In The Know: Cautious optimism for disability funding | OK is 6th state for clean slate legislation | Autopsy reports from executions | 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.

Oklahoma News

Historic funding for disability services leaves advocates cautiously optimistic: The waiting list for community-based support services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities is currently 13 years. Now – the Department of Human Services hopes to eliminate the current waiting list through a historic funding measure approved by the legislature this session. [News 9

Oklahoma becomes sixth state to enact clean slate legislation for expungements: Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed a bill that would allow for some automatic expungements, making it the sixth state to adopt automated record-clearing legislation in the United States. [CHNI via Stillwater News Press

Previously from OK Policy: If Oklahomans could expunge their criminal records through automatic expungements, it would be much easier for them to access employment and become productive citizens, but the current expungement system is too expensive and complicated for most eligible Oklahomans to access the benefits of an expungement. Oklahoma’s Clean Slate Law could change that.

Autopsy Reports: Recently executed Oklahoma prisoners had fluid in lungs: Oklahoma has executed four men over the past seven months. They all had excess fluid in their lungs when they died, autopsy reports from the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner’s office show. Dr. Ross Miller noted minimal pulmonary edema in the autopsy report of Gilbert Postelle, who the state executed on Feb. 17. Postelle’s lungs had a combined weight of 1,220 milligrams; the adult average is between 900 and 1,000 milligrams. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Wins, losses in budget deal: Though the Oklahoma Legislature had a record amount of money to spend this year, not every state agency saw its budget increase. In fact, some agencies said their budgets reduced, in some cases by large amounts. [Southwest Ledger]

Recently from OK Policy: OK Policy released a statement on the legislature’s FY23 appropriations bills. The budget reflect some good investments in Oklahoma, especially for youth and their families involved in the justice system and the hundreds of Oklahomans with intellectual and developmental disabilities who currently face a 13-year wait for services. Furthermore, given more than $1 billion in tax cuts were proposed during this session, we were heartened to see lawmakers demonstrate restraint. However, lawmakers again have missed the chance to make strategic and targeted investments to help more Oklahomans live healthy lives, raise thriving families, and create safer communities. 

Oklahoma AG candidate’s businesses received pandemic relief funds from his bank: Gentner Drummond, a wealthy Tulsa businessman who said he plans to spend millions on his campaign for state attorney general, received $3.6 million in pandemic relief funds for several of his businesses, using his own bank to review some of the applications and to administer the money. [The Oklahoman

After Swadley’s debacle, Oklahoma lawmakers won’t reform tourism agency this year: The Oklahoma Legislature will not act this legislative session to change the power structure at the state’s Tourism and Recreation Department as a result of the agency’s questionable deal with a local barbecue chain. [The Oklahoman

Stitt wields veto pen against public employees: The Oklahoma Legislature’s attempts to reward volunteers and public employees who soldiered through the pandemic were rebuffed by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto pen last week – all based on Stitt’s concern over how the money is being spent. [The Journal Record

(Audio) Long Story Short: What’s behind a grand jury’s rebuke of the Governor, Pardon and Parole Board: Paul Monies reports on the Oklahoma County Grand Jury’s rebuke of the governor and the Pardon and Parole Board; Lionel Ramos talks about his upcoming story on Oklahoma abortion data; Keaton Ross gives an update on a federal lawsuit holding up Oklahoma executions. [Oklahoma Watch

OG&E files for rate increase, but critics say rates should be reduced: Less than six months after receiving a rate hike to pay for severe winter weather in 2021, one of the state’s largest public utility providers is asking regulators to approve a rate increase that will allow it to raise $164 million in additional revenue. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

  • AARP fights proposed $164 million utility rate hike [Tulsa World

Marijuana regulations high priority for Legislature: Apparently the days of unfettered growth of the medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma are drawing to an abrupt close, because marijuana regulation has been a high priority for the Legislature this year. [Southwest Ledger]

County road funds allocated by formulas: The state Transportation Commission recently certified the county road mileage in all 77 counties as of Jan. 1, 2022, for tax purposes. “These mileages constitute part of a formula used by the Oklahoma Tax Commission to distribute road user revenues among the counties,” transportation commissioners were informed. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers react after Texas school shooting: Oklahoma lawmakers are reacting after Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas. The country is reeling from another school shooting. Authorities say the death toll has risen to 19 children and two adults. [KJRH]

Tribal Nations News

Black Freedmen descendants ignored as Gov. Stitt clashes with tribes: That SCOTUS ruling reaffirmed the Muscogee Nation’s jurisdiction over their territorial boundaries and other Tribes have referenced the ruling. Meanwhile, most Freedmen descendants continue to lack citizenship and rights in the Tribes that once enslaved their ancestors. [The Black Wall Street Times

