In The Know: Gov., tribal leaders not meeting as McGirt rhetoric heats up | State approves OG&E’s $760M recovery plan | 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.

Oklahoma News

Gov. Kevin Stitt, tribal leaders not meeting as McGirt rhetoric hits boiling point: In the weeks and months immediately after the Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt decision, Gov. Kevin Stitt and top members of his administration had meetings and phone calls with most leaders of Oklahoma’s Five Tribes to discuss next steps. But since Feb. 1, when Stitt had Muscogee Nation Principal Chief David Hill and other Muscogee leaders over for dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, contact between the governor and tribal leaders has dropped off. [The Oklahoman]

Epic Docked $9.1 Million in State Funding Over Audit Findings: The state Department of Education will withhold $9.1 million from Epic Charter Schools’ state funding to cover misspending discovered in a 2020 audit. Board of Education members voted 5-0 to approve the clawback of state funds in its meeting Thursday afternoon. [Oklahoma Watch] This latest penalty, covering a five-year period from fiscal year 2015 through 2019, is in addition to a $10.5 million penalty the state Department of Education withheld from Epic for fiscal year 2020. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma approves OG&E’s $760 million cost recovery plan: Oklahoma’s utility regulator approved a plan Thursday to allow OG&E to recover $760 million from its customers to cover the costs of February’s brutal winter storm. The utility sought approval for the plan from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees the state’s utilities. [The Oklahoman] Thursday’s decision also requires the company to apply any other proceeds it receives for the storm directly to consumers’ bills to lower customers’ fuel charge, and requires OG&E to take steps to improve its fuel supply plans to protect customers in the future. [Tulsa World]

State’s general revenue exceeds projections by one-third in November: The state’s general revenue fund receipts exceeded expectations by a whopping 33% in November, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported this week. All major revenue categories logged strong gains, with gross production taxes for oil and gas leading the way. [Tulsa World]

Steady decline in Oklahoma unemployment numbers may be ending, figures indicate: After increasing slightly one week ago, first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits declined 28% the week ending Saturday as other measures reflect an end to steadily dropping filings, according to a government report. [Tulsa World]

Advocacy group plans push of children’s issues next session: Better nutrition, improved mental health counseling and corrected seat belt laws are some of the issues the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy will push when the state legislature convenes in February. [Southwest Ledger]

Lawmaker calls for cost-of-living adjustments for state pensioners: A Republican lawmaker from Hominy said Thursday that he will push a measure during the upcoming session of the Oklahoma Legislature to provide cost-of-living adjustments for people who draw retirement pay from state pension systems. The next legislative session is slated to begin in February. [The Journal Record]

New tribal hunting, fishing codes to go in effect Jan. 1: Laws that will govern hunting and fishing within the Choctaw Nation following the state’s refusal to reenter into a compact are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital]

(Audio) Long Story Short: Religion & Vaccine Hesitancy, OKC’s New Response To Mental Health Emergencies: Oklahoma City’s police department is working with one of the state’s largest mental health providers to change the way it responds to people in mental health crisis. Whitney Bryen explains why the partnership is being questioned by community members hungry for change. [Oklahoma Watch]

(Audio) Tribal hunting and fishing licenses, McGirt date set, 1619 Project curriculum ban and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses Gov. Kevin Stitt refusing to renew hunting and fishing licenses for Oklahoma tribes, the U.S. Supreme Court setting a date to consider an appeal based on its McGirt v. Oklahoma decision from summer of 2020 and a state lawmaker submitting a bill banning Oklahoma schools from teaching curriculum based off The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning “The 1619 Project” regarding the Black experience during and after slavery. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

‘Above and beyond the call of duty.’ Biden awards Medal of Honor to three, including Oklahoman: President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Honor to a native Oklahoman on Thursday for his heroic actions fighting enemy forces and protecting fellow soldiers after a Taliban attack on a U.S. military base in 2013 in Afghanistan. [The Oklahoman]

Inhofe key player in defense bill; OU research dollars in package: In an immense bipartisan fashion, the Senate passed a $768 billion dollar defense policy bill — an effort spearheaded by Sen. Jim Inhofe that locally sends research dollars to the University of Oklahoma. [The Norman Transcript]

Health News

OSDH: 12,048 active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma: Health leaders say hospitalizations in Oklahoma related to COVID-19 have surpassed 700. Due to technical difficulties on Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health didn’t release new data until later in the day. [KFOR]

Local doctor calls for more accountability as Sackler family opened to litigation: Drug overdoses in Oklahoma jumped 30% during the pandemic, and the state supreme court last month blocked a judgement worth millions against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. To say chair of psychiatry at Oklahoma State University Dr. Jason Beaman still disagrees with the Johnson & Johnson verdict is an understatement. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

A new Oklahoma County jail has been proposed, but how will the county pay for it?: A new jail has received go-ahead votes from both the Oklahoma County commissioners and the jail trust, but now officials must determine a way to pay for the estimated $300 million project. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County Election Board: Petition for David Prater investigation falls short: After concluding its review of the initiative petition results submitted to spur a grand jury investigation of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, the Oklahoma County Election Board has determined that petitioners fell 334 valid signatures shy of the required 5,000 threshold. [NonDoc] Thursday, the Election Board sent a letter to Oklahoma County Court Clerk Rick Warren informing him that there were only 4,666 valid signatures on the petition. It needed at least 5,000 verified signatures to continue the process. [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma County DA candidate Gayland Gieger calls lawsuit against him politically motivated: A candidate for Oklahoma County district attorney is blaming his opponents for a lawsuit accusing him of negligence in the supervision of a son. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Downtown Tulsa grocery store, other development, clears another hurdle with $22M in bonds: The Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity on Thursday authorized the issuance of up to $22 million in tax apportionment revenue bonds to assist in constructing a mixed-used project that includes a downtown grocery store. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Oklahoma schools increase security Friday in response to TikTok threat: Schools in Oklahoma and across the nation have announced plans to increase security Friday in response to a national trend on the social media app TikTok. [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“Today’s agreement confirms that Epic’s EMO abused millions of taxpayer dollars by hiding its excessive administrative costs.”

-State auditor Cindy Byrd, in a statement after the State Board of Education voted Thursday to dock Epic Charter Schools a total of $9.1 million as a penalty for its former management company’s having exceeded legal limits on administrative overhead costs. This brings the new total of taxpayer dollars to be recouped as a result to nearly $20 million. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of people in Oklahoma’s community supervision programs, as of 12/13/21 [Oklahoma Department of Corrections]

Policy Note

BBB Reduces Barriers, Improves Opportunity for People in the Criminal Justice System: The House-passed Build Back Better (BBB) legislation would not only make transformational investments in children, families, workers, climate, and health coverage, but also uplift a population that’s often left behind — those affected by the criminal legal system — by taking significant steps toward addressing the systemic and institutional barriers to success that they face. Build Back Better would broaden opportunity by improving access to services for people with a criminal record, expanding or creating services targeted to them, and investing in other services that will help them find success. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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