In The Know: Cherokee chief promises opposition to ‘enemies of tribal sovereignty’ | OSDE faces second wrongful termination suit | Oklahomans deserve more than incremental justice reform | 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

Lawmakers made incremental changes towards justice reform last session, but Oklahomans deserve much more: During Oklahoma’s 2023 legislative session, lawmakers made some positive improvements in the state’s criminal legal system, including investments into diversion programs and significant reforms around court fines and fees. While these changes are commendable, they are only the beginning of what is necessary to tackle the state’s ongoing incarceration crisis. To make a real impact, Oklahoma needs much more substantial reform in the years ahead. [David Gateley / OK Policy]

Oklahomans invited to share input on addressing the state’s affordable housing crisis: To help raise awareness of the state’s affordable housing crisis, the Oklahoma Policy Institute and its grassroots advocacy program Together Oklahoma will be hosting a town hall in Edmond (Wednesday, Sept. 6) for residents to share how the lack of affordable housing impacts them and their communities. [OK Policy]

Legislative Priorities Survey: We are asking Oklahomans to complete an online survey about the important issues facing our state. Survey responses will help shape legislative priorities for OK Policy and Together Oklahoma during the coming legislative session and beyond. [Complete Online Survey]

Oklahoma News

Amid legal uncertainty, Oklahoma’s governor ramps up rhetoric against tribal governments: The speech was billed as a summer State of the State address, but it didn’t take long for Gov. Kevin Stitt to fold in some of his most pointed attacks against tribal governments yet. The governor’s message underscored his escalating feud with tribal leaders and the federal government over authority on tribal lands. Stitt has vocally objected in recent months to everything from tax-sharing agreements to tribal court jurisdiction. [The Oklahoman]

  • The last time a prominent Cherokee politician tangled with tribes, he got what he wanted [The Oklahoman]

A ballot question may be the only way to ease Oklahoma’s strict abortion law, but is a movement underway?: Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, several states have taken steps to ease restrictions on abortion, and voters in Kansas rejected a proposed amendment that would have stripped abortion rights from the state’s constitution. But in Oklahoma, which has among the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, a movement to give state voters a chance to change the status quo has yet to get underway. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma Supreme Court to decide whether state can tax tribal citizens living, working on reservation: A lawsuit before the state Supreme Court will determine whether the state of Oklahoma has the authority to tax tribal citizens’ income received while living and working within the citizen’s tribe’s reservation. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority losing millions in conversion from toll booths to PlatePay: A conversion to cashless tolls is costing the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority millions with projected losses expected to top $27 million over the next year as it eliminates toll booths on the Will Rogers, Turner and Indian Nations turnpikes. [The Oklahoman]

Incentives get people to move to Duncan and Tulsa — small towns, not so much: Move Duncan is one of several efforts in recent years that involve incentives to entice people to relocate, mostly to Oklahoma’s small towns, but also to Tulsa, where Tulsa Remote has persuaded more than 2,400 people with jobs somewhere else to relocate. [The Oklahoman]

School choice tax credits take effect, but no rules yet for Oklahoma: A law offering tax breaks for private school and homeschool families is now in effect, but details for the program’s rollout are still in the works. [Oklahoma Voice]

Former OSDE employee files lawsuit against department, Ryan Walters for wrongful termination: A former Oklahoma State Department of Education employee filed a lawsuit against the department and State Superintendent Ryan Walters. The lawsuit alleges that Janessa Bointy, who was a school counselor specialist for Project AWARE East from December 2020 until March 2023, was wrongfully terminated in violation of her First Amendment. [KOCO]

  • Oklahoma State Department of Education faces another lawsuit over firing [The Oklahoman]

Corrections director accused of ‘arbitrary and capricious removal of career employees’: At least 10 high-ranking Department of Corrections staff members have notified the state they intend to sue for unlawful termination. Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, said the sheer volume suggests not all of the employees are “mad, disgruntled or bad,” but that there is a problem with the DOC administration. [Tulsa World]

Cities, tribes offer incentives to lure filmmaking industry to Oklahoma: Oklahoma is known for its oil and gas industries, but another industry is paving the way to provide Oklahomans with a renewable resource: film. More communities in Oklahoma are finding ways to bring the industry to the state through financial incentives. [Tulsa World]

  • From OK Policy: According to a state analysis of filmmaking incentives, the film industry returned only 52 cents in Oklahoma tax dollars for every tax dollar spent on film incentives from 2017-2020 [A Better Path Forward

Political notebook: Federal grants to Oklahoma jumped 41% during pandemic: Federal grants to the state of Oklahoma rose 41% during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pew reported last week. That pushed Uncle Sam’s share of Oklahoma’s state government expenditures to 37% for fiscal year 2021, which was right at the national average. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Lankford renews criticism of Chinese language program: U.S. Sen. James Lankford renewed his charges that Chinese Communist Party influence is invading American schools through foreign language programs. In this case, Lankford and other Republicans cite a report that lists Tulsa Public Schools as among those associated with the Confucius Institute, whose common education affiliate offers professional development seminars and materials for teachers. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma officials waiting for word about billion dollar hydrogen hub plan: The state continues to bet that it can be a national leader in the growing hydrogen sector, but officials are still waiting to find out whether Oklahoma will get a coveted federal designation and access to billions in federal funding. [Oklahoma Voice]

