In The Know: Candidate filing now open | Broadband bill offers opportunity | Gov. Stitt signs bill criminalizing abortion | 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

Broadband bill presents opportunity for Oklahoma (Guest Post): Access to broadband was an issue in Oklahoma before the COVID-19 pandemic — a problem that the sudden and long-term shift to remote work and learning threw into sharp relief. A few years before the pandemic, Oklahoma ranked 47th nationwide for average internet speeds and the share of residents connected, and in April 2020, schools estimated that nearly 1 in 4 students did not have a home internet connection. Now, a new bill (House Bill 3363) would help Oklahoma ensure that federal relief funding to improve connectivity would go where it’s needed most. [Dr. Brian Whitacre / OK Policy]  

Oklahoma News

What to watch during Oklahoma’s candidate filing period: Though many candidates have announced plans to run for one of the many federal, state and judicial races on the ballot this year, they will have to formally file for office during a three-day window that started Wednesday and ends Friday. [Oklahoma Watch

  • Oklahoma political season kicks off with filing for governor, U.S. Senate, other offices [The Oklahoman
  • Former AG candidate Mark Myles now running for Oklahoma County district attorney [The Oklahoman

Stitt signs bill criminalizing abortion in Oklahoma with no exceptions for rape, incest: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday morning signed into law one of the nation’s most extreme abortion restrictions, making performing the health care procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison unless done to save the life of the pregnant person. [Public Radio Tulsa] They could also face $100,000 fines. [The Black Wall Street Times] The bill takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns next month. [AP News] But even before the ink had dried, critics pledged to file a legal challenge to stop it from taking effect. They argued that abortion is a constitutionally protected procedure. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Abortion bill puts health care providers in crosshairs [The Journal Record
  • Many faith leaders grateful for new anti-abortion law, while some express regret [The Oklahoman
  • Gov. Stitt signs near-total abortion ban: ‘We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state’ [Tulsa World]
  • Read the full-text of Oklahoma’s newest abortion law that makes the procedure a felony [The Oklahoman
  • Viewpoint: Childbirth can be deadly, especially for people of color. Here’s how Oklahoma can act [Opinion / The Oklahoman
  • Oklahoma’s new abortion law could create a domino effect across the region [NPR]
  • Trust Women clinic in Wichita may experience patient surge in wake of Oklahoma abortion law [Kansas Reflector]
  • White House blasts ‘unconstitutional’ Oklahoma abortion law as ‘attack’ on women [Washington Examiner]

Oklahoma Commission on Race and Equality proposal fails again: Senate Bill 1204 proposes creating a 30-member Oklahoma Commission on Race and Equality. Bill author State Sen. George Young said he frequently hears from constituents who complain of unfair treatment or injustices in dealings with law enforcement or state agencies. Damion Shade is the justice and economic mobility project manager for Oklahoma Policy Institute. He worked with Young to provide data and research supporting the need for a race and equality commission. [Oklahoma Watch

State Government News

Amid effort to eliminate DHS waitlist, data breach a headache for vulnerable population: An effort to analyze and eventually clear the long list of people on the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ waitlist for developmentally disabled services could come to fruition this legislative session, but it has also resulted in a data breach that exposed citizens’ personal information and created stress for an already vulnerable population. [NonDoc

‘Burn it down’: Rep. Chris Kannady hears no Senate bills in Civil Judiciary meeting: In an unusual six-minute meeting this afternoon, House Civil Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Kannady lambasted his Senate counterpart for refusing to hear bills with broad support in the House and adjourned his meeting without hearing a single Senate bill on the agenda. [NonDoc

Tax cuts on groceries, income taxes, advance through state Senate panel: A number of House-originated tax-cut measures, including one that would temporarily cut the sales tax on groceries, are moving closer to potential passage in the Legislature’s other chamber. [Tulsa World

Recently from OK Policy: This legislative session, the Oklahoma legislature is set to consider several proposals that would significantly cut state revenue. Rather than cutting taxes, legislators must consider the state’s long-term fiscal health and its structural deficit by maintaining revenue streams this year and for years to come.

March general revenue exceeds target by nearly 40%: Deposits to the state’s primary operating fund continued to far exceed expectations in March, with allocations to the general revenue fund exceeding expectations by 37.7%, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Tulsa World

Office of Juvenile Affairs receives funds: The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority announced a $2 million allocation to the state Office of Juvenile Affairs to fund statewide evidence-based substance abuse interventions. State law requires part of Oklahoma’s medical marijuana excise tax revenue to fund anti-drug and rehabilitation programs. [The Lawton Constitution] The $2 million allocation is part of OMMA’s fiscal 2022 budget. [KFOR]

New Report from OK Policy: Our latest report, Better Tomorrows, reviews the historical context for Oklahoma’s youth justice system, examines contemporary processes and actors within the system, and recommends a series of reforms that can help achieve better outcomes for justice-involved children and their families.

