In The Know: Families brace for food benefit cuts | Democracy remains inaccessible to many Oklahomans | SQ820 wrap-up

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

The 2022 Midterms reveal our democracy is still inaccessible to many Oklahoma votersOklahoma’s democracy is inaccessible to many Oklahomans, especially those in historically marginalized communities. We’ve consistently had among the nation’s lowest rates of electoral participation, with only 4 in 10 eligible Oklahomans voting in the November 2022 midterm election. Despite this low participation rate, Oklahoma has made it increasingly difficult to vote by requiring absentee ballots to be notarized and failing to deliver an electronic voter registration system. Studies show laws that make it harder to vote disproportionately impact marginalized communities, two of which are American Indian/Alaska Natives and naturalized citizens. We cannot fully understand Oklahoma’s voting equity and accessibility issues without understanding how Oklahoma’s diverse communities are disproportionately affected by these issues. Making voting harder decreases voter turnout, which means that our democracy is less representative of Oklahoma than it should be. [Cole Allen, Vivian Morris, Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / Oklahoma Policy Institute]

  • Bloody Sunday: President Biden Travels to Selma for 58th Anniversary [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • President Biden gives remarks about voting rights on 58th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Selma [PBS]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma families, food pantries brace for cuts to SNAP benefits: All Oklahoma SNAP recipients will see a decrease in their benefits this month after the end of federal emergency allotments that were tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Oklahoma will receive about $50 million less in SNAP funding to distribute each month, according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Emma Morris, Health Care and Revenue Policy Analyst for OK Policy, encouraged policymakers to think about how the government can improve access to programs like SNAP and Medicaid all the time, not just during a health crisis. [Tulsa World]

Proposals to Restrict Voter-Led Initiatives Stall: Lawmakers spent much of last week whittling down legislation ahead of a March 2 cut-off date to advance bills out of committee in their chamber of origin. Bills that were shot down or left unheard will likely remain dormant until next year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Electric legislation: Performance-based rate proposal advances; deregulation, ROFR fizzle: A measure that would drastically change how electric utility rate increases are presented to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is advancing this legislative session. But a bill that would have deregulated investor-owned electric utilities and a proposal that would have allowed so-called “right of first refusal” requirements for certain new electric transmission projects failed to get a hearing by last week’s committee deadline. [NonDoc]

State Government News

Governor says something may have to give in Legislature’s spending plans: In trying to eliminate the state grocery tax, lower state income taxes and help parents pay for private schools, the Oklahoma Legislature might be reaching too far, Gov. Kevin Stitt suggested Friday. Asked at his regular weekly press conference whether the state could afford all of the school support and tax reduction plans moving forward at the Capitol, Stitt said, “Maybe not.” [The Oklahoman]

Young Oklahoma lawmakers working to forge bipartisan connections: A single party holds the vast majority of the Oklahoma Legislature’s 149 seats, but a group of young lawmakers who want to see more bipartisanship are working hard to write good public policy with input from both sides. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma families may get a $5K tax credit for private schools. How much would it help?: Oklahoma parents may soon be offered a $5,000 tax credit to offset the cost of sending their children to private schools. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma DHS working to rid waitlist for Developmental Disability Services: People on a decade-long waitlist for disability services will be getting some long-awaited answers during an Oklahoma State Department of Human Services regional meeting on Monday in Broken Arrow. [2 News Oklahoma]

Podcast: Speaker of the House McCall explains private and home school tax credit bills: The Oklahoma House of Representatives has sent to the Senate two bills that would provide education tax credits for parents with students in private and home schools. [Capitol Insider / KGOU]

Bill would help offenders obtain college degrees: A bill moving through the Legislature would help prison inmates attain college degrees. Sen. Dave Rader, R-Tulsa, is the author of Senate Bill 11, which passed the Senate and heads to the House for consideration. [Tulsa World]

AG: Oklahoma must fight back against ‘invasion’ by foreign drug cartels: Oklahoma’s new chief law enforcement officer says the state’s inundation with illegal marijuana production and distribution has unleashed significant new challenges to public safety and general law and order. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmaker aims to create public records officer in AG’s Office: A state lawmaker wants to make it easier for Oklahomans to obtain public records by creating a state officer who can mediate disputes over government documents and access to information. [Tulsa World]

State faces lawsuit over inmate mental competency claims: Disability rights advocates sued the state’s mental health agency Wednesday alleging it is not providing timely court-ordered competency restoration services to “scores” of inmates in county jails. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Lawsuit: Oklahoma jails fail to treat inmates with mental illness, let them languish behind bars [The Oklahoman]

Ryan Walters labeled ‘most divisive man’ in Oklahoma, but state superintendent remains unapologetic: Ryan Walters has become the most divisive man in Oklahoma politics, say some Republicans. While some legislators say the state superintendent’s focus on delivering voters exactly what he promised on the campaign trail is refreshing, a growing number of Republicans say they are becoming increasingly irritated by his continued divisive rhetoric, a culture of fear they claim he’s sowing and what they see as a lack of any practical and original ideas to improve public education outcomes. [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix]

  • Column: ‘I alone will indoctrinate your kids’: Oklahoma’s new state schools superintendent is about to take a desperate situation and make it awful. [Robin Meyers Column / Oklahoma Gazette]

Federal Government News

House Committee Budgets Swell as G.O.P. Plans Road Shows Across U.S.: Republican leaders have told their colleagues to get out of Washington for field hearings that allow the party to take their message straight to voters, a costly pursuit that can be a boon to big donors. When the committee descends on Yukon, Okla., this week for its second field hearing, this one on “the state of the economy in the heartland,” it will convene at Express Clydesdales, a restored barn and event space owned by a major donor to the super PAC aligned with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican National Committee, Senate Republicans’ campaign committee and former President Donald J. Trump. [New York Times]

