In The Know: New Oklahoma laws taking effect Tuesday | Governor’s candidates share viewpoints | Being smart on crime takes getting good data

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.

Oklahoma News

More than 200 new Oklahoma laws take effect Tuesday. Here are the highlights: From criminal justice reforms to updates to medical marijuana rules and government transparency measures, more than 200 new state laws will take effect Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Six Questions for the candidates to become Oklahoma’s governor: The Oklahoman asked readers to share their viewpoints on issues they believe the gubernatorial candidates vying for office in the Nov. 8 elections should focus on. We reached out to each candidate with a request to answer six questions that revolve around themes readers expressed in their responses. Here are answers from Natalie Bruno, Ervin Yen, Joy Hofmeister and Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman]

Some Oklahoma teachers say they’re ‘walking on eggshells.’ Will this one midterm race help?: The national conversation on education issues such as critical race theory, school choice, teacher pay and LGBTQ+ rights is playing out in full force in Oklahoma and driving the fervor in the upcoming race for the next Oklahoma superintendent of public instruction. [PBS News Hour]

Oklahoma’s Early Voting for General Election Begins Earlier (Wednesday, November 2) This Year: An extra day of early voting has been added for the November 8 General Election this year thanks to new legislation enacted in 2021, the Secretary of the State Election Board reminded voters on Friday (October 28). [The Oklahoma City-Sentinel]

State Government News

Tar Creek activists raise new concerns about lead pollution: An Ottawa County environmental group is sounding the alarm over increasing dangers from lead and heavy metals pollution emanating from the historic lead mining district and toxic waste site known as Tar Creek. [The Journal Record]

Editorial: Time for lawmakers to follow the law and fund State Question 781: No explanations emerged during last week’s legislative interim study to say why lawmakers have ignored the law. But there are signs that will change in the next session. [Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Being smart on crime takes getting good data: Much of the attention from the latest interim study from the Criminal Justice Reform and Corrections Committee was on the Legislature’s failure to fund the voter-approved State Question 781 from 2016. It mandated savings from reforms in the companion State Question 780 be sent to counties for community programs. It tallies $70 million, so far. State lawmakers are going to have to pay that bill at some point; it is the law. When that time comes, officials will be best served by having a unified, uniform data collection system. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Biden pardon of federal marijuana possession convictions has limited impact in Oklahoma: President Joe Biden’s pardon of people convicted of simple marijuana possession is certainly historic, but it won’t actually free anyone from prison. [NonDoc]

Tribal Nations News

Talks to expand betting in Oklahoma have stalled. So 3 tribes are forging a different path: In the 1990s, a deadlock over gambling in Oklahoma prompted tribes to revolutionize bingo, creating an industry that would evolve into the Vegas-style casinos that dot the state today. [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

On the campaign trail with Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates Joy Hofmeister, Gov. Kevin Stitt: The Tulsa World spent time on the campaign trail with two gubernatorial candidates to learn about the discussions the governor and state superintendent are having with Oklahomans ahead of the Nov. 8 election. [Tulsa World]

  • Stitt casts himself as political outsider while seeking second term [Tulsa World]
  • Joy Hofmeister supporters come from both parties [Tulsa World]

What issues are Oklahoma candidates not addressing? Advocates weigh in: Candidates seeking elected office have been airing political ads for weeks. Here are what some community advocates say the candidates are not addressing in their campaigns. [The Oklahoman]

  • What issues should Oklahoma election candidates focus on? [The Oklahoman]

How dyslexia, car rides with dad, and a mugshot shaped Joy Hofmeister: Panic overcame Joy Hofmeister as her teacher instructed the class to take out their textbooks and each take a turn reading one paragraph, beginning with the student sitting in the front row. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Kevin Stitt isn’t here to make friends, but he’s asking for your vote: Kevin Stitt was a relatively unknown Tulsa businessman four years ago when he vowed to shake up state government. As the Republican governor seeks reelection in what could be an unexpectedly close race, one thing is abundantly clear. He wasn’t kidding around. [The Oklahoman

Stitt, Hofmeister focus on Hispanic voters ahead of election day: With a close race for governor, the two leading candidates are trying to pick every vote they can. Both Gov. Kevin Stitt and his challenger Joy Hofmeister are focusing on Hispanic voters. Experts told KOCO 5 that while nationwide, Democrats are more popular among Hispanic voters, recent elections have shown that support is weakening. [KOCO News 5]

The Stitt Record on the Economy, Workforce: Candidate Kevin Stitt campaigned on making Oklahoma a top-10 state for job growth. In seeking re-election, the governor touts data showing more than 40,000 more jobs created in Oklahoma since he took office. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Series overview: Examining Stitt’s Successes and Shortcomings [Oklahoma Watch]