Former Judge: Proposed law would see courts get more political: A local former judge says politics should stay as far from the courtroom as possible. James Bland was a district judge for 25 years. Now, he’s the chairman of the Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission is a group of 15 people who vet the most powerful judges in Oklahoma. A new proposed law, SJR 43, would abolish the commission. [Public Radio Tulsa

Bill to combine state law enforcement agencies advances, but future uncertain: A proposed merger of three state law enforcement agencies lived to fight another day, but barely, after tangling with the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. [Tulsa World

Tribal Nations News

‘We’re trying to reestablish our presence in our homeland’: Native Americans whose ancestors were forced out of the Southeast almost 200 years ago during a purge that cleared the way for White settlers returned Friday for a two-day festival with a name that sums up its purpose: “We have come back.” [Indian Country Today]

Health News

Oklahoma’s 988 mental health lifeline to launch by July, run by nonprofit vendor: State officials have selected an Arizona nonprofit group to run Oklahoma’s 988 Mental Health Line call center, which is on track to launch this summer. Solari Crisis & Human Services will operate the statewide 988 mental health lifeline, which will replace the 11-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. [Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

Justice Watch: Oklahoma County voters will decide on new jail funding: Oklahoma County residents, it’s time to mark June 28 on your calendar. Last week, the three-member Board of County Commissioners set an election date for a proposed $260 million general obligation bond to fund the construction of a new county jail. [Oklahoma Watch

Economic Opportunity

17% of people live near toxic release facilities—here’s how it breaks down in Oklahoma: After an accidental release from a chemical plant in West Virginia in 1985, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The act established the EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which provides citizens with crucial information on the toxins being emitted locally and the names of companies doing the emitting. [KPVI]

Study claims nation’s waters polluted: A new report by an environmental group contends that half of the water in the U.S. is too polluted for swimming, fishing or drinking – and that includes parts of Oklahoma’s waterways and lakes and reservoirs. [Southwest Ledger]

Economy & Business News

Renewable energy plays biggest role yet in powering Oklahoma: Within the grid operator’s footprint, Oklahoma has been leading the charge. According to the Advanced Power Alliance, the state last year was No. 3 in the nation for installed wind capacity and generated more electricity using the wind than any other state within SPP’s operational area. [The Oklahoman

Report: Most of state still in moderate to exceptional drought: Rainfall totals in Oklahoma averaged 0.61 of an inch for the week of March 28 through April 3, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. [Southwest Ledger]

Education News

Charter school reform bill advances in Oklahoma Legislature, but still has a long way to go: A bill that would create significant changes to charter school authorization advanced through the House of Representatives Common Education Committee Tuesday morning. [KOSU

Potential book restrictions leaves future of race, gender education in Oklahoma uncertain: Across the U.S., states are seeing an increase in school restrictions, particularly on books and critical race theory, with Oklahoma having at least 13 pieces of legislation since 2020 pertaining to the topic. [OU Daily]

Darrin Dunkin joins Western Heights board, Robert Everman remains president: Community members erupted in cheers as the newest member of the Western Heights Public Schools Board of Education, Darrin Dunkin, was sworn in during Monday night’s meeting. [NonDoc

Oklahoma Local News

With Oklahoma City sales tax revenues far above target, city budget reaches record $1.77B: Oklahoma City’s fiscal year 2022 budget could increase by more than $80 million thanks to a year of high, and often record-setting, sales tax revenues. [The Oklahoman

  • Council tables public housing project, approves budget expansion [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“If the court fines and fees are being disproportionately assessed to the poorest community which — because of racial wealth gaps in large urban centers — happen to be the black and brown communities, that’s where the cops are naturally going to go.”

– Damion Shade, justice and economic mobility project manager for Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about racial disparities [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day

1 in 4

In April 2020, Oklahoma schools estimated that nearly 1 in 4 public school students did not have a home internet connection.

[Source: Oklahoma Education Department]

New Guest Post from OK Policy: HB 3363 would create an Oklahoma Broadband Office with the goal of delivering broadband access to 95 percent of Oklahomans in five years.

Policy Note

Putting State Broadband Funds to Work: Best Practices In State Rural Broadband Grant Programs: After a year of pandemic and crisis, the scale of our national digital divide is at last recognized by policymakers at all levels, with federal, state, and local governments making unprecedented commitments to narrow the divide. While most of the funds to address these challenges flow from the federal government, it is at the state, county, and local levels where remarkable innovation has developed. Particularly critical in this moment are state-level efforts to distribute federal funds and incubate local initiatives. [Benton Institute for Broadband and 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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