In The Know: Lawmakers advance LGBTQ Pride display ban | Oklahomans need a REAL ID to fly in 2025 | How immigrants contribute to our economy | Policy Matters: We get what we pay for

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

Economic Projections for Asylum Seekers and New Immigrants in Oklahoma: Immigration is hardly a new social trend in the state of Oklahoma. Of the four million people living in the state, 243,000 are immigrants, or six percent of the total population, according to the 2022 American Community Survey. Over the past two years, however, a new trend in immigration has generated a different kind of attention. The number of people seeking asylum and other protection in the United States has risen sharply. How can we expect these new immigrants to fare in the economy? To model this question, Immigration Research Initiative and Oklahoma Policy Institute looked at how immigrants with similar characteristics currently make ends meet in the state. [Immigrant Research Initiative / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Oklahomans get what we pay for: Oklahomans pay among the least in taxes when compared to folks from other states. And we get what we pay for — or in this case don’t pay for. While our taxes are low, so is our quality of life when stacked up against other states. Oklahoma has one of the nation’s highest poverty rates, with 1 in 5 Oklahoma children living in poverty — unsure where their next meal may come from. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma House panel OKs bill banning agencies from displaying Pride flags: A House panel on Wednesday advanced legislation that would prohibit government agencies from displaying LGBTQ+ Pride flags on state property. House Bill 3217 from Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, also would prohibit state agencies from using taxpayer dollars or other funds to organize or endorse any events, initiatives or social media posts that promote Pride month or events with a similar theme. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers advance LGBTQ Pride display ban [KOSU]
  • Bill to ban state agencies from recognizing Pride month, fly Pride flags passes out of committee [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Patriotism Not Pride Act ripe for legal challenges, opponents say [Journal Record]

Oklahomans will need a REAL ID to fly in 2025: Oklahomans will soon need a REAL ID to fly in the United States or enter buildings, and it only takes a few steps to obtain one. REAL ID is a federal security credential added to driver’s licenses and identification cards that establishes a minimum security standard required for specific activities. After the deadline passes, you’ll need a REAL ID to board a domestic flight, visit military bases or specific federal buildings or enter nuclear power plants. [The Oklahoman]

State orders more oil and gas wastewater disposal wells shut after latest Prague earthquakes: State authorities ordered more restrictions Thursday on oil and gas wastewater disposal wells near the epicenter of the 5.1-magnitude earthquake and 40-plus aftershocks last weekend near Prague. It applies to some disposal wells operating within a 6-mile zone around the epicenter of the main quake Friday and those that followed through Saturday. [The Oklahoman]

  • What to know about earthquake insurance in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Faithful show their support for anti-abortion legislation at annual Rose Day rally: Members of the faith community converged on the state Capitol on Wednesday to show their continued support for anti-abortion legislation. By presenting the flowers to their elected leaders, Rose Day participants said they were showing their support for anti-abortion legislation and legislation that promotes other sanctity-of-life issues important to them. [The Oklahoman]

Ryan Walters wants the private school tax credit cap removed. Lawmakers say that’s unlikely: State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters is calling for removal of the financial cap on the state’s school choice tax credit program, but state legislators involved in negotiating the creation of the program last year said Wednesday that idea was a non-starter. [The Oklahoman]

His son was critically injured during a traffic stop. It’s changed Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat’s legislative goals: Last year 16-year-old Mason Treat got a new car: a shiny black Dodge Charger. Then, on Jan. 5, Mason was pulled over by Cleveland County Deputy Jose Tayahua-Mendoza because of an improper tag. Another vehicle sideswiped the deputy’s truck and slammed into Mason’s Charger. The car was destroyed. Mason and Deputy Tayahua-Mendoza were critically injured. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmakers move along the opening of Sallisaw veterans’ home: Oklahoma’s Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee is moving a plan for opening a new veterans’ home in Sallisaw. Kellyville Republican Sen. Todd Gollihare introduced SB 1707, which would allow the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs to sell the now-closed veterans’ home in Talihina and use the proceeds to on its replacement in Sallisaw later this year. [KOSU]

