In The Know: Lawmakers continue wrestling with education budget issues | Addressing Oklahoma County jail conditions | 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.

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Friction between elected officials rises to public view (Capitol Update): It seems there’s a bit of early friction this year between the House, Senate, and the governor. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat complained openly about House actions, apparently holding certain bills hostage for leverage in later negotiations. The House failed to hear a number of Treat’s bills before last Thursday’s committee deadline. This sort of thing happens, but it has to be worse than usual to break out into public. There are ways for leadership bills to get heard later, but the real issue is finding enough common ground to move forward. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

House, Senate ‘a ways apart’ on education budget talks: Finding common ground on education funding is often key to unlocking the rest of a year’s budget agreement. This year, negotiations between the House and Senate involve debate over whether to provide the Oklahoma State Department of Education enough additional funding to implement a class-size cap. House leaders would like to increase common education funding by more than $135 million in order to trigger an existing state statute — created in the historic 1990 education changes of HB 1017 — that would mandate lower classroom sizes. [NonDoc]

  • Tulsa school board to discuss charter school funding lawsuit; many more districts considering separate legal action [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Senate leader: Chamber won’t be part of push to eliminate corporate income tax: The leader of the Oklahoma Senate said the chamber, his caucus and he personally have no appetite to take up a plan House Republicans passed last month to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax. House Bill 2083 would phase out the corporate income tax over five years through increasing deductions. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) said there needs to be more than politics behind a move like that. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Updates from the state Capitol – Last-minute bill overhauls on Medicaid management, transgender students in sports approved: As lawmakers pushed up against another legislative deadline this week, a handful of bills were overhauled and given new language, sparking frustration between lawmakers and from Gov. Kevin Stitt. Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, dropped new language into Senate Bill 131 to stop Oklahoma’s Medicaid program from being overseen by private companies. The House Public Health Committee approved the bill on Wednesday, which was previously about pharmaceutical licensing. [The Frontier]

Population reduction could help improve Oklahoma County jail conditions: When U.S. Department of Justice investigators inspected the Oklahoma County Detention Center in April 2007, they discovered that severe overcrowding was causing significant harm to detainees. The jail’s population has dropped by about a third over the past 12 years — from 2,412 in June 2009 to 1,595 on March 31. The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, a group tasked with recommending solutions to reduce the jail’s population, attributes the decline to changes in state law and an expansion of local diversion programs. What hasn’t changed since the late 2000s is the jail’s bed shortage. [Oklahoma Watch]

Daily average of new Oklahoma COVID-19 cases is rising: Researchers say the average daily number of COVID-19 cases is climbing in Oklahoma. According to the latest Johns Hopkins University research Sunday, the rolling average of daily new Oklahoma cases over the past two weeks has spiked by 168 cases, or 47.4%. [AP News]

  • Tulsa mayor expects city mask mandate to be lifted April 30 [AP News] | [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • FEMA to open coronavirus vaccination center in Tulsa [AP News] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Video: Pastor, infectious disease expert partner for videos to address vaccine hesitancy [Tulsa World]
  • New Hampshire and Oklahoma are the latest states to open vaccinations to outside residents. [New York Times]
  • Yes, scientists are studying your poop to track new COVID-19 variants. Here’s how it works [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Opinion: Outsourcing the state’s Medicaid program would also hurt nurses: Oklahoma’s current Medicaid program is considered nationally to be a model of efficiency, with administrative costs averaging less than 5%. However, the governor is trying to unilaterally push through a plan that would outsource this highly successful program to four insurance companies. Should this transfer take place, Medicaid patients obviously will suffer, but the second-largest group to be affected may surprise you. It’s nurses. [Angela Martindale / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and incredibly effective. Go get it.: I encourage everyone to get the vaccine. It is safe and extremely effective in preventing COVID-19. If you are hesitant, know that it is perfectly normal to feel a little nervous, but your action is going to protect yourself, your family, and those around you. [Madison Thompson / The Frontier]

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers advance bill to ban transgender athletes from female sports: An Oklahoma House panel advanced legislation to prevent transgender athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams at public schools, colleges and universities. On the fly Thursday morning, the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee amended legislation dealing with the School Finance Review Commission to become the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” [The Oklahoman]

House bill would limit pharmacy audits: No one mentioned CVS Health by name when House Bill 2677 was brought before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Thursday. But shortly after the measure passed by the committee, CVS Health issued a statement in opposition to the measure, which next will be heard on the floor of the state Senate. [The Journal Record]

Wayne Greene: Clawback proposal to Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program scrapped amid constituent pressure: Efforts to claw back Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program scholarships if funded students don’t earn bachelor’s degrees within six years have been stripped from pending legislation. It was a triumph of good sense, driven by grassroots citizen lobbying. [Wayne Green Column /Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Under-the-radar bills to watch: While some bills gain a lot of attention during the legislative session because of their provocative content or passionate debate, many more “under the radar” bills address government programs and policies that affect large numbers of people and their everyday lives. Some of these are “request bills” that are proposed to a lawmaker by their constituent and others seek to fix a problem or update a law that has become outdated. [KGOU]

