In The Know: Gov. bans state funds for DEI | Are public officials using Signal app breaking open records law? | Budget transparency pledge is step in right direction

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

Policy Matters: Senate’s budget transparency pledge is step in right direction: Senate leaders last week shared their intention to make the annual budget process more transparent. This is a welcome first step towards making this vital process more inclusive and democratic. But more can be done. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt prohibits college diversity, inclusion initiatives: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order Wednesday that prohibits state agencies, colleges and universities from using state funds to support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. The order will effectively end campus diversity, equity and inclusion offices, University of Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz Jr. said in an email to students, faculty and staff. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt orders DEI review of universities and agencies as legislator files supporting bills [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma governor targets DEI programs in ‘anti-discrimination’ executive order [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma money shouldn’t fund diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, Gov. Stitt says [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Do better for Oklahoma’: OU students react to governor’s order nixing DEI at state universities, agencies [Fox 25]

How Oklahomans are navigating the ‘chaos’ of SoonerCare unwinding: When the pandemic’s public health emergency ended earlier this year, the state began removing SoonerCare members who were no longer considered eligible, even if it was only because the state didn’t have current contact information. As Oklahoma nears the end of its process, providers, community partners and patients are reflecting on OHCA’s collaboration with partners, the confusion that ensued and how the unwinding impacted members overall. [KOSU]

State Government News

As more Oklahoma state officials use Signal app, are they breaking open records law?: The staff and management of at least two Oklahoma agencies are using a smartphone app that encrypts — and also deletes — conversations, information and data that could be considered a public record. The app’s use runs counter to an attorney general’s opinion written in 2002 by then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson. That opinion said records and data created on a personal smartphone by a state employee were — in most cases — public records. [The Oklahoman]

Possible pay increase for state workers in 2024: housands of state employees could see a pay hike next year. If the bill passes, it would be the first increase since 2019. The proposed bill includes a 9% pay increase for workers. [KFOR]

Oklahoma Senate Democrats elect Julia Kirt to be next minority leader: Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, will serve as the next Senate minority leader. Kirt will succeed Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, who has led the Senate Democratic caucus since 2018. Kirt will take on the leadership role when Floyd is termed out of office in November. [Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

Federal grant awarded to Oklahoma for accessible rural transportation: The Biden-Harris administration is awarding a grant to rural and tribal communities in Oklahoma for transportation needs. The money could help people with disabilities and seniors get to where they need to be. [KGOU]

Tribal Nations News

A new exhibit about the Osage murders reveals new legal history: The legal history of what happened with trials at the center of the Osage murders is now on display at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, where one of the murder trials took place. [Osage News]

Osage Minerals Council: Oil and gas is here to stay: The 21st annual Osage Oil and Gas Summit brought together new oil producers, shareholders, minerals council members, landowners and industry experts to discuss production and environmental and production issues, new techniques and some of the history of the Osage mineral estate. [Osage News]

Cherokee Nation Council updates health-project blueprint: Cherokee Nation lawmakers on Dec. 11 voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that expands a list of high-dollar, health-related capital projects to include $8 million donations for cancer treatment centers in nearby Arkansas and Tulsa. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Voting and Election News

How does OKC’s arena voter turnout compare to previous city elections? A look at the numbers: Supporters of a one-cent sales tax to fund a new downtown Oklahoma City arena lauded the percentage of approval from voters, but a closer look shows that the results of Tuesday’s vote are largely in line with various elections in the city’s past. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Proposed Oklahoma County jail site near Will Rogers Airport is out: The Federal Aviation Administration has denied a request from Oklahoma County to build a new jail on land near Will Rogers World Airport. [KOSU]

  • Oklahoma County cuts NE OKC site from consideration as potential jail location [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Stitt: Give Tulsa Superintendent Ebony Johnson a chance: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday that “everybody needs to calm down” and let new Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Ebony Johnson show what she can do. Stitt’s comments came after State Superintendent Ryan Walters turned up the volume on his criticism of TPS and its board for hiring Johnson, a longtime administrator in the system, over his objections. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa mayor responds to Walters’ latest criticism of TPS board [Tulsa World]

Sheriff’s auction of Bacone College in Muskogee called off the day before it was to happen: A planned auction of the Bacone College campus scheduled for Thursday morning has been called off. It’s the second time in recent months that Bacone, a tiny private college in Muskogee, has come within 24 hours of having its campus auctioned off to the highest bidder in order to pay a court judgment. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion, Chancellor Allison D. Garrett: Top priority is producing more college graduates to address Oklahoma’s business needs: Data from Unlocking Career Success, an initiative of the U.S. Education, Commerce and Labor departments, forecasts that 70% of jobs across the country will require education beyond high school by 2027. In Oklahoma, more than half of our 100 critical occupations ― and each of the top 29 highest-paying professions ― require an associate degree or higher. [Allison D. Garrett / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Why we must push back against Ryan Walters’ agenda: As state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters ramps up his attacks on the Tulsa Public Schools, and implicit threats against other urban and suburban districts, there are some lessons of history that must be considered. [John Thompson / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: It’s time for churches, faith institutions to get behind Tulsa Public Schools: It is no secret that Oklahoma’s rankings in terms of education and overall family health are among the lowest in the nation. These two areas are deeply connected, and our churches should be among the strongest encouragers and supporters for improving and investing in our schools and families in each of our communities. [Eric Costanzo and Deron Spoo / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Simply closing schools did not quickly improve academic outcomes; that kind of change takes time: It’s hard to believe State Superintendent Ryan Walters is serious about helping schools succeed when trying to force the closure of at least 12 low-performing schools in Tulsa Public Schools. Shuttering schools is far from a formula for academic success. [Rep. Melissa Provenanzo and Tulsa City Councilor Laura Bellis / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Transit board green-lights system rebranding [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa city councilors, mayor tour new Public Safety Center site [Tulsa World]
  • American Airlines to add 300 jobs in Tulsa, use $22 million award for expansion [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies are put in place to deter discrimination of marginalized communities. The fact that the governor sees this in reverse further illustrates the fact that he’s not experienced true discrimination. We need to let our universities lead the way and work towards better educating all students.”

-Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, speaking about the governor’s executive order prohibiting state agencies from using state funds, property or resources to support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank in 2020 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for election administration policy and performance. Oklahoma consistently has among the nation’s lowest rates of voter participation. [MIT Elections Performance Index]

Policy Note

Unlocking the Ballot Box: Policies to Promote Voter Access and Engagement in Oklahoma: Oklahoma continues to be ranked among the worst states in studies of electoral systems and our rates of electoral participation are among the lowest in the nation. Although policymakers have taken some positive steps to make the franchise more accessible, these have been largely offset by measures that restrict access to the ballot. We’ve gone three steps forward and two steps back. As a result, there continues to be an urgent need for elected officials to adopt common-sense election reforms that would help promote voter access and engagement in Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.