In The Know: Grocery sales tax cut signed into law | Proposals advance to move control of OSDE away from Supt. Walters | Schools voice support for Edmond’s challenge to state authority, accreditation threats

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 Gov. Kevin Stitt signs bill to eliminate state’s grocery sales tax: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a bill to eliminate the state’s 4.5% sales tax on groceries. Stitt said the measure is needed to combat higher inflation. The measure is expected to reduce state revenue by $418 million a year. It is the largest single year tax cut in state history, Stitt said. [Oklahoma Voice]

State Government News

House bill would establish Oklahoma Affordable Housing Commission: A state House lawmaker looks to improve access to affordable housing in Oklahoma with her bill, which passed through a committee unanimously Monday morning. House Bill 3956, authored by state Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, provides for the creation of the Oklahoma Affordable Housing Commission and an associated revolving fund. The bill passed, 6-0. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma lawmakers want to rein in Ryan Walters-led agency. Here’s how: State lawmakers made an opening move in a power play over the executive branch Tuesday in the ongoing fight over public school policy. One of the bills that advanced from committee would add four seats to the Oklahoma State Board of Education — two seats each would be appointed by House and Senate leadership. Senate Bill 1395 can now be heard on the Senate floor. [The Oklahoman]

  • Bill changing makeup of Oklahoma State Board of Education advances at Capitol [KOCO]

After indictment dismissed, Rep. Terry O’Donnell runs bill to let campaign funds cover attorney fees: Less than one year after a slate of criminal charges against him and his wife were dismissed, House Majority Whip Terry O’Donnell is running a bill to legalize the reimbursement of “surplus” campaign funds to pay attorney fees “for the successful defense of an investigation or prosecution.” [NonDoc]

Petitions to oust Walters, Woods went viral after Nex Benedict’s death. Do they actually work?: Petitions to hold Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters and Sen. Tom Woods accountable surfaced after the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old Owasso High School student who died earlier this month after sustaining injuries in a fight in a school bathroom. But, do these online petitions actually work? How can Oklahomans remove a politician from office? Here’s everything we know. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmakers weigh a lasting daylight savings time: Oklahoma could join 19 other states in having a permanent daylight saving time “trigger law.” Sen. Blake Stephens, R- Tahlequah, wrote Senate Bill 1200, which would allow the state to stop changing clocks if a federal law allowing the time change is made. The bill advanced out of the state’s Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday with a 6-3 vote. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

The race to save Indigenous languages (Audio): Language researchers just released the latest version of the Ethnologue, which aims to catalogue the state of all of the world’s languages, all 7,164 of them. Many of these languages are endangered. Some have so few native speakers that you can count them on one hand. In the U.S., for instance, 193 of the 197 living languages are endangered. And one of those languages is Caddo, the native language of the Caddo Nation, a tribe native to the area where Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas meet. [NPR]

Health News

Deadline to choose SoonerSelect coverage plan approaches: Time is ticking for SoonerCare members moving to SoonerSelect to choose a coverage plan. The deadline is March 10. [KFOR]

Criminal Justice News

Claremore father advocates for visitation oversight changes after son dies in triple murder-suicide: A horrific tragedy that rocked the Verdigris community led William Jacobson on Tuesday to a Senate hearing room in the Capitol. The Claremore carpenter used to be the father of three. But his former girlfriend, Brandy McCaslin, 39, in July killed their infant son and two of her other children before taking her life while a friend was providing supervised visitation, according to news reports and Jacobson. [Oklahoma Voice]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Time is running out for Oklahoma families to use millions in pandemic food benefits: The federal Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer — also known as P-EBT — was designed to help kids who would have received free or reduced-price meals at their schools if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. If the funds aren’t used by June, the money will be clawed back by the federal government. [The Oklahoman]

Long Story Short: Eviction Crisis Prompts Calls for Sealing, Expunging Records (Audio): Heather Warlick reports on the push to follow 10 other jurisdictions that make it possible to seal or expunge eviction records. Keaton delves into the end of the state sales tax on groceries and Paul Monies discusses proposed changes to medical debt collection practices. [Oklahoma Watch]

Education News

Oklahoma City, Deer Creek Public Schools announce support of Edmond’s challenge to State Department of Education: As an ongoing legal battle between Edmond Public Schools and the State Department of Education heats up, several other Oklahoma school districts have announced their support of Edmond’s right to challenge the state authority. [News 9]

  • Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent issues statement in support of EPS petition [KOKH]

McBride hopes to offer better teacher sign on bonus but with no claw back: Members of the Oklahoma State Legislature are busy restructuring a teacher signing bonus that was started up by the State Department of Education. The original plan landed the department in the middle of numerous lawsuits from teachers who were told they had to pay the money back. [City News OKC]

Candidates for Tulsa school board answer questions about ties to Ryan Walters, embezzlement: Candidates for the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education met Thursday night to answer questions from the city’s newspaper staff. Two reporters and an editor from the Tulsa World quizzed four board hopefuls during a forum at the University of Tulsa. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Who’s the board member who caused OKCPS superintendent to resign? No one wants to answer.: Lips remained sealed on Tuesday, with no one close to the situation providing transparency into the surprise resignation of Sean McDaniel as the superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public Schools district. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • ‘This is terrible’: Troubled Edmond property declared public nuisance, new TIF policy enacted [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“I believe it looks better on a bumper sticker than it does in the same budget.”

– Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of two state senators who voted against cutting the state’s grocery sales tax, said he fears long-term consequences of the cut should the state face an economic downturn. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day

Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit ($40 per person) has lost about 60% of its buying power since the last time it was adjusted three decades ago. Set at $40 in 1990, the credit has a buying power of only $16.52 in 2024 dollars due to inflation. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

States Can Use Medicaid to Help Address Health-Related Social Needs: Research shows that access to affordable housing and nutritious foods can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health and ability to thrive. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued guidance and waiver approvals that broaden and clarify the ways in which states can use Medicaid funds to help pay for clinically appropriate, evidence-based services that address these health-related social needs (HRSN). These changes reflect a growing recognition of the impact HRSN have on health and of Medicaid’s ability to help address unmet needs, which contribute to poorer health among people who have low incomes or are part of historically marginalized communities. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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.