In The Know: Budget moving as session deadline looms | U.S. Supreme Court decision threatens to erode longstanding tribal protections | Policy Matters | 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

Policy Matters: Last-minute state budget deals intentional, harmful: Every year, Oklahoma lawmakers unveil the state budget during the legislative session’s waning days. It doesn’t have to be this way. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

WATCH | Conversation with Advocates: Oklahoma can invest in maternal health and addressing poverty: Chelsea Abney, Executive Director of We Are Rising, talks with OK Policy’s Emma Morris about the need for Oklahoma to invest in maternal health by alleviating the state’s maternal care deserts. She also talked about how poverty can negatively impact families and caregivers, especially in parts Oklahoma that are already lacking necessary supports and services. [OK Policy / YouTube]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma lawmakers push forward on budget as deadline to override any vetoes looms: On Wednesday, House Republicans voted in support of the general appropriations bill, while Democrats argued the budget process lacked input from their caucus. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers punt on grocery tax elimination, broad income tax cuts in budget [Tulsa World]
  • House Republicans say this year’s budget is best ever; Dems say it could be better [Tulsa World]

State Government News

After Oklahoma’s sweeping abortion ban, many bills to improve maternal health still failed: The 2023 legislative session was Sen. Carri Hicks’ fourth year to file a bill that would pay baby-friendly hospitals in the state slightly higher Medicaid reimbursement rates in hopes of expanding access to quality maternal health care. But that bill, along with the other nine bills aimed at improving maternal health in the state, failed this year. Most bills didn’t receive a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this legislative session. Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, who chairs that committee, told The Frontier he had no comment. [The Frontier]

‘We will strive to survive the Ryan Walters time’: Oklahoma superintendents respond to Walters’ claims, rhetoric: Many of the headlines from reports about State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ May 1 House committee hearing focused on his more inflammatory comments: terrorist teachers’ unions, the previous superintendent’s “dumpster fire” of an administration and common refrains of leftist indoctrination in the classroom. But another theme also stood out: Walters repeatedly emphasized his focus on open communication with superintendents around the state. But when StateImpact sent out a survey to those superintendents, a much more complex picture emerged. [StateImpact Oklahoma via KOSU]

Oklahoma lawmakers could force Education Department to apply for grants: New language in a proposed state budget could handicap the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s ability to refuse certain federal funds, as lawmakers continue to voice concerns over the agency’s handling of grant programs. A new proposal would force the state Education Department to get permission from the House speaker and the Senate president pro tem before it could decline to apply for federal grant funding that the agency had received before the 2023 fiscal year. [The Oklahoman]

  • Some Lawmakers Worried Over Potentially Ignored Education Grants [News On 6]

Over objections, House approves new fund to self-finance state building projects: Oklahoma spends about $55 million a year just to cover interest on bond repayments for state building improvement projects. To save money in the future, lawmakers have devised a program that will let agencies avoid selling bonds and instead borrow the money from state government itself. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Supreme Court Decision Threatens to Erode Longstanding Tribal Protections: The nation’s highest court could soon decide a federal law meant to keep Indian children with their families and tribes is racist. [Oklahoma Watch]

Column: Students deserve the right to wear tribal regalia at graduation: After Senate Bill 429 passed both chambers with all but one vote, Gov. Kevin Stitt chose to ignore the will of the Legislature and vetoed the bill on May 1. This bipartisan bill would have ensured that Indigenous students could wear tribal regalia to high school and college graduations across the state. [Cindy Nguyen Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Sovereignty Symposium slated for June 13-14: It has a different host than in years past, but the 35th Sovereignty Symposium is scheduled for June 13-14 and again will be a forum to discuss legal issues affecting Indian Country and those who often deal with Natives and the law. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Health News

Funds approved to benefit sick children, families: The Oklahoma Legislature has passed a measure that would result in construction of a Ronald McDonald House near Mercy Hospital in north Oklahoma City. Lawmakers agreed to tap American Rescue Plan Act funds to finance the project. House Bill 2943, which passed through both the House and Senate and has been sent to the governor, would channel $4 million to Ronald McDonald House Charities for construction of the new home. It also would provide $2 million for the Bethany Children’s Health Center to fund renovation of the center’s complex care units, which are 25 years old. [Journal Record]

