In The Know: Flat agency budgets could reduce public service | Cutting taxes alone won’t attract businesses | SQ820 Fact Sheet

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

Fact Sheet, SQ 820: Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative: State Question 820 would legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. Adults over the age of 21 years old would be able to purchase marijuana products for recreational use from licensed sellers. It also requires “resentencing, reversing, modifying and expunging” past marijuana-related criminal records and convictions. The statewide special election is March 7, 2023. [OK Policy] | [PDF]

State Government News

Amid high inflation, Oklahoma Gov. Stitt’s flat budget proposal could pressure agencies: Gov. Kevin Stitt has proposed flat budgets at most of the state’s largest agencies, which could force some tough choices as high inflation eats into the money used to provide services. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Legislature still deeply divided on school vouchers: As Gov. Kevin Stitt renews his push for universal school vouchers, Republican lawmakers remain at a stalemate on the controversial issue. Although school choice proponents say the political dynamics have changed at the Capitol since last year, many GOP lawmakers still fiercely oppose allowing taxpayer dollars to go toward a child’s private or home school education through school vouchers. [Tulsa World]

Diversity, equity and inclusion programs under scrutiny by Oklahoma officials: Oklahoma lawmakers have authored at least five bills this legislative session to limit diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in education. The measures aim to limit political testing, amending parental rights and report spending in higher education programs. [KOSU]

Will Oklahoma lawmakers increase firearm access? More than 100 bills are seeking just that: One bill would allow guns in parked cars on school property. Another wants to expand access to a firearm while on a boat. And one proposal would increase the area in which a person can reasonably discharge their gun in self-defense. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Lawmakers File 40 Anti-LGBTQ Bills: Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced 40 bills limiting LGBTQ Oklahomans’ healthcare access, inclusion in schools and options for self-expression this legislative session, an Oklahoma Watch analysis shows. [Oklahoma Watch]

After banning abortion, Oklahoma lawmakers eye expanding maternal health care and other supports: Oklahoma lawmakers have filed dozens of bills this year to expand access to health care and social services and improve child welfare policies after enacting one of the strictest abortion bans in the country. [The Frontier]

Political notebook: Oklahoma’s average sales tax rate fifth-highest: Oklahoma towns’ and cities’ heavy reliance on sales — and, increasingly, use — taxes make the state’s combined rate one of the highest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. A previous Tax Foundation study found that despite its high sales tax rates, Oklahoma’s narrow sales tax base — meaning the tax is assessed on fewer kinds of transactions — results in lower per capita sales tax receipts and a smaller share of sales tax as a percentage of income than the national average or median. [Tulsa World]

AG Gentner Drummond Column: Oklahoma veterans deserve better: The Oklahoma Veterans Commission has devolved into a production of bickering and finger-pointing that should be cause for concern among all who value the sacrifice of our service members. Battle-tested veterans find themselves caught in the crossfire of a petty political skirmish. [AG Gentner Drummond Column / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Legislature has chance to do real good for public education: Public education remains a legislative priority with one camp focused on vouchers and others tackling problems from the teacher shortage crisis to low reading scores. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Jim Inhofe looks back on his career: ‘I really wanted to make a difference, and I did’: Jim Inhofe, whose political career spanned nearly six decades has indeed retired, at least from elected office. At 88, he says he intends to remain involved in politics but admits to still suffering the long-term effects of COVID-19. It is the reason, he said, he left the Senate. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

In citizenship dispute, Freedmen descendants soon will be heard in Muscogee Nation court: A court case challenging the Muscogee Nation’s refusal to recognize Freedmen descendants as tribal citizens advanced toward trial this week. Muscogee Nation District Court Judge Denette Mouser ruled against the plaintiffs’ request to decide the case early. [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Considers Separating State and Federal Elections if Voting Rights Acts Pass: President Joe Biden is urging Congress to resurrect sweeping voting rights legislation that would mandate same-day and online registration and restore voting rights for people convicted of felonies after leaving prison. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma County clerk candidates report fundraising amounts as primary approaches: Candidates seeking to replace former Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten are raising funds and trying to line up votes ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. The fundraising reports they have filed so far with Oklahoma County’s Election Board are one way to evaluate how much support each candidate could have as votes are cast. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County / Oklahoma City Election Roundup:

