In The Know: OK Senate selects new leader | State’s AG dismisses governor’s latest attempt to sue ClassWallet | Lawmakers push ban on ranked-choice voting in Oklahoma | Capitol Update

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

Governing is finding a way to say ‘yes’ to solving problems (Capitol Update): Legislators during appropriations hearings — or in private conversations in the hallways or in their offices — hear from state agencies anxious for funding to do their jobs and to provide services to Oklahomans. The governor’s budget would lead one to believe that Oklahoma has arrived, that we are near the top on measurements of quality of life. In fact, the opposite is true — from mental health to education to health care. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

State Government News

Greg McCortney tapped to be next Oklahoma Senate leader: Republican senators on Monday selected Sen. Greg McCortney to be the next leader of the upper chamber. McCortney, R-Ada, is the Senate majority floor leader. It’s a post he has held since 2021. He was elected as pro tem designee, will succeed Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who is term limited. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • GOP members choose Sen. Greg McCortney as president pro tempore designee [Non Doc]
  • Despite the campaign against him, McCortney chosen as new leader of the Oklahoma Senate [The Oklahoman]
  • Senate GOP chooses McCortney as Treat’s successor [Journal Record]

State’s AG Dismisses Second ClassWallet Lawsuit: The state’s attorney general on Monday  immediately dismissed a lawsuit against Florida-based vendor ClassWallet for its role in two pandemic relief programs for students. Drummond pointed to an email in which Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, when he was executive director of a nonprofit managing Digital Wallet, gave participants blanket approval to purchase any items from approved vendors’ websites. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma attorney general stymies second Stitt attempt to sue out-of-state vendor [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Oklahoma attorney general drops governor’s refiling of ‘meritless’ ClassWallet lawsuit [StateImpact/KGOU]

Oklahoma lawmakers eye new Industrial Hemp Task Force: Senate Bill 1422 creates a group to study industrial hemp and the measure sailed through Oklahoma’s Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday. One of the bill’s authors, state Sen. Roland Pederson (R-Burlington), helped conduct an interim study on the crop last year and he said one of the recommendations of that study included creating a task force to create supply chains, address legislative barriers and look at coordinating state and federal rules. [KOSU]

Bill seeks to eliminate state park entrance fees for Oklahoma residents: Oklahoma residents may soon be able to enter state parks for free. The Senate Tourism and Wildlife Committee on Monday passed Senate Bill 1253 that would remove entrance and day-use fees for residents at state parks. Sterling Zearley, director of state parks, said the measure would cost $1.75 million. The dollars stay in the local park to fund operations, he said. [Oklahoma Voice]

OK’s Office of Homeland Security would move to Department of Public Safety under new bill: A new bill proposes moving the Office of Homeland Security back to the Department of Public Safety, an effort that stems from a shifting focus at the federal level. If the bill passes, the office will move from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, and its commissioner Tim Tipton also would serve as Homeland Security adviser, a role he’s held since September 2023 when he was appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Muscogee Nation will join summer food aid program rejected by Oklahoma governor: The Muscogee Nation is signing up for a federal program to help families pay for groceries in the summer after Gov. Kevin Stitt rejected the assistance statewide last month. The decision greatly expands the number of Oklahoma children who will be eligible for the aid, which is meant to make sure students don’t go hungry while school is out for the summer. Tribal officials estimated 106,000 children living within the Muscogee Nation reservation — which includes much of Tulsa — will now qualify for the benefits, regardless of whether or not they belong to a tribal nation. [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma lawmakers push forward a ban on ranked-choice voting: Oklahoma lawmakers are considering the prohibition of ranked-choice voting in state elections. Rep. Eric Roberts, R- Oklahoma City, introduced House Bill 3156 to the House Elections and Ethics Committee, Monday. The measure would ban voters listing candidates for public office in order of preference on their ballots, and election boards from certifying race results determined that way. [KOSU]

