In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers call special budget session | What’s in the ‘landmark’ education package? | Policy Matters: Everyday Oklahomans still waiting for inflation relief

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: Everyday Oklahomans still waiting for inflation relief: Now that the months-long legislative impasse about an education plan appears to have cleared, lawmakers are completing the state budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts 44 days from today. Before the session started, elected officials said they were focused on providing inflation relief to Oklahomans, but the education plans and private school vouchers/tax credits have distracted legislative leadership from moving forward with that relief for residents who need it most. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Education Watch: What’s Included in the Education Funding Package: Following Monday’s announcement that the House, Senate and governor have agreed on an education funding plan, legislation is moving swiftly to implement each component. The package includes $785 million in new funding for teacher raises, schools and other programs. It’s tied to a refundable tax credit for parents who pay for private school or homeschool with questionable oversight. The tax credit bill has been approved by both chambers but has been held over as leverage in the negotiations. On Monday, House Speaker Charles McCall said he’d release it to the governor’s desk now that an agreement was reached. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Legislature advances education, ARPA bills [Tulsa World]

Five big budget questions linger for legislative leaders: With tumultuous education negotiations behind them, leaders of the Oklahoma Legislature have now turned their attention to hashing out other high-price decisions for the state. Several items are on the table, including tax reform, economic development, a new program to incentivize affordable housing, targeted transportation projects, and a potential new fund for the investment benefit of the state of Oklahoma. Earlier this week, lawmakers announced a concurrent special session aimed at providing additional time to finalize the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. [NonDoc]

State Government News

New law clarifies fentanyl test strips are legal in Oklahoma: Oklahoma lawmakers recently passed a bill that ensured fentanyl test strips wouldn’t be considered drug paraphernalia. The effort is meant to curtail the sudden spike in fentanyl-related deaths. [KOSU]

  • New law makes it clear: fentanyl test strips are legal in Oklahoma [KGOU]

How Oklahoma Democrats convinced Republicans to reject expansion of state police power: One of the rarest occurrences in legislative politics happened Tuesday when the Oklahoma House agreed with Democrats after a floor debate over public safety legislation. Bills usually only hit the floor if there are enough votes to pass. And because lawmakers already have decided how to vote by that point, floor debates are less about convincing peers to vote one way or the other and more about publicly stating opinions. [The Oklahoman]

Turnpike authority loses bond adviser after Oklahoma’s blacklist of financial institutions: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, already hit with numerous delays in launching its ACCESS Oklahoma expansion, is starting with a new bond adviser after being notified by Wells Fargo the company was resigning in response to the state’s blacklist of national financial institutions. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma lawmakers consider sweeping extension of tobacco, fuels compacts with tribes: Oklahoma lawmakers have launched a ninth-inning effort to extend cigarette and gas compacts with tribal nations for five years. The move could block Gov. Kevin Stitt from renegotiating the deals during his remaining time in office. Stitt has been a vocal critic of other state-tribal agreements, such as compacts that cover gaming and hunting. [The Oklahoman]

Comanche Nation Housing Authority Testifies at House of Representatives Committee Hearing: Comanche Nation Housing Authority’s (CNHA) Executive Director Russell Sossamon testified before Congress to address the housing issues that face Native Americans in Southwest Oklahoma. Sossamon provided direct dialogue to Congressman Tom Cole, drawing attention to the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG)’s scoring and funding regulations. [Native Oklahoma]

‘People need to know the history’: Osage citizens excited, nervous as ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ hits the big screen: The film Killers of the Flower Moon will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival Saturday in France. Osage citizens say they are anxious and hopeful that the movie sheds light on one of the worst chapters in the tribal nation’s history. [KOSU]

Health News

Tulsa Activists Hold Discussion About Recent Law Banning Gender Affirming Care for Minors: Activists in Tulsa held a roundtable discussion Tuesday to talk about the impact of the recent ban of gender affirming care for children under 18. The law also says doctors who provide these services could face felony charges. The activists said Oklahoma doesn’t allow public comment when bills are going through the state legislature, so this was a chance for their voices to be heard. [News On 6]

Criminal Justice News

Jailers Neglected Safety Checks Days Before Norman Woman’s Death: Cleveland County detention officers failed to perform required safety checks on detainees in critical care the same month two women died waiting for mental health evaluations in the jail, a health inspector found. [Oklahoma Watch]