Lawmakers detail final weeks of legislative session: The first session of Oklahoma’s 58th Legislature has passed the halfway mark, with seven weeks left to go for lawmakers to debate bills, pass a state budget, and work on the redistricting process. Legislators wrapped up committee work this week, passing measures from the opposite chambers to proceed to floor debates. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Political notebook: Survey shows 47% of Oklahomans favor Stitt for reelection: Poll position: Fifty-four percent of Oklahomans like the job Gov. Kevin Stitt is doing, but only 47% want him to run for reelection in 2022, according to a poll by the Oklahoma City consulting group Amber Integrated. The firm surveyed 500 registered voters on March 26-28 and said the results have a 4.38% margin of error. [Tulsa World]

Anti-Islamic ex-lawmaker named Oklahoma GOP chairman: A former state representative with a reputation for anti-Islamic rhetoric has been elected as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. Former state Rep. John Bennett won a first-ballot victory at the party convention Saturday at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, vice chairman Shane Jemison said Sunday. [AP News]

Emergency court order delays death row inmate’s release in reservation case: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals issued an emergency order Friday to keep Shaun Michael Bosse in state custody as state Attorney General Mike Hunter continues to argue that the death row inmate was properly prosecuted by the state. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Slim majority of Oklahoma voters favor President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill: A slim majority of Oklahoma voters favors the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Joe Biden last month, while less than 40% approve of the new president’s performance, according to a new poll that shows state Republicans’ continued strong support for Donald Trump. [The Oklahoman]

Video: Congresswoman Stephanie Bice on infrastructure, stimulus package, and her first few months in Washington: U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice reflects on her first few months in Congress, the stimulus package and the infrastructure bill. [The Oklahoman]

  • First bill by Rep. Stephanie Bice addresses military housing upgrades for disabled residents [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Action shots: CARES Act funds provide opportunities in Oklahoma film business: For Jason Oser, Halloween 2020 was no treat. The Oklahoma City resident was laid off at the end of October from his job in the oil and gas industry, about seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic. But the turnaround has been sweet, as he was able to take advantage of free training courses at the new Oklahoma Film & Television Academy that were funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. [The Oklahoman]

Cooped-up nation wants to hit the road: A national survey of travelers shows nearly 70% are ready to travel again following a year of pandemic precautions and lockdowns. San Francisco-based Destination Analysts conducted the survey of 1,206 respondents April 2-4 and found almost 60% said they will take a trip within the next three months. [The Journal Record]

Education News

State Board hands out probation for Western Heights, Sovereign Community School: At a special meeting of the State Board of Education today, members unanimously voted to put the accreditation of Western Heights Public Schools under probation and to keep the charter authorization of Sovereign Community School on probation as well — in both cases, for multiple counts of non-compliance with accreditation standards. [NonDoc]

Cherokee Nation donates $6.3 million to Oklahoma public schools: The Cherokee Nation donated a record $6.3 million to 107 Oklahoma Public School districts during the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day on Wednesday. The tribal nation donates 38 percent of their annual car tag revenue directly to education. This year’s amount is the largest since the program began in 2002. [KOSU]

General News

Tinker retiree Darrell Davis makes history as first Black mayor of Edmond, a former ‘sundown town’: Darrell Davis didn’t initially think about making history as the first Black person to be elected mayor of Edmond, a suburban city that once was an anti-Black “sundown town.” After all, he made history when he became the first Black person to be elected to the Edmond City Council in 2011. [The Oklahoman]

50 years ago, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was a taboo subject when Tulsan Ed Wheeler set out to write an article ‘to find out what happened.’ He had no idea the threats and resistance he would face just for trying: A captain at the time with a National Guard infantry battalion, Ed Wheeler wasn’t overly worried about his own safety. He had a rifle and he knew how to use it. But there was his wife and their little boy to think about. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Norman roadwork to move forward after approved street maintenance bond [The Oklahoman]
  • City Councilors Rethinking Ban On Roosters In Proposed Tulsa Animal Ordinance Updates [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“In my Senate district, I’m not aware of any brick-and-mortar charter schools, but if we have to start paying some of the ad valorem (property tax revenue) to the virtual (charter) schools, that’s really going to detract from funding for public education.”

-Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about potential issues arising from the Board of Education’s decision to settle a 2017 lawsuit, which will effectively send local tax dollars to support charter schools [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit currently is set at 5% of the federal EITC

[Source: National Conference of State Legislatures]

Policy Note

State Earned Income Tax Credits: State EITCs are refundable, like the federal credit, in all but six states: Delaware, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia. If a refundable credit exceeds a taxpayer’s state income tax, the taxpayer receives the excess amount as a payment from the state. In that way, a refundable EITC can offset other state taxes like general sales taxes. A nonrefundable EITC can offset state income taxes but no other state-level taxes paid by low-income working families. [Urban Institute]

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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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