahoma’s leaders neither inform nor engage the public in their budget deliberations. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Big budget bills advance in ‘quite a rush’: With only a few hours for the public, media and even some lawmakers to review the issues and changes at hand, the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget advanced 40 bills this afternoon related to the state budget, agency spending directions and other policy adjustments. “There was quite a rush on trying to make sure we got all bills out,” House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, said during the meeting. [NonDoc] OK Policy: Any revenue cut comes with real economic impact to our communities. Economists estimate that every $1 cut from state spending takes $1.50 out of our economy.  

Oklahoma governor announces end to extra unemployment money: Oklahoma will end a $300-a-week supplemental unemployment benefit next month, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday. To incentivize unemployed people to return to the work, Stitt said the state will offer a $1,200 stipend for the first 20,000 workers who get off unemployment and work at least 32 hours per week at a qualifying job. Claimants can begin applying on June 28. [AP News]

Bill addressing disability services waiting list gets personal: Legislation touted as the first step toward eliminating Oklahoma’s notorious wait list for disability services, but which on its face only bars newcomers to the state from those services, stirred strong emotions on the House floor Monday. House Bill 2899, one of the dozens of budget bills dropped late last week, is only four paragraphs long, and three are pro forma legislative jargon. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma lawmakers want to implement a five-year waiting period before new residents can even sign up for a waiting list for Medicaid programs that provide services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program is designed to help keep disabled Oklahomans out of institutionalized settings. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Health News

Caring Van’s COVID-19 vaccinations in underserved areas are part of growing outreach: Silverio Chavez is excited to enjoy more health confidence soon when he goes out in public after receiving his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine Monday. The 47-year-old got his booster dose from a Caring Van clinic at the Imperio Event Center at 14217 E. 21st St. The Tulsa Health Department and Caring Van have partnered to administer more than 5,300 adult COVID-19 vaccines in the community since January. [Tulsa World]

Nonprofit offers free-to-download activity book to help kids and adults talk about mental health: Mental Health Association Oklahoma is offering a free-to-download mental health coloring book for kids. The coloring and educational activity book offers an opportunity for kids and trusted adults to talk about what it means to have a healthy brain. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Integris Health launches recovery program for those struggling with post-COVID symptoms: Integris Health is launching a post-COVID recovery program for Oklahomans struggling with ongoing symptoms after COVID-19. Doctors across the country are still learning about long COVID, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe as a range of symptoms that can last weeks or months after someone is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, or can show up after the infection. [The Oklahoman]

Experts: Change needed now for older adults: COVID-19 shined a spotlight on Oklahoma’s ongoing and often-ignored problems with long-term care for older adults. That attention means now is the perfect time to make changes, a panel of experts said during Friday’s JR/Now webinar on reimagining long-term care. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Gov. Stitt’s reelection campaign blames Biden for Chick-fil-A sauce shortage: A fundraising email for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s re-election campaign blames a shortage of sauce at Chick-fil-A on President Joe Biden. “Chick-fil-A has a sauce shortage,” the fundraising email reads. “And you want to know why? Because of Joe Biden’s radical liberal policies. [Tulsa World]

Column: New state law is neither a blessing nor inclusive: Messages of respect and understanding are drowning in the mire of our state Legislature’s continuing insistence on legislating those conversations, even to the point of banning discussion of race relations in schools and universities. [Column / Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Attorney General says states abortion laws at stake in Supreme Court case: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a Mississippi case that represents a major challenge to abortion rights and could allow Oklahoma and other states more latitude in restricting access to abortion. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who joined 17 other states last year in urging justices to take the case, applauded the court Monday and said the case could lead to a ruling that effectively upholds an Oklahoma law banning abortion after 20 weeks. [The Oklahoman]

Chandler man is the fifth Oklahoman charged in US Capitol attack: A Chandler man has been arrested after being accused of illegally going inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Tanner Bryce Sells, 25, faces four misdemeanor counts in federal court in Washington, D.C. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County Commissioners approve Jail Trust appointment, transfer county land: Oklahoma County commissioners on Monday filled a vacancy on the jail trust with Joe Allbaugh, the former state prisons head known as a straight shooter. Commissioners also transferred county land to Tinker Air Force Base and voted to apply for more than $170 million in American Rescue Plan funds. [The Oklahoman] | [OKC Free Press]

  • Jail Trust clamps down on certain types of speech during meetings [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma County’s jail trust elects new chairman, limits public comment [NonDoc]
  • Former Oklahoma prisons boss picked for county jail trust [AP News]

Attorneys describe unwanted sexual advances from Oklahoma County judge: Two female attorneys have told the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation they initially kept quiet about a judge’s sexual advances because they feared for their careers. Both have now come forward to accuse former Oklahoma County District Judge Tim Henderson of repeated instances of sexual misconduct. [The Oklahoman]