  • In Oklahoma City, a progressive faces a moderate challenger after protesting police funding and economic development [The Frontier]
  • OKC Ward 6: Hamon, Cornett differ in ideology, approach [NonDoc]
  • OKC Ward 5: Greenwell retirement draws 4 candidates [NonDoc]
  • OKC Ward 8: Amy Warne, Frank Urbanic challenge Mark Stonecipher [NonDoc]
  • GOP Oklahoma County clerk candidates crave votes, not valentines [NonDoc]
  • Cheat sheet: EKCO employee, businessman challenge Deer Creek School Board incumbent [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Column: True Tulsa homeless count could overflow ONEOK Field: It has been reported that Tulsa has a housing deficit of 7,000 units. If it were only one resident per unit, that would be almost the size of the city of Wagoner — or three times the occupancy level of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. If it’s a family with children, you could easily overflow the capacity of ONEOK Field, which seats 9,500 people. [Terri White Column / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Column: Why Oklahoma is fertile ground for entrepreneurs, innovators: In the past, the idea of quitting your day job and starting a new technology company was terrifying and fraught with peril. Fail and you have to start over. But with the right kind of support, failing can simply be a step in the right direction. [Nathaniel Harding Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Catholic Church in Oklahoma seeking government sanctioning, taxpayer funding for first religious charter school in U.S.: The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa are partnering in an attempt to establish the first religious charter school in the country, and the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board is poised to hear their government sponsorship pitch Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

  • Education Watch: State to Consider Religious Charter School This Week [Oklahoma Watch]

Ryan Walters proposes ban on ‘sexualized content’ in school libraries. What that could mean for Oklahoma: Oklahoma school districts, under a proposed new rule, could have their accreditation demoted for having explicit sexual content on library shelves. State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters shared details on Friday of a suggested Oklahoma State Department of Education rule to ban “pornographic material” and “sexualized content” from libraries in K-12 schools and CareerTech centers. [The Oklahoman]

Inter-state teaching compact could reduce teacher shortage: A newly proposed Senate bill seeks to solve school staffing shortages throughout Oklahoma by allowing districts to accept out-of-state licenses. SB 361 was introduced Jan. 15 by Adam Pugh, R-Edmond. The legislation, if approved, would cut down the amount of paperwork required for licensed instructors from other states to move to Oklahoma and get started sooner. [Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma auditor says Epic misused millions more in public funds than previously known: When the local prosecutor filed charges against Epic Charter Schools’ co-founders for allegedly using public funds for political contributions and personal expenses, investigators alleged that taxpayers lost $22 million. [The Oklahoman]

Education notebook: School bond votes, enrollment, extended FAFSA help and more: Tuesday is Election Day for voters in nine area school districts. Claremore and Owasso each have a school board primary on the ballot, while Bartlesville, Catoosa, Claremore Sequoyah, Coweta, Jenks, Skiatook and Union each have a bond proposal. [Tulsa World]

Column: Bury the ‘zombie’ education idea known as merit pay: Some bad ideas never seem to perish, despite decades of evidence showing they do not actually work. Regardless of researchers’ best efforts to put these ideas 6 feet under, these schemes — like zombies — scratch their way up through the muck to resurface as “new ideas.” [Rob Miller Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Planned tiny-home village aimed at addressing homelessness faces pushback [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Cutting taxes should not be the top priority for business recruitment and retention. Businesses themselves are not asking for it. Instead, we need large and sustained investments in education and infrastructure to make us more competitive for business growth and a better place to live.”

– Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City [Column / The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of bills filed this legislative session that would limit health care access, inclusion in schools, and options for self-expression for LGBTQ2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Two-Spirit) Oklahomans. [Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

A Proposed Catholic Charter School Is New Test for Religion and Public Education: The application from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa says St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, if approved, would receive as much as $2.5 million in state money to serve a projected 500 students in its first year. Although the sponsors do not mention it in the application, they are aware that Oklahoma law requires charter schools to be “nonsectarian” in their programs and operations and that no sponsor may “authorize a charter school or program that is affiliated with a nonpublic sectarian school or religious institution.” But they are also aware that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions backing the inclusion of religious schools in certain school choice programs have prompted a debate about whether states may provide public funds to charter schools sponsored by religious institutions or even whether they must do so if they also fund secular public charter schools. [Education Week]

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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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