In The Know: Gov. Stitt overhauls boards for education, veterans’ affairs | Supt. Ryan Walters takes aim at ‘far-left radicals’ in Oklahoma classrooms | Policy Matters: How tax incentives can be short-sighted | 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

Policy Matters: Tax incentives can bring short-term gains, long-term pains: Tax incentives are used as part of economic development by governments to provide tax exemptions, deductions, or credits in exchange for expected future spending. But a closer look shows that some economic development incentives realize only limited short-term gains that can be outweighed by long-term negative consequences. [Shiloh Kantz / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma ranks among the best in the nation for Medicaid eligibility and claims payment accuracy: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority recently completed a 2022 Payment Error Rate Measurement (PERM) review with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). PERM issues an error rate that measures how accurately state Medicaid programs process claims and determine eligibility. Oklahoma’s 2022 PERM error rate was 1.95%, which was the second lowest rate in the nation and is significantly below the national average of 15.62%. [Okemah News Leader]

State Superintendent Ryan Walters pushes for revocation of TPS, ex-Norman teachers’ licenses: In one of his first acts as state superintendent, Ryan Walters directed state education staff to pursue revoking the teaching certificates of two educators who expressed frustrations with a law that limits instruction on race and gender. [Tulsa World]

  • Supt. Ryan Walters will investigate two teachers in his push to rid classrooms of ‘far-left radicals’ [The Oklahoman]

Ukrainian troops to train on Patriot system at Fort Sill: About 100 Ukrainian troops will head to Oklahoma’s Fort Sill as soon as next week to begin training on the Patriot missile defense system. The Patriot batteries will complement a variety of air defense systems that both the U.S. and NATO partners have pledged to Ukraine, as it faces an evolving barrage of missiles and drones against its civilian population and infrastructure from Russia in the nearly 11-month-old conflict. [AP via Journal Record]

State Government News

Stitt reshapes Oklahoma state boards for education, veterans affairs as he starts second term: The moves come as new state superintendent Ryan Walters gets ready to shape a new era at the State Department of Education and Stitt looks to remake a Veterans Commission whose Executive Director Joel Kintsel challenged him in the GOP primary last year. [KGOU]

  • Stitt names four new state school board members, removes only educator [NonDoc]
  • Stitt’s office clarifies two state education board members actually resigned [Tulsa World]
  • Two people Stitt dropped from Veterans Commission say they haven’t been notified [Tulsa World]

Drummond takes leadership of AG’s Office with a full agenda: Native American relations, illegal marijuana growing operations, and openness and transparency in government are “the three big rocks I am 100% focused on,” Drummond told the Tulsa World in an interview Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • New AG says he will seek jail time, full restitution for Epic Charter Schools founders [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma GOP chair seeks more leeway in raising funds to counter dark money: The chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party urged the state Ethics Commission on Wednesday to consider allowing political parties to accept money from corporations as a way to keep pace with outside groups spending millions of dollars anonymously on elections. [The Oklahoman]

  • After dark money flooded elections, Oklahoma GOP chair wants changes to help political parties [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma state park manager suspended after being accused of possessing child pornography: The manager of a state park has been charged with possession of child pornography and suspended without pay. Tucker Gene Heglin, 33, admitted he was addicted to child pornography, an OSBI agent reported in an arrest affidavit. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Sen. President Pro Tem breaks down school choice and tax reform ahead of session: State lawmakers are less than a month away from heading to the Capitol. This week the Speaker of the House voiced his priorities for session, and across the rotunda, the President Pro Tem is doing the same. [KOKH Fox 25]

Tribal Nations News

Federal government proposes new regulations to strengthen the Osage Mineral Estate: The Bureau of Indian Affairs is proposing new rules to protect a massive collection of oil and gas rights belonging to the Osage Nation after decades of criticism that the US has mismanaged their estate. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Track Your State Lawmakers’ Personal Financial Interests Using Our Database: Oklahoma Watch obtained the most recent legislative financial disclosure reports through an open records request and has included them in a searchable and sortable database. Unsure of what district you live in? Input your address into the state’s Find my Legislator tool to find out. [Oklahoma Watch]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma death row inmate Scott Eizember to be executed Thursday: Oklahoma death row inmate Scott Eizember is set to be executed Thursday morning. He was denied clemency by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in December. Eizember is on death row for the 2003 beating death of 76-year-old A.J. Cantrell. He also was sentenced to 150 years in prison for the shooting death of 70-year-old Patsy Cantrell. [KGOU]

  • DOC reverses decision, will allow minister in death chamber [Journal Record]

Oklahoma County jail faces more grand jury scrutiny amid two new federal civil rights lawsuits: The state multicounty grand jury heard more testimony Wednesday about the troubled Oklahoma County jail and could issue a report on its findings in March or April. The activity comes as the trust that oversees jail operations has been hit with two new federal civil rights lawsuits. [The Oklahoman]

Norman jail leaders resign as investigations continue into December jail deaths: Two high-ranking Cleveland County Detention Center employees have resigned as of Wednesday, weeks after two deaths at the Norman jail in December brought the local sheriff’s office under increased scrutiny. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

‘A learner of learners’: Staving off the ‘deprofessionalization’ of Oklahoma’s teachers: How dire is Oklahoma’s teaching certification crisis? Oklahoma’s teacher shortage led to a record-breaking 3,780 emergency teaching certifications issued in 2022. In 2020, the legislature expanded the program to allow for renewals for up to three years. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

Metro group helping Oklahomans keep up with the rising costs of living: Upward Transitions is helping lead the charge for change by offering financial assistance for folks bearing the financial burden left behind by inflation. [KOKH]

OKC sues oil and gas company, saying it stole water and damaged Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge: An Oklahoma City oil company is accused of damaging the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, stealing water from the North Canadian River and then asking Mayor David Holt to intervene in an investigation. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“The bottom line on economic development incentives is that they put the government in an unusual role for a free market economy: picking economic winners and losers. In a free market, that’s supposed to be the role of the private sector. When government provides business incentives, however, it essentially puts a finger on the scale to influence financial outcomes for some businesses over others.”

– Shiloh Kantz, Executive Director of OK Policy, writing about economic development tax incentives. [Shiloh Kantz / The Journal Record]

Number of the Day

$4.4 billion

Amount of targeted tax expenditures made available to Oklahoma businesses and organizations in 2018. This was up from $500 million in 2010. [A Better Path Forward / OK Policy] | [Oklahoma Tax Commission Tax Expenditure Report, 2021-22]

Policy Note

Evaluations Can Help Policymakers Balance Risk and Reward of Tax Incentives: Pew’s research has found that policy improvements are more likely when states have a formal process for lawmakers to consider the analysis and recommendations of an evaluation. Many state evaluation laws explicitly detail who must review the findings and recommendations included in tax incentive evaluations. One approach is to assign an oversight committee or commission to study and translate those results into policy recommendations, as is done in Colorado and Oklahoma. [Pew Trusts]

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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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