In The Know: Legislative session begins Monday | Youth suicide an ‘epidemic’ | Tribes to state on sovereignty: ‘It’s time to move on’

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

Policy Matters: A few thoughts for the next #OKLeg session: The first Monday in February is only days away, and this means Oklahoma lawmakers are ready to kick off the new legislative session. Before our elected officials gather for Monday’s opening session, I wanted to share my hopes for the coming four months. I hope to see a strong commitment to conducting the public’s business in full public view, as well as providing constituents and fellow lawmakers with time and space for meaningful dialogue on the issues. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy

Managed care discussions likely to continue this session (Capitol Update): Chapter two of last year’s Medicaid managed care saga is underway. It appears from the introduction of Senate Bill 1337 and comments by Senate Majority Leader Greg McCortney, R-Ada, that discussions about changing Oklahoma’s delivery system for Medicaid services from a “fee-for-service” to a “managed care” or “value-based” model have continued since the legislature adjourned last May. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

Winter storm brings hazardous conditions to OKC, but not as severe as 2021 storm: A winter storm continued to impact daily life Thursday in the Oklahoma City metro area, as residents struggled with icy roads, car accidents, canceled flights, school closures, and the occasional power outage. [The Oklahoman

  • Major storm cancels flights, knocks out power [Journal Record
  • Oklahoma City has 25 plows working ‘around the clock’ [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Nobody was hurt:’ Train derails in Wayne amid winter storm weather; cause not yet determined [The Oklahoman
  • Closings: City, county services affected by winter storm [Tulsa World
  • Weather update: Snow-packed roads remain hazardous after winter storm warning expires [Tulsa World]

State’s youth suicide trend a ‘true epidemic,’ tops advocacy group’s priority list: With youth suicides and overdose deaths in Oklahoma expected to keep rising due to the pandemic, the time to act is now, says a Tulsa-based mental health advocacy group. “We think this child mental health crisis is going to be the key and lasting impact from COVID from here on out,” said Zack Stoycoff, executive director of the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative. [Tulsa World

Cherokee, Chickasaw tribal officials on reservation issue: It’s time to move on: Officials with the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations on Thursday praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision nearly two weeks ago to pass on overturning its McGirt ruling and expressed hope that the court would reject one remaining group of challenges by the state to the landmark ruling. [Tulsa World

State Government News

Attorney General John O’Connor withdraws litigation threat over natural gas prices: A recent exchange of correspondence with oil and gas industry leaders may have left Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor in an awkward place with petroleum companies and the public. [NonDoc] In a Jan. 27 letter to gas companies, O’Connor asked them to sign a tolling agreement by Tuesday or be sued. But natural gas prices are determined by the open market, so the Emergency Price Stabilization Act does not apply. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma Legislature nixes COVID-19 mandates; leaders say ‘everyone knows the right precautions to take’: The Oklahoma Legislature will have no COVID-19 policies in place when lawmakers, lobbyists and engaged citizens flock to the Oklahoma state Capitol for the upcoming legislative session. [The Oklahoman

Revenue windfall pushes states to consider range of tax cuts: In Oklahoma, where the GOP-led legislature cut individual and corporate income tax rates last year amid higher-than-expected revenue, some Republicans are talking about even more tax cuts, including the sales tax on groceries. [AP News]

From OK Policy: While lawmakers have been cutting taxes during the past 20 years, further revenue reductions – including possible elimination of corporate income taxes – represent short-term thinking to long-term problems. We cannot cut our way to making Oklahoma a Top 10 state in which to live and do business.

Bill would provide state funds for students in private schools: Some Oklahoma lawmakers and public school advocates are divided over a bill that would divert millions in public money to families of children attending homeschool or private schools. Senate Bill 1647 would create Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts and divert a traditional source of public school spending. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma gives out millions of medical marijuana tax dollars to education in new funding: Oklahoma recently injected millions of dollars in new funding for hundreds of school districts with under-resourced facilities. Although some received only a few thousand dollars, the majority of benefiting districts gained tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands in new funding. [The Oklahoman

Viewpoint: It’s time for Oklahoma Legislature do its part to combat campus hunger: When we talk about hunger, we cannot leave behind Oklahoma college students facing food insecurity. The state’s food insecurity rate remains high — fourth in the nation according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and includes hunger on college campuses. [Opinion / Yahoo! News

From OK Policy: Oklahoma college students are hungry, and there’s more we can do to help

Legislature to weigh bills curbing cannabis industry: Lawmakers are heading into this year’s legislative session with more bills to try and rein in the state’s ever-growing cannabis industry. Some measures would strengthen regulation to better ensure safety and fairness in the industry, which both regulators and industry leaders would welcome, said attorney Felina N. Rivera. [The Journal Record

Editorial: Open records bill would call out Legislature on lack of transparency: Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, is introducing a bill that would amend the Oklahoma Open Records and Open Meeting acts to subject the state Legislature, its members and its staff to the open records and meetings act. [Editorial / The Norman Transcript

New OK Policy Report: Focus on Transparency is a new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget. 

