In The Know: Cleaning up after tornado that kills 3 | Wrongful death lawsuit filed in McCurtain Co. | Corporation Commission: ‘Putrid core of greed, public corruption and regulatory capture’

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

Tornadoes in Central Oklahoma kill 3, Governor Stitt declares a state of emergency in 5 counties: An outbreak of tornadoes in central Oklahoma Wednesday evening leveled homes, tossed vehicles and killed at least three people. The tiny town of Cole took a direct hit from a large tornado. As of early Thursday morning there were three confirmed deaths in that area. The city of Shawnee, just east of Oklahoma City, saw significant damage as well. [KOSU]

  • Cole, Shawnee, OBU reeling after tornadoes tear across Oklahoma this week [The Oklahoman]

‘Putrid core of greed, public corruption and regulatory capture,’ Bob Anthony slams fellow Corporation Commissioners over 2021 winter fuel costs: Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony is speaking out after his colleagues approved orders declaring over $6 billion of OG&E, ONG and PSO’s fuel procurement costs and expenses for 2021 to be “fair, just, reasonable and prudent,” including the historically high natural gas prices paid during the February 2021 Winter Storm. [KFOR]

Newspaper publishes more tape revealing additional intimidation, threats by McCurtain officials: A rural newspaper involved in what has become a national controversy has released more information. The McCurtain Gazette-News published more than three hours of audio from a meeting where several county officials allegedly made violent and racist comments. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Wrongful death suit, including claim of systemic abuses, filed against McCurtain County: Amid calls for the McCurtain County sheriff to resign, the wife of a man who died after he was tased by county deputies has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against him and others in his office. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Wrongful-death suit filed against Oklahoma sheriff’s office [Axios]
  • Widow of Tulsa man who died in McCurtain County deputies’ custody files lawsuit [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma Dems release $800 million education plan, no school tax credit included: With House and Senate Republicans in gridlock over education spending, Oklahoma’s minority party Democrats have unveiled their plans for how to fund schools this year. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmakers are working to override a veto and spend $600 million in Medicaid surplus: Because of an increase in federal funding, Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency is sitting on more than half a billion dollars in extra money. Lawmakers want to spend that on normal Medicaid operations, and it’s looking like they’re going to get their way. [KOSU]

House passes medical marijuana packaging bill, sends it back to Senate: Legislation that’s controversial among some in the medical marijuana sector easily passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday despite bipartisan complaints that it either does too much or does too little. [Tulsa World]

Legislature sends name, image, likeness bill for college athletics to governor: Senate Bill 840, by Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, essentially deregulates the burgeoning opportunities for student-athletes to be compensated for the commercial use of name, image and likeness, known as NIL. [Tulsa World]

What you need to know about red-flag gun laws in Oklahoma: Oklahoma is believed to be the only state in the U.S. that has a law banning red-flag law programs from being enacted, which in other states allow for temporary firearm removal from individuals believed to be at risk of harming themselves or others. [Tulsa World]

  • States took millions to enact red-flag gun laws, but many still won’t pass them [Tulsa World]

Podcast: McCurtain County scandal, veto override, Panasonic deal and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discuss the scandal in McCurtain County, the State Senate overriding the governor’s veto on a $600M appropriation of funds to the Health Care Authority, Panasonic inking a deal to build an electric vehicle plant in Pryor, and the governor’s decision to disband the state’s homelessness council. [KOSU]

Health News

Oklahoma nursing schools ramp up admissions amid worker shortage: The state has been in a nursing shortage for years, and there haven’t been enough slots for nursing students. Universities are working to change that. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Column: Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion can be a game-changer for older adults: Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion has the potential to be a game-changer for many residents, especially for the state’s elderly population. For many years, older adults in Oklahoma have struggled to access health care services due to a lack of insurance or inadequate coverage. [Abdonnie Holder Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Court rejects AG’s request to overturn Glossip’s murder conviction; execution date set: Death row inmate Richard Glossip has lost another challenge to his murder conviction even though Oklahoma’s new attorney general agreed it should be overturned. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma appeals court denies AG’s motion to stay execution of Richard Glossip [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma court won’t overturn Richard Glossip’s conviction; execution date set [Tulsa World]

Tulsa woman back in custody to finish 107-year manslaughter sentence: The woman was about 13 years into her 107-year sentence when she was released from prison because of the McGirt ruling that upheld tribal jurisdiction. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Kimberly Graham should finish her 107-year sentence. [KJRH]

Economic Opportunity

Column: State needs to step up to – not away from – homelessness: Without warning, Gov. Kevin Stitt recently dissolved the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, leaving Oklahoma without a statewide strategy to address a worsening problem. Stitt’s reasoning? He said he didn’t think the council was “moving the needle on homelessness.” He also rejected deploying other state resources toward building housing for the homeless. [Arnold Hamilton Column / Journal Record]

Column: ‘Moving upstream’ the only way to prevent multigenerational poverty: My experience is that the largest segment of our neighbors that live at or around the poverty level are those who are commonly referred to as the “working poor.” They live consumed by the fact that one unexpected event, like a death in the family or a catastrophic health emergency, will cause their family to free-fall into poverty. They also, however, are one or two opportunities and a couple of well-timed resources away from breaking free from the anchor of dependence and hopelessness that has gripped generations of their family. [Justin Brown Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma releases school report cards for first time since pandemic: The Oklahoma State Department of Education Office of Accountability has finally publicly released 2021-22 school report cards after a months-long delay caused by calculation errors revealed in December. [Tulsa World]

Wewoka boy alleges his principal abused him. He says the school ‘should have noticed’: The principal at Wewoka Middle School, who was also a youth pastor at First Baptist Church, has been accused of touching male students sexually and has been charged with two felony counts of lewd or indecent acts to a child under 16. [The Oklahoman]

License revocation hearing postponed for former Norman teacher: Officials have postponed the licensing hearing for a former Norman Public Schools teacher who encouraged her students to visit a link that offers students free access to a Brooklyn Public Library card. [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“We know that Oklahoma families are watching and waiting for the Oklahoma Legislature to do its job. They are waiting for us to do our job and invest in our children, our education system and their educational needs. It’s really not that difficult.”

-Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, talking about the legislative gridlock from competing Republican proposals that would provide millions of dollars in private school vouchers, in the form of refundable tax credits, for parents who choose to home school their children or send them to private school. [The Oklahoman]    

Number of the Day

2 out of 3

Oklahoma collections for the gross production tax (severance tax) have decreased in two of the last three fiscal years when compared with the previous year. At $1.5 billion in collections in FY 2022, the gross production tax was the state’s third highest source of state revenue. FY 2022 collections were up 101% after collections declined about 30% in FY 2020 and 9% in FY 2021. Revenue from this tax varies widely from year to year depending on conditions in the oil and gas markets. [Oklahoma Tax Commission]

Policy Note

Explainer: State and local taxes and spending: While the federal tax system tends to reduce inequality, state and local taxes tend to increase it. About a third of the average U.S. household’s taxes are actually going to state and local governments. In all, state and local governments collect about $1.8 trillion in tax revenue. [Economic Policy Institute]

  • Oklahoma has the nation’s 9th most unfair state and local tax system, indicating that the state takes a much greater share of income from low- and middle-income families than from wealthy families. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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