In The Know: Gov. sign bill waiving juvenile fines & fees | Lack of resources cripples treatment services | Uncertain future for OK’s water

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

Budget bills address economic development, disability waiting list, but miss the mark on education (Capitol Update): Flush with cash due to federal pandemic funding and a booming energy economy, the legislature last week had to determine the most responsible way forward. A few quick observations are possible. In an election year, the legislature this year pretty much had the ability to pass whatever kind of budget it wanted, no excuses. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy

Lawton partnering with Together Oklahoma for Pride Month event: Together Oklahoma, in partnership with the City of Lawton and the McMahon Memorial Authority, announced their upcoming Statewide Pride and Policy Listening Session. During the event, there will be a reading from famed author, and Lawton native, John Paul Brammer. [KSWO

Oklahoma News

Governor signs bill that could waive court fees for juveniles: Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a bill that allows judges at their discretion to waive court fees for juveniles. House Bill 3205 was sent to Stitt’s desk May 12 and signed into law on May 16. It will go into effect Nov. 1. Talley John Talley Rep. John Talley (R-Stillwater) authored the bill. Talley has been active in prison ministry, visiting adult and juvenile facilities. After talking to the kids, Talley said he knew legislation needed to be passed to help lower or waive the fees. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

As drug court participation falls in Oklahoma, counties struggle to provide alternatives: Some new diversion programs link people with treatment and other services, but a lack of resources and buy-in from prosecutors remain problems. Rural parts of the state with limited access to mental health and treatment services are particularly hard hit. “It’s not just that State Question 780 happened, and now there’s no more drug courts. It’s 780 happened, and lawmakers haven’t done enough to fund the programs that are supposed to absorb those changes,” said Damion Shade, a criminal justice policy analyst with the Oklahoma Policy Institute. [The Frontier

Despite plans and promises, the future of Oklahoma water is uncertain: About 12 miles south of Ada, down a country road and behind a locked gate on private land, is some of the cleanest, clearest water you’re likely to find in Oklahoma. About 20 miles north of Ada is a very different scene. There, the Canadian River appears to be drying up. [NonDoc

State Government News

Lawmakers put funds toward economic development sites statewide: In a bid to diversify rural Oklahoma’s economy beyond the borders of Mayes County, state lawmakers plan to divvy up $250 million to help make other economic development sites more competitive. But critics of House Bill 4456 said there are no guardrails or rules for how the dollars will be allocated, and the Progressing Rural Economic Prosperity Fund amounts to little more than a quarter-billion-dollar legislative “slush fund.” [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Bill tying unemployment benefits to labor market among latest signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt: Legislation linking unemployment benefits to the job market has been signed into law, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office said Monday. Author Rep. Ryan Martinez said it’s intended to protect the state’s unemployment insurance fund, which was hit hard during the pandemic but is still considered one of the soundest in the country. [Tulsa World

Recently from OK Policy: Oklahoma’s lawmakers should recognize the importance of a well-designed unemployment insurance program and strengthen this necessary program rather than undermine it. House Bill 1933 will weaken our economy, threaten families’ financial security, and fail to get more Oklahomans back to work.

Legislature sends $9.8 billion budget deal to Stitt: Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature signed off on a budget deal last week that increases funding for the state’s higher education system, earmarks millions to reduce the backlog of people on the disability waiting list, increases the pay of many state employees and sends many taxpayers a $75 tax rebate check. [Southwest Ledger]

Legislature calls itself into special session for ARPA funds: With just days remaining the 2022 legislative session, Republican leaders in both houses have called themselves into a special session to appropriate almost $2 billion dollars sent to the state as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Last Wednesday, the Legislature effectively took control of the ARPA funds and called itself into a special session using petitions in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate. [Southwest Ledger]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: State of Oklahoma budget provides increases for law enforcement: As they completed their work in the 2022 Regular Session, Oklahoma lawmakers sent to the governor a state budget for fiscal year 2023 that provides additional appropriated dollars for various law enforcement agencies. [KGOU

Norman-area residents allege Open Meetings Act violations in lawsuit against Oklahoma Turnpike Authority: Nearly 200 residents are listed as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority that alleges the agency violated Oklahoma’s Open Meetings Act by using vague wording in its meeting agendas and public documents. [State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmaker offers ‘tongue-in-cheek’ response to abortion bill: mandatory vasectomies: A Democratic state representative introduced a “tongue-in-cheek proposal” to mandate vasectomies for males in Oklahoma. Rep. Mickey Dollens, the minority whip, brought up the idea last week on the House floor in response to the Republican-led Oklahoma Legislature passing the toughest state ban on abortion in the U.S. [KTUL

