In The Know: Future of State Questions | Appropriations chairmen leery of tax cuts | Local elections tomorrow

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.

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Oklahoma News

End of State Questions? Experts say legislation could doom most efforts: A package of bills moving through the Legislature could block all but the most well-funded groups from getting a question on the ballot through Oklahoma’s initiative and referendum process, experts and advocates are warning. The Senate is set to consider four joint resolutions that would make it more difficult for state questions to pass or be voted on. The proposals have already passed the state House of Representatives and could take effect as early as 2023 if they clear the Legislature and are approved by voters later this year. [Oklahoma Watch]

What’s on the ballot across the Oklahoma City metro area on April 5?: Elections are taking place across the metro area on Tuesday including school board, mayoral and city council races. [The Oklahoman

  • Harper County voters face permanent 1% sales tax hike [NonDoc
  • Tulsa, Jenks, Union school board candidates report campaign funds [Tulsa World
  • Two parents seek Mustang Public Schools Board seat [NonDoc
  • Yukon Schools Board incumbent faces challenger [NonDoc
  • Stanlen Green, Jennifer Applebee on ballot for Deer Creek Schools Board [NonDoc

Legislature’s appropriations chairmen leery of tax cuts: Tax cuts may be in the air, but they they are not in favor with the Oklahoma Legislature’s top budget writers. Speaking Friday to a Tulsa Regional Chamber breakfast, both House Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, said they do not favor further tax reductions at this time, but they acknowledged a certain amount of pressure to do just that. [Tulsa World]  

Recently from OK Policy: This legislative session, the Oklahoma legislature is set to consider several proposals that would significantly cut state revenue. Rather than cutting taxes, legislators must consider the state’s long-term fiscal health and its structural deficit by maintaining revenue streams this year and for years to come. 

State Government News

Following Frontier report, OSBI investigating ‘allegations of potential criminal conduct’ related to state contract with Swadley’s restaurant: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and their dealings with Swadley’s Bar-B-Q at the request of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. [The Frontier

  • Capitol Insider: Lawmakers question fiscal transparency, planning in state park system [KGOU
  • Report critical of management of Oklahoma state parks [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Number of poor-condition rural bridges drags down Oklahoma’s ranking overall: Gypsy Schools Superintendent Rachel Collins isn’t looking forward to the day county officials finally close a bridge in her district that crosses the Deep Fork River. The county-maintained bridge is one of about 80 in Creek County and nearly 2,300 statewide that are rated structurally deficient or in poor condition, according to a Tulsa World analysis of 2021 National Bridge Inventory data. [Tulsa World

Capitol Notebook: Stitt signs bill on marijuana growth facilities: Senate Bill 1511 states that the location of any medical marijuana commercial grower shall not be within 1,000 feet of any public school or private school. [The Oklahoman

Details murky as legislator pushes for Kickapoo Turnpike expansion around Lake Arcadia: Residents and business owners near Lake Arcadia area may soon be fighting the same battle being waged by those in Norman to save their homes from being destroyed by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority as it seeks to extend its toll road network. [The Oklahoman

Federal Government News

Inhofe, Lankford meet with Jackson, announce opposition: Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford met in Washington on Thursday with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson and made official their opposition. The two Republicans said they did not support Jackson’s judicial philosophy and views. [The Oklahoman] Senate Democratic leaders are pushing toward a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination Monday and a final Senate vote to confirm Jackson late next week. [Enid News & Eagle]

US House votes to decriminalize marijuana; Senate outlook hazy at best: Marijuana would be decriminalized at the federal level under legislation the House approved Friday as Democrats made the case for allowing states to set their own policies on pot. [AP via The Journal Record

Number of unclaimed veterans has increased by 50 percent in last year: In the last year, the Fort Sill National Cemetery has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of unclaimed veterans buried in the cemetery. [The Lawton Constitution]

Tribal Nations News

Chief Hoskin signs landmark $120 million legislation to assist hundreds of Cherokee families with affordable housing, home repairs: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. officially signed legislation Thursday afternoon investing a historic $120 million into funding for expansion of affordable housing options, low-income home repairs and other related housing needs for hundreds of Cherokee families across the tribe’s reservation. [Indian Country Today] Linda Webster and Wilma Fixin are looking forward to moving into new homes, something that wouldn’t have been possible if not for substantial investments made in affordable housing in recent years by the Cherokee Nation. [The Journal Record

