In The Know: McCurtain Co. officials caught on tape talking about killing a reporter | Panasonic needs $1B in state incentives | Undocumented immigrants pay taxes

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

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes: The $133.7 million elephant in the room: One of the most deeply ingrained myths about immigrants who are undocumented is that they don’t pay taxes. In reality, immigrants without documentation pay taxes in multiple ways and contribute more to the U.S. and state economy than they receive in return. A recent report from the American Immigration Council found that undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma pay $133.7 million annually in federal, state and local taxes. At the federal level, these tax dollars helped fund public programs like Social Security and Medicare that don’t provide benefits to undocumented immigrants.The billions of dollars that immigrants contributed nationwide helped these important programs keep their solvency. In short, all Oklahomans pay taxes and help fund our most vital public services. It is time we acknowledge the contributions of undocumented immigrants and move towards more inclusive state and federal policies that can bolster their participation in the economy. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

McCurtain County officials debated killing journalist, lynching Black people: The FBI is investigating a trio of McCurtain County, Oklahoma officials after a local newspaper accused them of making death threats against journalists and comments about lynching Black people. [Black Wall Street Times]

  • Oklahoma sheriff, commissioner, accused of discussing killing a reporter and returning to Black hangings [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. calls for McCurtain County officials to resign [News9]

Panasonic agrees to build a plant in Oklahoma. But there’s a catch: Panasonic has committed to building a factory in Oklahoma, but the company also wants state leaders to spend another $245 million on community and infrastructure upgrades, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday. [The Oklahoman]

  • State needs nearly $1 billion in incentives to land Panasonic deal [CNHI via Ada News]
  • Oklahoma signs deal for Panasonic battery plant in Pryor, but there’s a catch [Tulsa World]
  • Millions in development possibly on tap for Pryor in new Panasonic deal [Public Radio Tulsa]

As Presidential Elections Near, Oklahoma GOP Eyes Tighter Voting Rules: Proposals to curb party-switching ahead of primary elections and boost pay and legal protections for precinct officials are moving forward this legislative session. Bills making it more difficult for voter-led groups to get an initiative question on the ballot and allow Oklahoma to separate state and federal elections have stalled and will likely remain dormant until next year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Stitt’s decision to disband council on homelessness criticized: A decision by Gov. Kevin Stitt to disband a council formed nearly two decades ago to coordinate state efforts to alleviate homelessness has drawn pushback from some who fear a loss of momentum – and potentially even a loss of funding – will result from the move toward more reliance on local programs. The Interagency Council on Homelessness had been in place since 2004. Among other things, it tracked trends in homelessness in communities across the state, reported numbers to government agencies that influenced grant funding, and contributed to long-term planning to address challenges at the state level. [Journal Record]

State Government News

House speaker: Ryan Walters rejected request to appear before legislative panel: State Superintendent Ryan Walters has rejected a request that he appear before a legislative committee to answer lawmakers’ questions about the state agency he leads. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma self-defense laws often don’t protect women who kill their abusers. One bill hopes to change that: Domestic violence can be a challenging defense in an Oklahoma court as prosecutors often work hard to dismiss any evidence of abuse against the woman they have charged with murder. House Bill 1639 would allow a defendant to present evidence of their abuse when charged with a crime against their intimate partner where self-defense could be raised. [The Oklahoman]

Where do medical marijuana issues stand in the Oklahoma Legislature?: Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing through legislation aimed at Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry. These efforts come after Oklahomans voted down recreational cannabis last month. [KOSU]

  • After SQ 820 defeat, medical cannabis bills focus on enforcement instead of limiting patient access [NonDoc]

Oklahoma’s turnpike expansion plan faces road blocks: When we got our first look at the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s ACCESS Oklahoma $5 billion, 15-year expansion plan a little over a year ago, I felt fairly indifferent about it. Some parts of it I will use, I thought, while other parts I will likely never drive upon in my lifetime. (I’m looking at you, east Norman loop, although I appreciate your goal of diverting a great deal of semi-truck traffic off of Interstate 35 and around the Oklahoma City metro. [NonDoc]

Cockfighting bills die for lack of hearing in Oklahoma Legislature: An effort to unwind a state law classifying cockfighting as a felony died in the state Legislature. Senate leaders chose not to hear House Bill 2530, which if passed into law would have allowed counties in the state to opt out of strong penalty enforcement against people convicted of cockfighting offenses. [Journal Record]

  • Pro-cockfighting effort stalls as bills die at deadline [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma joins lawsuit against Biden administration over lesser prairie chicken: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond joined a Texas lawsuit this week in the long-running dispute with the federal government over protecting the habitat of the lesser prairie chicken. [The Oklahoman]

Bill would help caregivers with tax credit: ‘Good for people and their families’: Tulsan Karry Ward, one of about 490,000 family caregivers in Oklahoma, is part of a silent army. And a bill making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature would provide a small tax credit to those who take care of a loved one. [Tulsa World]