USDA awards $4 million to rural Oklahoma businesses for renewable energy projects: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will award more than $4 million to Oklahoma businesses to expand access to clean energy across rural communities in an effort to combat climate change. [KOSU]

Gun law raises funding concerns for school hunting programs: Republican lawmakers are concerned that the Biden administration is interpreting last year’s bipartisan gun safety law to cut funding for school archery and hunting programs, though programs themselves say they haven’t been affected. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee chief promises opposition to ‘enemies of tribal sovereignty’ in State of the Nation address: In his fifth State of the Nation address Saturday, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke about “the defense of tribal sovereignty” as opponents try “to move this country backward.” Hoskin said the ongoing efforts will not allow “the enemies of sovereignty” to get in the way of the United States’ obligations to the Cherokee people. [Tulsa World]

  • Cherokee Nation: State of the Nation 2023 [YouTube]
  • Chief’s cabinet picks confirmed [Cherokee Phoenix]
  • Cherokee Chief stresses importance of sovereignty in State of the Nation address [Fox 23]
  • The Cherokee people will not rest’: Chief delivers State of the Nation with vision of the future [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Cherokee awaits seat in U.S. House: It has been a long wait, and everyone is still waiting, but at some point – to fulfill federal treaty obligations – the U.S. House of Representatives will seat Kim Teehee as delegate for the Cherokee Nation. [Cherokee Phoenix via ICT]

  • Cherokee National History Museum showcasing exhibit on Cherokee Nation Delegate [Cherokee Phoenix]

Culture, programs highlighted in Choctaw Nation chief’s annual address: Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton echoed the words of a prominent chief of the southeast Oklahoma tribal nation during his annual State of the Nation. Batton gave the annual address from the tribe’s Cultural Center in Durant and highlighted tribal programs, culture, and the Chahta spirit. [CNHI]

Health News

‘How sick is sick enough?’ Abortion bans leave providers, patients questioning when care is OK: While the abortion debate often centers on elective procedures, the reality is that out of the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in the U.S. annually — at least 620,000 in 2020, according to government statistics – many are because of medical emergencies or to end a pregnancy where a baby would not live long, if at all. [News 21 via NonDoc]

Tragic overdose realities all too real for many Oklahomans: Aug. 31 was National Overdose Awareness Day, but for countless people in Oklahoma – certainly for those who have experienced overdose or witnessed it firsthand or who have been called upon to intervene to try to save the life of an overdose victim – there was no need to heighten awareness. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma ranks 4th most overweight; nearly half of population obese: Nearly half of Oklahomans are so overweight that they would qualify as being obese, giving the state the unwanted distinction of having the fourth-highest rate of obesity in the nation. That’s according to a study of obesity rates that took into account data reviewed state by state by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa Municipal Court’s Night Court program begins Thursday: For the vast majority of people, going to court is seldom enjoyable or convenient. Beginning Thursday, Tulsa Municipal Court will unveil a program it hopes will make the process less stressful and more accessible to the public — Thursday Night Court. [Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

First ‘horizontal apartments’ hit the OKC rental market. Here’s what to know: Horizontal apartments are what the housing industry calls rent houses with high-end amenities built on small lots as single-family homes. On-site property management handles lawn care, and maintenance on all units — like most if not all apartments, whether built horizontally or as multistory buildings. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

New gunsmithing degree program meant to attract firearm businesses to Oklahoma: Murray State College leaders say the school’s gunsmithing program could become a huge economic development driver thanks to a $10 million legislative investment that will allow the college to offer the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in gunsmithing. [Oklahoma Voice]

Education News

Oklahoma Kindergarten Vaccination Exemptions Now Highest in Region: More than three years into the COVID-19 pandemic that scrambled perceptions of routine public health measures and attitudes toward vaccinations, Oklahoma now has the highest rate of exemptions from immunizations for kindergartners, according to state and federal data. [Oklahoma Watch]

Education notebook: College Board honors, coalition launch, elections and more: As part of a new statewide coalition, the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, Oklahoma Appleseed, Restorative Justice Institute of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy will host a town hall meeting focused on public education Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Bartlesville Community Center. The coalition, Advance Oklahoma Kids, was formed in an effort to promote equitable access to school funding and services statewide. [Tulsa World]

General News

‘His hands were up’: Attorney for football game shooting victim says civil rights violated: During a deadly shooting at an Oklahoma football game, 43-year-old Demetrize Carter was shot in the chest by an off-duty Del City Police Officer working security at the game. Carter remains hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his chest. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said it is currently investigating the shooting by the officer, though officials have not yet discussed the case publicly. [KFOR]

