In The Know: Candidate filling draws hundreds, today is last day | Investing in our state | Lawmakers question turnpike officials

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

Oklahoma state, federal office candidate filing period draws hundreds: The number of candidates who have filed to run in 2022 Oklahoma elections has risen to 465. The elections will be the first since congressional and legislative districts were redrawn last year to conform to the 2020 Census results. [The Oklahoman

Bob Doucette: Instead of more tax cuts, let’s invest in ourselves: With Oklahoma’s treasury flush with cash and growing by the month, state lawmakers’ appetite for tax cuts has grown right along with it. Yes, there is an alternative to meeting rising revenues with tax cuts. But seeing that institutional memory is short, that alternative path remains a road not taken. [Column / Tulsa World

New from OK Policy: Through public investments and targeted tax relief for low-income Oklahomans, state leaders can use this year’s larger-than-usual state budget to make long-lasting, positive change. Premature tax cuts will set the state up to fail; investments will allow us to thrive.

State Government News

State Senate panel advances medical marijuana regulatory bills: A number of bills aimed at regulating the booming medical marijuana industry passed a Senate panel on Thursday. House Bill 3813 would give Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority investigators the power to seize illegal medical marijuana products, said Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore. [Tulsa World

OEC Fiber launches mobile app, eyes completion of zone coverage for members: April marks four years since Oklahoma Electrical Cooperative Fiber began their mission to expand access to high speed internet and improve Cleveland County’s quality of life. The subsidiary of Oklahoma Electric Cooperative offers fiber-optic internet, the latest broadband connection. [The Norman Transcript]

New Guest Post from OK Policy: Access to broadband was an issue in Oklahoma before the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

Federal Government News

Rep. Kevin Hern tells Tulsa Chamber deficits should matter again: Since arriving in Washington three years ago, Congressman Kevin Hern has angled for influence on Republican fiscal policy. On Thursday, speaking to the Tulsa Regional Chamber, he sketched the outlines of a plan to balance the federal budget in seven years. [Tulsa World

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee leaders to build drug treatment facilities with opioid settlement funds: The Cherokee Nation will use opioid settlement funds to build new drug treatment facilities and new opioid remediation, addiction prevention and treatment programs, the nation announced Thursday. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma tribes bolstered state economy by $15.6 billion: American Indian tribes play an important function in Oklahoma’s economy as well as pull economic activity out to otherwise ignored rural communities. [The Oklahoma Eagle

Recently from OK Policy: Despite disparities and delays in funding, Tribal Nations in Oklahoma were able to effectively utilize what resources were at their disposal to provide strong responses to safety measures and closures, even during the COVID-19 surges

Indigenous women arrested at Oklahoma’s State of the State set to appear for first court date: In February, Two Indigenous women from the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band, and Oglala Lakota nations were arrested for “Disrupting the Legislative Session” at Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s State of the State with banners carrying messages uplifting tribal sovereignty, the Covid-19 pandemic, environmental concerns, and the wrongful imprisonment of Julius Jones will attend their first court hearing this week. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Catching up with Congress: Kevin Hern passes on a run for open U.S. Senate seat: U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern filed Wednesday to run for a third term, passing on an opportunity to compete for Oklahoma’s rare open U.S. Senate seat. But after nearly four years in the House of Representatives, Hern is now poised to take on more influential policy roles in his next term instead of starting over in the Senate. [The Frontier

Health News

SoonerCare waivers to extend as public health emergency gets renewal at federal level: The federal government’s public health emergency has been extended again, meaning Medicaid continuous coverage will be extended another 90 days effective Saturday. [Tulsa World

Recently from OK Policy: It will be vital that states thoughtfully approach the end of the public health emergency by taking steps to ensure that all eligible individuals stay enrolled in Medicaid. A successful public health strategy would ensure that ineligible individuals are connected with options to mitigate coverage gaps.

Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative raises awareness of Black maternal health: Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative is hosting events to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s high rate of pregnancy-related deaths, especially for women of color. Black women experience pregnancy-related deaths and preventable maternal deaths at three times the rate of white women, the release states. [Tulsa World]

Clash over abortion comes to Tulsa with Women’s Clinic patients escorted through protesters: A corner of midtown Tulsa has been ground zero for a years-long clash between abortion opponents and women seeking reproductive health services. “People do not realize the ugliness here,” said Susan Braselton, who organizes volunteers to escort Tulsa Women’s Clinic patients through protesters with as little trauma as possible. [Tulsa World

  • Kansas clinics expecting rush of clients because of Oklahoma’s abortion ban [Public Radio Kansas]
  • Measures in Kentucky, Florida and Oklahoma are among new limits being passed ahead of a Supreme Court ruling this summer [Washington Post]

Oklahoma Blood Institute desperate for donors: Oklahoma Blood Institute has less than half of the blood supply needed, threatening a critical blood shortage for local patients, and creating an immediate need for blood donors. [Frederick Press-Leader]

Federal grants to benefit rural hospitals, communities: Three rural hospital systems in Oklahoma have been named to receive federal grants to help them recover from the pandemic and maintain financial stability in the future. Emergency Rural Health Care Grants announced this week were awarded to the Grady Memorial Hospital Authority, McAlester Regional Healthcare Authority and Kiowa County Hospital Authority. [The Journal Record

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Corrections Department workers get pay bump, including 30% for corrections officers: Correctional officers are expected to see a 30% bump in pay, while probation and parole officers will receive a 20% addition, with a 16% increase planned for certified medical staff. [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

State first-time jobless claims decline for second consecutive week: First-time jobless claims in the state declined by more than one-third last week, when compared to adjusted figures from the prior week, according to a government report. [Tulsa World] Nationwide, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits ticked up but remained at a historically low level, according to federal data. [The Journal Record

General News

Renown historian, scholar pledges to trace the roots of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors: Renowned historian, author, and genealogist Henry Louis Gates Jr. met with the three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre last week and pledged to trace their family trees and feature them on his popular PBS show on ancestry. [The Oklahoma Eagle

Coalition helping Afghan families resettle in Norman: Since the United States pulled out of Afghanistan last fall, Oklahoma has received just over 1,800 Afghan refugees, CAIR Oklahoma reported last month. Eight Afghan families and one individual have resettled in Norman with the help of the Norman Coalition for Refugee Support and its partners. [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma Local News

‘We’ve Screwed Up A Little Bit’: Lawmakers grill turnpike official over Norman expansion plan: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority faced criticism from lawmakers Thursday over the agency’s rollout of a multi-million dollar planned Kickapoo Turnpike expansion. [News 9]

OKC endorses expanded Amtrak rail service: City leaders are on board when it comes to establishing passenger rail service to the north. The Oklahoma City Council unanimously approved a resolution this week supporting the expansion of the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas. [The Journal Record

Quote of the Day

“All of these are significant headwinds to progress that more tax cuts can’t fix. We can’t wish these problems away, or magically sloganeer our way to top 10 status. Instead, we can invest.”

– Bob Doucette, writing about Oklahoma’s dismal rankings in education, health, and college degrees and the opportunity to invest in the state [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s Office of Disability Concerns has seen a 43 percent cut since 2009

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New from OK Policy: State leaders have overseen the shrinkage of the state budget, due in large part to tax cuts and growing tax expenditures. A smaller budget has had negative impacts on Oklahomans, particularly through smaller agency budgets, when adjusted for inflation. 

Policy Note

The New Trend: Short-Sighted Tax Cuts for the Rich Will Not Grow State Economies: Most state budgets are flush with cash due to billions in federal aid and a rebounding economy, positioning state policymakers to make transformative investments in programs, e.g. healthcare, education and infrastructure, that will help communities rebound from the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, most state legislatures are instead opting for premature, myopic tax cuts that will inevitably widen racial inequities and erode public services that are still reeling from cuts due to the Great Recession [ITEP]

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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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