In The Know: Fines and fees reform | Lethal drug injection records | Evictions on the rise in Oklahoma | 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.

New from OK Policy

Evictions are returning to pre-pandemic levels. That’s not a good thing: Evictions in Oklahoma have been a problem for many years, but job loss and lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic made it even harder for Oklahomans to stay in their homes. At the height of the pandemic, a national moratorium on evictions helped people stay safely housed and safely distanced to protect against COVID-19. However, that moratorium has now ended and evictions are on the rise again. Unless action is taken, Oklahoma evictions will return to problematically high levels. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy

Oklahoma and COVID-19: Two Years Later: On March 6, 2020, Oklahoma reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 and declared a statewide emergency 10 days later. As the pandemic now enters its third year, Oklahomans continue grappling with the impact of lives lost and the immense disruptions it has created. OK Policy will be reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts and challenges. Our hope is that this will highlight opportunities for collaborative decision-making, future improvements, and prosperity for all Oklahomans.

Oklahoma News

‘I believe this is true reform that can actually change lives,’ Oklahoma Senate bill eliminating certain fines and fees for convicted moves forward: Senate Bill 1458, a bill that would eliminate specific fines and fees that are currently charged to convicted individuals, is one step closer to becoming Oklahoma state law. It passed off the Senate floor Monday, March 15 with a 46-0 vote. SB1458’s author, Senator Roger Thompson, R-District 8, said this bill has been in the works for a number of years and is a governor request bill. [KFOR] According to Sen. Thompson, the current system prevents people convicted of a crime from turning their lives around, by leading to new warrants when they can’t pay the fees. The bill now moves to the House for consideration. [KSWO]

Recently from OK Policy: Lawmakers should remove excessive fees and provide relief for struggling families trying to manage this court debt. Senate Bill 1458 proposes repealing fees that fund executive branch agencies unrelated to courts.

Why Oklahoma keeps lethal injection drug records hidden: In the realm of criminal justice, the lethal injection process is perhaps the most secretive area of government. This topic is especially relevant as a federal judge considers whether Oklahoma’s execution process causes unconstitutional pain and suffering. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ execution protocol is available online. Five media members, one from the Associated Press and four selected at random, witness each execution and provide an independent account afterward. Other key details, including information about where the drugs were acquired and verification records, are shielded from the public. [Oklahoma Watch

Grant to extend telemedicine, education into rural Oklahoma: Telemedicine, on the rise since the start of the pandemic as a convenient way for people to make connections with health care providers and educators, is poised to take another step in its evolution in rural Oklahoma. [The Journal Record

Previously from OK Policy (2020): Broadband is more important than ever — here is how Oklahoma can respond (Guest Post: Dr. Brian Whitacre)

State Government News

State’s general revenue remained strong in February: Deposits to the state’s general revenue fund remained strong in February, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said Tuesday. The general revenue fund is the state’s primary operating account. [Tulsa World

What’s That? Glossary: General Revenue Fund: The General Revenue (GR) Fund, also known as the general fund, is the principal funding source for most Oklahoma government operations. Any revenue that is not restricted for a specific purpose flows into the general fund. The Legislature may direct money out of this fund for any legal purpose of the government. Learn more.

Oklahoma House looks to cryptocurrency technology to address medical marijuana issues: The state may borrow from cryptocurrency and similar technologies to build its own financial and information network outside of the usual systems — in part to both facilitate legal medical marijuana businesses and to combat illegal ones, members of the House of Representatives said Tuesday. [Tulsa World

“Analysis to begin,” says OTA: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will soon begin impact and environmental studies along proposed routes for its statewide expansion of the toll road system, an Oklahoma Turnpike Authority spokeswoman said. [The Norman Transcript]

  • City to litigate via eminent domain as four owners hold out [The Norman Transcript]
  • Norman group to “Al Capone” the OTA: residents vow to fight turnpike authority, resist new toll road [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma faces lawsuit over transgender birth certificate order: The LGBTQ+ civil rights organization Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma following an executive order preventing transgender individuals born in the state from changing the gender on their birth certificate to match their gender identity. [The Hill]

Legislature poised to exempt military retirement pay from income tax: A bill that would exempt veterans’ retirement pay from state income tax cleared the Oklahoma Senate last Wednesday on a 43-0 vote. Senate Bill 401 would apply to Oklahoma’s 36,491 retired veterans, its author, Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, said. Pugh said current law allows service members to deduct the greater of $10,000, or 75 percent of their retirement income from state income tax. [Southwest Ledger]

Driver’s license designation proposed for disabled vets: Sen. Frank Simpson said the DL modification proposed by his Senate Bill 1177 would make it easier for the state and businesses to know which veterans are eligible for the sales tax exemption and other benefits awarded to fully disabled members. [Southwest Ledger]

No humans needed: Oklahoma could soon allow self-driving vehicles: In the very near future, the car or truck next to you might not have anyone at the wheel. Lawmakers in both the Oklahoma House and Senate approved bills recently to allow Class 4 and Class 5 autonomous vehicles on Oklahoma roads. [The Oklahoman

Federal Government News

Zelenskyy cites Pearl Harbor, 9/11 attacks in appeal to US Congress for help against Russia, ‘we need you right now’: Livestreamed into the Capitol complex, Zelenskyy said the U.S. must sanction Russian lawmakers and block imports, and he showed a packed auditorium of U.S. lawmakers an emotional video of the destruction and devastation in his country has suffered in the war. “We need you right now,” Zelenskyy said, adding, “I call on you to do more.” [AP via Tulsa World

U.S. Senate passes bill to make daylight-saving time permanent: Just as much of the U.S. has switched over to daylight-saving time again, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill to make daylight-saving time permanent. On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford introduced last year with several other senators. [Enid News & Eagle]

