In The Know: Legislative session kicks off today | A look at key issues this session | 2024 Legislative Primer | 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

2024 Oklahoma Legislative Primer: How does a bill become a law? Who chairs key legislative committees? When are the legislative deadlines this session? Our newly updated 2024 Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more. Whether you are a veteran advocate, a complete novice to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between, the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Legislative Primer provides invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format. [OK Policy] | [PDF]

Oklahoma News

Earthquakes rattled central Oklahoma Friday night. Steps taken to minimize risk of more: Numerous earthquakes and aftershocks struck Oklahoma late Friday into Saturday morning near Prague. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission Oil and Gas Conservation Division ordered oil field wastewater disposal wells in the Arbuckle formation within 10 miles of Prague to begin shutting down operations. [The Oklahoman]

  • 5.1 magnitude earthquake rattles Oklahoma Friday night, OCC to shut down wastewater injection [KGOU]
  • Wastewater disposal wells ordered to shut down in area of Prague quake [Tulsa World]

Should Oklahoma raise its minimum wage? State Supreme Court hears from advocates, opponents: Supporters and opponents of an initiative petition to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 locked horns in front of the nine-member Oklahoma Supreme Court this week during an en banc hearing at the state Capitol. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma’s annual legislative session begins Monday: Monday is the first Monday of February, which means the Oklahoma Legislature will commence its annual four-month dramady at the state Capitol. Formally, this will be the second session of the 59th Oklahoma Legislature. Like Congress, Oklahoma’s lawmaking is on a two-year cycle that begins and ends with elections. [Tulsa World]

  • Tax cuts, tribal relations issues could dominate upcoming 2024 legislative session [The Oklahoman]
  • Tax cuts, education among issues that will likely dominate conversation at Oklahoma state Capitol [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Tax cuts, flat government spending among top priorities for Gov. Stitt [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Gov. Stitt’s sixth State of the State address kicks off Oklahoma’s 2024 legislative session [KOSU]
  • Tracking Key Legislative Dates and Deadlines [Oklahoma Watch]

Amid Ryan Walters drama, Oklahoma Legislature ready to raise funding for schools: The drama surrounding seemingly every move of state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters since he took office in January 2023 often has overshadowed successful efforts in the Legislature to increase funding across the board for education in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Who will be the next leaders of the Oklahoma House and Senate? Battles are already underway: When the Oklahoma Legislature returns to the Capitol on Monday, it won’t be just to argue about policy and taxes and review the mountain of new legislation waiting for them. There’s another fight going on — behind the scenes — that could set the direction for both the House and Senate for the next several years: Who will be the next speaker and who will be the next Senate president pro tempore? [The Oklahoman]

What we know about the new state-tribal compacts in Oklahoma: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has become known for rarely working with tribal nations during his five years in office. But in recent weeks, he’s reached a series of agreements with tribal officials that other state leaders view as progress. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa lawmakers focus on affordable housing this session: Tulsa-area lawmakers have submitted 501 bills for consideration this legislative session, which begins Monday, and affordable housing is a common theme among the measures being proposed. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers Seek Changes to Mental Health Law: Oklahomans with mental illness or substance abuse conditions can be detained for stabilizing treatment if they pose an immediate threat of harm to themselves or others. But the requirement that harm be immediate disqualifies many in need of help, leaving them to further deteriorate, often resulting in homelessness, incarceration, serious injury or death. A Tulsa lawmaker aims to change that with House Bill 3451. [Oklahoma Watch]

Political notebook: State tax revenue continues lower: Gross revenue to the state treasury continued to lag previous year totals in January, State Treasurer Todd Russ’s office reported Friday. January gross revenue was $1.55 billion, or 2.2% and $34.5 million less than for the same month a year ago. For the first seven months of fiscal year 2024, which began July 1, the total is $16.9 billion, or 3.2% and $555.35 million below the same period a year ago. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: 2024 Oklahoma Legislative Regular Session begins: Lawmakers are returning to the State Capitol on Monday to convene the new regular legislative session and hear the governor’s State of the State Address. [KGOU]

Opinion: How will we fill the void state lawmakers create?: With the chilling effect of HB 1775, teachers are walking on eggshells around a number of topics — slavery, colonialism, genocide, segregation and Native American boarding schools, to name a few — for fear of retribution. Where will our children learn these critical lessons? For that matter, where will adults learn them? [Russ Florence / The Oklahoman

Federal Government News

Sen. Mullin says people shouldn’t make decisions about border bill until they read it: Lawmakers and voters should read an impending border security bill before forming opinions about it, U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin said Friday in a three-minute video circulated on social media and to the press. [Tulsa World]

  • D.C. Digest: Lankford feels isolated by border security fight [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole says government shutdowns are a really bad idea: Tom Cole has a message for his fellow Republicans in Congress who want to shut down the government to make a political point: Don’t do it. It’s a bad idea and nobody gets reelected by shutting down the government. [The Oklahoman]

Child care costs far outpace wages, but dependent care tax credit stuck at 2001 rate: The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Wednesday evening to assist low-income families through an expansion of the child tax credit and the bill now awaits approval in the Senate. But some organizations are also highlighting a separate tax credit for child and dependent care, which they say is not providing adequate assistance to families and providers amid rising costs. [Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Parents of Tulsa mass shooting victim urge Oklahoma lawmakers to ban assault weapons: It is very disheartening to learn that the U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a House bill to ban assault weapons on Dec. 6, 2023. Both Oklahoma senators opposed the bill. We should not have been surprised, but this is very disappointing. We are waiting for them to step up and do the right thing ― protect our families and neighbors. [Greg and Joyce Husen / The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

