In The Know: Education funding remains flat | Legislature advances ‘most restrictive’ abortion bill | Controversial school restroom bill

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

Oklahoma lawmakers pass nation’s most restrictive abortion law: Oklahoma is poised to implement the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation after state lawmakers on Wednesday gave final passage to a Texas-style ban that begins at conception. Nearly all abortions would be prohibited under the legislation that would take effect immediately upon Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature. Abortion providers plan to challenge in court the measure that could take effect any day. [The Oklahoman] Providers said they would stop performing the procedure as soon as the governor signs it in the latest example of the GOP’s national push to restrict access to what has been a constitutional right for nearly a half century. [AP News]

  • Oklahomans, Texans now comprise majority of patients at Kansas abortion clinic, doc says [The Oklahoman
  • Oklahoma’s legislature passes a bill banning nearly all abortions [NPR]  [The New York Times]  [The Dallas News
  • Oklahoma passes third abortion ban—will outlaw procedure even if Roe v. Wade isn’t overturned [Forbes]

Oklahoma education funding remains flat: A few months ago, Oklahoma leaders earmarked millions in state funding for voucher-style programs in a plan that eventually failed to pass. This year’s budget, unveiled this week, didn’t find any new money for the state’s public school funding formula. Instead, legislation introduced this session has created new methods by which public schools’ funding might be cut. [The Journal Record

Legislature sends controversial school restroom bill to Gov. Kevin Stitt: A bill that would require students to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate was advanced by the Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday. [Tulsa World] The legislation now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it after signing an earlier bill that prevents transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams. [AP] School districts that fail to comply would have a portion of their state funding cut and could be sued by school parents. [CNN]

State Government News

State lawmakers announce summer-long session: Wednesday, May 18, Oklahoma state lawmakers announced they would be having a special session throughout the summer to decide how federal funds from the American Rescue Plan will be spent across the state after delays have held up the money for nearly a year. In early 2021, the state of Oklahoma received $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan funds from the federal government. [KSWO]

Explaining a proposal to give the Governor more power in Supreme Court selections: Senate Joint Resolution 43 would abolish the 55-year-old Judicial Nominating Commission, which vets candidates and forwards three names to the governor for consideration, and allow the governor to nominate the candidate of their choice. [Oklahoma Watch

Subcontractor on state park restaurant deal built Swadley family member’s home: One of the subcontractors hired by Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen to renovate state park restaurants in 2021 was simultaneously in the process of completing construction on the home of a Swadley family member, according to state and county records. [NonDoc

Bill fighting human trafficking sent to governor: A bill creating a data repository on human trafficking for use by law enforcement and victim support groups has been sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt after being approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma House votes to raise costs of commercial medical marijuana licenses: The Oklahoma House of Representatives moved closer to its goal of comprehensive medical marijuana reform on Thursday with the passage of six additional bills, including a substantial hike in the cost of most commercial licenses. [Tulsa World

Report: Some Oklahoma lawmakers receive thousands of dollars in gifts, meals from lobbyists: Thousands of dollars’ worth of free meals were given to Oklahoma lawmakers – not at the taxpayers’ expense, but from outside lobbyists, according to a new report by Clean Up Oklahoma. “We have a part of the Wine and Dine report as our top 12 list of the highest gift takers in the legislature,” said Lindsey Miller with Clean Up Oklahoma. [KFOR]

Tribal Nations News

Lawmakers approve $350K for Stitt’s legal counsel on McGirt decision, more tribal issues: Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday approved up to $350,000 in payments to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s legal counsel on tribal affairs. The Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations approved a contract to pay $375 an hour for the legal services of Oklahoma attorney Ryan Leonard, who is advising the governor’s office on McGirt and other tribal issues. [The Oklahoman

State, Cherokee Nation authorities working to ensure community justice: State prosecutors and authorities with Cherokee Nation have the same goal in mind when it comes to the McGirt ruling: keeping communities safe. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Event celebrates release of Wilma Mankiller quarter honoring Cherokee Nation’s first female chief: A celebration coinciding with the release of a Wilma Mankiller commemorative quarter will honor the life and legacy of the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. [Tulsa World

Osage Nation launches new online language dictionary: The Osage Nation is launching a new site that allows the public to translate thousands of words and phrases from English to Osage. The database includes 2,717 Osage-English and English-Osage words, along with a phonetic key on the sidebar. [KOSU

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa Police response, policies questioned after arrest of woman in bipolar episode: In response to public scrutiny, the department launched an internal investigation late last month and released a statement that said in part, “The overall actions of the Officers and the way in which the call was handled is within the policies of the Tulsa Police Department.” [The Oklahoma Eagle

Economic Opportunity

SWOK housing market stressed: Southwest Oklahoma’s current availability of affordable homes for rent and purchase is stressed. The housing shortfall is based on what’s available for rent and sale as compared to the area’s overall housing demand. [Southwest Ledger]

Education News

Education Watch: Fact checking claims about unspent COVID-19 relief education funds: In 2020, Congress allocated some COVID-19 relief funds to governors for education.  Our latest story details the groups bankrolling the nonprofit where Secretary of Education Ryan Walters earns a six-figure salary as executive director, and how they were involved in the Digital Wallet program. [Oklahoma Watch

Anti-CRT law creates little change: Educators across Oklahoma were left trying to figure out the premise and purpose of House Bill 1775, adopted in 2021, which prompted six pages of emergency rules connected to an academic field known as Critical Race Theory. [Stillwates News Press]

Oklahoma Local News

Commissioners approve spending on new, separate Sheriff’s website: The Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) held a special meeting on Thursday morning and approved an expenditure for the Sheriff’s Office to have their own new website separate from the county website. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“We’ve given a lot of grace to businesses. We’ve not had that same attitude toward protecting our workforce in teaching.”

– State Sen. Carri Hicks (D-Oklahoma City), speaking about education funding remaining flat in this year’s budget [The Journal Record]

Report from OK Policy: Oklahoma’s shrinking state budget has damaged the state’s ability to provide core services and compete with other states. Each year our elected officials and policymakers have fewer dollars to answer today’s needs or to invest in our state’s future success.

Number of the Day


Estimated savings for FY 2021 from the implementation of the Oklahoma Smart Justice Reform Act (SQ 780).

Source: OMES SQ 781 FY 2021 Calculation Report

Policy Note

Misdemeanors, Municipal Crimes, and Old Warrants: The True Story of What Happened to People Released Under HB 1269: In November 2016, Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly for SQ 780 to make simple drug possession and some low-level theft crimes misdemeanors rather than felonies. This change would have a number of benefits: misdemeanor crimes could not be subject to prison time and the state would save money by reducing its reliance on punishment to respond to substance use-based crimes. The hope, embodied in SQ 781 which passed at the same time, was that those savings would be redirected into substance use and mental health treatment. SQ 780 was not applied retroactively, meaning that it did nothing to help people who had been convicted of these crimes in the past – including those who were still in prison serving time for these crimes. []

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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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