In The Know: Oklahoma’s fiscal tightrope | Cutting taxes this year would be short-sighted | Diverse voices make better policy

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

Cutting taxes this year would be short-sighted and harmful: With high state revenues this year, Oklahoma lawmakers have important choices that will undoubtedly impact the state for years — if not decades — to come. State leaders face an important choice: the choice between making a down payment on Oklahoma’s future by investing in needed services, or cutting taxes and, in the process, gambling on the state’s ability to even provide core services in the future. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Diverse voices make better policy: As a woman working in public policy (a field predominantly populated by men), I often look around the room without seeing anyone seated at the decision-making table who either looks like me or shares my life experiences. While it may be something that I’m accustomed to, I believe our state laws and policies would be better served if we had more diversity – by gender, demographics, and life experiences – among those who serve in public office or in policymaking positions. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Panelists: Oklahoma Legislature faces fiscal tightrope in election year:  This year, the Oklahoma Legislature is flush with money to spend on priorities like teacher pay, investment in workforce development and infrastructure improvements. But managing appropriations can be a challenge in an election year, when several lawmakers become more focused on passing bills that will serve as campaign advertisements. [The Journal Record

Lawmakers Again Stifle Debate on Applying Open Records Law to Themselves: Lawmakers’ emails to lobbyists, calendars, call logs and other records that could give the public insight into the bills they craft are set to remain secret for at least another year. A bill that would’ve ended Oklahoma’s status as one of a handful of states that allows the legislature to exempt itself from open records and meeting laws quietly, and with little fanfare, failed to clear a key legislative deadline. [Oklahoma Watch

  • Cities and state agencies push back against Oklahoma open records law [The Frontier
  • (Audio) Long Story Short: Legislators’ Transparency Exemption, Lethal Injection Secrets, State Auditor Perspective [Oklahoma Watch

What does school choice look like in rural Oklahoma?: School choice was just about the last thing on Nash Williamson’s mind. It’s a hot button issue in Oklahoma City – where he was visiting to participate in the Oklahoma Youth Expo – a livestock show – at the State Fairgrounds.  Though homeschooling appeals to some, it didn’t to the Williamsons. There are very few private school options and they don’t have athletics and ag offerings like at Sulphur. They never thought of looking beyond public schools. [State Impact Oklahoma

State Government News

Lawmaker’s plan would use tax revenue to fund free menstrual products: Rather than eliminating the sales tax on menstrual products like many other states, a Duncan lawmaker is proposing a first-of-its-kind approach to tackle period poverty. [Stillwater News Press

Tribal Nations News

Congress extends reach of tribal courts over sex assault, trafficking cases: Tribal courts can now prosecute all people accused of sexually assaulting and trafficking Native Americans on tribal lands. They can also try non-Native defendants charged with abusing Native children, stalking Native people, obstructing justice and assaulting tribal police. [The Oklahoman

Hearing set for arguments on Oklahoma appeal in McGirt case: The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for April 27 in an appeal by the state of Oklahoma in what is known as the McGirt ruling. [Tulsa World

Cherokee and Choctaw nations on opposite sides over final Arkansas casino: When Arkansas voters approved casino gaming in 2018, Oklahoma’s two largest tribal nations saw a way to bring in more money for government projects like hospitals and roads. They also saw a looming threat to the bottom lines of their existing casinos. The Cherokee and Choctaw nations border Arkansas, and each operates a casino resort near Fort Smith. [The Oklahoman

Health News

OSDE Creates New Division To Help Students With Mental Health: State lawmakers and education leaders are developing new ways to keep Oklahoma students safe and healthy. They have now dedicated a division of the State Department of Education to providing support for students. [News On 6

Criminal Justice News

Imposters posing as law enforcement officers raid Oklahoma marijuana grow operations: When someone claiming to be an official with the “Oklahoma Marijuana Board” showed up at a Hughes County grow operation demanding payment for a code violation alongside what appeared to be other Oklahoma law enforcement agents, something didn’t seem right. [The Oklahoman

Opinion: Oklahoma needs an innocence commission: In 1988, Perry Lott was convicted of a rape and home invasion in Ada and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. Thirty years later, in July 2018, after DNA evidence pointing to another man emerged, Lott walked out of a Pontotoc County courtroom a free man. Well, sort of. Despite the evidence of his innocence, Lott will be a convicted rapist for the rest of his days, ineligible for any compensation from the state of Oklahoma for his wrongful conviction. [Opinion / NonDoc

Economic Opportunity

Women’s Business Center opens in Greenwood: The new Greenwood Women’s Business Center opened its doors at 102 N. Greenwood Ave. on Wednesday with the aim of turning dreams into successful businesses. Local, national and federal government administrators who helped make the center a reality said it was only fitting that it be located in Tulsa’s historic Greenwood District – dubbed Black Wall Street for its history as an economic powerhouse a century ago. [The Journal Record

Economy & Business News

Local farmers started selling online during the pandemic. That trend is here to stay: Just as consumers turned to online shopping during the pandemic, many farmers started selling their products online over the past two years. [KOSU

Education News

Oklahoma teachers struggle amid rise in healthcare costs: 2021 was a pivotal year for funding education in Oklahoma, going from $2.4 billion in 2018 to $3.2 billion for fiscal year 2022. Those efforts did not go unnoticed by educators across the state. But skyrocketing health care costs, taking a large sum of a teacher’s paycheck if they cover their spouse and dependents. [KSWO

Facing football hazing lawsuit, Kingfisher School Board rejects $1.5 million settlement offer: Following a two-hour executive session where dozens of community members waited in the high school cafeteria, the Kingfisher Public Schools Board voted unanimously to reject a proposed $1.5 million offer to settle an anonymous lawsuit alleging “hazing that rose to a level of torture” within the Kingfisher High School football program. [NonDoc

Thunder Fellows program teaching tech skills, revealing possibilities to Oklahoma teens: Quincy Brown is a hooper. He’s known the basketball court his whole life.  MaKaria Wilson is very much not. Basketball isn’t her speed. But the two Tulsa ninth graders share a passion for science and math. That interest brought them and two dozen other Black ninth and 10th graders from the Tulsa area to the Thunder Fellows program. [The Oklahoman

Quote of the Day

“You know it’s a lot easier to operate in secret. It’s easier to have your backroom deals or work out deals in the hallway instead of having real discussion in front of the public or letting the public see your written correspondence to lobbyists and other lawmakers.”

-Joey Senat, an open government and media law expert at Oklahoma State University, speaking about Oklahoma’s provisions that allow the state legislature to exempt itself from open records and meeting laws [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day

Less than 10%

Oklahoma’s current estimated uninsured rate after implementing Medicaid expansion, which brought down the state’s uninsured rate from 14.5 percent in 2020. [OK Policy

Policy Note

The Risk of Coverage Loss for Medicaid Beneficiaries as the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Ends: States are required to keep people enrolled in Medicaid throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) as a condition of receiving a temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid costs. When the PHE ends, the enhanced federal funding will end and states will resume administering renewals for Medicaid eligibility, some of which have been pending for more than 16 months. [Commonwealth Fund]

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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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