In The Know: Caution urged amid record revenue | Marching for second chances | Thoughtful approach to PHE ending

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

A thoughtful approach to the end of the public health emergency will mitigate coverage lapses: As the end of the public health emergency approaches (which could be as soon as mid-July 2022), the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) has taken several steps to help eligible enrollees maintain coverage when the public health emergency ends. Many of Oklahoma’s outdated electronic data systems make more streamlined renewals impossible, and the state should commit to updating and improving those systems in the future. [Emma Morris / OK Policy

Policy Matters: It’s not enough to just listen: In order to fully connect with folks with different life experiences from our own – who are brave enough to share their truths – it’s not enough simply listen. We have to believe what they’re saying, even when those truths may run counter to our own experiences. Too often, people listen to these life stories but fail to believe them “because too much of what I’m invested in is threatened if you’re telling the truth.” [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Oklahoma News

State monthly revenue tops $2B for the first time: April gross state tax revenue topped $2 billion for the first time in a single month, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Wednesday. McDaniel, though, warned of potential trouble ahead. [Tulsa World

  • Caution urged despite record-setting revenue in Oklahoma [AP News
  • Inflation a factor as state sets records for tax revenues [The Journal Record

Previously from OK Policy: Oklahoma’s fiscal outlook is rosy — for now. Premature tax cuts will set the state up to fail; investments will allow us to thrive.

State Government News

Oklahomans take to the streets for peace, unity and second chances: Some people walked in solidarity with formerly incarcerated men and women seeking second chances. Others walked together in the name of unity and peace. Prison Fellowship’s Second Chance Prayer Walk and Stronger Together OKC’s Peace Walk were held on different days and drew different crowds, but they had something in common. Both events served as literal symbols of the power of walking in tandem with one’s neighbors. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma AG accused of failing to represent ratepayers in utility case: Oklahoma’s attorney general “failed” utility consumers and abdicated his duty to advocate on their behalf regarding questions about one of the state’s largest utilities and whether it acted prudently in purchasing natural gas during extreme cold weather in February 2021, two Oklahoma Supreme Court justices wrote. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

ACCESS Oklahoma funding approved, but not for Norman turnpike expansion: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority received permission on Wednesday to move ahead with a $200 million line of credit to fund its ACCESS Oklahoma plan, although funding for the controversial south expansion project will have to wait. [The Oklahoman

New Joint Committee on Administrative Rules starts slowly, discusses HB 1775: The Senate half of the Oklahoma Legislature’s new Joint Committee on Administrative Rules held its first meeting this afternoon, with members debating the definition of the word “course” while discussing proposed rules from the State Department of Education regarding HB 1775. [NonDoc

House sends governor ban on ‘anti-fossil fuel’ financial institutions: Legislation sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday would bar state government from doing business with financial institutions that “boycott energy companies” — unless doing so would cost the state money. [Tulsa World

Land purchase near Oklahoma state park has some questioning timing: About three months before the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department broke ground on a new marina on the east side of Lake Murray State Park, the agency’s deputy director bought 26 acres of land less than four miles from the development. [The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

Muscogee Nation resolution seeks to protect its citizens from state taxation: Muscogee Nation is moving ahead with plans to file a lawsuit seeking relief from state taxation for tribal citizens. The lawsuit, authorized by a tribal council resolution, would seek a judicial declaration that Muscogee Nation’s reservation is Indian Country for purposes of civil taxation matters. [KGOU

Statue of Osage prima ballerina stolen, sold for scrap: The bronze statue of Osage prima ballerina Marjorie Tallchief that has graced the grounds of the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum for about 15 years was stolen around April 28 then recovered on May 2, in pieces – missing her head and arm – at a recycling center in Catoosa. [Indian Country Today]

Health News

Oklahoma already ranked among the highest in the country for sexually transmitted infections. The pandemic likely made it worse: The newest round of CDC numbers sound bad. No. 11 for chlamydia. No. 5 for gonorrhea. No. 4 for syphilis. But they aren’t too surprising to Terrainia Harris. Harris is the administrative program manager for the state’s Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service. And she is one of several health officials saying these high rates — revealed in the CDC’s STI data for 2020 — aren’t new for Oklahoma. [State Impact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma joins Texas in offering glimpse of “post-Roe” world: Oklahoma joined Texas this week to form a region that parts of a nation divided over abortion care might look like if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. [AP News]

Addiction prevention advocate shares story of late son’s substance abuse: Reggie Whitten said while growing up, he had never met someone who was an addict and didn’t know what addiction was. He’d only thought an addict looked like a character from “The Andy Griffith Show.” [Enid News & Eagle]

