In The Know: Panasonic chooses Kansas for battery plant | Epic pays $500K lawsuit sanction | SQ 781 funding can help Oklahoma’s well-being

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: Oklahomans deserve overdue investments in well-being: The pandemic has brought to the forefront the importance of addressing mental health and ensuring increased access to care for Oklahomans in need. One of the biggest opportunities for Oklahoma to shore up support in this area can come from the Legislature following through with funding community-level services for mental health and substance abuse disorders that voters approved in 2016. [Shiloh Kantz / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Panasonic chooses Kansas for $4B EV battery plant: Project Ocean, the name given to the plan to lure Panasonic to Oklahoma with nearly $1 billion in tax incentives and infrastructure upgrades, was scuttled on Wednesday as Kansas declared it had won over the manufacturer. [Journal Record]

  • Kansas selected for battery plant, Panasonic purportedly considering Oklahoma for second factory:  [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma loses Panasonic factory to Kansas [The Oklahoman]
  • State leaders, groups react to Oklahoma losing Panasonic deal to Kansas [KOKH]

Epic governing board issues apology, payment of Anti-SLAPP judgment to former state senator: The governing board for Epic Charter School voted unanimously on Wednesday to pay out more than a half-million dollars in court-ordered sanctions to a former state senator who was targeted in a lawsuit for publicly questioning the administrative practices of the school’s ousted and recently indicted co-founders. [Tulsa World]

  • Epic board approves payment to former Sen. Ron Sharp [NonDoc]
  • Epic Charter School: Merger creates new name for Oklahoma’s biggest school system [The Oklahoman]

Does the Oklahoma Constitution protect against abortion rights? Providers say yes: With the federal right to abortion struck down last month by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Supreme Court may now determine whether the state constitution provides a fundamental right to terminate a pregnancy. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Lankford introduces bill to start child support payments at conception: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) joined several other Republican senators to introduce the Unborn Child Support Act. The act gives mothers the option to receive child support payments from the moment of their child’s conception. [KFOR]

Bice introduces bill to improve National Mesonet: Supporter say the legislation would increase the overall coverage and accuracy of the current Mesonet program, which provides reliable, real-time data to help enhance prediction, preparedness, and response strategies for severe weather events. Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced The National Mesonet Authorization Act. [KFOR]

Voting and Election News

Kevin Calvey still in runoff in Oklahoma County DA race after recount: A hand recount of the nearly 58,000 ballots cast in Oklahoma County in the Republican primary election ended at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday, sooner than expected. In the end, Kevin Calvey remains in a runoff with Gayland Gieger in the race for Oklahoma County district attorney. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Two Rogers County prosecutors suspended after allegedly watching jury deliberate: In a Tuesday letter addressed to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor, Rogers County District Attorney Matt Ballard wrote that an internal investigation into Assistant District Attorneys Isaac Shields and George Gibbs Jr. confirmed that the two — among unspecified “others” — watched a jury deliberate via a security camera feed. [Tulsa World]

Former assistant district attorney pleads guilty in sex-for-court-favors case: A former assistant district attorney in northeastern Oklahoma pleaded guilty to charges in Tulsa federal court Wednesday, less than three months after his arrest on allegations that he traded court favors for sex. [Tulsa World]

Assistant Oklahoma solicitor general arrested after Broken Arrow police chase, crashes: An assistant solicitor general for the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office and University of Tulsa adjunct professor was arrested in Broken Arrow on Tuesday after a police pursuit following a hit-and-run collision. Two pedestrians, including a police officer, were hit by her car as she tried to get away, police said. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers receive active shooter response training: Members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol have taken their first steps toward complying with Governor Stitt’s Executive Order, Mission: Secure Oklahoma Schools. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

Record-breaking drought worsens crop harvest for Oklahoma farmers: Farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma are struggling after a historic month of heightened drought conditions this summer. Meteorologists said Monday the 30 days from June 11 to July 10 were the driest Oklahoma weather has been for that time period in 100 years. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma home insurance rates hit hard by inflation, company finds: While Americans from coast to coast have had to deal with persistent inflation over the past year that has caused prices of everything from kids’ toys to car tires to rise by at least 8.6%, home insurance policy holders have been hurt even more by rising costs, according to industry analysts at Policygenius. Oklahomans have been affected more than most, the company said in a report this week. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Following 3-member walkout Monday, Tulsa school board to reconsider 14 items today: Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education will take a second look Thursday afternoon at 14 items that did not pass at Monday night’s regular meeting, thus leaving many of the district’s operations in limbo. The items were all originally on Monday’s consent agenda but did not receive the required majority of votes needed to pass. [Tulsa World]

  • 17 former Tulsa school board members issue public call for return to focus on students [Tulsa World]
  • Former TPS board members calling for refocus on students [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Education Department asks judge to remove, fine Western Heights board president: State officials have asked a judge to remove the president of the Western Heights Board of Education for failing to address an annual school district audit. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma rises to lead states in aerospace education: Numbers of Oklahoma schools taking part in “You Can Fly” programs have taken off, earning the state a top ranking in education designed to lift aerospace, state leaders boasted Tuesday. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma school district uses a $10,000 housing stipend to draw in potential teachers: Muskogee Public Schools has 21 teaching vacancies heading into fall 2022. The district is getting creative in its efforts to fill them: Offering a $10,000 housing stipend to buy a home or build a new one within Muskogee City Limits. [KGOU]

Oklahoma Local News

Descendants of possible Tulsa massacre victims can give DNA: People who believe they are descendants of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre can now provide genetic material to help scientists when they begin trying to identify remains of possible victims. [The Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“We set aside more than $700 million in an attempt to lure a billion-dollar company to Oklahoma. That attempt was unsuccessful. Now it’s time to look back into Oklahoma, at the families struggling to overcome global inflation, and provide immediate relief to our workforce.”

-House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaking about Oklahoma’s bid to land a Panasonic manufacturing plant [Fox25]

Number of the Day

$10.6 million

Calculated state savings in FY2020 from criminal justice reform measures that reclassified simple drug possession and many low-level property crimes as misdemeanors rather than felonies as a result of SQ 780. [Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services]

From OK Policy: Voters in 2016 approved SQ 781, which directed the state to reinvest the savings from SQ 780’s reform efforts into community-level mental health and substance use disorder treatments. In the five state budgets passed since SQ 780 was enacted, the legislature has failed to allocate SQ 781 funding. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

Voters still waiting for SQ 781’s investments in mental health, substance use disorders: Oklahoma’s justice reform movement has made significant headway toward reducing the state’s incarceration rate over the last several years. Voters kick-started this progress with the passage of State Question 780, a ballot referendum resoundingly approved in 2016. This measure had  an immediate impact on reducing the flow of people into prisons for minor drug and property offenses. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy Archive]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.

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