In The Know: Dozens of new laws went into effect July 1 | AG: ‘Absolute failure of leadership’ in pandemic fund spending | Policy Matters

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: Engaging the next generation in local, state policy: For Oklahoma to reach its full potential, we need to ensure that the generations who follow us are prepared and engaged in the serious work of community building and governing. That’s why I relish working alongside college students and recent graduates to help show them why state policy and budget issues are so important. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Dozens of new state laws went into effect July 1. Here are a few of them: Over 50 new state laws went into effect July 1, including maternity leave for teachers and a program to incentivize the construction of new homes. While most bills passed during the 2023 legislative session won’t officially become law until this fall, a number of them were considered important enough for lawmakers to put them on the books quickly. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tribal regalia protections take effect in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma AG cites ‘absolute failure of leadership’ after audit of pandemic fund spending: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond on Friday said if an audit of the state’s spending of federal pandemic relief funds uncovers criminal wrongdoing, he will prosecute it to the full extent of the law. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahomans can now apply for assistance with summer water, electric bills: The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program uses federal pandemic relief funds to help Oklahomans maintain their access to water and sewer services — that money must be used by September of this year. The program provides a one-time stipend that goes directly to the recipients’ utility provider to cover bills. [Public Radio Tulsa]

$5 Million In ARPA Funding Distributed To Oklahoma Co. Nonprofits: Nearly $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds were distributed Monday to local nonprofits and businesses in Oklahoma County. “Each of the three commissioners got 1.6 million dollars to put into their district,” Oklahoma District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said. “So, a total of $5 million was invested today across the county.” [News 9]

Marijuana businesses sue to block new fees that will cost the industry millions of dollars: A group of medical marijuana businesses and an advocate for the industry have sued the state over fee increases they argue violate the Oklahoma Constitution. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt requests federal aid for June storm damage: Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma’s congressional delegation have requested federal aid for areas affected by powerful storms last month. [The Oklahoman]

An agency in turmoil, Oklahoma veterans left in limbo. Meet the man tasked with fixing it: Greg Slavonic was brought on board in March during a tumultuous time at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. [The Oklahoman]

No grounds found to remove McCurtain County sheriff, Oklahoma AG says after investigation: A state investigation into the McCurtain County sheriff, reportedly one of several local officials caught on tape making racist comments and discussing murdering two reporters, has found no grounds for his removal from office. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma water systems release annual water quality reports: As Oklahomans guzzle water to beat the heat, they can also learn more about what they’re drinking from annual water quality reports. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, all public water systems have until the beginning of July each year to make water quality reports for the previous calendar year available to customers. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Congressman Brecheen wants House Republicans bending further right: Six months into his first term, 2nd District Congressman Josh Brecheen said he wants his fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to be more conservative. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Gov. Stitt sends tobacco tax compacts renewal offer to tribal leaders: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that he had emailed a series of offers to tribal leaders to renew expiring tobacco tax compacts. The 14 letters are the latest move in a chess match between the governor and the legislature to determine the future of the deals, which bring in more than $50 million to state coffers every year. [The Oklahoman]

Federal appeals court rules pre-statehood law doesn’t apply to Tulsa speeding ticket: Tribal Nations are celebrating another win in federal court, following a ruling that a Choctaw citizen was improperly prosecuted for a speeding ticket in Tulsa. [KOSU]

Health News

Oklahoma’s abortion ban drives thousands of women across state lines: More than 2,100 Oklahoma women received abortions in Kansas and Colorado last year after Oklahoma banned nearly all abortions, according to new state reports that provide a look at the impact of patchwork abortion laws. [The Oklahoman]

Maternal deaths in the US more than doubled over two decades: Maternal deaths across the U.S. more than doubled over the course of two decades, and the tragedy unfolded unequally. Black mothers died at the nation’s highest rates, while the largest increases in deaths were found in American Indian and Native Alaskan mothers. And some states — and racial or ethnic groups within them – fared worse than others. [AP via The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Former parole board chairman speaks publicly for first time about service, resignation: Adam Luck said he’s spent the last four years “desperately trying” to not speak in public about his time on Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board. Luck, who was on the parole board from 2019 to 2022, said he changed his mind because he’s been speaking in small groups since he stepped down, and the conversations he’s had convinced him there’s value in explaining his experience. [KGOU]

‘Handle things internally:’ Edmond leaders mostly mum on deputy police chief investigation: Despite paying an attorney $213,334 to conduct a year-long investigation into internal allegations of racism, sexism and bullying by a deputy chief of the Edmond Police Department, city officials have declined to release the final report, discuss its findings or specify what actions have been taken as a result. [NonDoc]

