In The Know: OK Legislature at session midpoint | Gov: ‘Cooler heads are going to prevail’ on ed funding | ‘Forced outing’ bills make schools unsafe

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

State Legislature reaches midpoint with hope alive for school support, tax relief: The Oklahoma Legislature has reached the midpoint of its 2023 session with many of the Republican-led government’s priorities staying alive as a major deadline passed. As the milestone was passed, Gov. Kevin Stitt commented on Friday that the “big picture” items on his legislative agenda could still become law, like grocery and income tax cuts, school choice and funding, and workforce development. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on education funding: ‘Cooler heads are going to prevail’: During his weekly news conference that covered a wide range of topics, the governor responded to the ongoing standoff between House and Senate leadership over education policy and funding. House Speaker Charles McCall issued an ultimatum this month, saying he would block the Senate’s slate of education bills unless the Senate approves his chamber’s $800 million education package as-is, without amendment. [The Oklahoman]

  • Uncertainty remains over education reform with leaders not on the same page [KFOR]
  • Oklahoma chambers still divided over education plans [KOCO]
  • Education reform at a standstill as Oklahoma Senate aims to change House bills [KOKH]

Transgender youth: ‘Forced outing’ bills make schools unsafe: As hundreds of bills nationwide take aim at nearly every facet of transgender existence, from health care to athletics to bathroom access, trans kids and their families say certain proposals could eliminate one of the last remaining safe havens to explore their identities: K-12 public schools. [Associated Press]

State Government News

House advances proposal to reform criminal sentencing system: Legislators are pressing forward with a measure that would overhaul the state’s outdated sentencing structure for non-violent offenses. The state’s current criminal sentencing structure is “riddled with inconsistency,” which is “deeply problematic,” said David Gateley, a criminal justice policy analyst at Oklahoma Policy Institute. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Senate approves bills related to marijuana operations: The Senate passed six bills Thursday aimed at improving public safety within the medical marijuana industry. Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, said the bills focus on youth access, medical education, product potency, recalls, and other important issues requested by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA). [The Lawton Constitution]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers favor bills strengthening medical marijuana regulation [Journal Record]
  • THC potency limits among marijuana-related measures still alive at Oklahoma Legislature [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmaker proposes shielding judges’ personal information: A state lawmaker is pushing to shield the personal information of judges after his wife, a district court judge, faced a credible death threat as a result of her work. As local judges say they’re facing a growing number of threats, Rep. Preston Stinson, R-Edmond, filed legislation that would allow current and retired members of the judiciary to petition state and local government agencies and private entities to prevent the public from viewing their personal information. [Tulsa World]

House passes bill to dilute governor’s control of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board: The Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill this week that would dilute the governor’s control of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority by ending his exclusive appointment power to the agency’s governing board. [The Oklahoman]

Universal FAFSA expected to pay off for Oklahoma: ‘We are leaving $63 million on the table’: With the state missing out on some $63 million annually in federal student aid, officials are confident a proposed new requirement for high school seniors to complete applications will lead more of them to take advantage of it. The new policy, referred to as “universal FAFSA,” is currently awaiting a state House vote on Senate Bill 93. It previously passed the Senate 37-8. [The Oklahoman]

Continuing Oklahoma’s improvement in child protection — what comes next?: Tricia Howell is two months into what many consider to be one of the toughest jobs in state government — protecting Oklahoma’s children — its most vulnerable residents. [The Oklahoman]

‘You can’t detain me’: Six months after DUI deferral, Rep. Dean Davis arrested in OKC: Only 20 days after his probation expired for a DUI arrest in Broken Arrow, Rep. Dean Davis was arrested early Thursday morning outside of an Oklahoma City bar on an allegation of public drunkenness. About six minutes of body camera footage released Friday by the Oklahoma City Police Department shows Davis questioning the circumstances of his arrest and claiming he cannot be detained owing to the ongoing legislative session. [NonDoc]

  • ‘You chose the wrong person’: video shows more details of Oklahoma Rep. Dean Davis arrest [The Oklahoman]
  • Can Oklahoma lawmakers be arrested while the legislature is in session? [KTUL]

Column: Oklahoma gives us a chilling glimpse of life in post-Roe America: A chilling glimpse of life in post-Roe America: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled, just barely, that a pregnant woman has the right to abortion “when necessary to preserve her life.” For four of the nine justices, even that shred-let of protection was too much. Weighing the life of the mother against the interests of the fetus, they said, was a choice for the legislature, not the province of judges. [Column / Washington Post]

Podcast: ‘Focus: Black Oklahoma’: school vouchers, Black Excellence, documenting the search for Tulsa Race Massacre graves: In this episode, we start with education. No matter what you call it, a “voucher” or a “tax credit,” the end result is defunding our state’s public education system. Anthony Cherry talks with two state lawmakers about the current legislative session and the bills regarding school vouchers. [Focus: Black Oklahoma / KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

After nearly 200 years, the Yuchi Tribe of Oklahoma reconnects with bison: The Yuchi Tribe of Oklahoma received five bison from Denver earlier this month, marking the first time in nearly two centuries that Yuchi people will once again interact with the animal. [KOSU]

