In The Know: Energy boycott law creates clash of politics, policy | Livable wages in Oklahoma | Gender-affirming care | More

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.

State Government News

Politics, Policy Clash Over Energy Boycott Law: Implementation of the Oklahoma Energy Discrimination Elimination Act has caused confusion for cities and counties and sown disagreement between Treasurer Todd Russ and some board members and staff for the state’s pension systems. Speaker Charles McCall removes two from a state pension board after an August vote on anti-oil and gas banking law. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Bill protecting oil and gas industry needs changes, Oklahoma Senate panel told [Tulsa World]

Legislative committee examines Oklahoma’s livable wages threshold: The state Senate Business and Commerce Committee this week conducted a study to better understand what qualifies as a quality job and find ways to improve economic opportunities across the state. The study, led by state Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, reviewed Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program and how incentives for job creation could better serve the economy. [Journal Record]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Gender-affirming care ban, Catholic charter school, budget transparency and more: The panel talks about a federal judge refusing to stop a law banning gender-affirming care for minors and the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approving a contract for a Catholic charter school. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Department of Defense to boost funding for child care in Oklahoma: Thousands of active-duty military parents may qualify for financial support to help with child care costs as a federal program expands into Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Voice]

‘Support people who act like adults,’ says Sen. Lankford: With war threatening to spread across the Middle East and the U.S. House of Representatives’ inability to elect a speaker endangering stability at home, U.S. Sen. James Lankford advised prayer on Thursday — and also action. [Tulsa World

Voting and Election News

Texas Republican dismisses Oklahoma lawsuit to keep Donald Trump off election ballot: A lawsuit filed in Oklahoma City to disqualify Republican Donald Trump from state presidential ballots next year has been dismissed, court records show. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Check now on your voter status so you don’t get surprised on election day: Next year is a presidential election year, which usually motivates voters who may not have cast a ballot in decades. Those rare voters, along with people who have moved, need to make sure they haven’t been removed from the registration rolls. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Health News

Tulsa receives $13 million to help youth in mental health struggles: The City of Tulsa and Tulsa Public Schools received a total of $13 million in federal grants to address rising levels of mental health needs among youth in the city. The grants are provided through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • City of Tulsa, TPS, awarded $13 million in federal grants to provide children’s mental health services [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma providers, advocates worry as trans youth face gender care restrictions: Transgender youth who receive hormone medications as part of their gender-affirming care will have their access cut off next month. Advocates and providers are worried about what full implementation of a new state law that bans gender-affirming care for minors could mean for transgender youth who will soon be prohibited from accessing gender-transition hormone therapies and puberty blockers. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma smoking prevalence is declining, but still exceeds national average: The number of adults who smoke in Oklahoma fell from 26.1% in 2011 to 15.6% last year. But Oklahoma is still considered part of the “Tobacco Nation,” which refers to states whose smoking prevalence exceeds 14%. [KGOU]

How is the first commercial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines going in Oklahoma?: After its recent FDA approval, the CDC recommended everyone six months and older get an updated COVID vaccine. But getting it hasn’t been easy for some Oklahomans, with appointments canceled day of due to insurance snags and issues finding a place that carries it. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Judge Exchanged 500 Text Messages During Murder Trial: An Oklahoma judge who exchanged 500 text messages with her bailiff during a murder trial — mocking the physical appearance of lawyers, jurors and witnesses and deriding prosecutors — should be removed from the bench, the state’s top judge said. [New York Times]

Another officer is stabbed as Oklahoma prisons struggle with staffing: One prison lost more staff after a state takeover from a private prison company due to low pay and problems with workers passing background checks. [The Frontier]