State lawmaker warns of Ohio-like abortion battle in OK where people would have to vote twice: Criminal justice reform, Medicaid expansion, and the biggest of them all, medical marijuana, were all passed by voters at the ballot box instead of at the state capitol by elected lawmakers. Now there is a question of whether a statewide vote on abortion rights in Oklahoma is next. [Fox 23]

Report: Oklahoma ranks 42 in political engagement among African Americans: The report compared 49 states across five metrics, including presidential and midterm voter turnout and registration, as well as proportional representation of Black people in the U.S. House of Representatives. Oklahoma comes in at 42 in the study. The state ranked 43 in Black voter turnout in the 2022 midterm elections and 42 in Black registration for the same election. [Journal Record]

Health News

After abuse allegations at Greer Center, lawmakers eye moving oversight office out of Department of Human Services: Following allegations of abuse at a facility for people with developmental disabilities in Enid, a bill is advancing in the Oklahoma Legislature that would move an oversight office out of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. SB 1709, authored by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, would move the Office of Client Advocacy to the Oklahoma State Department of Health in an effort to make improvements, he said. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma health department launches loan repayment plan for healthcare jobs amid shortage: The program, called the OK Health Corps, will award $35,000-$50,000 to healthcare professionals in exchange for a two-year service commitment at certified community-based facilities, according to a press release. [The Oklahoman]

House committee advances measure that would provide free cancer screenings for Oklahoma firefighters: A House committee Monday unanimously voted to advance legislation that would provide free cancer screenings for current and former firefighters. The “Fighting Chance for Firefighters Act,” by Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, requires that any medical and surgical plan offered by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services provide free annual occupational cancer screenings. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO: Unprecedented challenges bring commitment to service: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) has the duty and the privilege of administering Medicaid to over one million Oklahomans. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, OHCA not only implemented expanded Medicaid coverage to low-income adults, but also carried out a federal mandate to continue coverage for an additional 300,000 Oklahomans. [Ellen Buettner / Journal Record]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Housing Solutions hires a new CEO: Mark Smith can’t wait to move to Tulsa. Smith, director of strategic planning for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, was named CEO of Housing Solutions on Monday. Housing Solutions is the lead agency for a Way Home for Tulsa, a consortium of more than 50 private and public entities dedicated to working together to make homelessness in Tulsa rare, brief and nonrecurring. [Tulsa World]

Education News

A dozen education bills pass through house committee: At the capitol: lawmakers are back for week two of the legislative session and are already getting into discussions on dozens of bills. Today [Monday, February 12], education is a big topic in the house, with 11 bills passing through committee. Lawmakers discussed school safety, maternity leave, and school funding. [News 9]

General News

Oklahoma-based railway prohibited from operating trains due to ‘imminent threat to safety’: An Oklahoma-based railway is forbidden to operate any trains until it complies with federal safety standards. The Federal Railroad Administration says the company, Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad, has committed “gross negligence and willful failures” to meet basic safety and training requirements. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Early voting moves to fairgrounds; county partners with feds for safety [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • After settling indoor facility lawsuit, Edmond Council funds Caplinger complex upgrades [NonDoc]
  • Property once home to egg-shaped First Christian Church will get new life as housing [The Oklahoman]
  • New live entertainment venue coming to OKC’s Heartwood Park [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“I thought it was important for us as a nation to step in and make sure these eligible children on our reservation have a program that meets their nutritional needs throughout the summer.”

– Thomasene Yahola Osborn, the second speaker for the Muscogee Nation National Council, in a statement about the Muscogee Nation’s announcement that it will enroll in a federal program to help families pay for groceries in the summer after Gov. Kevin Stitt rejected the assistance statewide last month. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma households with zero net worth. The national average is 13%. [Prosperity Now]

Policy Note

Young Adults Are Feeling the COVID-19 Recession’s Effects Three Years Later, Especially in Communities of Color: Young adults maintained strong credit health during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the recession in 2020. However, new Urban Institute research suggests they began experiencing increased financial distress in 2023—especially those living in communities of color. [Urban Institute]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.