Central Oklahoma communities receive $43.7 million in federal funding for transportation projects: The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) announced almost $44 million in federal funding for transportation projects in and around the Oklahoma City metro. [KOSU]

D.C. Digest: Congressional delegation backs rule repeal: Republicans and the administration argued last week over different kinds of green — money and the environment — with Oklahoma’s congressional delegation not surprisingly on the GOP side. [Tulsa World]

White House hosts roundtable with Black cybersecurity experts: The White House convened a distinguished roundtable in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building led by Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden. Participants represented a diverse realm within the cybersecurity profession. Experts discussed how more Black participation in cybersecurity could strengthen Black America economically. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Voting and Election News

What would State Question 820 not change?: Proponents of State Question 820, which is on the ballot Tuesday and asks Oklahoma voters whether they want to legalize recreational marijuana, understand that the state’s medical cannabis patients might have concerns about potential negative effects on the program if recreational marijuana is also legalized. [Tulsa World]

Why is a county clerk candidate drawing donations from a cockfighting group?: Maressa Treat’s campaign for Oklahoma County clerk has drawn donations from a pro-cockfighting group, two wealthy brothers who live 100 miles away, and several political action committees that typically focus on state-level issues. The donations might appear unusual for a county clerk candidate, a nonpolicy position that oversees the county’s records. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Officials plan for new Tulsa psychiatric hospital to ‘be among the best in the country’: Plans for a new psychiatric hospital in Tulsa, a partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Oklahoma State University, were first announced in 2021. They took their next step recently when officials decided on a name — the Oklahoma Psychiatric Care Center — and set an official groundbreaking date of March 30. [Tulsa World]

Column: Oklahoma’s behavioral health system is broken. We must work together to fix it: While there is a great deal of discussion concerning a nationwide mental health crisis, there has been very little attention given to what is perhaps the greatest barrier to care: commercial insurance plans that do not provide sufficient access to behavioral health services.  [Jeff Dismukes Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Lawsuit: Oklahoma jails fail to treat inmates with mental illness, let them languish behind bars: Citing a slow process for transferring inmates out of local jails and into treatment centers, representatives of four people with mental illness are suing the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the Oklahoma Forensic Center. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa housing industry leaders say city’s daunting need can be met: Tulsa can meet the demand for nearly 13,000 new housing units over the next decade, two leading industry officials said Friday. It won’t necessarily be easy, though. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Chancellor Allison D. Garrett Column: Oklahoma higher education’s blueprint to helping more residents get a degree: Public higher education plays a vital role in meeting Oklahoma’s workforce development goals. The majority of our state’s critical occupations require a college degree, yet our level of educational attainment remains well below the national average. [Chancellor Allison D. Garrett Column / Tulsa World]

STEM, critical occupations the focus of new strategic plan for state’s public higher ed: With production of more workforce-ready graduates topping their list of priorities, the state’s higher education regents have set a goal of awarding 100,000 degrees and other credentials over the next seven years in STEM fields and critical occupations. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Three TPS board members are undemocratically withholding representation: One of the most undemocratic spectacles right now comes from a Tulsa school board block of three members who have so far refused to approve representation for part of the district. The ongoing antagonism from board members Jennettie Marshall, Jerry Griffin and E’Lena Ashley is causing harm. It has been well-documented how their petty antics have stunted daily operation of the district. Their greatest failure at this moment is denying Tulsa Public Schools District 2 a vote on the board. Reasons for this obstructionist behavior are not valid and ignores their board responsibilities. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

  • TPS board to consider reopening District 2 application window [Tulsa World]

A Greenwood son leads one of the best performing schools in Tulsa: Tucked away just north of downtown Tulsa, one of the city’s best kept secrets offers students a vibrant education with phenomenal results. Yet according to Jonathan Townsend, the new executive director of Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, the educational institution shouldn’t be an elitist secret. It should be open to all students across the city, including those who were birthed near the backdrop of Black Wall Street. [The Black Wall Street Times]

General News

How a church got a grant to study possibly removing part of Interstate 244: The origin story of how the North Peoria Church of Christ in Tulsa ended up with a federal grant to study the possible removal of an interstate highway began two, 10 or more than 50 years ago. Opposition to the Inner Dispersal Loop in Tulsa began in some circles before construction on the series of highways that ring downtown was launched in the 1960s. The effort in the name of transportation progress and urban renewal wiped out hundreds of homes and businesses when it was erected, with the north leg cutting through the heart of the Greenwood District. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“They keep saying this is the richest country in the world. Then we shouldn’t be in these food bank lines like this.”

-Mary Holland of Oklahoma City, who expects her adopted son’s SNAP benefits to decrease dramatically with the end of pandemic-related emergency allotments. Some low-income Oklahomans could have additional government benefits cut as the state in April resumes disenrolling Medicaid recipients who no longer qualify. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


In the top 10 Oklahoma counties with the highest share of American Indian/Alaska Natives, the median turnout for the 2022 midterm election was 29.45% compared to the 10 counties with the least share of AI/AN residents at 32.22%. The state average for all voters was 40.1% [OK Policy

Policy Note

Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters: This report details how Native people face obstacles at every turn in the electoral process: from registering to vote, to casting votes, to having votes counted. Findings in the report were derived from nine public hearings to better understand how Native Americans are systemically and culturally kept from fully exercising their franchise. [Native American Rights Fund]

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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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