More Oklahomans calling 988 for help in mental health crisis: Most people know about 911, as even very young children are taught to dial the three-digit number if they’re ever in a real emergency and need help fast. While people may not be quite as familiar with 988, the digits to dial in the case of a mental health crisis, the number has become more well known since its launch in Oklahoma last summer. According to state officials, some 3,500 calls and texts are received via 988 each month. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

A fund to help rehabilitate prisoners has sat empty for 7 years. Lawmakers are finally moving to fund it: When voters approved sweeping criminal justice reforms seven years ago to reduce Oklahoma’s prison population, they also created a fund specifically meant to help people get treatment and stay away from prison. The fund has been empty this whole time. This week, lawmakers finally agreed to put money into it. Senate Bill 27X transfers $12.5 million to the County Community Safety Investment Fund, which was created “for the sole purpose of providing funds to counties to provide community rehabilitative programming.” [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma town of Cushing selected as site of $5 billion, ‘next-generation’ refinery: A $5.6 billion refinery is coming to Cushing. Southern Rock Energy Partners, the company behind this facility, promises it will be more eco-friendly than existing refineries. According to a press release, when the refinery opens in 2027, it should only produce 5% of the greenhouse gas emissions and use 10% of the water a normal refinery would. If all goes according to plan, the facility will only use renewable energy to power the refining process. [KOSU]

  • Cushing, set for new refinery complex, considers itself pipeline crossroads of the world [The Oklahoman]
  • Cushing chosen as site for $5.56 billion refinery [Tulsa World]

Education News

Gift to expand data analytics center at OCU: Longtime Oklahoma City University benefactor and alumnus Ronnie K. Irani has pledged a $2 million gift to the university to expand the data analytics center that bears his name. The gift will allow for the expansion of opportunities in the Ronnie K. Irani Center for Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence in OCU’s Meinders School of Business. Among other things, it will fund the hiring of a clinical faculty member dedicated to the center, increase promotional efforts to drive community and corporate engagement, and boost the number of data analytics and AI seminars at the school, among other enhancements. [Journal Record]

General News

McCurtain Publisher Rejects Views of The County As Racially Biased: The public view of McCurtain emerged following an expose, widely published in Oklahoma and national media outlets in late April, in which McCurtain officials were caught in a recording threatening to kill reporters and to lynch and beat Blacks. In an interview with the Oklahoma Eagle, Willingham acknowledged that high-profile racially charged events occurred in the County in years past. But “things have changed,” he said. [Oklahoma Eagle]

Oklahoma broadband upgrade efforts are gaining speed: The Oklahoma Broadband Office, which is poised to disburse as much as $1.6 billion to internet service providers to establish high-speed internet for underserved areas of Oklahoma, seems to be moving from a dial-up pace to one more closely fitting to its name. [NonDoc]

  • ‘Internet for All’ workshop fields input for developing broadband in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Under proposed law, OKC could get active shooter training center [The Oklahoman]
  • Police Department’s Real Time Information Center slowly becoming a reality [Tulsa World]
  • Commemoration Fund awards over $1 million to Tulsa orgs. [Black Wall Street Times]
  • Black Wall Street Legacy Fest Is Back To Honor Greenwood [Oklahoma Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“Do we have students here that, you know, some may identify in different ways? I’m sure we do. But our charge is to try to make those students’ lives better. Our charge is not to make them part of some kind of political conversation.”

– Matt Riggs, Superintendent of the small, rural district of Macomb, saying State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ focus on talking about culture war issues is distracting attention from the real needs of Oklahoma students. [KGOU]

Number of the Day


The rate of children born preterm in Oklahoma, which is the nation’s 8th highest rate. Preterm birth, or the delivery of an infant prior to 37 weeks of gestation, is a significant cause of infant morbidity and mortality. [March of Dimes]

Policy Note

Maternal Mortality in Oklahoma, Annual Report 2022: According to the CDC, Oklahoma persistently ranks among the states with the worst rates (40th) of maternal deaths in the U.S. Between 2017-2019, the Oklahoma maternal mortality rate was 23.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is above the national average of 20.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and above the Healthy People 2030 target goal of 15.7. Maternal mortality is viewed as an indicator of the overall effectiveness of the obstetrical and the general health care systems. [Oklahoma State Department of Health]

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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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