In The Know: Legislative session begins, focused on tax cuts and school vouchers | Needs of everyday Oklahomans outweigh tax cuts that benefit the wealthy

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 needs of everyday Oklahomans outweigh tax cuts that benefit the wealthyAs Oklahoma’s 2023 legislative session begins, the perennial push for tax cuts that would shrink state revenue will likely return. In 2022, leaders of the Oklahoma House of Representatives championed tax cuts – primarily focusing on reducing the personal income tax, the corporate income tax, and the sales tax on groceries. Ultimately, the legislative session ended without any major tax cuts, but many of these proposals may be back this session, despite impending economic uncertainties both in Oklahoma and around the nation. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt, reelected and emboldened, will call for tax cuts and school choice: Gov. Kevin Stitt plans to call for more tax cuts, more school choice and fewer business regulations in Monday’s State of the State address, hitting on core Republican policies that may still be a heavy lift this legislative session despite the trifecta his party holds over state government. [The Oklahoman]

  • Truce at the top? Oklahoma Legislative leaders put last year’s battles behind them [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt to push for tax cuts, more education funding this year [Tulsa World]
  • Legislative session that starts Monday to focus on issues from education to taxes [Tulsa World]
  • Flush with cash, Oklahoma governor expected to push tax cuts [Associated Press]
  • School choice is on Oklahoma’s legislative menu again, lawmakers say [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

A new legislative session begins Monday. Here’s how to make your voice heard: The first session of the 59th Oklahoma Legislature begins Monday, and state House and Senate members will spend the next four months debating bills, passing new laws, and crafting the next state budget. [The Oklahoman]

  • Meet the key players in 2023 legislative session [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Why programs like paid family leave might be getting more Oklahoma Republican support: Banning all abortions in Oklahoma has some Republican lawmakers more receptive to increased support for mothers and families, including some ideas that have long been championed by the political left. [The Oklahoman]

Turnpike Authority seeks dismissal of lawsuit alleging illegal ACCESS Oklahoma payments: Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board members and executives are asking for dismissal of what they say are unjustified complaints against them in a taxpayer lawsuit filed over money spent on the proposed $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma toll road expansion plan. [The Oklahoman]

‘Cockfighting capital’ of US? Oklahoma bill to ease penalties draws attack from activists: Animal rights activists are again fighting a bill filed in Oklahoma that would decriminalize cockfighting and are criticizing authorities for not doing more to stop the events at home and abroad. House Bill 2530, introduced this year by state Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, would legalize the fights as long as the roosters aren’t wearing weapons and would reduce the penalty for being involved in weaponized fights from a felony to a misdemeanor carrying simple fines. [The Oklahoman]

Drummond threatens lawsuit over prairie chicken listing: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has joined the fray over the lesser prairie chicken, announcing that he would sue the Biden administration if a decision is not reversed to list the bird as a threatened species in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s Department of Veterans Affairs director a no-show at cost overrun meeting: The director of Oklahoma’s Department of Veterans Affairs refused to attend an emergency meeting Friday to explain how costs for a long-awaited construction project ballooned by millions of dollars. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Oklahoma legislators should stop pushing bad policies to get attention: We know people are tugging at you from many different directions. We know the loudest voices — and people with the deepest pockets — are hard to ignore. But please, just serve us well. Keep us safe, help us prosper and stay out of our personal lives. [Russ Florence Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole in pivotal position: Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole likes to tell the story of how, in his second term almost two decades ago, he was “asked” by then-Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois if he wanted to join the Rules Committee. [He said no.] That inauspicious fork in the road 18 years ago has brought Cole to an important position in this, the 118th Congress, as Rules chairman. [Tulsa World]

D.C. Digest: Mullin gets Inhofe’s spots on key committees: New assignments: New Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin is replacing predecessor Jim Inhofe on two key committees, it was confirmed last week. Mullin was given billets on Environment and Public Works and the Armed Services committees, both of which Inhofe chaired during his 28 years in the Senate. Mullin was also assigned to Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions — or HELP — and Indian Affairs. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Column: Carter County DA is wrong. Oklahoma lacks basis for seizing man’s firearm: A citizen of the Osage Nation, hunting on Chickasaw land, agreed to forfeit his firearm to the state of Oklahoma on the charge of hunting out-of-season allegedly in violation of state law. But Ward is a member of the Osage Nation who was hunting on Chickasaw lands, and he was already sentenced and fined in tribal court for the same offense. Oklahoma has no power to seize Ward’s firearm, and its assertion of jurisdiction to do so endangers the inherent freedom of Native American tribes to govern their members and territories. [Charles Brandt Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

League of Women Voters forum to focus on SQ 820: The question, whether the state should legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults 21 and older, will be answered by Oklahoma voters in an election March 7. [Journal Record]

4 races and 12 candidates. OKC city council election could lead to massive upheaval: On Feb. 14, Oklahoma City could see a massive shakeup to its city council as four wards will choose their representative in an election that represents nearly half the city’s residents. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

OU researchers aim to get more mental health services into rural: The program intends to fill the gaps in high-need, rural school districts by recruiting and training 64 future counselors, social workers and behavior analysts from rural communities and paying for their graduate tuition, fees and costs while in the program. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Weapons found in dumpster outside Midwest City gun store; federal agency investigating: The mystery emerged Jan. 19 when a sanitation worker discovered the weapons and alerted authorities, reported late Friday, citing court filings and a news report. But it started months before at International Firearm Corp., 5701 E Reno Ave., Suite E, owned by Raymond Anthony Mussatto, 54, of Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