  • Lawyer says man shot by off-duty officer at Choctaw football game had his hands in the air [The Oklahoman]
  • Attorney for man shot at Choctaw football game speaks out [News 9]
  • $3,000 stolen from team during Choctaw shooting [News 9]

Southern Baptist Convention task force says development of sex abuse database continues: A Southern Baptist Convention task force said it is in the midst of the vetting process for a highly anticipated database of sex offenders. The Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force shared its progress on Thursday as it unveiled a new website aimed at preventing sex abuse and rooting out predators within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. The task force said the new website,, is an “online hub for abuse prevention resources” across the denomination. [The Oklahoman]

Meet 5 Black Leaders Who Revolutionized the Labor Movement: Racial justice and economic justice are intrinsically intertwined. However, far too often in our nation’s history, those who benefit from the existing order have used race and class to divide us. These five Black leaders strengthened both the labor and civil rights movements by fighting discrimination in unions and building strong coalitions for the welfare of all. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Black workers unequal on Labor Day 60 years after I Have a Dream: Over 260 years after the end of slavery, the new poll from Pew Research Center shows a majority of the 21 million Black American workers still feel the chains of Jim Crow throughout the entire economy system. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Legacy and Tradition of America’s Black-owned Banks of Oklahoma: Currently, the United States is home to 42 Black-owned banks, as reported by the Urban Institute. This figure marks a decline from the peak of over 100 Black-owned banks that were present in the country around the turn of the previous century. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Commentary: Workers are key part of Oklahoma’s past and future: The annual celebration of Labor Day in Oklahoma is coming again. The summer heat is about to come to an end, and the State Fair is not far away. But, I don’t want people to forget why we celebrate this holiday, what it means to working families across Oklahoma, and the rich history that labor has in Oklahoma. [Jimmy Curry Commentary / Oklahoma Voice]

Column: Stop disrespect and rudeness that spirals to hate, violence. Find a better way forward: We are living in turbulent times. Every day we read of another mass shooting. Every day another video goes viral that is attacking someone’s beliefs, views or values. We need to take time to listen to understand the other person or the other side, not listen merely to respond by pouncing on their character or their beliefs or their position. [Ken Busby Guest Column / Tulsa World

Column: Extremism thrives on people not checking out the daily headlines: For news avoiders, those on the right cite distrust and bias, while those on the left say they feel overwhelmed and powerlessness and worry that it might lead to arguments. No matter the reason, the result is the same — less education and knowledge about public affairs, including at the local and state levels. Avoidance is no way to improve a community. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Column: Founding Fathers probably could not have imagined semi-automatic assault rifles: In the midst of more than 470 mass shootings across the United States so far this year, many gun rights advocates offer us the assurance that the Second Amendment guarantees that, if they have their way, many more guns will be sold more easily to many more people. [Scott McLaughlin Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Rep. Andy Fugate: How will we keep guns out of the hands of those who use them to attack?: Whether it’s a football stadium, a college campus, a hospital, a highway or a parking lot, Oklahomans are less safe from gun violence than they were just five short years ago. In fact, a leading Oklahoma publication noted in March 2022 that Oklahoma is now ranked “Top Ten” in gun violence. Oklahoma also now leads the nation in domestic violence, often with tragic results, as with the Aug. 16 murder-suicide involving five family members. [Rep. Andy Fugate Guest Column / The Oklahoman

Editorial: American life now means possible shoot-out at high school homecoming: Deaths at high school football games are now part of the U.S. culture. This is the world a majority of Americans voted to create, and that won’t change until Americans vote for change. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

  • Public Square: Readers’ thoughts on what can help prevent gun violence at schools, events [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Councilor: There ‘should have been’ facilities audit before Improve Our Tulsa [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • City Councilor Jayme Fowler makes it official: He’s running for mayor [Tulsa World]
  • Edmond seeks indoor sports complex, unusual lawsuit marks latest delay [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“He’s fighting other Oklahomans. He keeps saying it’s tribes. We’re Oklahomans. Would he be doing this to the oil and gas industry? The energy industry? Would be doing this to any other industry? The aerospace industry? No.”

– Margo Gray, executive director of United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, which represents more than half of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribal governments. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma saw the number of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness (under age 25) grow by 84 from 2020 to 2022, which was the nation’s third highest increase in number. Oklahoma reported 374 unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness in 2022, which was a 29% increase. [The 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress]

Policy Note

Homeless people were given lump sums of cash. Their spending defied stereotypes: Researchers at the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with Vancouver-based charity Foundations for Social Change, provided a lump sum of 7,500 Canadian dollars in 2016 (about $5,540 today) to 50 people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver. They found that the recipients spent fewer days homeless, increased their savings and put more money toward essentials compared with a control group of 65 people who received no cash transfer. The recently published study followed individuals for one year after they received the lump sum and reported no increase in spending on what researchers call “temptation goods,” defined as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. By decreasing time spent in shelters, the intervention led to a decrease in public spending of 777 Canadian dollars (about $574) per person, the paper said. [Washington Post]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.

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