In The Know: Officials anticipate flat FY23 budget | More tax cuts proposed | Post-holiday COVID surge | Data shows LQBTQ2S+ discriminations

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

Data shows discrimination is a clear barrier to the success of LGBTQ2S+ Oklahomans: LGBTQ2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Two-Spirit) Oklahomans have a right to the same opportunity to thrive as cisgender and heterosexual Oklahomans. There is nothing about anyone’s gender or sexuality that makes them inherently less able to support themselves or others. There are, however, forces—namely discrimination—that can damage and limit their ability to prosper. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]

Deadline Extended: We’re Hiring! Join the team as a Data Analyst: OK Policy is currently hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Applications for this position close at 11:59 p.m. (CST), Sunday, January 9, 2022. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma tax cuts take effect Jan. 1. Could more be coming?: Oklahomans could see more money in their paychecks in the new year. Cuts to Oklahoma’s corporate and personal income tax rates approved this year by the GOP-led state Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt take effect Jan. 1 House Speaker Charles McCall, who championed the cuts, said they are taking effect at a time when Oklahomans need more cash at their disposal. A recent report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa think tank, showed the state budget for the current year, when adjusted for inflation and population growth, is 22% less than it was 20 years ago. Tax cuts are a major reason why, according to the report that makes budget and tax reform recommendations. [The Oklahoman]

Despite spreadsheet splendor, Oklahoma leaders anticipate ‘close to a flat budget’: Following the conclusion of the Dec. 27 Oklahoma Board of Equalization meeting, Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson spoke candidly with Gov. Kevin Stitt about the rosy fiscal picture that state budget leaders had just outlined. [NonDoc] Budget projections presented to the State Board of Equalization, a state panel led by Stitt, show there will be more than $10.3 billion available to spend for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But Stitt and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson said after the meeting they want to keep at least $2 billion in reserves. The Legislature last year appropriated about $8.3 billion and set aside more than $700 million in savings. [AP News]

  • Oklahoma leaders will have more than $10B for state budget, a first in state history [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma health officials report a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations: On Monday morning, The State Department of Health announced nearly 8,000 new coronavirus cases reported over the weekend. There are a few reasons to take the figure with a grain of salt. It can take a few days for labs to report positive cases to the department, so many of those tests likely took place before this weekend. Also, that number could be artificially low. Oklahoma hasn’t established a system for reporting at-home test results, and many rapid tests at clinics aren’t reported either. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Is Oklahoma really No. 1 in 2021 COVID-19 deaths? Breaking down the state’s death rate [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OU Health expert: Without sequencing to distinguish COVID variants, hospitals don’t know what treatments to use [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma hit by COVID-19 rapid test supply shortages, lab-based options still available [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says he has no plans to get COVID-19 booster shot [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahomans have an ‘obligation’ to be vaccinated against COVID-19, one top expert says [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Study shows potential for nasty long-COVID consequences, OU Health expert says [Tulsa World]

First They Fought About Masks. Then Over the Soul of the City: On a hot night in July, the first summer of the pandemic, Jonathan Waddell, a city commissioner in Enid, Okla., sat staring out at a rowdy audience dressed in red. They were in the third hour of public comments on a proposed mask mandate, and Mr. Waddell, a retired Air Force sergeant who supported it, was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. [New York Times]

Health News

‘Helpless’: Review of Oklahoma’s disability waiting list spurs mixed emotions, skepticism: Analise is one of more than 5,400 Oklahomans on the state’s 13-year waiting list for services for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Leadership at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and members of the Oklahoma Legislature say they are committed to eliminating the waiting list by devoting more funding for care. But some families are skeptical that anything will change. [The Oklahoman]

Donna Dyer talks rural health care, Wetumka history: Donna Dyer does a little bit of everything in Wetumka, Oklahoma. Beyond her full-time day job as CEO of East Central Oklahoma Family Health Center, Inc., she also serves as president of the Wetumka Chamber of Commerce. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma could ban most abortions if US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade: Oklahoma is one of 12 states that could prohibit nearly all abortions if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns longstanding abortion protections. As the nation’s high court weighs whether to let stand a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks, what the justices decide could have far-reaching implications on abortion access across the country. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Drastic penalties, a resignation and a rush to the finish: Inside the rulemaking process of HB 1775: In a rulemaking process that came down to the wire, state officials considered drastic penalties for schools teaching banned topics on race and gender. One state official resigned from her role drafting rules for House Bill 1775 with the Oklahoma State Board of Education because she objected to the state’s handling of the process. [The Oklahoman]

  • After much fretting over ‘CRT’ law, one mostly Black Oklahoma school district sees little impact on teaching of racism [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Oklahoma legislative report manipulates numbers to claim top teacher salaries: A recent legislative report did some tinkering to find that Oklahoma teachers have the highest salary in the region; if only that were true. Headlines from a Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency rapid report — meaning it was completed in 90 days — tout this as good news, and many conservative state lawmakers shared on social media as a victory. It’s to convince people there is no problem, rather than fixing the actual problems. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Emails: Under Stitt, Commerce Department sees funding boost, success with bill proposals: For a governor focused on running government more like a business, few state agencies have received as much of his attention as the one dedicated to bringing new business to the state. [The Oklahoman]

Doug Linehan named Oklahoma Tax Commission executive director: The Oklahoma Tax Commission has a new director with 30 years of accounting and finance experience, the agency announced Monday. [Tulsa World]

