In The Know: Oklahoma and Kansas compete | Attorney General and Swadley’s probe | Transparency of state contracts | More

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

Policy Matters: Imagine what we could accomplish: Like many Oklahomans, I was surprised at the breakneck speed with which Gov. Stitt this week introduced and gained enormous momentum for new legislation that would provide $700 million of incentives to woo a potential manufacturer to our state. Setting the merits of such legislation aside, it was a bit of cognitive dissonance to hear officials making the case for such a major expenditure when fiscal debate this session has centered around cutting taxes – and therefore reducing the amount of state revenue available to address our state’s needs. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma and Kansas state governments compete to court a mystery fortune 500 company: Thursday, the Oklahoma Senate will have the opportunity to vote on a nearly 700 million dollar incentive package to bring a fortune 500 company to Oklahoma. “We are talking about tens of billions of dollars of revenue that would be coming to our state over the next 10 to 15, 20 years and what we would be doing is returning a portion of that to them,” said Executive Director of the Department of Commerce Brent Kisling. [FOX 23]

Oklahoma Attorney General says he’s staying out of the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom probe: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, who is the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, said he hadn’t reviewed Foggy Bottom’s contract and is waiting for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to finish looking into the matter. [The Frontier

  • State auditor says investigative audit into Swadley’s deal will begin ‘very soon’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill to improve transparency of state contracts heads to governor’s desk: The Oklahoma State Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would provide more transparency of state service contracts. House Bill 3484 would require state agencies accepting a service contract, whether bid or not, to list the city, state, and country in which the services will be provided. [KFOR

State Government News

Bill moves forward to change Oklahoma Health Commissioner requirements: During the pandemic we heard a lot from Oklahoma State Department of Health officials. Now, a bill is on the way to change the State Health Commissioner’s qualifications. Supporters of SB 709 say changing the qualifications widens the pool of candidates. Those opposed say it gives the Oklahoma Governor to many loopholes to name someone that’s not qualified. [KFOR]

Oklahoma lawmakers advance bill requiring insurance coverage of diagnostic mammograms: A bill that would require insurance companies to cover diagnostic mammograms is one step closer to becoming Oklahoma law. The Senate approved House Bill 3504 on Wednesday, with a 38-4 vote on the floor. [KFOR] House Bill 3504 principal authors, Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, and Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, said this coverage would save lives. [The Lawton Constitution]

988 Mental Health Lifeline on track, call center vendor selected: The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) is gearing up for the arrival of the new 988 Mental Health Lifeline this summer and has selected Solari Crisis & Human Services as the vendor to operate the statewide call center. [The Oklahoma 100]

OTA Audit requested: Oklahoma Senator Mary Boren, D-Norman, has drafted a resolution to demand a performance audit of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. The OTA announced in February that it will expand the state’s turnpike system across the state including two new toll roads in Norman — one to connect Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City along Indian Hills Road and a second to extend the Kickapoo Turnpike south from Interstate 40 through east Norman, west of Lake Thunderbird to Purcell. [The Norman Transcript]

Federal Government News

Will Rogers ’embraces’ lifting of mask mandate, flight staff rejoice: Passengers and airline employees at Will Rogers World Airport were able to travel without masks for the first time in over a year after a ruling by a Florida judge struck down the national mandate Monday. [The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

Court: McGirt decision doesn’t justify fine, fee refunds: Less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, some members of the Cherokee Nation filed a civil lawsuit in an attempt to recover money they had paid in fines and fees to municipalities throughout eastern Oklahoma. [The Journal Record] The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied relief on Tuesday for members of the Cherokee Nation who alleged certain municipalities and the state were “unjustly enriched” when they collected fines and fees levied against defendants whose state prosecutions would be impossible following the McGirt decision. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Tulsa can keep ticketing Native Americans, federal judge rules: A federal judge ruled the city of Tulsa still has jurisdiction over Native Americans, despite the landmark Supreme Court decision that found the Muscogee reservation exists — and covers much of Tulsa. [The Oklahoman

Cherokee Nation partners with National Park Service to protect access to traditional plants: While signing an agreement with the U.S. government to let Cherokee citizens gather plants from a federal park, the tribe will also dedicate nearly 1,000 acres of its own land for “culturally significant plants,” officials announced Wednesday. [Tulsa World

  • New agreement will allow Cherokee Nation citizens to gather plants in national park [The Oklahoman
  • Ahead of Earth Day, Cherokee Nation announces actions meant to protect traditional plants [Public Radio Tulsa

Earth Day across Indian Country: Being stewards of the land, every day is Earth day for Indigenous people across Indian Country and beyond. With the official holiday coming Friday, April 22, tribes and Native organizations across the country are holding events to celebrate. Some events are virtual, others are back to being in person; the following are some of the events taking place. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

(Audio) Long Story Short: Election season has begun, but where’s all the races?: Oklahoma Watch’s Paul Monies highlights interesting state races headed for the 2022 ballot, Trevor Brown examines the lack of candidates, and Keaton Ross discusses big pay raises for state prison guards. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma marijuana legalization questions heading to ballot: Plans to fully legalize marijuana can proceed to the signature-gathering stage, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled, paving the way for two more cannabis plans seeking voter approval. [AP News]