OKC Police Abandoned Man in Mental Health Crisis on Roadside Before Fatal Crash: Shirley Antwine is suing the driver of the truck that killed her son and the officer who drove him beyond Oklahoma City Police jurisdiction, and left him alone on the side of a four-lane road with no sidewalks and no shoulder to provide a buffer from the steady stream of traffic. [Oklahoma Watch]

‘It was unfair:’ The push for retroactive criminal justice for domestic violence victims who killed their abusers: During the legislative session, language allowing for the reforms to be applied retroactively was removed from House Bill 1639 (also called the Oklahoma Domestic Abuse Survivorship Act) leaving advocates frustrated. [KOSU]

Economy & Business News

DACA recipients and their loved ones are nervous. So are their employers and the economy: The United States currently has about 580,000 undocumented individuals in the United States who are protected under the DACA program. Without getting into politics and speaking to the legality of the program, it is important that the community understand the devastating effects with the possible collapse of the program in 2024. [Kelli J. Stump Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

New Oklahoma Department of Education video paints transgender students as threat to school safety: After sharing an inflammatory video opposing teachers unions last month, the Oklahoma State Department of Education put out a new “public service message” on Thursday describing transgender students as a threat in schools. [The Oklahoman]

State Superintendent Ryan Walters rubs elbows with Moms for Liberty: State Superintendent Ryan Walters told a national audience that the U.S. Department of Education should be eliminated because he thinks the federal government is bullying school districts and pushing socialism in classrooms. He spoke to a fast-growing parents’ rights organization that has been labeled an “anti-government extremist” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma state Superintendent Ryan Walters to speak at Moms for Liberty national summit [The Oklahoman]

Column: Ryan Walters, before you recommend hanging Ten Commandments, read ’em and live by ’em: The state schools superintendent is considering a requirement that every classroom display the Ten Commandments. However, it would be appropriate that first he himself “read ‘em and live by ‘em.” [Janis Blevins Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: The father of the Constitution opposed state funding of religious instruction: A key aspect of James Madison’s argument is that history shows time and again how intertwining of government and institutions of faith has served not to elevate the state but to degradate the church by dragging it down into the decadent and worldly realm of political power. [Chris Powell Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity News

State seeking public input on new $215M affordable housing program: The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency is seeking public input on a new affordable housing program created this year by state lawmakers. The state agency will receive $215 million as part of the newly created Oklahoma Housing Stability Program, which is intended to incentivize the construction of affordable housing across the state. [Tulsa World]

General News

How can Oklahoma confront racism in its past and present? ‘It’s going to take the young’: Former Tulsa Race Massacre centennial commission leader now helms nonprofit helping Oklahomans confront bias, prejudice and stereotypes. [The Oklahoman]

Viola Ford Fletcher, oldest living Tulsa Race Massacre victim, publishes memoir: At age 109, Viola Ford Fletcher is releasing a memoir about the life she lived in the shadow of the Tulsa Race Massacre, after a white mob laid waste to the once-thriving Black enclave known as Greenwood. The book will be published by Mocha Media Inc. on Tuesday and becomes widely available for purchase on Aug. 15. [AP via The Oklahoman]

Ginnie Graham Column: Uncovering the Black experience of driving Route 66: For Black travelers, Route 66 could be dangerous. The consequences of being in the wrong place could range from a local police escort out of town to a lynching. Those driving nice cars were particularly vulnerable to harassment. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Column: Foster care in Oklahoma impacts us all, whether you’re directly involved or not: Child abuse and neglect are happening in every ZIP code and nearly every neighborhood across our state — probably in my neighborhood. Perhaps in your neighborhood. We must address this like the crisis it is — because this is our next generation of Oklahomans. [Kim Vanbebber Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“This is just his end run around the legislature. This is not how you negotiate in good faith.”

– Valerie Devol, an Edmond tax attorney who represents several tribes in Oklahoma, speaking on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to email a series of offers to tribal leaders to renew expiring tobacco tax compacts, despite his previous stance on the issue. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Estimated rate of Oklahoma children who live in poverty. About 199,000 Oklahoma children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which in 2021 was below $27,479 for a family of four. [KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

3 social triggers for behavioral health needs – and what to do about them: Exposure to poverty is deeply intertwined with the deterioration of emotional health. This linkage is often exacerbated by a lack of coordinated social support for individuals and families. To appreciate this connection and how efforts in some communities suggest ways to address it, consider three public health issues and their impact on mental health: homelessness, food insecurity, and hygiene poverty (i.e., a lack of resources to maintain personal hygiene). [Brookings]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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