Federal Government News

Man charged with threatening Oklahoma Rep. Hern: A man known for showing up uninvited at political events to get close to politicians has been charged with threatening an Oklahoma congressman and his family, officials said Monday. [AP via The Journal Record

Tribal Nations News

Government watchdog report: More federal money allocated for tribes in 2022, but still not enough consultation: The good news about the Native American “crosscut,” a tally of all federal money allotted for Native programs in the president’s budget, is that the total for tribes is up substantially in 2022 from last year. The bad news, a Congressional watchdog found: Three of the federal agencies it examined ignored tribal sovereignty by conducting no consultation at all with tribes. [Tribal Business News

Here’s how one Oklahoma tribe is fighting inflation: Rising grocery, gas and housing bills prompted leaders of one Oklahoma tribe to make a change. The Osage Nation will temporarily pay workers 10% more to help offset inflation costs that have reached 40-year highs. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City Indian Clinic encourages a healthy lifestyle during Women’s Health Month: Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit clinic providing health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, promotes health and wellness for women of all ages year-round, but especially during Women’s Health Month held in May every year. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice draws conservative primary opponent as she seeks reelection in Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District: Rep. Bice was elected to Congress in 2000, defeating incumbent Kendra Horn, a Democrat who won the seat by defeating incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Russell. District lines in that election stretched east from Oklahoma City into neighboring counties. [The Oklahoma City Sentinel

Health News

Youth suicides increasing, Oklahoma family pushes for better data tracking and training: The number of children dying by suicide have increased over the last three years, but in Oklahoma those numbers of deaths and attempts might be worse than initially thought. [Fox 25

(Audio) Formula shortage has changed the definition of need, says nonprofit director: Miki Farris is co-founder and executive director of Infant Crisis Services in Oklahoma City. For 38 years, her organization has helped supply low-income families with diapers and baby formula. But she says this formula shortage has left everyone scrambling. [KOSU

Criminal Justice News

Independent panel issues blunt critique of Tulsa Police: The Tulsa Police Department (TPD) has fallen far short of achieving its “community policing” goals, according to a comprehensive report by CNA, a non-profit research and analysis firm that the department commissioned to examine and provide feedback on how the TPD is doing. [The Oklahoma Eagle

Economic Opportunity

Do Oklahomans really not want to work anymore in ‘The Great Resignation’? Not so fast: Wesley Renfroe was among a massive wave of workers, in Oklahoma and across the U.S., who decided during the pandemic that they’d had enough. Since early 2021, millions of U.S. citizens have quit their jobs in what has now been called “The Great Resignation.” “It’s funny the moniker that something can get out of nowhere,” Travis Roach, an economics professor at the University of Central Oklahoma,  said. “To a labor economist, the way I see it framed better is as ‘The Great Reallocation.’  [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma sets new record for state’s highest average gas prices; Memorial Day weekend to be costly: With an average spike of 11 cents per gallon in the last week, Oklahoma set another state record for the highest average gasoline prices on Sunday. Motorists likely will see the highest holiday prices ever for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend as travel and demand are expected to be up from last year, analysts said. [Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“OJA supports our system-involved families keeping their money to support the needs of the family and to allow children to achieve case closure through their hard work and improvement and not through monetary obligations.”

– Executive Director of OJA Rachel Holt, speaking about a bill signed by Gov. Stitt that allows judges the discretion to waive juvenile fines and fees [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Number of the Day


Number of Youth-Serving Agencies in Oklahoma. YSAs are not-for-profit direct service providers which conduct prevention and diversion services throughout the state.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute, Better Tomorrows]

Policy Note

Oklahoma should prioritize pro-growth relief, not gimmicky rebate checks: As out-of-control inflation strains families’ budgets, lawmakers across the country are casting about for ways to respond. In Oklahoma, legislators have proposed sending taxpayers $75 checks in December ($150 for married couples) to help blunt the impact of higher prices. In one respect, it’s a drop in the bucket, with inflation costing the average household more than $4,000 this year. But something is better than nothing—or is it? [Tax Foundation

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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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