Proposed Community Reinvestment Act rules provide new visibility to Indian Country: Proposed bank regulatory changes could unlock new sources of capital in Indian Country and signal what Native advocates describe as “major progress” in their decades-long push for representation. [Tribal Business News]

Cherokee Nation contributes total of $476,000 to 136 northeast Oklahoma rural fire departments: The Cherokee Nation is contributing nearly half a million dollars to 136 northeast Oklahoma fire departments. The tribe’s annual contribution helps support volunteer fire departments, which otherwise rely on fundraisers, membership dues and the help of their communities’ residents to maintain their vital operations. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Editorial: Voting is going to be harder in Oklahoma: Oklahoma voters are going to have a harder time casting a ballot with the latest ill-conceived laws to fight the myth of election fraud. House Bill 3364 and House Bill 3365, from Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, are meant to tighten rules in the name of election security. The bills are vague, confusing and lacking in detail. Both are signed into law. [Editorial / Tulsa World

GOP Corporation Commission candidates to debate: NonDoc’s 2022 primary election debate series will feature a showdown between GOP Corporation Commission candidates 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at the OSU Hamm Institute for American Energy, 300 N.E. 9th St. in Oklahoma City. [NonDoc

Tulsa City Councilor McKee won’t seek reelection: District 4 Councilor Kara Joy McKee announced Tuesday she will not seek reelection to the Tulsa City Council. In a statement posted to Facebook, McKee said she made the decision due to a personal health issue. [Public Radio Tulsa

Health News

Study: Air pollution could cause more severe COVID: Several common air pollutants are linked to more severe outcomes following a coronavirus infection, a new study has found. [Tulsa World

If Roe falls, some fear repercussions for reproductive care: If the Supreme Court follows through on overturning Roe v. Wade, abortion likely will be banned or greatly restricted in about half the U.S. states. But experts and advocates fear repercussions could reach even further, affecting care for women who miscarry, couples seeking fertility treatments and access to some forms of contraception. [AP News]

Economy & Business News

Drought may cut western Oklahoma wheat crop by 50%: Drought that descended over western Oklahoma last fall has persisted to the point that harvests of winter wheat may be down by as much as 50% this year, farmers and state officials say. In Cimarron County, dryland wheat producer J.B. Stewart said his wheat yields this year have been zero. [The Journal Record

Education News

Oklahoma’s bathroom ban will endanger transgender children: Oklahoma’s legislature has passed a bill that would ban transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Senate Bill 615 would require students in the state’s public schools to use restrooms according to the sex on their birth certificate, barring transgender girls from using female bathrooms, and transgender boys from using male bathrooms. Governor Kevin Stitt is expected to sign the bill into law this week. [Human Rights Watch]

Kingfisher’s new superintendent latest school official to leave district: Kingfisher will be looking for a new school superintendent for the second time in two school years. Kingfisher Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Craig, who was hired in May 2021 after an extensive search, has decided to leave the school district after just over a year to take a job at the nearby Oklahoma CareerTech district. [Enid News & Eagle]

General News

Oklahoma pastor called for shared database of Southern Baptist’s sexual predators list: An Enid minister began calling for Southern Baptists’ to create a database of preacher predators in 2007 to alert unsuspecting congregations of sexual abusers hopping from church to church and victim to victim. On Sunday, the Rev. Wade Burleson, along with the rest of the world, learned that, while the leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination decided against a database, there was an internal list of predators that the denomination didn’t share publicly. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

Council appoints new city auditor, intros Human Rights Commission ordinance: In a meeting more brief than usual, Tuesday the City Council of Oklahoma City approved an allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for a road project associated with the impending closure of Douglas Boulevard for the Tinker expansion project. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“It’s really a workforce development issue. And we talked about how normally people who do, (they) just have to check the box, even though they have given their time back to society and done everything they’re supposed to do. If they check the box on an employment form, they’ve got only about a 50% chance of being called back and even a smaller chance than that of getting the job.” 

– Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond), speaking about a bill she co-authored to establish Oklahoma’s Clean Slate Law, which will create an automatic expungement system that will reduce barriers to employment, housing, and education for people with a criminal record. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Number of the Day


Percentage of rural births that are covered by Medicaid

[Source: Kaiser Health News]

Policy Note

States Should Spend Recovery Funds Equitably as Second Round of Aid Rolls In: Many states are using the American Rescue Plan’s flexible federal aid to build an inclusive recovery by addressing the long-standing health, economic, and fiscal inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. As states receive the rest of their State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) this spring, state lawmakers should look to the best practices to date across the nation to use the remaining funds to help people in the communities most harmed by the pandemic to recover and thrive. [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities]

Previously from OK Policy: The temporary surge in state revenue can have a positive impact on Oklahoma’ economy — if investments are equitable. The choices that state leaders make this year will have long-lasting impacts.

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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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