Preliminary hearing date set for criminal case against Epic Charter Schools co-founders, former CFO: The criminal case filed against Epic Charter Schools’ co-founders and former Chief Financial Officer is now set to move forward. Epic Charter Schools founders David Chaney, Ben Harris and former Chief Financial Officer Josh Brock face an array of charges, including racketeering and embezzlement of state funds. [KFOR]

  • Epic Charter School: Tulsa World reporting and investigating since 2019 [Tulsa World]

Oklahoman charged over US Capitol breach tried an ‘I was praying’ defense. It didn’t work: An electrical contractor from Oklahoma claimed all along that he was not protesting when he went inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. Anthony Alfred Griffith Sr. said he instead was following God’s will and praying for the unborn. On Tuesday, a judge rejected his “prayer” defense. Griffith is one of 10 Oklahomans who have been charged so far as a result of the investigation of the riot. He is the first one to take his case to trial. [The Oklahoman]

Podcast: Long Story Short: Why Sexual Abuse Allegations at a Women’s Prison Went Nowhere: Ashlynd Huffman covers criminal justice for Oklahoma Watch. She reports on sexual assault allegations made by an Oklahoma Department of Corrections psychologist. [Long Story Short / Oklahoma Watch]

Former Oklahoma State University researcher sentenced in fraud case: In Oklahoma City federal court, Daniel Webster Keogh, 52, the former contract operator of university-owned OSU-Multispectral Laboratories, was ordered to serve 180 days of home confinement and pay back more than $3 million after pleading guilty to making false statements to obtain a federally backed loan from First Pryority Bank, and transferring federal funds without authorization. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Why business leaders are showing interest in Oklahoma’s death penalty: May 18 was Richard Glossip’s ninth scheduled execution date for a crime he did not commit. Sadly, Glossip’s story may not be an outlier. For every 11 people Oklahoma has executed since 1976, one person has been exonerated. It’s a stunning rate of error, the highest in the nation. [Sir Richard Branson Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Tulsa faces reckoning over historical racism: As the country has been reckoning with questions of race, justice and equality, many state legislatures have passed laws restricting how American history, particularly around the issue of race, can be taught in schools. Judy Woodruff visited her native Tulsa, Oklahoma, to see how that city, amid its own reckoning, is navigating this moment. It’s her latest installment of America at a Crossroads. [PBS NewsHour]

General News

Asian Chamber marks Advocacy, Entrepreneurship Day at Oklahoma Capitol: Representatives of Asian businesses, other professionals and state lawmakers gathered on the second floor of the state Capitol on Wednesday for the Greater Oklahoma City Asian Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Advocacy and Entrepreneurship Day. [Journal Record]

Black Wall Street Legacy Fest is back to honor Greenwood: The Black Wall Street Legacy Fest is pleased to announce its 2023 commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and celebrate the resilience, excellence, and spirit of its entrepreneurship that is the historic Greenwood community. This survivors, descendant, and community-led event will take place on Memorial Day weekend, Friday, May 26, to Thursday, June 1st, on Greenwood Ave. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Local teens invited to launch experiment into space: The teens, all apprentices at Oklahoma City’s Science Museum Oklahoma, were chosen recently to take part in the Cubes in Space program supported by NASA. Their idea to utilize the minuscule room available within a 4-centimeter cube to test how electronics in a cellphone might hold up when exposed to radiation in space apparently piqued the curiosity of mission planners. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Legal Aid is offering attorney help to renters facing eviction in two OKC ZIP codes [The Oklahoman]
  • City’s plans for recreation in the new Zink Lake questioned [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The governor’s very interested in tax cuts. I’m interested in a balanced budget that makes sure we are able to take care of the future. Some of our caucus members are interested in it, but I think as a whole we are interested to make sure we take care of the people of Oklahoma.”

– Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, recommending caution on sweeping tax cuts that could put Oklahoma’s future revenue in jeopardy. [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


If Oklahoma increased the Sales Tax Relief Credit to $200 per person, 85% of the tax benefit would go to residents making less than $43,000 annually. Increasing the Sales Tax Relief Credit would deliver targeted inflation relief to more than 576,000 households, more than half of which include seniors. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

Taking Medicaid Away for Not Meeting a Work-Reporting Requirement Would Keep People From Health Care: Adding new work-reporting requirements to Medicaid would cause many low-income adults to lose coverage due to bureaucratic hurdles that don’t reflect the complexity of people’s circumstances, as failed experiments in several states show. These requirements would leave people without the health care they need, including life-saving medications, treatment to manage chronic conditions, and care for acute illnesses. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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.

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