In The Know: Gov. Stitt considers calling another special session on tax cuts | Oklahoma-grown marijuana fuels the black market in other states | FY24 Budget Highlights | Policy Matters | 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

FY 2024 Budget: Lawmakers diverted taxpayer dollars to private schools, but missed opportunities to support everyday Oklahomans: The FY 2024 budget is $11.8 billion. Notably, it passed with far fewer tax cuts than was expected when the session began. The budget makes some investments in Oklahomans, including long-awaited agency increases and a promising new housing program. It also, however, includes several programs that prioritize corporations and the wealthy, rather than the inflation relief for low- and middle-income Oklahomans that lawmakers promised in the early months of the session. [Emma Morris / OK Policy] | [FY 2024 Budget Highlights PDF]

Policy Matters: Community voices create better policy: Good laws and effective policies don’t happen in a vacuum. To make Oklahoma’s laws and policies work on behalf of everyone, we need more input from everyday residents – especially folks who have lived experiences with the situations that these laws and policies look to address. That’s one of the reasons that the organization I lead, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, is holding listening sessions statewide so everyday Oklahomans can share their thoughts and input on issues that impact their health, families, safety, and access to the democratic process. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma governor considering calling lawmakers in for special session on tax cuts: The leaders of the Oklahoma House and Senate say they expect the governor to call for another special session. Gov. Stitt said he’s weighing his options but says lawmakers need to cut taxes soon. [KOKI Fox 23]

With cheap land and low fees, Oklahoma-grown marijuana fuels the black market in other states: Oklahoma cannabis fetches higher prices out of state, attracting organized crime. With lax regulation and not enough funding, officials say the state is still catching up on enforcement. [The Frontier]

Tulsa leaders speak up about school district’s accreditation fight with Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters: Tulsa’s city leaders are concerned about the situation between Tulsa Public Schools and Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent Ryan Walters. Walters has floated the idea of taking away TPS’ accreditation, which would close the district and force the students to enroll in other districts. [KOSU]

  • City leaders speaking up about TPS accreditation fight [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Bynum meets with Walters to discuss TPS, says he will meet again soon with local school leaders [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Millions of dollars in jeopardy as Oklahoma Broadband Office reevaluates ARPA funds: The Oklahoma Broadband Office says it’s “reevaluating the process” for how it’s allocating $382 million dollars in ARPA funds to expand internet access in rural Oklahoma. The money must be spent by the end of 2024. [KOKH]

Oklahoma to offer school choice tax credits for private and homeschooling expenses starting January: School choice tax credits are available starting in January, and parents are already wondering what they can expect. In a controversial vote, this last legislative session Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill permitting public funds to go towards private and homeschool education. [KOKH]

  • Advocates trying to bridge gap as some families expected school choice tax credit to take effect sooner [KOKH]

Affordable housing in Oklahoma a focus of next legislative session: Oklahoma legislators will look to help address the lack of access to affordable housing for renters and buyers in next year’s session. With interim studies pertaining to housing availability approved in both chambers, legislators will meet next week to discuss how to approach the issue before the committees meet this fall. [Journal Record]

Editorial: Battles within GOP leadership are hurting state: Oklahomans have every reason to be disgusted with the cost of an ongoing dispute between Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state’s legislative leaders on the contents of high-stakes agreements between the state of Oklahoma and the state’s Native American tribes. Tribal leaders want the best deal for their members, but who do they negotiate with for the state? Are past agreements valid, or not? Many millions of dollars and the livelihoods of many people are at stake. [Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Senate Bill to affirm Holocaust teaching in standard curriculum: “What’s new in the curriculum this year is a renewed emphasis on Holocaust education and social studies,” said John Waldron, representative for House District 77. Legislatures passed Senate Bill 1671 to affirm Holocaust teachings in Oklahoma’s standard curriculum. [KTUL]

‘Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not,’: Following the money trail of an injured police officer: For years lawmakers tried to pass a bill to reduce the costs of workers’ comp insurance in the state of Oklahoma. It failed year after year until they got creative. They called it workers’ compensation reform. [KFOR]

Criminal Justice News

Private investigator says the DNA in a death penalty case does not conclusively show guilt: Supporters of an Oklahoma death row inmate scheduled for execution in September continue to proclaim his innocence, disputing the attorney general’s claim that evidence in the case “overwhelmingly” points to his guilt. [The Oklahoman]

OK Gamefowl Commission member charged with illegal cockfighting: Eleven people, including a district director for the Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, are facing charges relating to illegal cockfighting. [KFOR]

