In The Know: House committee advances bill to phase out corporate income tax | Gov. defends virus relief spending | 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

With an eye on Texas, Oklahoma Speaker Charles McCall touts tax cut plans: House Speaker Charles McCall may have voted for the largest tax increase in state history three years ago, but with state revenues looking promising he believes the 2021 legislative session could be the right “opportunity” to mold Oklahoma’s tax policies to be more like those in Texas in an effort to compete for business relocations on a national level. [NonDoc] The House Rules Committee on Thursday advanced House Bill 2083, which would phase out the corporate income tax over five years, costing about $65 million annually. McCall believes the measure would lure additional businesses to the state and generate revenue. The language on House Bill 2041 is being worked on, but the goal is to reduce the top personal income tax to below 5%, McCall said. [Tulsa World] OKPolicy: Oklahoma has among the nation’s lowest taxes  and has been steadily diverting more revenue from core services for decades.   

Stitt administration defends federal coronavirus relief spending: Top state leaders on Thursday defended the Stitt administration’s spending of $1.26 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and said there’s documentation to explain how every dollar was spent. Stitt administration officials in charge of Oklahoma’s portion of federal CARES Act funds appeared before state lawmakers as the director of a legislative watchdog office detailed a report that raised questions about how the relief dollars were spent. [The Oklahoman]

Power providers to seek billions from Oklahomans in wake of storm: More regulated utilities kicked off cases seeking to recover billions of dollars of storm-related costs from customers at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission this week. [The Oklahoman] The companies said they have incurred combined costs of $1.825 billion and are seeking to extend those costs over a period of up to 10 years in order to lighten the burden on customers. The aim is to limit fuel cost-related increases to less than 10% for an average residential customer’s bill. [Tulsa World]

  • Takeaways: Five factors that will determine your utility bills following Oklahoma’s winter storm [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt focuses on federal aid, McGirt decision, vaccine in whirlwind trip to Washington [NonDoc]
  • Stitt thanks Biden, urges Oklahomans to report storm damages [AP News]
  • City of Tulsa gets federal grant for homeowners to make emergency plumbing repairs [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health officials say genome sequencing will help ID variants: Genome sequencing will be up and running this week at the state health lab to help identify variants of the COVID-19 virus, Oklahoma health officials said Thursday. [AP News] Genome sequencing allows scientists to identify and track COVID-19 variants. Currently, most of the sequencing for Oklahoma is done by shipping off samples to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [The Oklahoman]

  • As vaccines ramp up and virus sequencing set to start, COVID-19 testing still key, Oklahoma epidemiologist says [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a ‘big deal’ for Oklahoma; 30,000 doses could arrive next week, officials say [The Oklahoman] | [KOSU]
  • Vaccination rates for Black Oklahomans lower than for white residents [CNHI via The Ada News]
  • State says more than half of Oklahoma seniors have received at least one vaccine dose [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma begins vaccinating most teachers and school support staff [KGOU]
  • Cherokee, Osage tribes announce expanded vaccinations [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma’s COVID-19 hospitalizations fall under 600 for first time since September [The Frontier] | [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Senate passes heath care consumer protection bill: Health care consumers would get a good faith estimate of a medical bill under a measure that passed a Senate panel on Thursday. Senate Bill 548, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, passed the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee by a vote of 12-1. [Tulsa World]

House Republicans pass bill to let Oklahoma lawmakers declare federal actions unconstitutional: House Bill 1236 says lawmakers would refer a determination on whether a presidential order, federal rule or congressional action is constitutional to the state attorney general, but if their office doesn’t act on that determination, the legislature can declare the action unconstitutional by a simple majority vote. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Gov. Stitt replaces secretary of commerce, workforce development in third Cabinet move in 3 days: Gov. Kevin Stitt has nominated Scott Mueller to replace outgoing Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development Sean Kouplen. [Tulsa World] Mueller will oversee 30 agencies, including the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development, according to a news release from Stitt’s office. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma attorney general hires outgoing US attorney: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced he’s planning to hire outgoing U.S. Attorney Tim Downing for a new position in his office. [AP News]

New unemployment claims in Oklahoma decline by 30% from prior week: State unemployment claims declined by 30% last week from the revised, unadjusted figures of the prior week, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 4,768 Oklahoma workers filed first-time claims for unemployment the week ending Saturday. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers to oppose $1.9 trillion bill, while Holt urges passage: As the House prepares to consider a $1.9 trillion spending package that includes more direct payments and unemployment assistance, Oklahoma’s five members are united with most other Republicans in opposition, saying the bill is excessive and includes many provisions unrelated to the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma tribal leaders express confidence in Haaland confirmation, despite sharp questions: The second day of confirmation hearings for U.S. Representative Deb Haaland concluded on Wednesday. Members of the Senate are weighing whether or not to make Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, the first Native American to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. Oklahoma tribal leaders are excited to work with the New Mexico Congresswoman if she is confirmed. [KOSU]

