In The Know: Okla. Supreme Court hears Tribal compact arguments | 30,000 families apply for vouchers in rollout’s first few minutes | State should invest, not cut taxes, to thrive

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

To thrive in today’s economy, Oklahoma needs investment, not continued tax cuts: The legislative special session this fall focusing on tax issues came and went without action. But Oklahomans who are concerned about the state’s ability to prosper should remain wary of future attempts to further eliminate state revenue through poorly targeted tax cuts. [Emma Morris / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma News

Stitt, top lawmakers face off in court over legality of tribal compact extensions: Attorneys for Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders on Thursday argued before the state’s high court about who has the power to compact with tribal nations. [Oklahoma Voice]

State Government News

Oklahoma receives 30,000 submissions for private school tax credits: Tens of thousands of Oklahoma families applied for private school tax credits within minutes of the program’s launch, potentially consuming the entire $150 million budget after an hour and a half. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma oil, gas production tax collections continue to slide: Declining revenues generated by Gross Production Taxes – taxes collected on oil and gas produced in Oklahoma – continued to affect the state’s bottom line in November. [Journal Record]

Legislature doesn’t know how state funds are being spent thanks to ‘immaturity’ from Ryan Walters, lawmaker says: The lawmaker who leads the Oklahoma House’s budget committee on education issued a blistering news release on Friday, claiming he received a “childish” response from state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters’ top adviser when asking for information. [The Oklahoman]

House speaker says relationship between the legislature and higher education strongest in history: The lean days Oklahoma higher education experienced during the 2010s appear to be in the rear-view mirror, but legislative leaders have told Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education the state system will continue to have to show results as it competes for budget dollars. [The Oklahoman]

Could Oklahoma replace its tax at the gas pump? Replacement mileage tax has its own challenges: Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz sees challenges ahead as the state looks at whether to replace taxes paid by drivers at the gas pump with user fees charged depending on miles driven. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Ethics Commission names new executive director: The fourth executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission will be an attorney who has worked in leadership positions for two other state agencies. Lee Anne Bruce Boone will start her new duties Thursday, Jan. 4, the commission announced. [NonDoc]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: HB1775 challenge begins, private school tax credits, Superintendent Ryan Walters and more (audio): The panel discusses about opening statements starting on a legal challenge to HB1775, the so-called critical race theory ban, the state Tax Commission starting to collect applications for a controversial private school tax credit and the State Board of Education takes aim once again at Tulsa Public Schools. [KOSU]

Capitol Insider: Senate leader attempts to make state budget process more transparent: The 2024 legislative session starts in less than two months and the process to craft the next state budget is underway. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat says his goal is to make preparation of the budget more transparent in the year ahead. [KGOU]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma judicial nominee advances toward U.S. Senate confirmation, overcoming GOP opposition: Former Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill is one step closer to becoming the first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge for the state of Oklahoma, despite objections from top state officials and some U.S. Senate Republicans. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • After objections from Oklahoma governor, U.S. Senate panel approves Sara Hill for federal judgeship [KGOU]

With time growing short, U.S. Senate talks extend on immigration overhaul: Members of Congress left the Capitol on Thursday without a deal on sought-after changes to immigration policy that’s tied to aid for Ukraine and Israel — leaving them just one week to resolve the dispute before lawmakers depart for a three-week holiday break. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Biden meets with leaders of tribal nations, signs order easing access to federal funds: President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that would make it easier for tribal nations to access and invest federal funding on their own terms. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • ‘Failed policies of the past’: Biden order tries to streamline tribal funding [NonDoc]

Justin Hooper says all he wanted was to be tried in the proper court. Will Tulsa agree?: A Tulsa man finds himself at the center of a fight over tribal sovereignty in Oklahoma and beyond. Justin Hooper shares how his 2018 speeding ticket is continuing to impact law across Indian Country. [KOSU]

Climate scientists need collaboration with tribal communities for solutions, OU study shows: A study, published by the American Meteorological Society, says tribal nations like the Otoe-Missouria are nearly 70% more susceptible to flooding than the general population in Oklahoma. OU research used regional climate models and flash flood models to help make climate-related risk assessments and recommendations for Native lands. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

