In The Know: Modernizing state’s drug possession laws | Parents squeezed by rising prices, food assistance changes | Project Connect

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

It is time for lawmakers to revisit Oklahoma’s possession with intent to distribute law: Many drug-related charges still remain a felony, notably possession with intent to distribute — commonly referred to as PWID. While current state law sets quantity guidelines for other drug-related charges, Oklahoma’s statute does not clearly define when to charge someone with PWID. This can result in unequal enforcement of the law, with individuals carrying identical amounts of the same illegal substance given very different charges. During the 2023 legislative session, Oklahoma lawmakers should change the state’s PWID law to include objective statutory guidelines that provide clarity and consistency in charging decisions, regardless of where someone is arrested. Having clear guidelines for when to charge someone with PWID is necessary as it serves to safeguard against the discretion of law enforcement and the power of government. It also prevents arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law. [David Gateley / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

OKC parents struggle with rising food and diaper costs, all as SNAP benefits set for drop: Parents trying to feed their families are increasingly feeling the effects of inflation on their wallets. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food-at-home prices increased by 11.4% in 2022 alone. [The Oklahoman]

Sources: Oklahoma trying to lure Volkswagen to MidAmerica Industrial Park: Oklahoma is in the running for Volkswagen to open a battery plant at the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, according to multiple sources familiar with what is known as Project Connect. The governor told reporters Friday that Project Connect would qualify for the Large-scale Economic Activity and Development Act, also known as the LEAD Act. However, he wouldn’t give any more details about the project. Those involved in the talks are under non-disclosure agreements. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Oklahoma bill would give new graduates a two-year break from state income tax: House Bill 2138 would grant an income tax exemption to the new grads if they stay and work in Oklahoma. It provides an exemption on the first $75,000 worth of income each year, for up to two years. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Senate Approves Restraining Orders For Child Abuse Survivors: An Oklahoma bill aims to help better protect children who are the victims of abuse. The lawmaker behind the legislation, Senator Casey Murdock (R), said he authored it after a parent came to him for help. [News On 6]

Republican lawmaker calls out State Supt. during Education Committee meeting: The Oklahoma legislature is pushing back on the authority of the State Superintendent and the Board of Education. HB2569 would put a moratorium on new rules for accreditation imposed on school districts from the State Board of Education. Any new rules would need authorization from the legislature. The chairman said the move comes as Superintentdent Ryan Walters continues his threatening rhetoric towards public schools. [KFOR]

  • Lawmakers advance bill to ‘reign in’ newly elected state superintendent Ryan Walters [KOCO]
  • Oklahoma Republican House leadership aims to take power away from State Supt. Ryan Walters [Fox 25]

Oklahoma hunting and fishing license fees could rise for first time in decades: Oklahoma hunting and fishing licenses have been the same price for at least 20 years. That could soon change thanks to Senate Bill 941. The measure updates the state’s fee structure and directs the state’s Wildlife and Conservation Commission to prepare a report every five years to potentially allow the legislature to raise fees again. [KOSU]

Pro-cockfighting group has spent more than $70K on effort to decriminalize sport in Oklahoma: A pro-cockfighting organization has donated more than $70,000 to Oklahoma lawmakers in a push to decrease penalties for participating in the illegal sport, although the group does not report the source of its funds. The Oklahoma Gamefowl Commission, a political action committee, has donated to dozens of state lawmakers, including $2,000 to Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee chief tells OK Legislature about health, education efforts: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke in the Oklahoma House and Senate chambers Tuesday, highlighting the work done within the tribe to improve education and promote healthy living. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation announces 450,000th citizen registration: The Cherokee Nation this week celebrated its 450,000th tribal citizen registration. Among the tribe’s 450,000 citizens, about 140,000 live in the Cherokee Nation Reservation and more than 270,000 reside in Oklahoma. [Fox 23] | [Cherokee Nation]

Health News

As COVID-19 deaths continue, so does vaccine push in Oklahoma: COVID-19 remains the third-leading cause of death across the nation, including 44 COVID-related deaths in Oklahoma last week, which is why health officials continue to urge Oklahomans to get the vaccine. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Sheriff, Jail Health Care Provider Seek Public Money to Increase Staff After Two Women Died: The deaths of Shannon Hanchett and Kathryn Milano caused Cleveland County officials to reevaluate the treatment of detainees. Now, the sheriff and the health care provider are asking commissioners for more taxpayer money to expand care. [Oklahoma Watch]

Education News

House Common Ed Committee votes to ban sex ed in elementary schools: A busy meeting of the House Common Education Committee advanced 12 bills to general order, including one that would require school districts to be more forthcoming about why some teachers leave their employ and another proposing “extra duty pay” for elementary teachers whose classes contain more students than the statutory limit. [Tulsa World]

  • Bill would create grade system for books in schools and public libraries [Tulsa World]
  • Bill to organize books into age-appropriate categories clears Education Committee [KTUL]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tensions rise, OKC Council decision looms over plan to build more affordable housing [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“We really don’t know what the full impact of the pandemic had on food insecurity because we were flooded with a lot of resources. And we needed that. We needed to support people. With the emergency allotments going away and inflation continuing to go up, I think in the next three to four months, we’ll really start to see a better picture of what that impact looks like.”

-Chris Bernard, CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, speaking about the federal government ending COVID-19 emergency allotments for Oklahoma’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) after this month. [The Oklahoman]   

Number of the Day

1 in 6

About 16% of Oklahomans, or about 1 in 6, receive food security benefits via the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Of those recipients, almost 71% are families with children. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

What if Americans sour on public education?: This has been quite a time for U.S. public schools, from pandemic-induced shutdowns to clashes across the country over one issue after the next. In this context, it’s fair to wonder—and maybe worry about—how Americans’ attitudes toward public education might be changing. [Brookings]

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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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