Meet the 2022 Gerber baby from Oklahoma who’s shining a spotlight on limb differences: Isa Slish has been named the 2022 Gerber baby! The 7-month-old from Edmond, Oklahoma, will be the iconic baby food company’s “Chief Growing Officer (CGO)” for the next year and will get to be the chief taste tester for their new baby food purees. [KAKE]

Criminal Justice News

Report summary cites need to transform TPD’s ‘organizational culture’; praises new collaborative partnerships: A long-awaited evaluation of the Tulsa Police Department’s community policing efforts will be presented at 6 p.m. Thursday during a virtual public meeting. CNA, an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit that works with law enforcement agencies across the country to analyze and resolve problems, will present its findings and recommendations, followed by TPD’s presentation of its short-term action plan. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma Army veteran gets probation for role in Jan. 6 US Capitol riot: A federal judge has put a U.S. Army veteran from Oklahoma on probation for three years for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Edward T. Spain Jr. also was chastised Wednesday for his social media posts before and after the riot. [The Oklahoman

Economic Opportunity

Millions retired early during the pandemic. Many are now returning to work, new data shows: Millions of older Americans stopped working during the pandemic, far more than usual, stoking fears that the workforce had been permanently altered, but the country is close to closing the gap in early retirements, according to new data. [Washington Post]

Economy & Business News

Google to invest $75 million more into state of Oklahoma in 2022: Adding to a wealth of recent economic development in the area, Google announced plans on Wednesday to invest at least $75 million in Oklahoma this year, expanding operations at its data center in Pryor. [Tulsa World

Education News

Pandemic, new state law stressful for school board members: With no manual or list of emergency procedures, school boards across the country were each in a unique position to build district plans and decide what was best for their communities as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation. [The Norman Transcript]

Monitoring free speech on Oklahoma’s campuses: A new committee in Oklahoma devoted to free speech will soon oversee the state of campus discourse at public institutions of higher education. Signed into law last month, a new statute will establish a committee within the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to monitor the state of free speech on college campuses, respond to complaints and provide recommendations. [Inside Higher Ed]

‘Food out of the mouths of children’: Former Stillwater schools employee accused of theft: A former Stillwater Public Schools employee is accused of stealing student nutrition program money for more than seven years after district management reported to investigators that bank deposits didn’t match receipts at school cafeterias. [The Oklahoman

Mustang Public Schools director of payroll accused of embezzling $416,000 over five years: A Mustang Public Schools employee stole more than $416,000 from the school district over the past five years before her arrest and resignation last month, police say. [The Oklahoman

Community members seek equity in OKCPS bond issue: In November, those who reside within Oklahoma City Public Schools boundaries are also expected to consider a bond package for capital projects in the district. s community members gathered for their first chance to discuss the topic with OKCPS leadership, they expressed a desire for district equity to be a top priority. [NonDoc

General News

Protected, For Now: The race to provide Afghan evacuees with legal services: Feroz Bashari once served as U.S. Sen. John McCain’s personal interpreter in Afghanistan. Now, he lives on the fourth floor of an Oklahoma City hotel with his wife, Maria, and their five children. One of the 74,000 Afghan refugees brought to the U.S., their hopes of building a new life here, however, hinge in part on their former lives. And with the clock ticking on their immigration status, a scarcity of affordable legal aid complicates their future. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Local News

OKC’s proposed budget includes 123 new positions:  The city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 includes 123 new positions, an increase of about 2.5% from the current budget. That would bring the total number of authorized positions to nearly 5,000. [The Journal Record

Quote of the Day

“If the Attorney General was going to be focusing his energies on anything, it should be making sure that the people of Oklahoma aren’t getting ripped off by our utility companies,”

– State Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-Oklahoma City), speaking about an opinion from the Oklahoma Supreme Court that said Oklahoma’s Attorney General had “failed” utility consumers and abdicated his duty to advocate on their behalf following the cold weather in February 2021 [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day

$204 million

In 2025, the tax cut in HB 3350 will mean $204 million less in the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and $20 million less in the 1017 Fund. While the cut to the GRF would be spread out across agencies (many of which are already underfunded), Oklahoma’s schools would be directly impacted by this lost revenue because public education in Oklahoma is primarily funded by the GRF and the 1017 Fund.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New from OK Policy: Under HB 3350, the majority of the benefit would go to the richest Oklahomans and leave the state scrounging for revenue to provide services that support us all.

Policy Note

Five Reasons Why States Should Proceed with Caution Despite Soaring Revenues: Two years into the pandemic, states are flush with cash, a vastly different picture than the 20 percent revenue decline suffered by states in the early days of the pandemic. But today’s often double-digit revenue growth is not sustainable. Here are five reasons why state policymakers should proceed carefully despite the temptations of full coffers. [Tax Policy Center]

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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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