In The Know: Costs of state park restaurant contract questioned | A look at automatic expungement initiatives | Better tomorrows for state youth

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

Policy Matters: Providing better tomorrows for all Oklahoma youth: Justice reform has been a hot topic in Oklahoma, especially during the past decade. It’s a policy area where Oklahomans have demonstrated bipartisan cooperation focused on increasing access to treatment and preventive measures rather than perpetuating ineffective, punishment-first policies. While much focus has been paid to the adult justice system, that same level of attention has not found its way to Oklahoma’s youth justice system. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

State Government News

Oklahoma spending watchdog questions cost of state park restaurant contract: While state park users said in a survey they wanted low-cost improvements like clean bathrooms and hiking trails, Oklahoma tourism officials instead invested millions into a private restaurant venture and other costly improvements, a report from a state oversight committee found. [The Frontier

  • Legislators grill Oklahoma Tourism director over Swadley’s contract at state parks [The Oklahoman
  • Report blasts Oklahoma Tourism Department for fiscal practices [The Journal Record

Biden: Government standing up to ‘hateful’ transgender bills like Oklahoma’s: President Joe Biden said Thursday that his administration is “standing up” for transgender Americans against “hateful bills” being passed at the state level and that he is committed to advancing equality across society. [The Oklahoman

  • Education Watch: Stitt Signs Bill Banning Transgender Athletes From Girls’ Teams [Oklahoma Watch
  • Anti-Trans “Save Women’s Sports Act’ will further harm mental health [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Guerin Emig: Transgender sports participation merits deeper thinking than politics as usual in OKC [Column / Tulsa World

America gets a clean record: Red and blue states across the country are leaning on technologists to help automatically clear eligible criminal records as a way to expand the workforce. Expungement fairs in Oklahoma draw hundreds of people desperate for help navigating the petition-based system, Republican Rep. Nicole Miller, who sponsored HB 3316 that would automate the process for sealing or expunging records. [Axios]

Oklahoma News

A historic all-Black town wants reparations to rebuild as a ‘safe haven’: The once-thriving all-Black town of Tullahassee was ravaged by government policies that divested it and other Black communities, said Mayor Keisha Currin. And she says the city is owed reparations to get back on its feet. [The Washington Post

‘It feels like a movie, but it’s not’: How Ukrainian student-athletes in the U.S. are processing the Russia-Ukraine war: Many Ukrainian NCAA athletes have leaned on each other. “I think [tennis] is a very good distraction,” University of Oklahoma tennis player Sasha Pisareva said. “When all of this started, I was just focusing on playing for my country.” Ukrainian athlete Anastasiia Ustiuzhanina, the daughter of an Olympic rowing bronze medalist, competes at the University of Tulsa. [ESPN

Federal Government News

Biden to unleash more oil reserves to lower gas prices: As the U.S. and other NATO countries continue to sanction Russia for its bloody war against Ukraine, Biden will announce the planned release of up to 1 million barrels of oil per day from U.S. strategic oil reserves in an effort to halt inflation and lower gas prices, the White House said on Thursday. [The Black Wall Street Times] Biden also called on Congress to impose financial penalties on oil and gas companies that lease public lands but aren’t producing. [The Journal Record

Tribal Nations News

U.S. quarters will soon spotlight trailblazing Native dancer from Oklahoma, Maria Tallchief: Maria Tallchief — the most famous of the “Five Moons,” five Native American dancers from Oklahoma who took the international ballet world by storm in the 20th century — will be one of the five 2023 honorees of the American Women Quarters Program, the U.S. Mint announced. [The Oklahoman

Voting and Election News

2020 Teacher of the Year Jena Nelson announces run for state superintendent: Oklahoma’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Jena Nelson, officially announced her candidacy for state superintendent of public instruction Thursday, becoming the only Democrat seeking the statewide post so far. [NonDoc] The Deer Creek Middle School English composition teacher officially declared her intent to run before a group of supporters and Democratic lawmakers in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

New poll shows Kevin Stitt, James Lankford leading, John O’Connor losing: Though fewer than 50% of Oklahoma voters believe the state is on the right track, Gov. Kevin Stitt appears positioned to win a second term, according to a new poll offering a glimpse of high-profile political races two weeks before candidate filing. [The Oklahoman

Norman mayoral candidate opinions differ across major issues impacting city: When Breea Clark was elected mayor of Norman in February 2019, there was no way to foresee that her first term would be largely consumed by dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now as the runoff for mayor on April 5 draws closer, Clark views that experience as the key to her reelection. [The Oklahoman

Criminal Justice News

Stitt appoints former prosecutor to Pardon and Parole Board: Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed former prosecutor Cathy Stocker to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, he announced Thursday. Stocker replaces Kelly Doyle, who resigned. [Tulsa World

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma ranks worst state for women in 2022: ‘Imagine That’: Oklahoma was recently named the worst state for women to live in, according to a study by Wallet Hub. The state, whose motto is “Imagine that,” went from 47th place to 51st for women over the last year. Some of the key metrics included the uninsured rate for women, for which Oklahoma ranked dead last. [The Black Wall Street Times

Economy & Business News

OKC-based company earns rare DOD cybersecurity status: An Oklahoma company is among a handful in the nation that have been authorized to assess the cybersecurity preparedness of other businesses hoping to garner contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. [The Journal Record

General News

Editorial: Moving ‘tent cities’ of people who are homeless doesn’t fix the problem: It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the recent removal of the homeless encampments west of downtown Tulsa only temporarily moved the problems. [Editorial / Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

-Utah’s Republican Gov. Spencer Cox when announing his veto last month of Utah’s version of “Save Women’s Sports” after learning that four transgender kids played high school sports in his state, while 86% of trans youth were at suicidal risk. [Tulsa World column]

Number of the Day


The percentage of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preschool in Oklahoma. Oklahoma was once a national leader in early childhood education. [Source: 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book]

Policy Note

How Incarceration Infects a Community: Research on the social and public-health consequences of incarceration usually follows one of two arcs: tracing the adverse mental and physical outcomes for people who have been incarcerated, or else noting “spillover” effects that may include depressive or anxiety symptoms among the partners and children of those behind bars. Residents of neighborhoods with high incarceration rates endure disproportionate stress, since these communities face disrupted social and family networks alongside elevated rates of crime and infectious diseases. [The Atlantic]

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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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