Tribal Nation News

Statement from Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill on key components of U.S. Congress’ spending bill: “We in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation are encouraged by the action that Congress took today on two fronts vital to our role in contributing to the safety and security of all people within the boundaries of our reservation. We applaud Congress for reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and for committing resources to support the investments tribal nations are making to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s sovereignty-affirming McGirt ruling. [Muscogee Nation]

Voting and Election News

Bid for Senate makes former Congresswoman Kendra Horn first Democrat to seek Inhofe’s seat: Former 5th District Congresswoman Kendra Horn on Tuesday became the first Democrat to enter the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jim Inhofe. [Tulsa World] “Oklahoma is worth fighting for, and we have a lot more in common than we have differences,” Horn told the Associated Press. [AP via Public Radio Tulsa

Health News

Sutton Foundation to fund research, help people battling cancer: The foundation will focus on research, with special emphasis on pediatric cancer, and also will seek to make a difference in the lives of people fighting cancer. In doing so, it will honor the life and legacy of former Oklahoma State University men’s basketball coach Eddie Sutton, who entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. [The Journal Record

Criminal Justice News

Racial disparities in Tulsa’s policing practices have worsened, data shows: Data from the City of Tulsa’s Equality Indicator Report shows that racial disparities in the city’s policing practices, including arrests and use-of-force, are getting worse. According to the 2021 report, published in December, disparities based on race have increased since 2018 in three key areas. [The Black Wall Street Times

County Commissioners Joe Don Dickey, Tim Binghom among those indicted for CED 7 venture: Four people associated with Circuit Engineering District 7 have been indicted on embezzlement and conspiracy charges related to a business venture called 7 Oil, which was the subject of a state audit released in 2020. [NonDoc

Economic Opportunity

One bedroom apartment rent up 47% in Norman year-over-year: Despite a metrowide increase of $326 for apartment rent year-over-year, the rental price for a one-bedroom unit is still below the national average of $1,688. [The Norman Transcript]

New from OK Policy: Evictions in Oklahoma are returning to pre-pandemic levels. That’s not a good thing.

Economy & Business News

OKC council approves film incentive aimed at boosting economy through movie, TV productions: Production companies will have financial incentive to film movies and television shows in Oklahoma City after the city council approved a new bond program Tuesday. Riding the wave of the new Oklahoma film rebate signed into law last May, the goal of the Oklahoma City Film Incentive Program is to boost the city’s film industry and generate sales tax. [The Oklahoman] The incentive, a brain child of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, was developed with an eye on bringing larger film and television productions to the Oklahoma City area. The new package also includes micro-grants for local filmmakers trying to break into the industry. [OKC Free Press]

Education News

OSDE creates new division to help students with mental health: State lawmakers and education leaders are developing new ways to keep Oklahoma students safe and healthy. They have now dedicated a division of the State Department of Education to providing support for students. This is important because, according to the CDC, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in Oklahoma. [News 9]

Oklahoma Christian University is criticized for professor’s firing over gay speaker: A local private university is being criticized for its treatment of a longtime tenured professor, sparking outcry from former students and others. However, Oklahoma Christian University isn’t only being accused of wrongfully firing faculty member Michael O’Keefe for having a gay alum speak to his class. [The Oklahoman

Kingfisher Board of Education holding special meeting following hazing allegations, lawsuit: The Kingfisher Board of Education is holding a special meeting Wednesday following allegations of hazing to the point of torture within the high school football program. [KOCO] The former student, who graduated in 2021, claims he faced alleged verbal, physical and sexual abuse — including daily towel floggings, Tasering, death threats and dangerous practice drills — from teammates and coaching staff during his four years on the high school’s football team. [Enid News & Eagle

General News

‘Gives them back their dignity’: Showers offer a clean start for homeless Tulsans: Evan Dougoud’s nonprofit, the BeHeard Movement, launched Tulsa’s first mobile shower program last summer and now sets up four to six times a week in different locations across the city. “You take it for granted, but a shower is a luxury. Go a few days without one and see how it feels. You won’t want to do anything. You’ll feel worthless,” Ben Ritchey said. [Tulsa World]  

Oklahoma Local News

Payne County Commissioners sign ‘Sunshine Week’ commitment to open government: In honor of “Sunshine Week”, the Payne County Commissioners signed a proclamation supporting open government and affirming the public’s right to attend government meetings and access public records. [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“I definitely believe someone who is convicted of breaking the law should be held accountable, but the current system of funding courts through fees can actually prevent individuals from turning their lives around.”

– Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson (R-Okemah), speaking about SB 1458, which would reduce court fines and fees that trap Oklahomans in cycles of poverty and inadequately fund our courts [KFOR]

Recently from OK Policy: Lawmakers should remove excessive fees and provide relief for struggling families trying to manage this court debt. Senate Bill 1458 proposes repealing fees that fund executive branch agencies unrelated to courts.

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma households behind on rent, as of February 7, 2022

[Source: National Equity Atlas]

New from OK Policy: Evictions in Oklahoma are returning to pre-pandemic levels. That’s not a good thing.

Policy Note

Millions Still Months Behind on Rent After Eviction Moratorium Ends: Weeks after the federal eviction moratorium ended in 2021, the latest Census data show an estimated 9.9 million adult renters are living in households at least one month behind on rent, and over 4 in 10 adults behind on rent believe eviction is at least somewhat likely in the next two months. States and localities must act swiftly to protect millions of these renters from losing their homes by employing eviction diversion programs that provide legal representation and help emergency aid reach households struggling to pay rent. And Congress can help prevent future eviction crises by including a major expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program in recovery legislation to make housing safe and affordable for people most at risk of eviction. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.