Rep. Dean Davis apologizes for ‘unbecoming’ behavior: Almost a year after he was censured by his Oklahoma House of Representatives colleagues, Rep. Dean Davis submitted a written apology today for his March 2023 public intoxication arrest and argument with a police officer. Under the terms of his censure, Davis (R-Broken Arrow) is expected to regain his committee assignments, which were withdrawn by his reprimand. [NonDoc]

State’s first AI bill clears House committee: Artificial intelligence regulation on Wednesday became one of the first bulls out of the chute with a House of Representatives committee’s approval of legislation banning so-called “deep fakes.” House Bill 3073, by Rep. Neil Hays, R-Checotah, would outlaw disseminating or publishing “a digitization depicting another person’s name, image, voice, or likeness without their written consent.” [Tulsa World]

  • AI fakes raise election risks as lawmakers and tech companies scramble to catch up [NPR/KOSU]
  • Meta will start labeling AI-generated images on Instagram and Facebook [KOSU]

Opinion: Oklahoma’s Republican lawmakers targeting wrong taxes to help most families: Our tax system is ranked as the 10th most regressive in the nation, which means it disproportionately burdens middle- and low-income families. Oklahoma’s top earners benefit from an effective tax rate that is half the size of the state’s lowest-income families. [Rep. Amanda Swope / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Lankford sees border package he helped negotiate blocked Wednesday: Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan border package Wednesday, scuttling months of negotiations with Democrats on legislation intended to cut back record numbers of illegal border crossings. In a speech on the Senate floor just before the vote, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said it was a chance for the Senate to decide “if we’re going to do nothing or something.” [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford speaks after bipartisan border bill fails in Senate [The Oklahoman]
  • Republicans tapped him to negotiate a landmark deal on the southern border. Then they tore him apart. [USA Today]

Opinion: How politics come into play as Sen. James Lankford is censured by own party members: Sen. James Lankford, with what appears to be the interest of our nation in mind, has cooperated (oh my goodness) to offer both aid to Ukraine and a border deal that his colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, says is as good as will be for years — regardless of the next presidential election. And for that? He is censured by members of his own party. [Carl McCullough / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Ignoring Indigenous rights is making the green transition more expensive: In December, a federal judge found that Enel Green Power, an Italian energy corporation operating an 84-turbine wind farm on the Osage Reservation for nearly a decade, had trespassed on Native land. The ruling was a clear victory for the Osage Nation and the company estimated that complying with the order to tear down the turbines would cost nearly $260 million. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum continues repatriation efforts with return of ancestral remains to tribes: The Gilcrease Museum is returning ancestral remains to tribes. The museum’s board of trustees voted Tuesday morning to give back the remains of Ponca Native Americans to their respective lands in Oklahoma and Nebraska. The move falls in line with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Edmond residents to elect new state representative. Here are the candidates’ key issues: On Tuesday, Oklahoma County residents will head to the polls to decide who should fill a vacant House seat in Edmond. Republican Erick Harris, Libertarian Richard Prawdzienski and Democrat Regan Raff face off in the special election to determine who will represent House District 39, an area that covers Edmond. [Oklahoma Voice]

Voters in Edmond area will decide Tuesday whether to approve money for two new schools: Edmond area voters will get a chance Tuesday to approve bonds that would fund the construction of two new schools. The two bond proposals total $147 million. Approving them would not raise the current tax level. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Tulsa selects operator for new low-barrier homeless shelter: The city has selected City Lights Foundation of Oklahoma to operate a long-awaited low-barrier shelter for the homeless. The City of Tulsa has yet to secure a facility for the shelter, nor has it announced when it will open. The 24/7 non-congregate shelter will serve 50 to 75 households, according to a request for proposals issued late last year. Non-congregate shelters are locations where each individual or household has living space that offers some level of privacy such as hotels or motels. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

