In The Know: Oklahoma faces $25B in overdue infrastructure repairs amidst calls for tax cuts | Lawmakers consider ban on contraceptives | Living wage remains out of reach for many Oklahomans | 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: Living wage remains out of reach for many Oklahomans: Oklahoma leaders often brag about affordability here, but a closer look shows too many of our friends and neighbors aren’t making a livable wage. This disconnect really shows up when you consider the cost of safe, attainable housing. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

As Gov. Stitt focuses on tax cuts, Oklahoma faces $25 billion in overdue infrastructure repairs: As Gov. Kevin Stitt and House Speaker Charles McCall are focused on cutting taxes during the current legislative session, including the personal income tax, the growing list of state’s crumbling and neglected infrastructure has received barely a mention. Across the state, records at just a handful of state agencies surveyed by The Oklahoman show more than $25 billion is needed to pay for deferred maintenance and failing infrastructure needs. [Oklahoma Voice]

State Government News

Another agency has improved Oklahoma’s credit rating to ‘positive.’ What does that mean?: A third rating agency has improved Oklahoma’s credit rating from “stable” to “positive,” which Gov. Kevin Stitt and state Treasurer Todd Russ said Wednesday is a sign their conservative financial policies are working. That means the bonds are of high quality with a very low credit risk. [The Oklahoman]

Bill increasing distance between schools, jails faces pushback amid Oklahoma County site search: Some Oklahoma County leaders and advocates are speaking out against House Bill 3758 that would double the minimum distance between correctional facilities and schools, arguing it would rule out downtown Oklahoma City as a potential site for a future county jail. Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, said the current downtown location of the Oklahoma County jail is ideal for a jail rebuild because of its proximity to courts, bus stops and rehabilitative services. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Proposed bill could influence where Oklahoma County builds its new jail [The Oklahoman]

‘Let’s get rid of them’: Bill incentivizing Oklahoma schools to go phone-free advances: A bill that would incentivize school districts to ban cell phones on campus got one step closer Tuesday to becoming law, but committee members opposing it say it doesn’t go far enough and shouldn’t come with a price tag. Senate Bill 1314 by Senate Education Committee Chair Adam Pugh would offer districts $100,000 to $1 million dollars, based on enrollment size, to adopt a phone-free campus policy. [KOSU]

Oklahoma House panel advances abortion bill despite questions about impact on contraception: A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including the Republican chair of the House Public Health Committee, expressed concerns that House Bill 3216 from Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, could ban some forms of birth control, such as IUDs. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • More restrictive abortion bills pass through House committees [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma lawmakers consider ban on sharing abortion-inducing medicine [KOSU]

Oklahoma lawmaker wants age checks to shield kids from web porn: A bill that would require people to prove that they’re at least 18 to access sexually explicit content online gained traction at the Oklahoma Capitol on Wednesday. Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, said he authored House Bill 3008 specifically to prevent children from being exposed to pornography. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Use critical-thinking skills when listening to political leaders: The words “diversity, equity and inclusion,” or DEI for short, have recently been used by political figures on both sides of the aisle to shape feelings. Now, these words can and have been politicized by both sides of the political spectrum. An example is “equity” which has been characterized to align with socialism. [Joe Dorman / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Several Oklahoma elected leaders doing the right thing despite pushback from their own political party: Doing what’s right over party politics is what Americans expect of their leaders. It’s refreshing to see lawmakers put aside the political chess game to focus on the hard work of governing. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Two Oklahoma airports among Biden administration picks to receive funding for improvements: The Biden administration will send close to $1 billion to airports across the country to upgrade terminal facilities, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced Thursday. Tulsa International Airport will receive $12.5 million toward a $112.3 million project to construct a new airport control tower. The City of Stillwater will receive $4.5 million toward a $24.7 million project to help pay for the airport’s new terminal at Stillwater Regional Airport. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Muscogee Nation offers EBT amount identical to program Oklahoma turned down: Because Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt opted out of a Summer EBT program to feed children, the Muscogee Nation has decided to give practically identical benefits. [KOSU]

