In The Know: Eviction crisis worsens, leaves 70,000 kids without permanent housing in Oklahoma | OK Legislators file first bills ahead of Feb. session | 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.

Oklahoma News

Evictions, low wages leave 70,000 kids homeless in Oklahoma: Roughly 70,000 children in Oklahoma are homeless. They sleep in tents, under bridges, in cars, or on the couch or floor of someone’s apartment. Based on enrollment data from K-12 public schools, a study by OU researchers and the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency concluded tens of thousands of students are without permanent housing. [Journal Record]

In Oklahoma City, affordable housing options are scarce, even with rental assistance: There’s a shortage of landlords in Oklahoma willing to accept housing vouchers. Landlords can charge higher rents on the open market and properties must pass an inspection to receive rental assistance, slowing down the leasing process. Many landlords are also unwilling to lease to low-income renters with past evictions, even with a housing voucher. [The Frontier]

  • Section 8 vouchers, affordable housing in short supply in OKC with thousands waiting for help [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma legislator files bills for teacher, support staff pay raises: An Oklahoma lawmaker is pushing for a teacher pay raise to combat the state’s teacher shortage. Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session to give Oklahoma public school teachers and support staff a raise starting in the 2023-2024 school year. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Oklahoma legislator files bills for teacher, support staff pay raises [KGOU]

Legislators waiting for Oklahoma’s recreational marijuana vote: Oklahoma’s Legislature returns to the state Capitol in February, but lawmakers involved in cannabis policy say the House and Senate might not hear significant policy legislation until at least March. That’s because on March 7, voters will decide whether Oklahoma should be the 22nd state to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa senator proposes bill protecting parent discussions with child about gender identity: A senator out of Tulsa plans to file a legislation that would ensure parents remain in control of conversations and actions when it comes to their child’s gender identity and sexual orientation. [KTUL]

Oklahoma inaugural events scheduled for next month: The swearing in of all statewide elected officials, including Gov. Kevin Stitt, will take place on Jan. 9 at the state Capitol, the Oklahoma Inaugural Committee announced. The inauguration ceremonies, which begin at 11:30 a.m., will be free and open to the public with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. [The Oklahoman]

  • Podcast: Bill filing continues as Inauguration Day nears [KGOU]

‘Feds will steamroll our rights’: Okla. senator files bills to restrain federal governmentState Sen. Nathan Dahm has filed several bills in response to his concerns over federal violations of constitutionally-protected rights. [KTUL]

Federal Government News

Funding For Oklahoma Infrastructure Projects Included In National: Funding for several key Oklahoma infrastructure projects is on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for approval. The senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday night, which Senator Jim Inhofe says includes money to prioritize modernizing the Tulsa levee system. [News on 6]

USDA awards $500,000 to rural Oklahoma businesses for renewable energy projects: Half a dozen rural Oklahoma businesses and agriculture producers will receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it will award more than $500,000 to Oklahoma businesses to expand access to clean energy across rural communities in an effort to combat climate change. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation funding construction of new water tower in rural eastern Oklahoma town: The Cherokee Nation is using COVID-19 relief funds to build a new water tower in the town of Roland, which sits on the tribe’s land near the Arkansas border. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Politicos, activists seek opportunity to fill vacant Oklahoma County clerk seat: Five Democrats and three Republicans are vying to win a Feb. 14 primary ahead of an April 4 election to fill the vacant Oklahoma County Clerk position. [The Oklahoman]

76% of voters 30 and younger didn’t vote in Oklahoma’s November midterm election: More than three-quarters of registered voters under age 30 in Oklahoma didn’t cast a ballot in the November statewide election, according to a Tulsa World analysis of voter registration data. The 24% turnout among the under-30 crowd is a nearly seven-point decline from the 2018 midterm election, when about 31% of registered voters in that age group cast ballots. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma hospitals to receive $52M to bolster Medicaid services: Oklahoma hospitals will receive $52 million before the end of December to help shore up costs for Medicaid services – and not a moment too soon, according to health care providers. About 90% of the funding will come from the federal government, thanks in part to Oklahoma voters who chose to expand the state’s Medicaid program, administered by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Impact: Appeals court affirms order to release video to The Frontier of Oklahoma man’s fatal struggle with detention officers: The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals has upheld a decision ordering Pottawatomie County jail officials to release surveillance video showing a man’s fatal struggle with jailers in 2019. The Frontier sued jail officials in June 2021 after they denied access to the records. A Pottawatomie County judge initially ordered the release of the video in September 2021, but the jail trust appealed the decision. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma County names interim administrator for troubled jail: Oklahoma County’s jail trust has named Maj. Brandi Garner interim CEO of the county jail. She succeeds Gregg Williams, who last week announced he would resign after nearly three years as the administrator of the troubled county jail. Garner will serve alongside Williams through his last day on Jan. 19, 2023. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County jail trust Chairman Jim Couch resigns: Hours after the conclusion of a meeting he did not attend, Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority Chairman Jim Couch resigned his position by email around 5:30 p.m. Friday, citing “a transition” in the jail’s leadership and a desire to “travel more” in his retirement. [NonDoc]

