In The Know: Gov’s education agenda | Changes proposed to state question process | Rural towns without child care | 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

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s education agenda: Vouchers, performance-based teacher raises, new schools: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt revealed $382.6 million in education priorities for this legislative session at the State of the State Address Monday, and vouchers are at the top of his wishlist. Stitt’s big ticket ask is $130 million toward the establishment of education savings accounts, also known as vouchers, which would allow public dollars to be used for education expenses, including private school enrollment. The legislature will decide what, if any, of Stitt’s proposal it wants to include in the final budget. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt proposes $130M school voucher program. Will rural opposition sink it again?: After an unsuccessful push last year, Gov. Kevin Stitt has once again voiced support for expanding school vouchers in Oklahoma with a $130 million proposal in his State of the State address, but it remains unclear whether rural opposition is still an obstacle for the policy in the state Legislature. [The Oklahoman]

Senate panel advances bill requiring $750 filing fee for initiative petition: Filing an initiative petition could cost $750 under a bill passed by a Senate panel on Tuesday. Senate Bill 518, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, also would increase the protest period to 20 days from 10 days. The bill passed 8-3 along party lines in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Democrats voting against it. [Tulsa World]

Rural towns leave parents without child care options: ‘Talk about panic.’: Nearly 60% of families living in rural areas don’t have access to child care, according to the Center for American Progress, an advocacy group that has published studies on the issue. That leaves rural families to cobble child care together with friends and family or drive miles to the nearest day care. It sometimes means one parent has to give up their job entirely. [KOSU]

State Government News

House advances bill challenging governor’s control of veterans board: The squabble between veterans groups and Gov. Kevin Stitt took on a new dimension Tuesday when a bill that would strip the chief executive of his control of the commission that oversees the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs became one of the first this session to be advanced from a House of Representatives committee. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Senate committee will consider bill to ban gender transition surgery for minors: Oklahoma’s Senate Rules Committee will consider a bill Wednesday that would ban minors from receiving gender transition surgery and hormone therapy. Such a bill had been requested by Gov. Kevin Stitt in his State of the State address to the Legislature on Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

State of the Union 2023 live updates: Biden to push for bipartisanship, Democratic priorities: President Joe Biden took credit Tuesday for what he said was the country’s economic revival while pushing an agenda of reducing prescription drug costs, protecting abortion rights and banning assault weapons. [The Oklahoman via the USA Today]

  • Oklahoma’s all-Republican delegation dismissive of Biden speech [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Not mentioned in Gov. Stitt’s State of the State address: Oklahoma and tribal-state relations: After nearly three years of tense relations with tribal leaders over the model gaming compact and the landmark Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt didn’t talk about Oklahoma’s 39 federally recognized tribes during his annual State of the State address on Monday. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Dark money creeps into OKC City Council election between Marek Cornett and JoBeth Hamon: As Oklahoma City residents get ready to elect four new city council representatives, one closely contested race between two candidates in the city’s central ward is attracting dark money. Catalyst Oklahoma, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not have to report its donors, has spent over $37,000 in digital advertisements and canvassing opposing Ward 6 incumbent Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon’s reelection bid. Marek Cornett, owner of marketing agency Alaine Digital, is Hamon’s only opponent in the Feb. 14 election. [The Oklahoman]

  • OKC Council election set for next week [Journal Record]
  • Ward 6 OKC city council debate set for tonight between JoBeth Hamon and Marek Cornett [The Oklahoman]

Bond packages from seven area school districts on Tuesday’s ballot: Polling starts Thursday on multimillion-dollar school bond proposals from the Bartlesville, Catoosa, Claremore Sequoyah, Coweta, Jenks, Skiatook and Union districts. Early walk-in voting is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday at county election board offices except in Osage County, where early walk-in voting will be at the Osage County Fairgrounds’ Ag Building in Pawhuska, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Mental health worker shortage continues as pandemic-related mental health crisis is ‘just gearing up’: A study for a drug addiction and parenthood support program was supposed to start at OU months ago, but difficulties hiring case managers have caused delays. It’s not just OU and it’s not just case managers – a shortage of mental and behavioral health workers is affecting the whole state. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

OKC settles with 9 women who made accusations against ex-police officer Daniel Holtzclaw: Oklahoma City is paying $18,500 each to nine women who accused former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw of sexual assaults. Those settlements total $166,500. Holtzclaw was accused of sexually assaulting 12 Black women and a then-17-year-old Black girl between December 2013 and June 2014 while a police officer — on duty and off. Jurors in December 2015 convicted him of sexual offenses involving eight victims. [The Oklahoman]

Second 15-year-old to face murder charge in Jan. 24 shooting, Broken Arrow police say: A second 15-year-old has been arrested in connection with a homicide after a boy was found fatally shot in a Broken Arrow neighborhood last month. The U.S. Marshals Service’s Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task force assisted police in the arrest of Ja’Cori Whitmore, the Broken Arrow Police Department announced in a press release. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Food bank expects rising need as extra SNAP assistance expires: The federal government started providing people with extra help to meet food needs in March 2020. For people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, it usually amounted to anywhere from $55 to $255, depending upon their income and household size. Regional Food Bank CEO Stacy Dykstra said there’s no question that losing that extra help will have an effect on people. [Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Purina to acquire pet treat factory in Ottawa County, Oklahoma: Since 2018, Red Collar’s site in Miami in Ottawa County has made private-label and contract pet treat products for national distribution. In a release, Purina said the Oklahoma site will be its 22nd owned and operated facility and will expand its capabilities for developing and producing dog and cat treats. [Journal Record]

Work resumes at proposed Jenks outlet mall after project stalled in 2020: In June, Simon Premium Outlets had announced that construction on the center, which is to encompass roughly 330,000 square feet and feature almost 100 retailers, was to resume later that year. When the project originally was announced, it was expected to generate 400 construction jobs and 800 part-time and permanent jobs. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Community College among 10 U.S. schools chosen for post-college success initiative [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Yes, we may be queer, trans, gay, lesbian, but that’s just a part of us as people. If you can’t treat us like people because of just one thing, they will never treat us like people.”

-King David Thomas, who participated in a trans support rally at the state capitol Monday, said he prays that LGBT people are recognized and treated like human beings. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The estimated number of Oklahomans who could be affected once SoonerCare rules change following the declared end of COVID-19 public health emergency

[Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett, Jan. 25, 2023 Budget Hearing]

Policy Note

States Must Act to Preserve Medicaid Coverage as End of Continuous Coverage Requirement Nears: In December, Congress passed its year-end omnibus spending bill, which delinked the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement from the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), established the certain date of April 1, 2023, for resuming Medicaid terminations, and set standards to help mitigate coverage losses as the requirement ends. With this advance notice, states must now act to ensure that eligible individuals stay covered. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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