Opinion, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.: Earlier this month, I attended the first day of the Oklahoma Legislature’s 2024 regular session. Unfortunately, in his speech on that day, the Oklahoma governor went out of his way to be divisive and paint a distorted picture of tribal sovereignty as chaos. Yet while the governor attempts to create confusion for political purposes, at Cherokee Nation we see cooperation every day. Those of us living in northeastern Oklahoma, including our many friends in the Oklahoma Legislature, know that Cherokee Nation is a great partner. [Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. / Journal Record]

Health News

Halfway through ‘unwinding,’ Medicaid enrollment is down about 10 million: Oklahoma has dumped 43% of its beneficiaries in the unwinding, renewing coverage for just 34%. About 24% are pending. Halfway through what will be the biggest purge of Medicaid beneficiaries in a one-year span, enrollment in the government-run health insurance program is on track to return to roughly pre-pandemic levels. [Oklahoma Voice]

What to expect from Oklahoma lawmakers on health care in 2024: Abortion restrictions, the ongoing opioid crisis and access to mental health care are in focus this legislative session. StateImpact Oklahoma health reporter Jillian Taylor spoke with managing editor Logan Layden about what to expect from lawmakers in 2024. [StateImpact Oklahoma / KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

These Oklahoma gun shops that sold the most guns used in crime revealed in new list: The federal government has stepped up its scrutiny of gun stores that sell guns used in crimes, with the number of stores singled out more than doubling in the past four years. Which gun stores sell the most crime guns has been kept secret for more than two decades, since 2003 under the George W. Bush administration. But a Freedom of Information Act request from USA TODAY unearthed a glimpse of them. In Oklahoma, 14 gun stores were included in the list, ranging from chain stores to pawn shops. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Bill would let cities remove racially discriminatory covenants from land records: Although a 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision declared such language unconstitutional and unenforceable, many land documents created for older neighborhoods still state that Black people are not allowed to own certain properties. Senate Bill 1617, which advanced out of the Senate General Government Committee, would create a process for city planning commissions to remove racist or discriminatory language from existing subdivision plats. [NonDoc]

Opinion: Oklahoma’s economic future depends on a ready-to-work labor pool: The immediate need for more qualified workers is a significant obstacle to the state’s long-term economic growth and prosperity. Therefore, Oklahoma must focus its resources on developing strategies to address this challenge and ensure ample skilled workers meet the demands of the job market. [Kyle Wray / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

New east Tulsa business incubator: ‘A breath of fresh air for the community’: A ground-breaking for the first business incubator aimed at immigrant communities in the state is set for this summer in the Tulsa Global District. The incubator is being launched by the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County and the George Kaiser Family Foundation. [Tulsa World]

Education News

In spite of Gov. Stitt’s call for ‘flat’ budgets, education leaders are seeking more money: Leaders of state agencies connected with education spent more than two hours defending their budget requests to the Oklahoma Senate’s education budget subcommittee on Wednesday and explaining why they’d asked for funding increases when Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked for flat spending. [The Oklahoman]

General News

A Future Worth Fighting For: With Oklahoma’s statehood, violence and bigotry against minorities continued and worsened in numerous ways. One of the worst occurrences among them, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in the Greenwood District, is a dark stain on our history. However, numerous entities are bringing truth to light and educating the public. [Oklahoma Magazine]

Opinion: American Black experience marked by worst, best of us: Black History Month is a time to reflect on the journey of Black Americans. As a Black man, a father, an elected official and chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, reflecting on where we have been touches every part of my being. [Monroe Nichols / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • New OKC ordinance requires property owners to fix dilapidated outdoor signs [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“ARPA (the federal American Rescue Plan Act) helped us float through the worst of the pandemic years, but also gave lawmakers an artificial sense of security with state revenues. The economic sugar high is coming to an end, and we really do need to think about what our future looks like moving forward.”

– Shiloh Kantz, OK Policy’s Executive Director, commenting on the dangers of reducing state revenue through tax cuts with an uncertain economic future ahead of Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The percentage of renters in the Oklahoma City metro area who are considered cost-burdened, that is they spend 30-50% of their income for rent and utilities. [Joint Center for Housing Studies] | [Report: 2024 America’s Rental Housing]

Policy Note

 Half of American renters pay more than 30% of income on housing, study shows (Video): Rental prices are unaffordable for a record number of Americans with half of all renters paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. [PBS News Hour]

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


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.