What to Watch in Tuesday’s Election: Much is at stake in the final election of 2023. Various local propositions are also on the ballot. You can use the OK Voter Portal tool to check your voter registration status, find your polling place and view a sample ballot. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 12. [Oklahoma Watch]

OKC is closing in on the arena vote — and groups are ramping up their arguments for and against it: Supporters and opponents of a new NBA arena in downtown OKC agree — the Dec. 12 special election will hone in on what residents truly value in their city’s identity for the next few decades. [The Oklahoman]

Who’s on the ballot for the Edmond special primary election? See candidates for state representative: Ten candidates have crowded into the race to replace former state Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, who resigned in September after pleading guilty to the felony offense of being in control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

‘Truly horrific’: DHS apologizes to families of abused Enid center residents, investigation continues: Oklahoma Department of Human Services director Deb Shropshire apologized Wednesday to families of victims with intellectual disabilities who suffered what a police officer called “systematic caretaker abuse” at an Enid center. Law enforcement agencies are continuing to investigate the allegations, which were first reported to DHS back in April. But the incidents could have been ongoing for at least a year before that. [NonDoc]

  • Listen Frontier: Multiple investigations launched into alleged abuse at Oklahoma facility for people with developmental disabilities (audio) [The Frontier]

After Slow Start, Opioid Settlement Money Expected To Flow To Cities and Counties: Money from legal settlements against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers will finally start to trickle out to Oklahoma cities and counties in 2024, almost four years after lawmakers set up a board to administer the funds. [Oklahoma Watch]

Patients of color more often brace for unfair treatment in health care, survey finds: A newly released poll by KFF, a health policy research group, found many patients of color — including 3 in 5 Black respondents — said they feel like they must be very careful about their appearance to be treated fairly at medical visits. That’s similar to the rate for Hispanic and Alaska Native patients — and nearly double the rate for white patients. [AP via Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Parole Board Seeks Stiffer Commutation Requirements: The opportunity incarcerated people have had to earn early release could soon be unavailable to the vast majority of Oklahoma prisoners. The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is considering an administrative rule change that would place several restrictions on when Oklahoma prisoners may seek commutation. [Oklahoma Watch]

Lawton Inmate Dies After Private Prison Staff Refused Care, Lawsuit Claims: Following an inmate’s death, a Department of Corrections investigator recommended manslaughter charges against Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility staff. Almost 10 months after his death, no charges have been filed, spurring Barrientos’ mother to seek justice in court. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa City Council approves $20,000 settlement in civil lawsuit involving two juveniles, police: Tulsa city councilors approved a resolution Wednesday that authorizes a $20,000 payment to settle a civil lawsuit brought on behalf of two Black juveniles following a 2020 encounter with police. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City councilwoman warns commissioner over possible fallout of county jail location: Frustrations tied to the location of a new jail in Oklahoma County boiled over at a recent county commissioners meeting. Residents’ concerns were tied to the possibility of the new jail being located on land near NE 10 and Interstate 35, in a long overlooked and discriminated against part of the city. [The Oklahoman]

Warrant clearance event gives people chances to avoid jail time for simple offenses: People with certain types of warrants in Oklahoma County have an opportunity to take care of them without first being taken to the county’s jail. On Dec. 15, those eligible to be helped at the event include those who face warrants that were issued because of unhandled traffic or misdemeanor complaints or unpaid court-ordered fines or fees. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Post Pandemic Food Insecurity Worsens for Black Americans: An end to government pandemic relief programs has worsened food insecurity and other measures of well-being for thousands of north Tulsans and millions of other Americans. Multiple reports reveal that the fallout is more significant for Black Americans. The end of a variety of temporary relief assistance programs is plunging poor adults and children back into poverty. [Oklahoma Eagle]