Madison Horn runs for US Senate against Lankford to “give people hope”: Madison Horn carried her laptop to a desk in the corner of her Oklahoma City apartment as the Zoom video turned on. Just a day after filing to run for the US Senate as a Democrat, her home was now a mini campaign basecamp. [The Black Wall Street Times

Hasenbeck challenges candidacy of opponent: Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, has challenged the candidacy of Marlow Democrat Jennifer Kerstetter, one of the challenges that will be settled by the Oklahoma State Election Board during hearings scheduled for Monday. The challenges come after last week’s fling period for county, state, federal and judicial offices. [The Lawton Constitution]

Health News

Environmental groups sue the EPA to enforce air quality laws in Oklahoma, Missouri and several other states: Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska are among dozens of states that have yet to submit plans for improving air quality in protected areas. Environmental nonprofits are suing the EPA to compel the agency to take action. [KOSU

Burdens of child abuse, neglect symbolized at Oklahoma Capitol: A field of flags and ceremony planned at the Oklahoma Capitol on Thursday will be reminders of countless children who suffer abuse and neglect and of the tremendous costs of child maltreatment borne by all Oklahomans. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa police officer arrested in child abuse investigation by Muscogee Nation: A Tulsa police officer has been arrested by the Muscogee Nation on a charge of child abuse, the Tulsa Police Department said in a news release. Michael Bell, who has been an officer since 2019, is being investigated by the Muscogee Nation after an alleged incident that occurred while he was off-duty in Jenks, police said. [Tulsa World

Maintenance plan for new Oklahoma County Jail remains unclear: If Oklahoma County residents approve a $260 million bond proposal in the June 28 election, the push to build a new county jail will clear a major hurdle. But even if that facility is eventually built, there could be plenty of problems ahead. [NonDoc

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma sees shift to diversified energy sources: Oklahoma will always love its oil and gas industry, say state officials, but they also are working to explore renewable energy sources and other industries to diversify the state’s economy. The transition away from a heavy reliance on oil and gas revenues poses both economic and cultural challenges for state leaders. [The Journal Record

Striking gold in the green rush: entrepreneurs tap into Oklahoma’s weed economy: It started with a smoke shop. It’s now a multi-level, vertically integrated company making a name for itself in the brave new frontier of Oklahoma’s cannabis industry. Arshad Lasi is the 23-year-old CEO of The Nirvana Group, a cannabis company that employs about 150 people and features five dispensaries, two distribution facilities, three manufacturing facilities and a farm with 7,000 square feet of cultivation. [State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City businesses, nonprofits eligible for new round of COVID-19 relief funding: Now, a new round of funding is available through the American Rescue Plan Act, distributed by the Alliance, and focuses on minority-owned and low-income neighborhood businesses. [The Oklahoman

Education News

Ginnie Graham: Superintendent exodus from public schools on the horizon: An overlooked side effect of the pandemic and ramped up anti-public education rhetoric is a possible mass exodus of superintendents. Critics of administrators may take this as a good sign. It’s not. [Column / Tulsa World

Editorial: TCC concurrent enrollment program expansion benefits future workforce: The Tulsa Community College expansion of one its dual credit programs makes earning a college degree a greater possibility for many Oklahomans. High School Plus One, which offers 31 hours of college credit, will become available to eligible high school juniors and seniors throughout Oklahoma beginning in the fall. [Editorial / Tulsa World

UCO receives $100,000 endowment for new teacher initiative: The University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies recently received a $100,000 endowment from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma to launch the Masonic Rural TeacherPath Initiative. [The Oklahoman

General News

Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women honors OSU President Dr. Kayse Shrum, Ag Secretary Blayne Arthur: Oklahoma State University president Kayse Shrum will be inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame April 29. At the same ceremony, Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture and Payne County resident Blayne Arthur will be presented with the Kate Barnard award for public service. [Stillwater News Press]

Oklahoma Local News

Bynum’s FY 2023 budget includes funding for police Real Time Information Center, city employee salary, benefit increases: The fiscal year 2023 budget Mayor G.T. Bynum presented to the City Council on Wednesday reflected the strange times we’re living in. Thanks to inflation and an economy surging out of the pandemic, the city — which lives off sales and use tax collections — has more money to spend than usual. But with that has come rising costs. [Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“It’s a nationwide problem, not just here in Sequoyah County. We don’t have enough beds in Oklahoma or the surrounding states. It’s a problem everywhere.”

– Lindsie Dyer, Youth and Family Services Counselor for People Inc. of Sallisaw, describing how mental health issues among children are a growing concern since the start of the COVID pandemic [Sequoyah County Times]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s Department of Veterans Affairs has seen a 35 percent cut since 2009

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New from OK Policy: Under HB 3350, the majority of the benefit would go to the richest Oklahomans and leave the state scrounging for revenue to provide services that support us all.

Policy Note

States Are Cutting Taxes. Can They Afford It? Revenues are robust enough to allow for increased spending, and tax cuts on top of it. But good times never last forever. Some fiscal experts are worried that states are setting themselves up for a fall. To a large extent, states are flush due to influxes of money that won’t be repeated. [Governing]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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