Column: ‘Bill of Rights’ would remove protections for women: The Oklahoma Legislature is considering measures known as the “Women’s Bill of Rights.” While intended to preserve rights for women, House Bill 1449 and Senate Bill 408 will strip women of vital workplace protections. [Leah Roper Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Unite to influence economic and civic change for women in Oklahoma: Oklahoma women face many challenges that hinder them from achieving their full potential. It is crucial for women to have access to equal pay, quality health care and affordable child care to promote a healthy, growing economy in the state of Oklahoma. [Wendy Doyle Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

  • The status of women in Oklahoma is not good: Data snapshots [The Oklahoman

Voting and Election News

Is Oklahoma’s next governor’s race already getting started?: Although Gov. Kevin Stitt was reelected mere months ago, potential frontrunners in the next governor’s race are already beginning to emerge. Local political observers say they’re seeing early signs of some of the state’s top elected officials positioning themselves to run for higher office in 2026. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Column: Oklahoma leads way in postpartum Medicaid coverage: Many of us have felt joy, relief, or excitement about the pregnancy journey to come. But for too many that joy can turn to fear. Black women are almost three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And the numbers are getting worse. [Myechia Minter-Jordan Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Column: Newborn screening tests have improved, but families have suffered from false positives: The good news is the Oklahoma Public Health Lab is finally addressing the issue of an excessively large number of false positives on newborn screening tests. The bad news is that it has taken over two years to acknowledge the problem and seek a correction. [Janis Blevins Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Former death row inmate should get new trial over 1974 murder, new DA says: For almost 50 years, convict Glynn Ray Simmons has insisted he was in a suburb of New Orleans when a store clerk was fatally shot during a liquor store robbery in Edmond on Dec. 30, 1974. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

PSO, parties reach settlement agreement in fuel-free power plan case: Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), an American Electric Power (Nasdaq: AEP) company, and five other parties have reached an unopposed settlement in the Fuel-Free Power Plan case. Under the proposed settlement, 995.5 megawatts of new renewable energy will be added to PSO’s generation mix in 2025 and will result in a decrease in monthly bills for the average residential customer beginning in early 2026. [Duncan Banner]

Love’s acquires EZ GO stations, rebuilds to include Turner Turnpike Stroud Plaza: Love’s Travel Stops, a national brand based in Oklahoma City, is taking over the EZ GO chain, including its locations along Oklahoma and Kansas turnpikes. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

New classical charter school choice in south Tulsa has national ties, big student waitlist: Tulsa Classical Academy is to be the first American classical education public school choice in the state. It will be the first Oklahoma affiliate of the sometimes controversial Hillsdale College, a private conservative Christian liberal arts college in Michigan working to expand patriotic education through charter schools. [Tulsa World]

  • New south Tulsa charter school’s sponsor received black eye for Epic oversight [Tulsa World]

Education Watch: A Legislative Plan to Revamp Charter School Oversight: Senate Bill 516 would dissolve the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and replace it with the Statewide Charter School Board. The new board would take over sponsorship of all the virtual schools and charter schools authorized by the state Board of Education. It could sponsor other brick-and-mortar charter schools, too. [Oklahoma Watch]

Rep. John Waldron Column: Be more concerned with censorship than pornography: In recent weeks our state superintendent for public instruction, Ryan Walters, has twice delivered to the Legislature images he says are pornographic, as part of his campaign to distract from his failure to manage the State Department of Education. Hidden behind his hysterical screed against porn was a subtle and wicked message of intolerance. [Rep. John Waldron Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Column: Public schools must never be allowed to become Sunday schools: Allowing public schools to teach a religious curriculum would threaten the religious freedom of every student and family in Oklahoma. In a vibrant, diverse democracy like ours, public schools must remain neutral when it comes to religion. Schools can teach about religion, but not preach it as truth. Our Constitution establishes this fundamental safeguard to protect the religious freedom of everyone. [Rachel Laser Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC planners holding “open house” meetings for $154M parks plan [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Is that a fair system of economic development? I think a lot of small businesses in Oklahoma are doing everything they can to be competitive in a global economy and daycare is one part of that (as well as) infrastructure like fire and police.”

– State Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, questioning why Oklahoma would invest $245 million in daycares and other business-related infrastructure improvements for landing a Panasonic facility in Pryor when existing businesses across Oklahoma would need similar investments. [CNHI via Ada News]

Number of the Day


Individual income taxes represented 35.7% of all Oklahoma tax collections in Fiscal Year 2022 (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022). [Oklahoma Tax Commission

Policy Note

8 Things to Know About State Taxes: As Tax Day approaches, it’s worth thinking about not only the taxes that we individually pay but the overall condition of our tax code as well. State tax codes, while perhaps less discussed than the federal system, are critically important. Depending on how they are designed, state taxes can improve or worsen economic and racial inequities; make states better or worse places to live, work, and play; and lead to robust or scant public services like education, health care, and environmental protection. Here are eight things to know about state taxes. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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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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