Proposed state law would make it simple — and potentially lucrative — for parents to ban LGBTQ books in Oklahoma school libraries: An Oklahoma state senator wants to make it easy for parents to ban books concerning topics like gender identity and support for transgender students from public school libraries. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Recreational marijuana petition campaign still on schedule despite challenges, organizer says: A petition to allow for recreational use of marijuana has been held up by legal challenges, with a hearing Jan. 6 and a ruling not expected until later in the month, but the organizer says the effort is still on schedule. [Tulsa World]

‘Climatological anomaly on steroids’: Oklahoma has warmest December on record: Oklahoma had the warmest December on record last month, with average high and low temperatures more than 10 degrees above normal, the state climatologist said Monday. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Adjutant general issues new rules for unvaccinated Oklahoma Air Guard members: Oklahoma members of the Air National Guard who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be able to participate in drills unless they have requested a medical or religious exemption or want to be vaccinated, the state’s adjutant general said Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

  • After losing vaccine lawsuit, Oklahoma AG John O’Connor urges Biden to consider exemptions [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma AG celebrates suspension of vaccine mandate for Head Start teachers [KGOU]
  • Vaccine mandate goes to Supreme Court next week [The Journal Record]

Robert Troester extended 120 days as U.S. attorney for Oklahoma’s western district: After nearly 10 months as interim U.S. attorney for an unexpired term in the Western District Court of Oklahoma, Robert Troester has received an additional 120-day appointment to the post, which will eventually be filled by presidential appointment. [NonDoc]

Tribal Nations News

Second McGirt hearing to be considered: Jan. 7 is the day Oklahoma officials have waited for: the day the U.S. Supreme Court comes together to conference on what cases it will take up this session. Last fall, the state asked the court to take up a case that would open the door on a reconsideration of McGirt v. Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma court rules reservation no longer exists: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Thursday that Congress officially disestablished the Kiowa Comanche Apache Reservation in southwestern Oklahoma and that the state had jurisdiction to prosecute a Native American for crimes committed on land that had been part of the reservation. [The Oklahoman]

Choctaws can hunt, fish on reservation without state licenses: With its hunting and fishing compact with the state of Oklahoma set to expire on Friday, the Choctaw Nation is asserting its treaty rights to allow its citizens to hunt and fish within its reservation boundaries. [Tulsa World]

Citing McGirt court decision, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s brother fights City Hall: Keith Stitt’s attorney says his client is not trying to beat a speeding ticket, but his challenge of the city’s jurisdiction raises that question — and one or two others. [Tulsa World]

How one Oklahoma tribal leader has navigated the pandemic and her own COVID-19 case: Chief Glenna Wallace led the Eastern Shawnee Tribe for more than a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in northeast Oklahoma and transformed her job. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Bail reform discussion bubbles up ahead of new jail push: The conversation around Oklahoma County’s flawed jail and its proposed replacement has included topics ranging from how tall the new facility should be to what level of security inmates will find themselves in when, or if, it opens someday. [NonDoc]

Five Criminal Justice Issues to Watch in 2022: State officials resumed executions after a six-year moratorium and mounting issues at the Oklahoma County Jail drew national attention. Inside state prisons, corrections officials distributed vaccines to the incarcerated and ended prolonged restrictions on prisoner movement and family visitation. Looking forward to 2022, court rulings and state legislative votes will have a lasting impact on the future of criminal justice in Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma death penalty receives renewed attention and controversy: For much of this past year, the death penalty in Oklahoma became the center of national attention and debate because of the case of Julius Jones, a death row inmate who was granted clemency after a groundswell of advocacy arguing his innocence. [NonDoc]

After death, firings over holidays, jail trust reelects Jim Couch as chairman: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, commonly known as the jail trust, voted unanimously today to re-elect former OKC city manager Jim Couch to another year as jail trust chairman. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma households hurt by recent inflation, poll shows: For Oklahoma City restaurant owner Sean Cummings, inflation has hit hardest on food costs, at home and at work. He estimated the overall increase to be 30%. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Study: Child care has big impact on economy: Access to child care has a major impact on the local and national economies, according to information an Oklahoma legislator recently shared with a national panel. Addressing shortages in the child care industry could help employers struggling with the current worker shortage. [The Journal Record]

Education News

As 2021 ends, catch up on Oklahoma education topics: As the end of the year approaches and we all attempt to slow down just a little, it appears the Oklahoma education news cycle didn’t get the memo. [NonDoc]

General News

‘They’re waiting each and every day’: race massacre survivors anticipate court decision as attorney petitions feds: The attorney representing the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors in their pursuit of reparations calls on the federal government to do more. Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons on Tuesday told MSNBC host Joy Reid that the Department of Justice should help locate all the race massacre survivor graves. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“I am not for another round of income tax or corporate tax cuts right now. I think we need to hold our own this year. We don’t need to be moving forward in those tax cuts. I think we need to stay right where we are. I think we need to have more savings.”

-Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about proposals for additional tax cuts this legislative session [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Number of cities in Oklahoma that provide legal protections for LGBTQ2S+ residents [The Williams Institute]

Policy Note

School Climate for LQBTQ Students in Oklahoma: Given the high percentages of LGBTQ students in Oklahoma who experience harassment at school and the limited access to key resources and supports that can have a positive effect on their school experiences, it is critical that Oklahoma school leaders, education policymakers, and other individuals who are obligated to provide safe learning environments for all students take the following steps to learn and succeed in school. [GLSEN]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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