Opinion: How can it be that 1 in 5 children don’t always have enough food to eat?: Oklahoma was recently listed as one of the most food-insecure states in the country by the USDA. For thousands of our fellow Oklahomans, this means children and their families don’t always know where their next meal will come from. For even more, a significant gap exists between how much food families can afford to buy and what they need to feed their kids and those they love. [Travis Arnold / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Delaware Nation Industries can see why DNI is a Top Workplace in faces across the office: Delaware Nation Industries and Investments landed at the No. 1 spot, for the second year in a row, among small employers in The Oklahoman’s 2023 Top Workplaces competition. DNI, a federal contractor founded in 2010, specializes in enterprise software, the kind used by organizations rather than individuals. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

State Superintendent Ryan Walters insisting Tulsa conduct national superintendent search: Amid local school board discussions about whether to make Ebony Johnson’s interim role as superintendent a permanent one, the state superintendent wrote the board and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Thursday evening, insisting that a national search be conducted and suggesting he believes Johnson is not bold enough or making aggressive enough decisions. [Tulsa World]

  • Community letter calls on Tulsa Public Schools board to hire Ebony Johnson [Tulsa World]
  • As Walters orders national superintendent search, TPS set to consider Johnson’s status Monday [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • State Monitoring of Tulsa Schools Ratcheted Up With New Expectations [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Opinion: TPS parents anxious, uncertain over upheaval caused by State Superintendent Ryan Walters [Ashley Heider Daly / Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: State Superintendent Ryan Walters insincere about his plan to help Tulsa Public Schools [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Superintendent calls for eliminating ‘woke’ library standards from Oklahoma schools: State Superintendent Ryan Walters proposed new rules Wednesday to eliminate all references to long-held American Library Association guidelines in Oklahoma’s Information Literacy Standards.[KGOU]

Number of college grads not meeting workforce needs: An analysis of employment rates for Oklahoma public college graduates shows most are contributing to the state’s workforce and economy. The percentages are good, but the number of graduates is not keeping up with workforce needs, especially in critical occupations like engineering, nursing and teaching. [Journal Record]

12 candidates vying for Oklahoma City, Tulsa school board seats: Twelve candidates are seeking five school board seats in the state’s two largest school districts next year, drawing contested races across Tulsa and Oklahoma City. [Oklahoma Voice]

Federal grant helps restart University of Tulsa partnership with Kendall-Whittier Elementary: Earlier this fall, the University of Tulsa received a five-year federal grant through the U.S. Department of Education to bring back its after-school Youth Scholars Program at neighboring Kendall-Whittier Elementary School. [Tulsa World]

Tulsans of the Year: The educators who keep students front and center: Stacey Woolley, Rebecka Peterson, Kirt Hartzler, Traci Manuel and Ebony Johnson stood out for standing up for their students and being recognized as some of the best in Oklahoma and the nation. [Tulsa World]

General News

Next steps in Tulsa Race Massacre burial search still undecided: No decision has been made about where or when the city’s search for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre will resume, a city spokeswoman said. The city is awaiting a report from subject matter experts on the search’s latest excavations in Oaklawn Cemetery. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

” Sustained investments in our people and our communities will support existing Oklahoma entrepreneurs, while attracting new business as well. Cutting the income tax — while perhaps politically helpful for some politicians — will not.”

-Emma Morris, OK Policy’s Health Care and Fiscal Policy Analyst, writing about the need to protect state revenue and invest in the programs and services that can help our state thrive. [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


Rate of all children in Oklahoma under age 18 living in families where no parent has regular, full-time employment. [KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

Federal investments in sector-based training can boost workers’ upward mobility: By some metrics, the U.S. labor market recovery has been the envy of the world, with unemployment rates at record lows and workers’ earnings rising at a substantial clip. But these glowing figures mask harsh realities. The low unemployment levels are partially attributable to low labor force participation rates, and even with the income gains, the U.S. has the third-highest share of workers earning low pay among 26 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This prevalence of low-paying work stifles upward economic mobility; nearly 60% of U.S. adults who were socioeconomically disadvantaged in their teens continue to struggle economically at age 30. [Brookings]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.