DEI programs not ‘Marxist,’ and actually are good for business, Oklahoma Realtors say: Undaunted by attacks on DEI — “diversity, equity and inclusion” — OKC-area Realtors are plunging forward with it to get their ranks aligned with the changing makeup of Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Medical marijuana grows are suing over safety inspection requirements: The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control is now refusing to renew their registrations unless they submit proof they have passed inspection. The bureau sent letters Jan. 19 to 2,176 marijuana businesses, according to the lawsuit. The marijuana grows complained that the state fire marshal’s office can’t keep up with inspections through no fault of its own. [The Oklahoman]

‘Oklahoman’ defamation verdict rocks newspaper industry: Oklahoma’s largest newspaper plans to appeal while a high school teacher and coach tries to put his life back together after an explosive defamation verdict resulted in a $25 million award that shook the media industry on Monday. The verdict attracted national news coverage and prompted industry experts to reflect on pressure from today’s 24-hour news cycle and to wonder if lean staffing budgets are impacting traditional legal and ethical reporting standards. [Journal Record]

Education News

Mayor partnering with Tulsa schools to tackle attendance crisis: Amid pervasive, chronic student absenteeism, Tulsa Public Schools and the city of Tulsa are calling on all Tulsans to help drive improvement in local attendance rates. Tulsa Superintendent Ebony Johnson and Mayor G.T. Bynum detailed the ways parents, business leaders and other concerned residents can make a difference at a press conference announcing the new citywide “Attend to Win!” initiative. [Tulsa World]

Ryan Walters mocks PETA in burger video after group joins Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments debate: After state Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, filed a bill that would require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in all public-school classrooms in Oklahoma, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent Olsen a letter, dated Feb. 2, asking him to file similar legislation to request that PETA’s “Ten Vegan Commandments” also be displayed. State Superintendent Ryan Walters said he also received the letter and his response was, “I have a special response for PETA,” Walters said, then reached under his desk and revealed a bag from McDonald’s, from which he pulled out a hamburger. He then took a bite. [The Oklahoman]

What to expect from Oklahoma lawmakers on education in 2024: The Oklahoma state legislature is back in session, and there’s no hotter topic than education policy. StateImpact education reporter Beth Wallis talked with managing editor Logan Layden about what to expect from lawmakers in 2024. [Listen: KOSU]

Opinion: Stop labeling Oklahoma’s most hard-working students, teachers as ‘failures’: Oklahoma has used an A-F system to label its schools for over a decade, despite changes in federal law that no longer mandate these designations. It’s time for Oklahoma’s leaders to scrap the letter grades — not just because they are inaccurate, misleading and void of context — but because they genuinely harm our communities’ children. [Rob Miller / Tulsa World]

General News

Okarche Native Father Stanley Roth and his path to Roman Catholic sainthood:  From his roots as an Okarche farm boy and his ministry in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, to his journey on the path to Roman Catholic sainthood, here are highlights of the priest’s life and legacy. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Council moves forward with raises for Tulsa elected leaders [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa’s 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Parade rescheduled [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The need for a fair and equitable tax system in Oklahoma, particularly in cities like Tulsa, has never been more needed. The current regressive system worsens economic disparities and places an unfair burden on those least able to bear it.”

-Rep. Amanda Swope, D-Tulsa said in an opinion editorial outlining how tax cuts hurt many low- and middle-income Oklahoma families while also shrinking core public services for the state. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

$2.3 million

Newly arriving immigrants in Oklahoma pay about $2.3 million in state and local taxes for every 1,000 workers. After about five years of working, state and local taxes rise to about $3.3 million per 1,000 workers stemming from job advancement and rising wages. [Immigrant Research Initiative]

Policy Note

A Shortage of Immigration Lawyers Is Another Barrier to Integration for Immigrants: Immigrants are now far more likely to face the complexities of the immigration court system alone, without an attorney. As of December 2023, only 30% of immigrants with pending cases have secured representation, down from 65% just four years ago. IN January 24, Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) published data showing that representation rates at U.S. immigration courts have decreased significantly. These trends highlight concerns about migrants’ ability to obtain an attorney to navigate our immigration system. [American Immigration Council]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.