Nearly a year in, new director of state prisons says ‘culture change’ under way: Harpe was sent by Gov. Kevin Stitt to lead the state’s prison system in 2022, tasked with orchestrating a culture change in a state agency that has long been plagued by overcrowding, deteriorating conditions and accusations of inmate abuse. [The Oklahoman]

Facing December trial in football hazing lawsuit, Kingfisher School Board meets in court: In a bizarre scenario, the Kingfisher Public Schools Board of Education held a special meeting today inside a federal courtroom so three elected members could participate in settlement discussions with a prominent family’s son whose 2021 lawsuit alleges that a culture of hazing and abuse in the school’s successful football program led to him being the victim of coach-encouraged bullying and sexual assault. [NonDoc]

Threshold of danger: After a deputy’s death 1 year ago, what has changed, what has not: Nearly one year ago, Oklahoma County Sergeant Bobby Swartz was shot and killed while trying to serve an eviction notice in southwest Oklahoma City. The incident underscores a disturbing, nationwide trend in which angry tenants take out their frustrations, sometimes in a lethal manner, on the deputies tasked with serving legal paperwork. [News 9]

Economy & Business News

Poll finds many businesses looking to hire before year’s end: Despite continuing economic challenges and uncertainties, businesses in Oklahoma and across the country remain in hiring mode, according to a recent Harris Poll commissioned by Oklahoma City-based Express Employment Services. [Journal Record]

Small business owners report continuing stressors: Finding qualified, dependable workers to fill open jobs remains a top challenge for owners and managers of small businesses in Oklahoma and other states, as reflected by results of a recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. [Journal Record]

Education News

Ryan Walters may push new curriculum calling slavery ‘no big deal’: Ryan Walters seems to be eyeing new, controversial curriculum in Oklahoma schools that rewrites the American history of slavery. According to a new report from KTUL, Walters is looking to the right-wing PragerU as a potential education vendor. [The Black Wall Street Times]

State of schools: ‘Time to change and transform’: The trauma of the past 36 months has given public education and the business community a chance to reset how they prepare the workforce of the future, educator and former corporate executive Bryan Johnson said Wednesday. [Journal Record]

General News

Ex-employee alleges Paycom failed to protect against hacker’s massive data breach: In Oklahoma County District Court this week, Sara Loveless filed a class-action lawsuit against Paycom, alleging the company negligently handled the personally identifiable information of its employees, which allowed a Russia-linked cybergang this year to steal the data of roughly 7,500 people. [The Oklahoman]

Private landowners in Oklahoma are stepping up to preserve habitat for prairie chickens: Rebecca Jim owns a mile and a half acreage just north of Vinita, Oklahoma, at the northern edge of the Cherokee Nation. She said her land is longer than it is wide, perfect for bringing back prairie chickens. She is turning two fields on the land into prairies to bring back prairie chickens. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • What to know about Freedom Fiesta events that celebrate 65th anniversary of OKC sit-ins [The Oklahoman]
  • Pro-LGBTQ+ Free Mom Hugs Conference will debut in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • Report: Oklahoma City tourism generated more than $4 billion in 2022 [KOSU]
  • Bridge bond election slated Oct. 10 [Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“In addition to making sure housing is affordable, I believe we need to make sure that our landlord tenant act becomes more modernized. We tried that earlier this session with providing more tenant protections, and that bill got through the House and got through the Senate committee, and I will pick that back up next year.”

– Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, speaking about the growing need for affordable housing and legislation and tenant protections to help keep Oklahomans housed. Pae and Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, submitted an interim study request with the purpose of researching successful affordable housing programs in other states and exploring the development of and access to affordable housing in Oklahoma. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day

$11.8 billion

The Oklahoma state budget for Fiscal Year 2024 — which began July 1, 2023 — is $11.8 billion. When adjusted for inflation and population growth, the FY 2024 budget is 12 percent smaller than the FY 2000 budget of $13.3 billion and 3.3 percent larger than the current year’s budget (FY 2023) of $11.4 billion (excluding supplemental appropriations). [OK Policy]

Policy Note

A Better Path Forward: A Budget and Tax Roadmap for Oklahoma: As we look at the FY 2024 state budget, we want to encourage readers to review OK Policy’s report on the state’s budget and tax system, “A Better Path Forward.” We published this report to stimulate public conversation about how Oklahoma can strengthen state revenue, better provide essential public services, level the playing field along racial and economic lines, and make meaningful investments in our future success. [OK Policy]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.

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