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee, Choctaw chiefs: Oklahoma Gov. Stitt has no grounds to sue over hunting compacts: Leaders of Oklahoma’s two largest tribes told Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday that he has no legal grounds to claw back money under expired hunting and fishing compacts. In a joint letter, Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Choctaw Chief Gary Batton said Stitt’s decision not to renew the existing compacts with the tribes cost Oklahoma millions of dollars, and that a continued legal fight would charge taxpayers even more. [The Oklahoman

New from OK Policy: Oklahoma Policy Institute now includes tribal-state policy advocacy

Under proposed settlement, tribes will receive record $590M payment from opioid manufacturer, distributors: Native communities have been disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis. Under a proposed settlement with manufacturers, tribal communities across the state could see financial relief. [KOSU]

Health News

You can’t address gun violence without addressing the public health crisis of inequality: Here’s my thing–stop talking about wanting to eradicate gun violence without talking about eradicating the social ills that create gun violence. Gun violence has always been an epidemic in marginalized communities and now, a national public health crisis, except no one’s calling it that. [Opinion / The Black Wall Street Times

Voting and Election News

Cheat sheet: Two open, two challenged in Norman City Council races: Norman’s Feb. 8 election has the potential to be a consequential moment for a city recently embroiled in political turmoil, including an effort to recall the mayor and the emergence of the groups Unite Norman and We Are Norman with vastly different points of view. [NonDoc

(Audio) OKC mayor’s race, McGirt v. Oklahoma funding, Epic Virtual Charter School and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU’s Michael Cross talks with Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and Civil Rights Attorney Ryan Kiesel about the race for Oklahoma City mayor which has become the most expensive in city history and the Norman mayoral race which could be heading to a runoff in April. [KOSU

  • Few turn out for early voting during winter storm in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • Early voting begins in City of Oklahoma City race for mayor [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

First-time jobless claims decline third consecutive week: First-time jobless claims declined in the state for the third consecutive week, according to a government report. The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims declined from an upwardly revised 2,141 claims the week ending Jan. 22 to 1,801 claims the following week, a nearly 16% decline. [Tulsa World

Tulsa’s new housing unit set to replicate 1920s Black Wall Street: Last July, the Tulsa Development Authority sent out a proposal request for a new housing development in north Tulsa. Terry McGee, a local Tulsa home builder and Black developer, answered the call and is now working to reestablish a slice of the historic Black Wall Street. [The Black Wall Street Times

Education News

Dr. Mautra Jones becomes college’s first Black woman president: With an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma, a MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate of education from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Jones brings years of leadership and experience to the role. According to OCCC Board of Regents chair Kevin Perry, “We expect great things from Dr. Jones.” [The Black Wall Street Times

Editorial: Prosecutors, lawmakers need to act on Epic Charter School findings: While meeting with state lawmakers on Tuesday, State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd didn’t mince words about the ongoing investigation of Epic Charter Schools. “I am shocked this hasn’t been prosecuted yet,” she said, calling what state investigators have found “the largest amount of reported abuse of taxpayer funds in the history of this state.” [Editorial / Tulsa World

Column: Stop excluding virtual public school charter students from state-sanctioned extracurricular activities: While private school students are allowed to participate in these extracurricular activities, public virtual charter school students are not. Ironically, these online public students are also prohibited from eligibility for OSSAA sanctioned eSports — organized online video games. [Column / Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“That’s not going to improve public education at all”

– Erika Wright, founder of Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, speaking about Senate Bill 1647, which would divert millions in public money to students attending homeschool or private schools by requiring per-pupil state funding to follow the student regardless of where they attend school [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day


Oklahomans approved for health care benefits through Medicaid expansion since June 1, 2021. (As of Feb. 4, 2022)

[Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

Policy Note

The Economic and Employment Effects of Medicaid Expansion Under the American Rescue Plan: This issue brief — published shortly before Oklahoman began enrolling residents in expanded Medicaid health care coverage — analyzes Medicaid expansion’s predicted economic and employment effects for the 12 non-expansion states and the two states (Oklahoma and Missouri) where voters had recently approved expansion. In total, the report found expanding Medicaid would increase federal revenue to the 14 states by $49 billion in 2022, more than 1 million jobs would be created nationwide, and the states would expand their economies by $350 billion from 2022 to 2025. While state governments would bear some additional costs, the American Rescue Plan’s bonus incentives plus additional tax revenues would exceed state matching costs. [Commonwealth Fund]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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