In The Know: Important steps forward in criminal justice | Costly incentives and Google | Surprise OTA meeting | 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

The legislature made important steps forward on criminal justice this session. More remains to be done: Oklahoma lawmakers approved multiple important criminal justice bills during the 2022 legislative regular session. This included steps forward in economic justice, like occupational license changes, earned credits for individuals on parole, and automatic record expungement. The legislature also chose to remove a portion of youth court fees imposed on children and their families, like removing some supervision fees and the cost of applying for an attorney. These steps represent a growing acknowledgement that investments in the lives of people who are justice-involved are good for communities, as well as public safety and our economies. [David Gateley / OK Policy]

Pride and Policy listening session hopes to spark change in Oklahoma legislation: Since the beginning of the year, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed three anti-transgender bills into law. The most recent bill requires transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and locker rooms that do not match their gender identity. It is the latest in the state designed to curb the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma lawmakers tried to cut a costly incentive for data centers, but gave Google a break: Lawmakers tried to rein in a business tax break that has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. But one of the largest companies in the world can still reap benefits for years to come thanks to an exception written into state law for its sprawling operations in rural Oklahoma. [The Frontier]

Surprise Oklahoma Turnpike Authority meeting to accelerate bond sales for expansion plan: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is looking at moving forward with plans to sell $1 billion in bonds to begin funding the $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma expansion plan in a special meeting scheduled for Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Internal auditor at school land office ousted amid questions about Stitt appointee: An internal auditor at the state agency that oversees $2.7 billion in real estate and other investments to support public education was fired less than a week after looking into conflict of interest concerns raised by another top employee about their boss, a gubernatorial appointee. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Legislature to consider projects for ARPA funding: Proposals to spend millions of dollars addressing a critical shortage of nurses in Oklahoma and assisting nonprofits in their recovery from the pandemic will be considered by lawmakers when they meet in special session at the Capitol next week. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma lawmaker to file legislation restoring powers to tourism commission: Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson announced that he’s preparing legislation that would restore powers to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission. [KTUL]

Tulsa mass shooting reignites gun policy debate in Oklahoma: On the afternoon of June 1, a man walked into a local gun store and bought an AR-style rifle. A few hours later, he used that rifle and a handgun he’d purchased two days before to kill four people at a Tulsa medical center before turning the gun on himself. In Oklahoma, someone is killed with a gun every 12 hours, and the state ranks in the country’s top 10 for weakest gun regulations. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

In the light of day, State Auditor Byrd says ‘those that use your money should be accountable to you’: Cindy Byrd says that when she traveled to Wilburton, Oklahoma to begin her first audit as an employee of the State Auditor & Inspector’s office, she sat in a local government office and had the opportunity to observe, quietly, people interacting with officials. Most of those she saw were people of modest means, worried about whether or not they would be able to pay their taxes. [The City Sentinel]

After Swadley’s closures, food service still unavailable in many Oklahoma state parks: With the busy summer season rolling in, Oklahoma State Parks will be doing without in-house food service. [The Lawton Constitution]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers vote against House gun legislation: The five Oklahomans in the U.S. House joined most of their Republican colleagues in voting against a package of gun bills on Wednesday that includes a ban on sales of semi-automatic rifles to people under 21. [The Oklahoman]

As maternal mortality increases, states push to extend Medicaid benefits: Hospital stays for 4 in 10 births in the United States are funded by Medicaid according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but for many mothers, Medicaid benefits are cut off 60 days after giving birth. The American Rescue Plan, passed in 2021, included an option for states to extend those Medicaid benefits. [KJRH]

Tribal Nations News

Historic compact: Cherokee Nation, U.S. enter first-ever transportation agreement, further affirming sovereignty: U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg visited the Cherokee Nation Tuesday for a signing ceremony of a Tribal Transportation Self-Governance Program compact, the first of its kind in the country. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript] The Cherokee Nation now has more control than ever on how its federal transportation dollars will be spent. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Amid conflicts over McGirt ruling, Cherokee Nation will stop displaying Oklahoma flag: The Cherokee Nation will no longer fly the Oklahoma state flag except in special cases as friction increases between elected leaders of the state and the largest tribe. Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued an executive order Friday that calls for removing all Oklahoma flags from display by September. Tribal properties will fly Cherokee Nation and U.S. flags. The state flag still can be displayed at some events. [The Oklahoman] Prior to the executive order, the state flag has been among those regularly displayed at Cherokee Nation facilities that had enough space to accommodate more than one flag. [Tulsa World]

“We Refuse to Forget: A True Story of Black Creeks, American Identity, and Power”: The guest is the journalist and educator Caleb Gayle, now based in Boston and originally from Tulsa. He joins to talk about his new book, “We Refuse to Forget,” which tells the remarkable story of the Creek Nation, a Native tribe that some two centuries ago both owned slaves and accepted Black individuals as full citizens. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Voting and Election News

How rural Oklahomans and marijuana could decide attorney general’s race: Men in boots, cowboy hats and shiny belt buckles stood in a circle outside the nation’s largest cattle pen, surrounding the only man in the group wearing a suit and tie — Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor. [The Oklahoman]

Long Story Short: Why a District Attorney is investigating Gov. Stitt’s TV ad: Paul Monies reports on why a district attorney is looking into one of Gov. Stitt’s campaign commercials. Keaton Ross discusses the evolution of Oklahoma’s gun laws and gun-related deaths. Executive Editor Mike Sherman discusses how candidates who deny the 2020 presidential election results are affecting Oklahoma campaigns. [Oklahoma Watch]