1,800 marijuana plants seized at illegal Blanchard facility: McClain County Sheriff’s Office deputies made a surprising discovery while serving an eviction notice at a facility in Blanchard last week. [Journal Record]

Court faults Oklahoma for failing to provide speedy trial to defendant: In the summer of 2012, Ashley Megan Raby and her husband were living temporarily in a Norman hotel. While in Cleveland County, Raby allegedly tried to obtain some pain relievers with a fake prescription and, according to police, lied that someone stole her identity to get the prescription. An arrest warrant was issued, but Raby went back to Texas, apparently oblivious of the charges and the warrant. In November 2021, more than nine years after the charges, Raby was stopped in Corpus Christi, Texas, on a traffic violation and then arrested on the 2012 warrant from Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Guest Column: Ginnie Graham: Is domestic violence in Oklahoma’s DNA?: As the 12th person came through security at the Family Safety Center before 9 a.m., I wondered, again, why Oklahomans are so violent toward the ones they love. On that Monday last month, all the battered people seeking safety were women. Some had children, and a few sported visible signs of abuse, whether in bruises or eyes puffy from tears. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Norman survey could lead to new arena, economic plan: A coalition of public and private organizations as well as community leaders from throughout Norman is reaching out to as many as 100,000 residents and businesses in a quest to determine Norman’s pathway into the future. [Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma’s jobless rate has been rising, and Fed expects higher unemployment in 2023: Oklahoma’s employment picture was little changed in November as the jobless rate remained at 3.4% and total employment decreased slightly. But it was the first month since July that the unemployment rate did not rise. [The Oklahoman]

Williams to acquire MountainWest Pipeline Holding Co.: Tulsa-based Williams has reached an agreement to acquire MountainWest Pipelines Holding Co. from Southwest Gas Holdings Inc. in a transaction including $1.07 billion in cash and $430 million of assumed debt, for an enterprise value of $1.5 billion. [Journal Record]

Local investors buying Skirvin Hilton with plans to spend $15 million on renovations: Two Oklahoma City investors are adding the Skirvin Hilton to their growing portfolio of hotels started as COVID-19 wreaked havoc in the hospitality industry. [The Oklahoman]

Protests Prompt Cancellation of $1.5 Billion Power Project in Southeast Oklahoma: A Texas developer canceled plans for a $1.5 billion hydroelectric storage project in this southeast Oklahoma river community last week, citing protests from 200 residents and opposition from the Choctaw Nation. [Oklahoma Watch]

Education News

Education Watch: The Biggest Education Stories of 2022: COVID-19 pandemic recovery, culture wars, book bans and virtual charter schools are a few of the education topics that made big headlines in 2022. Here’s a look back at five of the most important education stories Oklahoma Watch covered this year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Sovereign Community School in peril, Western Heights intervention lifted: The Oklahoma State Board of Education has lifted its 17-month intervention into Western Heights Public Schools, but the board’s course of action regarding another troubled public school remains unclear. During a four-hour meeting Thursday afternoon that featured some tense moments, board members relinquished the control they had assumed over Western Heights in July 2021 owing to financial and leadership issues in the southwest Oklahoma City district. [NonDoc]

  • Sovereign Community School survives closure threat, but future still uncertain [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Nonstop international flights in five-year plan for Tulsa commercial travelers [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa officials emphasize community response team to serve people in crisis [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • City officials modify plan for external police liaison office [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Homelessness is not a one-time trauma, especially for our kids that are so mobile — it’s an everyday trauma.”

– Margaret Creighton, president and CEO of Positive Tomorrows, speaking on how the housing crisis is causing harm to children experiencing homelessness. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


The number of signatures required for initiated constitutional amendments in Oklahoma (2022), which must equal 15% of the number of votes cast for governor. [Ballotpedia] 

Policy Note

Ballot measures on weed and abortion won in 2022. Now they’re fueling a backlash: In 2022, voters expanded Medicaid in South Dakota, legalized recreational marijuana in Missouri, and enshrined the right to an abortion in Michigan. This was possible because in about half of all U.S. states, citizens have the power to pass laws or amend the state’s constitution themselves, sidestepping lawmakers. Such ballot initiatives have become a popular tactic to change policy in states dominated by one party, often the GOP. That’s led to pushback from state lawmakers. [NPR]

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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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