HD 39 candidates discuss UCO’s future and finances: During the House District 39 debate Wednesday, candidates Erick Harris, Regan Raff and Richard Prawdzienski were asked about several topics related to the Oklahoma Legislature and Edmond, but a question on the University of Central Oklahoma’s funding and future provoked a longer discussion between candidates. [NonDoc]

Cheat Sheet: Five candidates vie for Norman’s Ward 2: In the City of Norman’s Ward 2 election, five candidates are seeking to fill the seat after Councilwoman Lauren Schueler, who was appointed following a vacancy in 2021 and elected to a full term in 2022, chose not to seek reelection.[NonDoc]

Opinion: I’m out! Former Republican Party loyalist says why he’s leaving the party: I have made the decision, after 52 years as a Republican, to disassociate myself with the Republican Party. The Republican Party today is not the party of Lincoln, Reagan or McCain. They do not adhere to the fundamental principles of being a Republican, such as limited government, fiscal responsibility, a strong defense (including border security), and the reduction of excessive regulation. They are now simply followers of a corrupt man who cares only about himself and has no interest in the safety and security of the United States. The latest example of this is the issue of security on our southern border. [Steven C. Agee / The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Code enforcement case questions fate of long-standing event for Tulsa’s poor: A code enforcement case in downtown is threatening a long-standing gathering that feeds unsheltered Tulsans. One landlord who owns houses next to a spot where volunteers host a weekly dinner says fixing up the properties is too risky. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice

Governor gets ‘MODERN’ task force report: Oklahoma’s justice system set for a revamp: The governor’s criminal justice task force released its report on Friday. MODERN, or the Modernized Operations through Data and Evidence-based Restoration Now, was a task force created by the governor in July 2023 to review Oklahoma’s jails and provide 15 policy recommendations intended to address public safety, jail populations, recidivism, and cost. [Fox 25]

Education News

Oklahoma’s oldest Native American school, Bacone College, threatened by debts and disrepair: For decades, the college has been plagued by poor financial choices and inconsistent leadership, triggering flashpoints between administration, students and staff over the mission and cultural direction of the college. [AP via The Oklahoman]

‘Forced’ out after drag drama, Shane Murnan rejects Western Heights’ confidentiality agreement: Shane Murnan submitted his resignation Jan. 26 and refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. The Western Heights School Board is not scheduled to meet until Feb. 12, at which time board members are expected to consider Murnan’s resignation. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma’s drag queen principal quietly resigns after flak with Ryan Walters, Libs of TikTok [The Oklahoman]

2nd teacher joins defamation lawsuit against Ryan Walters over teacher bonus program claims: A second teacher who received a $50,000 bonus in error from the Oklahoma State Department of Education has joined a lawsuit against the agency and state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters, alleging breach of contract by the state Education Department and defamation by Walters. [The Oklahoman]

Interview with Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ebony Johnson: StateImpact’s Beth Wallis and KWGS’ Max Bryan sat down with Dr. Ebony Johnson last month and talked with her about how she’s taken bold steps for improvement at TPS in in the current education climate. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Editorial: Tulsa Public Schools board must act now with policies to avoid future fraud: The unraveling saga of how a Tulsa Public Schools administrator swindled the district and donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars ought to lead the school board into prompt action to tighten internal controls and coordination with its associated nonprofit foundation. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

General News

The Oklahoman libeled Scott Sapulpa, owes him at least $5 million: Nearly three years after one of the worst days of his life, Scott Sapulpa left the Muskogee County District Courthouse late this afternoon vindicated in his claim that The Oklahoman defamed him when one of their reporters misidentified him as the speaker of a racial slur during a high school basketball game broadcast in 2021. [NonDoc]

Urban renewal an ‘American tragedy’ for historic Black district in Tulsa, speakers say: Don Thompson was willing to allow that maybe — just maybe — urban renewal was well-intentioned in the beginning. But even if it was, he said, it didn’t turn out that way, not for the people of Greenwood or a lot of other people. [Tulsa World]

Remember Sand Town and other Black settlements along Canadian River? Share your memories: Oklahomans who have memories about Sand Town or other Black communities along the North Canadian River are being encouraged to share their stories during Black History Month. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Could a proposed land swap end the debate on where to put the new Oklahoma County jail? [The Oklahoman]
  • New wind farm is set for Pontotoc County, southeast of OKC [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa city councilors to discuss possible pay raises for mayor, other city elected officials [Tulsa World]
  • New site for Family & Children’s Services to share campus with Tulsa public safety center [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma City councilman appointed to nationwide transportation advocacy committee [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“During the Jim Crow era, Greenwood was constantly being denied funding for schools, for basic services, for things you need for a quality of life. So when the idea of some kind of federal funding for Greenwood came up, people were at least open to the idea. But what happened in Tulsa and many other cities is that the citizens did not ultimately have control of the process … I think ultimately the process was more about fixing the face of the city than it was really about helping the folks who were impacted by the policy.”

-Author Victor Luckerson, speaking about the impact of urban renewal and highway building on Tulsa’s historic Greenwood neighborhood [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Housing costs have risen considerably while wages have stagnated in the past two decades. Since 2001, housing costs have risen by 9 percent while wages have only grown by 3 percent. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

A Blueprint for Prosperity: Expanding Housing Affordability: Policy decisions can move us toward the goal of ensuring that everyone in this country is able to afford safe, stable housing in a community of their choice. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.