Health News

Wayne Greene: Legislative assault on the Tulsa City-County Health Department should upset every local taxpayer: The Legislature is on the cusp of reworking a long-standing bargain with local taxpayers, and, legal or not, it stinks. Last week, the House Civil Judiciary Committee approved Rep. Chris Kannady’s House Bill 2504, which would restructure the Tulsa and Oklahoma county health boards, giving the state more power in how they work. The bill reorganizes the health boards, giving the state health commissioner (and his boss, the governor) a seat at the table. [Column / Tulsa World]

Aetna challenges Oklahoma Medicaid managed care contract picks: Aetna has challenged Oklahoma’s picks for its Medicaid managed care program, SoonerSelect, stating that there were flaws in the bid review process. [Health Payer Intelligence] Aetna challenges exclusion from Oklahoma’s new Medicaid managed-care program [Modern Healthcare]

Criminal Justice News

Julius Jones to appear before Pardon and Parole Board in March: Julius Jones, a death row inmate whose innocence battle has gained notoriety over the years as athletes and celebrities have joined his cause, will have his case heard in March by the state’s Pardon and Parole Board. [The Frontier]

  • Julius Jones’ supporters deliver petition signatures to Oklahoma pardon and parole board urging commutation [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City police officer charged with manslaughter for shooting Bennie Edwards: The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office charged an Oklahoma City police officer with manslaughter on Thursday for killing a Black man who had a history of mental illness. [StateImpact Okahoma] Sgt. Clifford Holman shot Edwards, a Black man who experienced homelessness and psychosis, on Dec. 11 outside a north Oklahoma City shopping center. [NonDoc] An Oklahoma City police sergeant fired three shots “unnecessarily” at a man “as he was running away,” officials said. [New York Times] The State Medical Examiner’s Office found during an autopsy that Edwards died of multiple gunshot wounds and the bullet to his upper back damaged vital organs. [KOSU] A city resident captured the incident on video that started circulating on social media soon after showing Edwards being shot while running away from the officers. [Free Press OKC] The shooting sparked days of protests and demonstrations by Black Lives Matter groups and other activists. [AP News] If convicted, Holman, who has seven years of service on the force, faces four years to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving at least 85% of the sentence. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Stitt tells OKC Chamber business is healthy: After Stitt laid out his priorities for the current legislative session – which include managed care for Medicaid, tax reform and “cutting red tape” for businesses – the governor answered questions posed by chamber membership. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Epic summary judgement hearing postponed, board member resigns: During the Epic Charter Schools board meeting Thursday evening, attorney Bill Hickman announced a postponement of the hearing surrounding a motion for summary judgement filed by Epic One-on-One regarding charter termination proceedings originally slated for Friday. [NonDoc]

State Board approves revisions to English Language Arts curriculum: During a special meeting this morning, the Oklahoma State Board of Education unanimously approved proposed academic standards revisions for English Language Arts curriculum. [NonDoc]

Oologah names next superintendent amid fallout from numerous teacher misconduct cases: The Oologah-Talala school board has selected the district’s next superintendent as it continues to confront fallout from a rash of teacher sexual misconduct allegations. [Tulsa World]

General News

Voter ‘fraud’ in Oklahoma occurred at rate of .0031%: Any concerns about widespread voter fraud in the Presidential election in Oklahoma last year appear to be unfounded. A total of 49 instances of alleged voter irregularities in 14 counties occurred during the November 3, 2020, general election, and were reported to the Oklahoma State Election Board. [Southwest Ledger]

Black political power under attack in redistricting process: A new report released by People Not Politicians shows “Oklahoma’s current state legislative and congressional districts were drawn to benefit politicians and political parties rather than to accurately represent the citizens of Oklahoma.” [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Council narrowly approves outgoing Tulsa County GOP chair’s nomination to city advisory board [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“We’re essentially saying we don’t need this money to go to core services, that it’s going back to corporations instead of going to make core services whole again.”

-House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaking about proposed legislation that would phase out the corporate income tax [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Black renters represent 32 percent of evictions between 2012 and 2016, but only 20 percent of renters.

[Source: Eviction Lab at Princeton University]

Policy Note

For Black Families, Evictions Are Still At A Crisis Point — Despite Moratorium: It’s a simple fact. Black and brown families are more likely to be evicted than white ones. There are many reasons for this, but the pandemic has made matters worse and could widen the gap for years to come. [NPR] NOTE: OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

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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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