Cherokee Nation builds cellphone tower as step toward ‘total connectivity’ across reservation: On a windy afternoon last week, the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief stood near a 355-foot tower and dialed a number on his cellphone. Until then, Chuck Hoskin Jr. would have needed to drive more than 10 miles out of town to find the nearest signal. Kenwood, an unincorporated community of about 1,000 people 20 miles east of Pryor, didn’t have cell service. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Postpartum Medicaid coverage now guaranteed up to 12 months in Oklahoma: Oklahoma joins the majority of the country in guaranteeing Medicaid coverage for mothers in postpartum care for up to a year, according to an announcement Thursday. The renewal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services extends the previous limit of 60 days that Oklahomans had to follow prior to the pandemic. [KJRH]

Column: If funding woes aren’t addressed, Oklahoma nursing homes face ‘full-blown crisis’: Nursing homes like the one that served my father are now increasingly in danger of closing due to the skyrocketing cost of labor, inflation on necessary items such as food and utilities, and continuing expenses tied to COVID. If that happens, communities like Mangum would suffer devastating economic blows, as many rural skilled nursing communities are the largest non-government employers in their town. [Steven Buck Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

‘Significant loss of life’: Read the grand jury report on the Oklahoma County Jail: In its 15-page final report, the state multi-county grand jury that spent 14 months hearing testimony about the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority and the Oklahoma County Detention Center recommends the jail trust “self-terminate” and that daily operations be returned to the County Sheriff’s Department. [NonDoc]

Man accused of killing Oklahoma County deputy to be treated for ‘delusions’ before trial: A man accused of kililng an Oklahoma County sherriff’s deputy has been deemed incompetent to stand trial by a forensic psychologist. Benjamin Plank will undergo treatment in the hope his competency can be restored, thanks to an order from Oklahoma County District Judge Kathryn Savage, News 9 reported. Plank was examined by forensic psychologist Scott Orth after District Judge Amy Palumbo agreed with defense attorneys it was necessary. [The Oklahoman]

Parents question why OHP left out trooper’s chase in report of fatal crash in Broken Arrow: A couple mourning the death of their son in a high-speed chase with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has filed a wrongful death lawsuit as they question the agency’s actions and transparency. The Highway Patrol’s initial and final collision reports make no mention that a trooper was in a hot pursuit with Collin Carpenter for an alleged speeding violation at the time the 24-year-old’s motorcycle slammed into a tree. [Tulsa World]

Column: College degree requirement for law enforcement is a critical standard: According to research, departments requiring higher education have fewer systemic issues than agencies with only high school diploma requirements. Further research indicates that many officers charged after excessive force-related incidents had little to no higher education. [Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Is Oklahoma’s fight against pro-environmental policies hurting business recruitment?: Oklahoma’s Republican lawmakers are pushing back on environmentally conscious investment programs, a political effort they say protects the state’s oil and gas economy while also combating “woke ideology.” But many of those pro-environmental policies Oklahoma is fighting against are embraced by the same multinational corporations the state is aggressively trying to recruit with millions in tax incentives. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma unemployment rate falls in February for second month: Oklahoma’s unemployment rate dropped to 3% in February as nearly 4,400 more Oklahomans joined the labor force compared to January, according to federal statistics released on Friday. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity News

Editorial: Tulsa’s homeless population is increasing but will get worse without action now: The lack of affordable housing is the No. 1 problem cited by Tulsa people who were homeless during a census count in the last 10 days in January. The most recent point-in-time data released by Housing Solutions last week found a 6.6% increase in the city’s homeless population and reasons that confirm and shatter some assumptions. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Langston University wipes out outstanding student charges, again: Oklahoma’s only historically Black college announced it is cancelling all outstanding charges its students incurred over the last three semesters. Langston University will use almost $4.6 million of federal funds to cancel out outstanding balances its students incurred during the pandemic. [KOSU]

Column: Keeping arts a priority critical for elevating Oklahoma above OK: House Bill 2258, currently making the rounds of our state Legislature. This bill, as written, would allow students to substitute “agricultural power and technology, agricultural communications or agricultural horticulture” for the current fine arts requirement for high school graduation, the only arts instruction requirement that we have for Oklahoma students. [Ken Busby Column / Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Getting Oklahomans ready for future jobs means post-high school education: Oklahoma Higher Regents Chancellor Allison Garrett talks about “robot-proofing” the state’s workforce. That’s referring to how technology will continue to evolve in the workplace. Some jobs will go away while others will be created. That’s not a new thing; it’s how societies evolve. Oklahoma’s future prosperity depends on having the kind of industries and workforce adaptable to these changes. Based on trends, that means workers are going to need more post-high school education than in any previous generation. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Could OKC allow detached in-law units? City planners consider rezoning for accessory dwellings [The Oklahoman]
  • City of Tulsa should consider holding retailers financially accountable for abandoned shopping carts, city councilor says [Tulsa World]
  • City of Tulsa exploring possibility of installing automated water meter readers for all customers [Tulsa World]
  • Education notebook: Here come school board elections and enrollment for littles [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“It’s sort of insult to injury for the many victims and survivors’ families that the multi-county grand jury didn’t go as far as making any indictments. They instead identified and deferred to agencies that should pursue possible charges. I can’t think of another case of corruption that has been as deadly in Oklahoma as this one.”

–  Sara Bana, a member of The People’s Council for Justice Reform, speaking on the fact that no one was indicted in connection with the 37 deaths at the Oklahoma County jail. [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma women who live in poverty, compared to 14.3 percent for Oklahoma men. [U.S. Census via OK Policy]

Policy Note

Expanding Work Requirements Would Make It Harder for People to Meet Basic Needs: Taking benefits away from people who don’t meet a work requirement does little to improve long-term employment outcomes. Instead, it substantially increases hardship. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.