Republican lawmaker seeks review of death row conviction: A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma who supports the death penalty said Monday he and several of his GOP colleagues are seeking an independent investigation into the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip. In a letter state Rep. Kevin McDugle has drafted to Gov. Kevin Stitt and the head of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board, McDugle said he believes new evidence suggests the now 58-year-old Glossip may be innocent. [AP News]

Prisoner’s Mother: ‘You never know when it could be your family member’: Emily Barnes is a criminal justice reform advocate and founder of Ignite Justice, a nonprofit group that works to improve prison and jail conditions in Oklahoma. Her 20-year-old son Kody is serving a 25-year sentence for armed robbery at the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economic Opportunity

Fruits of a long labor — Oasis Fresh Market grand opening emotional for advocates: Monday’s event at 1725 N. Peoria Ave. seemed to have it all: a crowd of about 200, chants of “Oasis, Oasis” and a celebrity sighting in the form of “The King,” Barry Switzer. It was equal parts grocery store grand opening and victory lap for a years-long, economic marathon. [Tulsa World] In an emotional speech given today at the grand opening of Oasis Fresh Market on North Peoria, District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper described a long fight. [Public Radio Tulsa] The project, spearheaded by Tulsa City Councilor for District 1, Vanessa Hall-Harper, is the culmination of citizen’s efforts to address north Tulsa’s food desert status. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma has sixth-lowest gas price in U.S.; no shortages, AAA says: Oklahoma has the sixth-lowest gasoline prices in the U.S. and is not experiencing any shortages, the AAA auto club said Monday. The average price in the state is $2.78 a gallon. The price was $2.87 per gallon Monday at Tulsa-area QuikTrips, according to, a fuel price-tracking service. [Tulsa World]

Google, Walmart announce plans to increase clean energy use in Oklahoma: One of the biggest challenges to eliminating the use of carbon-based energy is the lack of market demand for cleaner sources, but Google hopes to fill that void with an ambitious goal at its massive data centers, including one in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

How four Oklahoma school leaders view federal relief funds: Oklahoma schools are seeing an influx of federal coronavirus relief dollars to help students recover from educational disruptions amid the pandemic. The latest allocation, made through the American Rescue Plan, was nearly $1.5 billion for K-12 schools. Combined with previous packages under the CARES Act, Oklahoma schools have been given more than $2 billion. The funds are significant enough for districts to invest in ambitious programs. Because the dollars were awarded based on Title I funding, schools serving the most low-income children receive more. [Oklahoma Watch]

State school board hires outside law firm amid charter funding fallout: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Monday authorized the use of taxpayer dollars for an outside law firm to represent it in three lawsuits over charter school funding. Up to $45,000 “subject to subsequent review, consideration and adjustment as deemed necessary” was approved for a legal services contract with the law firm of Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson. Tulsa attorney John O’Connor is to serve as lead counsel for the board. [Tulsa World]

General News

1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Criminal charges likely impossible today, legal expert tells mass graves committee: With no individuals alive to be prosecuted, and almost no possibility that a government entity could be held criminally liable, future charges related to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre are likely impossible, a legal expert told the city’s graves investigation oversight committee Monday. [Tulsa World]

Listen to the fifth episode of Focus: Black Oklahoma: On this episode, how the University of Tulsa is helping to alleviate legal complications around housing and unemployment for north Tulsa residents, why one Oklahoma state lawmaker believes returning to normal after the pandemic is an error, the untold stories of three Black sheroes who helped move the journey to freedom forward, a deep dive into the first novel published about the Tulsa Race Massacre, why Oklahoma is becoming a bright spot in the filmmaking industry, and the power of a smile. [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“What we’re doing isn’t working. If it was, my God, we wouldn’t have the damn list!”

-Rep. Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee, speaking about the state’s wait list for some disability services. Lawmakers are considering HB 2899, which would add a five-year residency requirement before being added to the wait list. Kerbs said his daughter is one of those on the list, which is reported to have about 5,800 names on it from as far back as 2008. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


The number of states, including Oklahoma, that have introduced anti-protest bills this year. So far this year, 81 such bills have been introduced, more than twice as many as in any other year. [New York Times]

Policy Note

My great-grandmother survived the 1921 Tulsa massacre. We’re not heeding her history: Without this necessary reckoning with the past, we’re already repeating it. As Oklahoma and many around the world are preparing to mark the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, last month, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law criminalizing peaceful protesters and giving immunity to drivers who “unintentionally” kill or injure protesters.  [Tiffany Crutcher Commentary / CNN]

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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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