In The Know: Critics: Residency rule for disability service is unconstitutional | Budget bills advancing | Epic leaders saw financial transparency as threat

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

Oklahoma’s answer to protest is the criminalization of protesters (Guest Post): The bills varied in levels of blatant unconstitutionality, but all 20+ different bills introduced at the Oklahoma Legislature this session shared the goal of chilling speech, criminalizing acts related to protests or accountability, and creating conditions that make people exercising their First Amendment rights less safe, especially when being critical of government actors. Throughout this session, these bills have been prioritized in both chambers, some moving on party lines, others advancing through committees unanimously. The reality is that these anti-protest bills will produce greater distrust between police and the communities they serve. These bills, several soon to become law, are an immoral response to last summer’s protests, and they pose real threats to the rights and liberties of Oklahomans. [Nicole McAfee / Guest Post]

Oklahoma News

Adding 5-year residency rule on Oklahoma disability aid is unconstitutional, critics say: State lawmakers want to require that individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities live in Oklahoma for five years before they can apply for state-funded community-based services provided through Medicaid. Critics of the bill that is being fast-tracked to the governor’s desk as part of the state budget process say the measure discriminates against some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable residents and could lengthen the wait for help. House Bill 2899 would prevent applicants for several waivers offered through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for in-home and community-based support for adults and children with disabilities from applying until they have been an Oklahoma resident for five years. [The Oklahoman]

Legislative effort to block Medicaid privatization ends: Opponents of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Medicaid privatization plan conceded defeat Tuesday and signed off on legislation that, as a disappointed Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, said, “at least puts some guardrails on it.” The latest and presumably last version of Senate Bill 131 jettisons language that would have required the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, not private contractors, to implement Stitt’s managed Medicaid system. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House advances major components of FY22 budget plan: A budget agreement announced by Oklahoma Republican leaders late last week is moving ahead at full speed. The House passed Tuesday afternoon House Bill 2900, the $8.8 billion fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill on an 82–19 party-line vote. The spending plan represents a 14% increase from this year. Republicans tout its $210 million increase over this year for common education and deposits to build state reserves to almost $1.3 billion. [Public Radio Tulsa] With less than two weeks remaining before a constitutionally mandated final adjournment, the Legislature is in the unusual position of likely passing a budget well ahead of several policy matters. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers want $10M for tribal litigation fund to address McGirt ruling fallout [The Oklahoman]
  • Budget, tax cut bills sail through Oklahoma House of Representatives [Tulsa World]

Epic’s founder saw state’s quest for financial info as a threat to his business model: During his first meeting with state audit inspectors in October 2019, Ben Harris, the co-founder of the state’s largest virtual charter school, was determined to reveal as little as possible about the private management company he had created to run the operations of Epic charter school. He refused to reveal how the private company Epic Youth Services had spent millions of dollars in taxpayer money for student activities or even say how many people it employed. [The Frontier]

Health News

Cluster of Indian variant cases in Oklahoma signals importance of vaccination amid overall infection downturn: Oklahoma now has the lowest rate of COVID-19 spread in the nation, but the recent detection of a cluster of cases attributed to a variant first identified in India underscores the importance of vaccination and demonstrates the potential for outbreaks to occur. [Tulsa World]

  • Expert: Cleveland County COVID cluster of variant cases ‘worth watching’ but state trends remain OK [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • ‘Large’ virus spike closes 2 Oklahoma City schools for year [AP News]
  • COVID hits OKCPS again – Taft Middle School closed for remainder of year [OKC Free Press]
  • Broken Arrow Public Schools drops campus mask mandate with school board’s unanimous vote [Tulsa World]

State Government News

How some states are trying to get people back to work: Giving new hires bonuses of up to $1,200: Connecticut, Oklahoma and Montana are dangling an offer to persuade jobless workers collecting enhanced unemployment benefits during the pandemic to get back to work pronto: Cash bonuses for people who return to full-time jobs. [CBS News] Texas, Indiana and Oklahoma this week joined the growing number of states that are withdrawing from federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits. [New York Times] Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits will be coming to an end June 26. [KGOU] Whether or not the $300 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits is the reason why so many employers are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions is a matter of debate nationwide. But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics made one point crystal-clear in its latest jobs report: Wages are going up. [The Journal Record]

  • Fact Sheet: What’s at stake as states cancel federal unemployment benefits: This fact sheet outlines the damage that these governors will inflict upon their most vulnerable populations (especially workers of color) and their economy by making this rash decision, and the potential harm to the recovery if more of the nation’s governors were to take a similar step. [The Century Foundation]

Federal Government News

AG Mike Hunter sends letter to Biden urging energy infrastructure support: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sent a letter to President Joe Biden, where he renewed his call to the administration to support additional energy infrastructure — including the Keystone XL pipeline — following the Colonial pipeline shutdown. [Tulsa World]

Biden administration opposes Oklahoma’s efforts to keep Bosse in state custody: The Biden administration says Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is wrong to contend the state still has jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Native Americans against Native Americans on reservations. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Navajo Nation surpasses Cherokee to become largest US tribe: The Navajo Nation has by far the largest land mass of any Native American tribe in the country. Now, it’s boasting the largest enrolled population, too. Navajos clamored to enroll or fix their records as the tribe offered hardship assistance payments from last year’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. That boosted the tribe’s rolls from about 306,000 to nearly 400,000 citizens. [AP News]

Criminal Justice News

Judge denies motion to disqualify David Prater from manslaughter case after tampering allegation: Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott denied a motion Monday to disqualify District Attorney David Prater and his assistants from prosecuting a woman charged with manslaughter. [NonDoc]

Affidavit made public on Oklahoma judge’s sexual allegations: A search warrant affidavit describing interactions of repeated instances of unwanted sexual approaches by an Oklahoma County judge has been made public after three attorneys making the accusations said it took them a long time to come forward because they feared for their careers. [AP News]

Oklahoma County Jail Trust votes in new chair: The Oklahoma County jail trust Monday elected trustee Jim Couch to be its new chair. The trust also welcomed former corrections chief Joe Allbaugh into its membership and passed a resolution that limits public comment in meetings. Couch is the former city manager of Oklahoma City. He said in the jail trust’s meeting he hopes to continue improving the county’s jail and make it more humane. [KGOU]

General News

Review: America struggles to reconcile the Tulsa genocide: No one really knows what 19-year-old Dick Rowland did or said to Sarah Page in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when he rode the elevator she operated to the fourth floor of the Drexel Building, the nearest place to Rowland’s shoeshine stand where a Black person could use the washroom. But the 17-year-old Page screamed, Rowland ran and police were called. Page declined to press charges but police arrested Rowland the next day anyway. Soon, a white mob showed up at the jail, bent on administering their brand of justice through a rope hung from a tree. [AP News]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“‘Your state spends all its time punishing its teachers, outlawing abortion, declaring Second Amendment sanctuaries, passing meaningless resolutions and tilting at 10th Amendment windmills so you can own the liberals. And meanwhile, Oklahomans suffer.'” 

-Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, noting that Oklahoma’s actions may be driving away businesses from relocating to the state despite Oklahoma’s already low corporate income tax rate [Public Radio Tulsa

Number of the Day


Percentage of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020 with no reported property damage or police injuries. As many as 26 million people participated in more than 7,300 protests nationwide during May and June 2020.

[Source: Washington Post]

Policy Note

Wave of ‘Anti-Protest’ Bills Could Threaten First Amendment: Anti-protest bills and related legislation follow months of large scale, mostly peaceful demonstrations against police brutality. These bills are raising red flags among First Amendment experts. [NPR]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.