Voting and Election News

Defeat of school voucher bill sets up campaign debates in governor, superintendent races: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s push for a private school voucher plan could become a key wedge issue during this year’s gubernatorial campaign, and the likely Democratic nominee is hopeful it could help her gain some ground with rural voters. [The Oklahoman

Federal judge asked to block 2022 special election to replace retiring US Sen. Jim Inhofe: An Oklahoma City federal judge is being asked to issue a permanent injunction “preventing the premature and unauthorized special election in 2022” to replace U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. Enid attorney Stephen Jones made the request Friday after losing at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. [The Oklahoman

Health News

RNA vaccine boosters held up ‘very well’ against moderate to severe COVID-19, says OU expert: One booster dose of either of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines stood up quite well against moderate to severe disease during the omicron variant surge, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer said a new study shows. [Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

Retired DA appointed to state Pardon and Parole Board: A former area district attorney has been appointed to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that Cathy Stocker would replace Kelly Doyles, who resigned from the board in early March. [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma County Commissioners to discuss bond vote for new jail funding: When Oklahoma County Commissioners meet Monday, they are poised to take the next step in the process of funding and building a new jail to replace the troubled and sometimes dangerous current facility.  [The Oklahoman

Economic Opportunity

Affordable Housing Day brings info, advocacy to Okla legislature: For the first time since 2019, the Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing was able to bring Affordable Housing Day to the Capitol. [OKC Free Press]

Recently from OK Policy: State policy solutions would increase housing security and help families thrive

Oklahoma is pushing a huge surplus of welfare dollars to community programs: For the past 25 years, Oklahoma’s federally funded cash assistance welfare program has seen a steady decline in participation, resulting in a buildup of more than a quarter of a billion dollars, money the Department of Human Services is now beginning to spend on community-based programs. [The Oklahoman

Stillwater’s investment in remote workers paying off: Even before the pandemic, Zachary Kosma knew he wanted to move away from San Francisco. Sure, there are beautiful spots in California, but they are hard to enjoy given the congestion and the area’s fast-paced, competitive culture that permits no time to smell the roses. More than 1,500 miles away, officials in Stillwater, Oklahoma – population 50,000 – were looking for a way to publicize the city’s relocation package. [The Journal Record

Education News

Gov. Stitt taps businessman with no college degree for board overseeing higher education: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s latest nominee to the board that oversees the state higher education system is a successful businessman but has no college degree. Dustin Hilliary, managing partner of Lawton’s Hilliary Communications, said in an email that he attended Cameron University “for nearly three years until the growth of my family’s business put me neck deep in the family business quicker than we anticipated.” [Tulsa World

School choice proponent vows to continue fight despite setback: The top Republican in the state Senate said he’ll keep fighting for his failed school funding plan that would have shifted $128.5 million in public money to children who choose not to attend public school. [Enid News & Eagle]

General News

Afghans discuss harrowing journeys to Oklahoma and the warm welcome they got here: Thousands of Afghans fled their native country in fall 2021, with almost 2,000 eventually making their way to Oklahoma. Through Catholic Charities, the only federally authorized resettlement agency in the state, Afghan men, women and children became new neighbors in our communities. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

Police oversight not dead; councilors expected to revisit the idea: It’s too early to tell whether a proposal to create an independent entity to monitor the Police Department has new life, but it now seems likely city councilors are willing to at least have that conversation. [Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“If I were an Oklahoma voter, I would ask what problem this is trying to solve. It’s not that there’s been too many questions since I counted and there has been only 10 (citizen-led initiatives) on the ballot in the 21st Century, and that’s not many at all.”

– Professor John G. Matsusaka, executive director of the non-partisan Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California, speaking about legislation at the Oklahoma Capitol that could make it more difficult for state questions to pass or be voted on. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 580,000 incarcerated people in the United States have tested positive for the virus and more than 2,800 have died.

[Source: COVID Prison Project]

Policy Note

Decarcerating Correctional Facilities during COVID-19: Advancing Health, Equity, and Safety: With cumulative coronavirus case rates among incarcerated people nearly five times higher than in the general population in the United States, and prison and jail staff experiencing substantially higher rates of infection, correctional facilities have become hotspots for infection during the COVID-19 health crisis. Increased virus transmission is due to a combination of the characteristics of correctional facilities—overcrowding, population turnover, spatially concentrated patterns of releases and admissions, the physical design of facilities (e.g., dormitory-style housing and poor ventilation), health care capacity— and the vulnerability of incarcerated individuals due to their age and the presence of chronic health conditions. [The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine]

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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.

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