In The Know: Efforts on fines and fees failed this year | ARPA funds for pediatric mental health | Speed rural highway construction

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

Most legislative efforts to lower Oklahoma court fines and fees failed this year: State lawmakers seemed poised to overhaul Oklahoma’s system of court fines and fees, but efforts to remove fines and fees written into state law failed this legislative session. Senate Bill 1458, a large-scale reform that would have eliminated around $34 million collected annually through fines and fees from state law, was completely gutted during budget negotiations after lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on what to include in the bill. [The Frontier]

New from OK Policy: The FY 2023 budget makes some good and long-awaited investments in Oklahomans. It also misses several critical opportunities to make generational change, such as investing in common education and funding State Question 781. 

Saint Francis mass shooter: A few details about Michael Louis emerge: The Muskogee man who gunned down his Tulsa doctor and three others before killing himself last week lived in New Jersey before moving to Oklahoma, according to published reports and records here. Michael Louis, 45, lived in New Jersey before moving to Oklahoma in about 2014, according to state records and a published report in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. [Tulsa World]

  • Sapulpa man arrested for threatening mass shooting at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Lawmakers earmark COVID-19 funds for pediatric mental health project: Oklahoma lawmakers plan to invest more than $50 million in federal coronavirus aid and state funds to help the University of Oklahoma health system build a new state-of-the-art pediatric mental health facility. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers approve health care requests for ARPA funds [FOX 25]

ODOT receives $41.5 million loan to speed rural highway construction: Narrow state highways in eight Oklahoma counties are to be repaved and widened under a $41.5 million loan of federal funds to the state highway department. The low interest loan to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will fund nearly half of the $85.97 million needed to make nearly 35 miles of highways safer in Bryan, Caddo, Ellis, Harper, Kingfisher, McClain, Pontotoc and Pittsburg counties. [Gaylord News via The Norman Transcript]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole says Democratic gun bills headed for House vote “deeply misguided”: U.S. Rep. Tom Cole signaled House Republican opposition on Tuesday to a package of gun bills headed for a House vote after a string of mass shootings, saying the legislation was “deeply misguided.” [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Wilma Mankiller US quarter released, 27 years after her historic leadership of Cherokee Nation: The first quarters featuring Wilma Mankiller went into circulation Monday in Tahlequah, the Cherokee Nation capital city where she was born and where she served as her nation’s first female principal chief. Mankiller is credited with improving health, educational and economic outcomes across the Cherokee Nation during her decade in office from 1985 to 1995. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation gains self-governance over transportation projects: In the first agreement of its kind, the Cherokee Nation signed a compact with the federal government on Tuesday to let the tribe control its own road construction and transit projects without oversight from Washington, D.C. [Tulsa World]

Absentee Shawnee Health System breaks ground on Little Axe clinic expansion: The Absentee Shawnee Tribal Health System (ASTHS) conducted its groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for Phase I of the two-phased expansion project. [The Norman Transcript]

Voting and Election News

Stitt Campaign Ad With Attorney General Draws Further Scrutiny: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said he is taking seriously a letter sent to him by a bipartisan group of lawmakers expressing concern with a campaign advertisement by Gov. Kevin Stitt featuring his appointed attorney general, John O’Connor. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • District attorney confirms investigation into governor’s ad [AP News]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt’s campaign to pull ads after Oklahoma prosecutor says he will investigate [The Oklahoman]

Debate set for five Republicans hoping to replace Sen. Jim Inhofe. Here’s what to expect: Republicans vying to succeed U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe are set for their first debate this week, as a federal judge rejected a challenge to the special election and top candidates and outside groups continued to buy time on television. [The Oklahoman]

Carol Hefner files final campaign finance report from 2022 OKC mayor’s race a month late: In what was one of the most expensive Oklahoma City mayor’s races to date, the final contribution report has been filed, bringing the total money raised to a record $1.27 million. [The Oklahoman]

Emeka Nnaka announces run for Tulsa City Council, District 4: On Monday, Emeka Nnaka announced his candidacy for Tulsa City Council, District 4. The community leader, counselor and motivational speaker jumped into the contest after current city counselor Kara Joy McKee announced she would not seek re-election. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Health News

As an even more contagious omicron subvariant spreads, Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases are rising: COVID-19 is on the rise again in Oklahoma. Last week, the state reported its largest weekly case total since February, according to state data. And those numbers are almost certainly an undercount, since they don’t include at-home tests, which are being used more often lately. One Oklahoma expert suggested the true number of infections may be eight times higher than what’s officially reported. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

New Oklahoma City Police Policy Restricts Vehicle Pursuits: The Oklahoma City Police Department is adopting a more restrictive pursuit policy that officials say will increase public safety. Effective today, June 7, Oklahoma City police may not exceed the posted speed limit by 15 miles per hour on city streets and 25 miles per hour on highways when responding to a code 3 incident, which the department defines as an emergency situation where an officer activates their emergency lights and an audible siren. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma City-area home prices rise 3.9% in May, with houses for sale in high demand: A typical Oklahoma County home listed for $342,994 in May, up 3.9% from a month earlier, an analysis of data from shows. The median list home price in May was up about 7.2% from May 2021. Oklahoma County’s median home was 1,986 square feet for a listed price of $173 per square foot. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Oklahoma theater premieres new play inspired by the history of anti-Black sundown towns: Two years ago, the Norman City Council issued a proclamation formally apologizing for the community’s history as an anti-Black “sundown town.” Now, a Norman community theater is delving into that shameful history with the world-premiere play “ANNA When the Sun Goes Down.” [The Oklahoman]

National lifeguard shortage affecting Oklahoma pools: The summertime job is normally popular. But a national shortage of lifeguards across the U.S. is affecting Oklahoma, too. “We didn’t used to have lifeguard issues, but after COVID, it seems to be a nationwide struggle almost,” said Robert Culverhouse, a spokesman for Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

Norman survey says rate increase failure was economic, partisan referendum: A survey following a water rate increase election indicates voters said no as a referendum on partisan politics and distrust in local government. [The Norman Transcript]

Commission tables ARPA expenditure, conflict of interest questioned: Cleveland County Commissioners on Monday tabled an invoice to be paid with federal COVID-19 relief dollars after concerns about the use of those funds and a potential conflict of interest with the vendor and a county employee. [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“But we have created in Oklahoma such a burden on the backs of people that some of them will never get out of it… In my opinion, we must address this.” 

– Sen. Roger Thompson, speaking about the burden fines and fees create for Oklahomans. About 80% of criminal defendants are indigent, and the collection rate on court debt is only 25%, according to information presented at a state interim study last year. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day

One in three

Proportion of LGBTQ2S+ schoolchildren in Oklahoma who have been physically harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity

[Source: GLSEN]

Policy Note

Educational Experiences of Transgender People: More than half of transgender students say that their mental health was not good while they were in higher education programs. More than a third of transgender people experienced bullying, harassment, or assault while they were enrolled in higher education. About one-quarter of transgender people said that lifetime adverse treatment at school impacted their academic success. [UCLA School of Law Williams Institute]

NOTE: June is Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The month is a time of reflection, celebration, and commitment to achieving equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQ2SIA+) Americans. 

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.