Debate set for five Republicans hoping to replace Sen. Jim Inhofe. Here’s what to expect: Republicans vying to succeed U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe are set for their first debate this week, as a federal judge rejected a challenge to the special election and top candidates and outside groups continued to buy time on television. [The Oklahoman]

In debate, Corporation Commission candidates agree state could lose regulatory jurisdiction: Sen. Kim David (R-Porter) and former Rep. Todd Thomsen (R-Ada), the two leading Oklahoma Corporation Commission candidates, mostly agreed with each other on regulatory issues during a GOP primary debate Tuesday night at the OSU Hamm Institute for American Energy. [NonDoc]

Urban meets rural in Senate District 28 primaries: Four Republicans and two Democrats are running in the June 28 primary election for state Senate District 28, where incumbent Sen. Zack Taylor decided not to seek reelection. [NonDoc]

Health News

Many overdue for second COVID booster: ‘You may actually not have much protection’: With case numbers trending upward, health experts fear that vulnerable Oklahomans who have not yet obtained a second COVID booster shot are putting themselves at risk for serious illness. [Tulsa World]

  • Report: Oklahoma is the worst state in the nation for wasted COVID vaccine doses [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID is on the rise in Oklahoma. Should we be concerned? [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Police chief hopes to get more training to officers: Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin is responding to a report from Virginia-based nonprofit CNA on TPD’s performance. The report released last month gave 54 suggestions to improve community policing in Tulsa. Both the public and TPD officers are supportive of more training and transparency around training, according to the report. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

Feds cite Shawnee store for shortchanging workers: The U.S. Department of Labor found a Shawnee convenience store owes its workers more than $16,600 illegally deducted from their pay. “Low-wage workers depend on every cent earned to make ends meet, and the law requires that they receive at least the federal minimum wage for every hour of work,” said Wage and Hour District Director Michael Speer in Oklahoma City. [The Journal Record]

Build in Tulsa lifts up black entrepreneurs: After the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Build in Tulsa launched, which is a company that helps minority entrepreneurs, who have been denied funding and proper resources, elevate their businesses. Build in Tulsa strives to close the racial prosperity gap by mobilizing the establishment of multi-generational Black wealth through industrial and entrepreneurship. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Education News

Education Watch: Oklahoma Watch uncovered lax state oversight of a pandemic relief program for Families. What GOP Superintendent candidates had to say about it: At a forum last weekend in Sulphur, the Republican candidates for state superintendent were asked about our recent investigation into the state’s $8 million Digital Wallet program, which distributed federal pandemic relief dollars to families to buy educational supplies. In collaboration with The Frontier, we uncovered how the Stitt administration’s lack of guardrails allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable purchases, such as home appliances and TVs. [Oklahoma Watch]

Epic board retains Superintendent Bart Banfield, approves budget: During a packed Epic Charter Schools Board meeting Wednesday evening, board members approved the proposed Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget for both Epic Blended and Epic One-on-One. The board also approved a motion to continue the employment of Superintendent Bart Banfield for one year. [NonDoc]

General News

‘Clean Up Oklahoma’ is on a mission to end corruption in politics: Traveling with an actual dump truck as they canvass voters door-to-door across the state, a nonpartisan group of volunteers appear determined to elect honorable candidates of any party as Oklahoma’s top political leaders face scandal after scandal. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Treasured works of art returning to restored Oklahoma Capitol: Some works of art that haven’t been seen at the Oklahoma Capitol for several years will soon be back where they belong. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

City of Moore withdraws from Regional Transportation Authority: The Moore City Council met for the first time this month on Monday, June 6th passing the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 City budget and choosing to withdraw from the Regional Transportation Authority. [OKC Free Press]

First responders encrypting radio traffic may have another option: Like many agencies across the state and country, Stillwater Police, Fire and Emergency Management are upgrading in October to digital radios that allow all traffic to be fully encrypted. This means the departments will be communicating on private channels that cannot be heard except by public safety agencies on the same system. Current scanner listeners won’t be able to hear transmissions once the system is upgraded. [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“There is a lot of work ahead for the Legislature as we work to make targeted and transformational investments with these one-time funds in areas such as broadband, behavioral health, workforce, water and many others”

– Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about ARPA funds that the legislature will appropriate during a special session this summer [The Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Number of cities in Oklahoma that provide legal protections for LGBTQ2S+ residents

[Source: UCLA School of Law Williams Institute]

Previously from OK Policy: To ensure every resident has equal opportunities for success, Oklahoma’s elected officials and policymakers must understand the variety of ways discrimination impacts LGBTQ2S+ Oklahomans’ lives.

Policy Note

A Spotlight on Two Spirit (Native LGBT) Communities: Two Spirit (Native LGBT) communities have garnered a great deal of attention with respect to the status of their civil rights, health and personal safety, employment opportunities, and more. This is a synthesis of current research reflecting their realities. The NCAI Policy Research Center wanted to highlight the status of Native LGBT and Two Spirit communities by sharing data and reports that show where we are gaining ground and where further support is needed. [NCAI Policy Research Center]

NOTE: June is Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The month is a time of reflection, celebration, and commitment to achieving equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQ2SIA+) Americans. 

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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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