An Oklahoma man used pandemic relief funds to have his name cleared of murder: After more than two decades behind bars, Ricky Dority had no chance at being released from a life sentence in Oklahoma — until he used his pandemic relief funds to hire a dogged private investigator. [AP via The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Prisons and jails shouldn’t be built anywhere near public schools: Some leaders across the Oklahoma City area have raised the alarm recently about an odd provision of state law that allows correctional facilities to be built uncomfortably close to public schools. A debate over relocating the Oklahoma County jail has highlighted an obscure provision in state law that allows correctional facilities to be built about two-tenths of a mile from K-12 schools. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Opinion: Doing the same thing over and again to reach Tulsa’s most vulnerable homeless people a failing approach: An initiative developed by the Tulsa Day Center has the potential to reach the most challenging among our homeless neighbors who are mentally ill. The Blue Team Initiative seeks to make a difference in the lives of those we see under bridges, passed out on sidewalks and ranting in ways that scare others. [Mike Brose / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

OG&E customers to see nearly $21 reduction in monthly electric bills: Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. is lowering customers’ bills effective Nov. 1, when the electric company lowers the fuel charge on each customer’s monthly bill, the company announced Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Violations found at Tulsa manufacturing company after death of worker, feds say: A Tulsa manufacturing company is accused of multiple safety violations following the death of a worker in April, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. Investigators with the federal agency’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened the case initially in response to the death at Accurate Manufacturing Inc. [Tulsa World]

Starbucks worker in Oklahoma asks National Labor Relations Board to remove union: Amid the volatile fight over unionization at Starbucks stores nationwide, an employee at a Nichols Hills location has joined anti-union efforts by filing a petition seeking a vote to remove the union from her store. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Ninety percent of Oklahoma ACT test-takers do not meet readiness benchmarks in all subjects: The ACT exam is taken by high schoolers, often with the aim of scoring high enough to get into a college or university. But according to new data, ACT scores in Oklahoma have dropped to their lowest in the past 20 years. [KGOU]

Teacher recruitment bonuses promised in September now starting to be paid: A teacher recruitment program announced this spring by state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters is now paying at least some bonuses more than a month after they were promised, Walters’ office said Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

General News

ARPA money approved for nonprofits; Crutcher Foundation gets full request: Following months of deliberation, the Tulsa City Council on Wednesday approved nearly $7 million in federal relief money for nonprofits throughout the city. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘We want visibility and honor’ Two-Spirit Tulsans to celebrate with weekend festival: Twisted Arts, an organization that uplifts LGBTQ arts and artists, is hosting a two-day festival in Tulsa that will showcase Two-Spirit Native American artists from Oklahoma and beyond. [KOSU]

‘I knew this was a story I had to tell,’ author David Grann said on writing ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’: “Killers of the Flower Moon” was published in 2017 and quickly became a national sensation, topping lists of bestsellers and best books of the year, due in equal measure to the subject matter and Grann’s way of telling the story, which the Financial Times described as “A marvel of detective-like research and narrative verve.” [Tulsa World]

  • First impression: Tragic ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ story benefits from lengthy run time [Tulsa World]

PBS series ‘Native America’ has Oklahoma flavor: Oklahoma and Oklahomans will factor into stories that will be shared in the second season of “Native America.” Season two of the documentary series debuts Oct. 24 on PBS. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma County to get additional funds from e-cigarette litigation against JUUL investor [The Oklahoman]
  • Behind two major OKC blazes were unlicensed OG&E contractors, no oversight or inspections [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Hormone replacement therapy is reversible. Suicide is not.”

-Kris Williams, program development coordinator at The Diversity Center of Oklahoma, an LGBTQ+ community resource center, speaking about the dangers of SB 613, which bans gender-affirming care for minors. [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day


Nearly a quarter (23.3%) of all household income in Oklahoma goes to the top 5% of the state’s high-income households. Meanwhile, the bottom 20% of Oklahoma earners share 3.3% of all household income in the state. [Economic Policy Institute]         

Policy Note

Rooted in racism and economic exploitation: The failed Southern economic development model: Southern politicians claim that “business-friendly” policies lead to an abundance of jobs and economic prosperity for all Southerners. The data actually show a grim economic reality in 16 Southern states, including Oklahoma. [Economic Policy Institute

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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