An Oklahoma County jail inmate called twice for help for his dying cellmate. Nobody came: A civil rights lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of the inmate’s estate in Oklahoma City federal court. The lawsuit alleges the jailed man was mostly ignored by the facility’s staff despite a “clear warning and directive” from a state forensic psychologist. It also alleges only one officer working the entire second floor of the jail that night. [The Oklahoman]

OU conference to spotlight plight of health care behind bars: People interested in correctional medicine – addressing the health care needs of those incarcerated – might want to plan on attending this year’s Bridges to Access Conference, a student-organized event at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The conference has been set for Feb. 11 at Nicholson Tower on campus, with a virtual option for people to attend from outside the metro. It is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, visit [Journal Record]

60% of Americans “not confident” in police, poll shows: A new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after the beating death of Tyre Nichols shows 60 percent of Americans are not confident that police are adequately trained to avoid excessive force. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Column: The Police Killing of Tyre Nichols: Is It Time to Reform the Current Police State System?: Our communities are fully aware of the broader threat from police state officials, well beyond concerns of representation. What persists, nationally, is the full-throated defense of institutions without regard for the public that they are committed to serve. [Dr. Maurice O’Brian Franklin and Ross D Johnson Column / The Oklahoma Eagle]

Editorial: County sheriffs need to enforce the law, even if they don’t like it: A recent rule that requires users of a firearm stabilizing brace to register the device has a host of Oklahoma sheriffs, including Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, ignoring enforcement. Their job is not to pick and choose which laws to follow. This is political posturing that only endangers public safety and stifles discussion about gun reforms. It only serves to help with their reelection campaigns. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma Could Generate Nearly $500M if Recreational Pot is Legalized: While intense campaigns on either side of the issue are attempting to swing the March 7 vote, a new report released by the Yes on 820 campaign shows the myriad economic benefits Oklahoma could look forward to, should adult-use cannabis legalization be enacted. [High Times]

Economy & Business News

US adds 517K jobs in January; employment strong in Oklahoma: For nearly a year, the Federal Reserve has been on a mission to cool the economy to curb inflation. The job market hasn’t cooperated, with employers generally acting aggressively to hire and retain workers. According to the U.S. Labor Department, businesses added an astounding 517,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4%, its lowest level since 1969. [Journal Record]

Apartment construction, including affordable units, is booming in OKC. Will it bring rent relief?: Apartment building is booming in the Oklahoma City area, including a rising number “affordable” apartments targeted for low-income households, but experts aren’t certain affordability in the market as a whole will improve. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Column: State’s school board members report having similar public ed needs: Last fall, I asked school board members across the state about their biggest concerns and the biggest challenges facing their districts. Whether I was in Idabel, Oklahoma City or Guymon, the answers were nearly identical: finding and keeping great teachers and having enough resources to meet the needs of all students. [Shawn Hime Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Column: Divisive politics will not help improve Oklahoma’s education system: This legislative session features some encouraging proposals to address issues such as reducing class sizes, investing in crucial reading programs, providing students with adequate resources and maintaining a strong teacher pipeline. Culture war campaigning may generate headlines, but it does nothing to improve the education outcomes of our state’s 700,000 public school students. [Dr. Pam Deering Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Some bills are divisive, others could play key role in Oklahoma schools: There are 769, or roughly 25% of the 3,100 bills filed this legislative session that relate to education in some form or fashion. Many are so divisive in nature that they will hopefully not see their way out of committee and onto either the House or Senate floors. Education needs legislators who will champion policy that moves our kids, and our state forward. [Mary Mélon-Tully Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

OU researchers aim to get more mental health services into rural Oklahoma schools: Researchers at the University of Oklahoma are using a $5.6 million federal grant to implement a program to fill the gaps in high-need, rural school districts by recruiting and training 64 future counselors, social workers and behavior analysts from rural communities and paying for their graduate tuition, fees and costs while in the program. [KOSU]

General News

New Class Will Focus on Oklahoma’s Black History Cost-free and Comprehensive: A class devoted to these and many other rich chapters of Oklahoma Black’s history started this month. Designed to provide the backstories that the state’s public school classrooms lack, “Black History Saturdays” are available to Tulsa schoolkids – and their families – with a particular preference for students descended from survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis, challenger Brian Shellem spar over DEI, other issues at forum [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma City to replace May Avenue bridge over Northwest Expressway citing safety concerns [The Oklahoman]
  • One of Tulsa’s busiest intersections will have traffic ‘switching sides’ of the road [Tulsa World]
  • Planned residential development in Tulsa will accommodate people with disabilities [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We hope that the business community recognizes that investing in children and their parents and caregivers will save them a lot of money in the long term because their employees are healthier, happier, more engaged and coming back to work when those caregiving duties are done.”

-Gabrielle Jacobi, Child Well-being Policy Analyst with OK Policy, about the advantages of a paid family medical leave program [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s individual income tax contributed nearly $4 in every $10 (37 percent) of the General Revenue Fund in Fiscal Year 2022. [OK Policy] | [Detail]

Policy Note

Note To Governors: Cutting Taxes Will Make Inflation Worse, Not Better: Truth is, elected officials can’t do much to slow inflation. The Fed can address the problem by raising interest rates, as it will start doing this week. But the best lawmakers can do is not make the problem worse by throwing more money at consumers, either in the form of tax cuts or new spending. Many of the income tax cuts being debated in state legislatures are rate reductions that would largely benefit high-income households. [Tax Foundation]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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