Column: How young voters can make a difference this election season: A healthy democracy requires participation from all of its eligible citizenry. Considering our low voter registration and turnout rates as a state, Oklahoma looks pretty frail. But it’s not too late to turn that around. Young voters can help cure our ailment by showing up this election. According to the Oklahoma State Election Board, over 952,000 registered voters fall under the age of 44. [Bailey Perkins Wright Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: David Walters: Your one vote is more powerful than all the politicians who seek it: In our democracy, these individual votes and voices reach a crescendo on Election Day and can move mountains and create real change. [David Walters Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: We can only save our republic by filling vacuum with best among both parties: Nature abhors a vacuum. And vacuums will be filled. That’s nature’s way. In the political world, they will be filled by good people or bad people. [Frank Keating Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Public education saved Jena Nelson’s life, now she vows to protect Oklahoma schools: If elected, Nelson said she’ll focus on keeping public dollars in public schools, giving teachers and school support staff competitive wages, putting a counselor with mental health training in every school, and bringing broadband internet and better access to STEM programs to rural schools. [The Oklahoman]

What will history say about Oklahoma superintendent candidate Ryan Walters? He aims to find out: Walters, 37, has become an increasingly controversial figure in Oklahoma politics with his culture-war platform, skepticism toward federal education funding and support for private-school vouchers. His consistent messaging against “left-wing indoctrination” and transgender identities caused some to brand him divisive and extreme. [The Oklahoman]

Walters pushes for Christianity-centered history curriculum: The state’s secretary of education is suggesting Oklahoma implement a new Christianity-centered history curriculum in public schools that highlights the role that God played in the founding of America. [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

CD 5: Bice, Harris-Till race a contrast in problem solving: In a year when the majority of Republicans running for Congress believe or question whether the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice is taking a more traditional GOP approach as she runs for reelection in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District against Democratic challenger Joshua Harris-Till and independent David Frosch. [NonDoc]

Rancher Grant Green, nurse Karen Rackley vie for SD 28: A nurse and a rancher are running for an open seat in Senate District 28, and both say they aim to advocate for rural communities. [NonDoc]

Health News

Reducing Oklahoma’s teen birth rate subject of collaboration: Oklahoma’s teen birth rate has dropped from the second highest to the fourth highest in the nation – an improvement, but still a huge problem that directly affects the state’s workforce and economy. [The Journal Record]

Syphilis is on the rise in Oklahoma. Here’s what you need to know: The state Health Department warned recently that it was seeing a “sharp increase” in syphilis cases across the state, urging people to be aware of symptoms and seek out free testing. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Teachers enjoy strong job market as districts continue to struggle finding, retaining staff: According to data published Oct. 7 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21,700 school workers nationwide left their jobs in September alone. That figure includes teachers, administrators and support staff, such as paraprofessionals and bus drivers. [Tulsa World]

Education notebook: Oklahoma districts get $29 million for school buses: The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that 16 Oklahoma school districts and a CareerTech campus will receive almost $29 million in federal grant funds to purchase electric and zero emission buses. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Regents request almost $100 million budget increase in effort to increase workforce readiness: Oklahoma’s Regents for Higher Education are asking the legislature to up funding for the state’s public colleges and universities. [KOSU]

Former Wewoka Middle School principal arrested after male student reports assault: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into multiple accusations against the former principal of Wewoka Middle School, sources confirmed Friday. [The Oklahoman]

Column: There are 34,000 reasons to support Oklahoma City Public Schools’ bond: On Nov. 8, the voters residing within the Oklahoma City school district boundaries will be asked to invest in the state’s second-largest traditional school district by casting their ballots in the first bond election since 2016. Success in the OKC district creates economic development and impact for the entire metro area. The district’s success creates success in our future workforce, and our city’s continued prosperity depends on it. Great schools are our future and build great neighborhoods now. [Mary Mélon-Tully Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Vote with public schools as a priority: Any program or policy taking resources from an already strapped public school system is bad for our state. Whether it’s in the form of school vouchers or refusal of federal funds, valuable resources will be taken directly from the kids who most depend on public schools. Rural and urban communities have a lot at stake. [Jabraan Pasha, M.D. Guest Column / Tulsa World]

General News

Oklahomans can now apply for assistance with water, sewer bills: The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) is a service that could help households cover their water and sewer bills, including overdue charges. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created LIHWAP in 2021 to assist people who have lost – or are in danger of losing – access to drinking water and wastewater utilities. [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“For the lower crimes, offenders have benefited from the re-classifications, facing misdemeanors rather than prison time. But without funding SQ 781, those offenders are not getting the treatment and supervision to keep them from re-offending.”

– Tulsa World editorial urging lawmakers to fund SQ 781, passed by voters in 2016 [Tulsa World Editorial]

Number of the Day

1 in 7

More than 1 in 7 U.S. households paid over half of their income on housing. [Habitat For Humanity]

Policy Note

Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis Requires Expanding Rental Assistance and Adding Housing Units: Rents have increased over the last two years at a historic rate. Between December 2017 and September 2022, the median rent for newly leased units rose nearly 32 percent, with nearly all of that increase occurring in 2021 and 2022. These higher rents are especially hard for families with the lowest incomes to absorb. Closing the housing affordability gap will require a comprehensive housing strategy, including developing new units, preserving existing affordable housing, and expanding rental assistance. Expanding the Housing Choice Voucher program, as the 2023 House-passed Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding bill calls for, would most immediately help renters absorb cost increases. Such an expansion would help reach renters with the lowest incomes. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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