In The Know: Members removed from OK County Election Board | Oklahoma GOP file more anti-abortion legislation | Expecting chaos this #OKLeg session

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

Opinion: What to expect when you’re expecting chaos — the Oklahoma Legislature edition: Monday marks the beginning of Oklahoma’s regular legislative session, which is shaping up to be another rollercoaster ride. Ignoring power plays among elected officials and mind-meltingly bad bills intended to grab headlines, here are some things informed Oklahomans should watch for this session. [Shiloh Kantz / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma News

GOP members Cheryl Williams, Jenni White removed from OK County Election Board: After a 10-hour executive session, members of the State Election Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to remove the Republican member and her alternate from the three-member Oklahoma County Election Board for failing to perform their duties and exhibiting behavior unbecoming of an election official. [Nondoc]

  • Panel removes two members of the Oklahoma County Election Board [Oklahoma Voice]
  • State Election Board Removes GOP Members From Oklahoma County Election Board [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Oklahoma election officials ousted after challenging vote tabulation; may face criminal investigation [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

After enacting strict abortion bans, Oklahoma GOP lawmakers seek more restrictions: GOP lawmakers filed bills this year to crack down on access to abortion-inducing pills, punish people who help minors obtain abortions and allow for civil lawsuits against doctors who perform the procedure in violation of state law. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma lawmakers take a second look at school choice tax credits: Leaders in both the House and Senate have filed a handful of bills that would just clean up some of the language in the private and homeschool tax credit laws. But lawmakers have introduced legislation that could make some bigger changes, like providing more government oversight for schools that participate. [News 9]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Special Session, Superintendent Ryan Walters, ClassWallet lawsuit and more (Audio): This Week in Oklahoma Politics discuss a special session which saw a tax cut in the House, but nothing in the Senate, State Superintendent Ryan Walters coming under fire for attacking the media for reporting issues with his new teacher bonus program and more. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Thousands of Oklahomans to lose federal discount on internet service: What to know: There were about 23 million households across the nation enrolled in the broadband discount program as of Jan. 29. This includes 323,955 tribal households. Here’s everything we know about the program and how Oklahomans will be affected by its projected demise. [The Oklahoman]

Votes on major bipartisan immigration deal in Congress said to be nearing: A U.S. Senate vote is expected next week on a bipartisan deal that would overhaul U.S. immigration law and provide more than $100 billion for a global security package. Republican lead negotiator James Lankford of Oklahoma said work on the bill is in its final stages, which negotiators have said repeatedly. [Oklahoma Voice]

Health News

SoonerCare shift to managed care begins for Oklahomans; enrollment open: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is transitioning most Medicaid patients from SoonerCare, which operates on a fee-for-service model, to the new SoonerSelect program, which is a managed-care model. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma has the highest rate of long COVID in the nation, study shows: A new study found that Oklahoma has the highest rate of people who suffer from long COVID after they’ve contracted COVID-19. In Oklahoma, 34% of adults who had COVID-19 have experienced long COVID. The national rate of Americans who experienced long COVID is 24.4%, according to the study from Help Advisor. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Man whose murder conviction was vacated after McGirt decision resentenced in federal court: An Ada man whose murder conviction was vacated after the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma decision has been sentenced again to prison. This week in Muskogee federal court, Tyler Jay Mullins, 45, was sentenced to concurrent life sentences in prison for one count of first-degree murder in Indian Country and one count of using a firearm to commit the murder. [The Oklahoman]

Judge: Oklahoma mental health department to pay $500 each day defendant left in jail: A judge has fined the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services $500 a day for leaving in jail a criminal defendant who needs treatment. Oklahoma County District Judge Susan Stallings last week found the department in direct contempt of court. The contempt finding is the latest example of the longstanding frustration in the judicial system with the state agency responsible for treating defendants whose criminal cases are on hold because of mental issues. [The Oklahoman]

Two sentenced in bribery scheme involving lodging for soldiers at Fort Sill: In Oklahoma City federal court in January, Candy Hanza, 51, of Medicine Park, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, and Alfred Palma, 65, of Duncan, was sentenced 29 days in federal prison, followed by 11 months of in home confinement. Hanza worked as the general manager of a local hotel in Lawton, and prosecutors said Hanza paid Palma bribes to direct soldiers to that establishment. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

‘It has only gone up’: Renters, landlords in Tulsa struggle with rising rent costs: People all over Green Country said they’re struggling to make ends meet, with prices going up everywhere, including rent. But apartment complex managers said their costs are increasing, and this is all a bigger issue. [News on 6]

PSO seeks rate hike that will increase Oklahoma customer bills an average of $10 per month: Public Service Company of Oklahoma customers may soon be paying more. The public utility is asking the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to approve a $218 million rate hike annually, according to a document filed with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. If approved, the average residential customer will see an increase of $10 per month — a 7% increase compared to current rates, according to the document. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahomans have some of the most expensive grocery bills in the US, a survey showed: Oklahomans are averaging nearly $300 per trip to the store. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oklahomans spend $279.16 per week on groceries. And while inflation is dropping, many families still struggle to put food on the table. Here’s a quick look at what grocery bills are like in other states. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Agriculture built these High Plains towns. Now, it might run them dry: The Ogallala Aquifer, the underground rock and sediment formation that spans eight states from South Dakota to the Texas panhandle, is the only reliable water source for some parts of the region. But for decades, states have allowed farmers to overpump groundwater to irrigate corn and other crops that would otherwise struggle on the arid High Plains. Now, the disappearing water is threatening more than just agriculture. [Stateline and the Kansas Reflector via KOSU]

General News

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]

Opinion: Political theater to city red tape among concerns of Community Advisory Board: “Let’s make being moderate OK again.” “Just like attorneys face court sanctions for filing frivolous lawsuits, let’s do the same to lawmakers for filing frivolous legislation.” “Oklahoma’s new motto: I. Can’t. Even.” Those were just a few of the comments from the meeting of the Tulsa World’s Community Advisory Board held in January. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Interstate 244 west of downtown is going to be a much smoother ride, but it will take a year [Tulsa World]
  • Projects taxi toward takeoff at Tulsa airport [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“I haven’t had a promotion or raise in a couple of years, nothing has gone up but rent cost has.”

– Brad Brewer, a Tulsa renter, said he’s had to move to find more affordable housing as rent prices in his neighborhood rose around $300/month in just a matter of years. [News on 6]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans aged 65 and older who are lifted out of poverty by Social Security, or nearly 3 in 10 Oklahoma seniors. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

Social Security Lifts More People Above the Poverty Line Than Any Other Program: Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty in every state, and they lift more people above the poverty line than any other program in the United States. Without Social Security, 22.7 million more adults and children would be below the poverty line, according to our analysis using the March 2023 Current Population Survey. Depending on their design, reductions in Social Security benefits could significantly increase poverty, particularly among older adults. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.