In The Know: Petition to raise minimum wage in Oklahoma heads to court | Lawmakers, gov at odds over how much money the state has to spend | Thousands of private school tax credit applications approved

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

Addressing deferred maintenance on Oklahoma’s higher ed campuses (Capitol Update): Today’s deferred maintenance for higher education facilities exists largely because, with paltry legislative appropriations to higher education in recent years, only around 4 percent of the college and university budgets have been allocated for maintenance. As recently as 2016 to 2018, for example, higher education appropriations were cut by $250 million. With the limited appropriations, higher education administrators prioritized teaching and research over maintaining physical facilities. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

A petition to raise Oklahoma’s minimum wage to $15 is under scrutiny: What we know: Oklahomans haven’t seen an increase in minimum wage in more than 14 years, but supporters of an increase hope to change that by taking the matter to the voters. A petition to put State Question 832 on the ballot and raise minimum wage gradually was filed with the secretary of state’s office on Oct. 27. After challenges to it, the petition will go in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court at a hearing Jan. 31. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers, Gov. Stitt at odds over how much money the state has to spend: Depending on whose numbers you believe, the state has either half a billion dollars in extra funds or only a paltry $250 million extra to spend for the next fiscal year. [The Oklahoman]

Thousands of Oklahoma private school tax credit applications approved: The Oklahoma Tax Commission has approved thousands of applications for new private school tax credits. The amount approved is about $70 million in total tax credits. That’s nearly half of the $150 million lawmakers earmarked for the first year of the program. [Oklahoma Voice]

Discrepancies found in OK teacher signing bonus information provided by OSDE: State Superintendent Ryan Walters provided Republican lawmakers with copies of teacher applications after being subpoenaed, but two of the numbers provided are now raising questions. [KFOR]

Opinion: Ten Commandments, tax cuts typical talk for GOP: ‘Tis the Silly Season, the annual legislative session runup replete with headline-grabbing Culture War proposals and behind-the-scenes wrangling over serious public policy aimed at determining this year’s winners and losers. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Catholic Church seeks ‘honest assessment’ of Indigenous boarding schools: An oral historian has begun conducting interviews with people whose family histories are intertwined with Oklahoma Catholic boarding schools for Native Americans. Through the project, Oklahoma Catholic leaders said they hoped to gain an honest assessment of the history and legacy of boarding schools for Native Americans that were operated by the church from 1880 to 1965. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation steps up for kids as state rejects summer food: The Cherokee Nation announced Wednesday it would open eligibility for its federally funded summer food program to all low-income children who reside within its reservation boundaries, regardless of tribal affiliation. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Health News

Oklahoma attorney general considers lawsuit over insulin pricing concerns: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office is considering legal action against drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers, alleging wrongful conduct that resulted in artificially increased prices for insulin. [Oklahoma Voice]

OHS announces incentives for providers serving Oklahomans with disabilities: Oklahoma Human Services (OHS) is working with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to provide up to $3,000 in incentives to new and existing direct support professionals through its new program DSP+, launching Feb. 1. [KGOU]

Does calling 988 actually trigger more calls for police? What to know about the rumor: Since July 2022, Oklahoma’s 988 line has received over 65,000 calls, according to Bonnie Campo, senior director of public relations of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Campo said while less than 2% of callers require connection to emergency services, like 911, most people seeking help from the Lifeline don’t need the help of first responders. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Precedential prosecution: How Brayden Bull ended up in federal, state and tribal courts: The Rogers County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant and arrested Brayden Kent Bull on Nov. 18, 2021, for possession of child pornography. Since then, three different governments have filed criminal cases against him, more than 10 different judges have heard parts of the cases, and two years later he still has multiple pending court dates. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma’s next lethal injection delayed for 100 days for competency hearing: The lethal injection of an Oklahoma man scheduled to be executed next month has been paused for 100 days so that a hearing can be held to determine if he’s mentally competent enough to be executed. [AP via Public Radio Tulsa]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Emergency rules for affordable housing program await Gov. Stitt’s OK: The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency has approved emergency rules for the Oklahoma Housing Stability Program, and now the rules are waiting for approval from the governor. The emergency rules were sent Dec. 20 to Gov. Kevin Stitt. If he takes no action within 45 days, OHFA officials will have to go through the regular, significantly longer rulemaking process to get the program off the ground. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma moves up to 30th in economic competitiveness, State Chamber official says: Oklahoma moved up nine spots from 39th a year ago to 30th in the nation for economic competitiveness, the head of the State Chamber’s research arm said Thursday. The 2024 Oklahoma Scorecard evaluates the state’s competitive position compared to other states across several metrics, including taxes, unemployment rate, labor participation rate and education outcomes. [Tulsa World]

How are Oklahoma’s oil and gas companies faring amid market volatility?: Some Oklahoma energy companies are once again focusing on investor payouts as the number of active drilling rigs fell over the past year. According to Baker Hughes’ North America Rig Count, there are 20% fewer active rigs in the United States compared to a year ago. The market price of crude oil is roughly the same price as this time in 2023. [The Oklahoman]

Labor pains: Workers expect tighter job market, survey finds: Most workers are pessimistic about the job market in 2024, a new survey reveals. The results show 78% of nearly 1,900 U.S.-based workers surveyed expect a recession in the coming year and 69% think competition for jobs will increase. [Journal Record]

Education News

Judge defers OKC private school’s lawsuit against Ryan Walters, Board of Education: An Oklahoma County judge deferred a decision Thursday in a lawsuit filed by a private school arguing that the state Board of Education didn’t have the authority to revoke its accreditation. [The Oklahoman]

Legislator’s bill to require Ten Commandments in Okla. classrooms, Walters voices support: An eastern Oklahoma legislator has filed a bill that would require the Ten Commandments to be shown in all public school classrooms. The bill follows a string of failed attempts over the past 10 years to display the document on public property in the state. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma lawmaker files bill to mandate displaying Ten Commandments in public school classrooms [KGOU]
  • Oklahoma House Bill Proposes Ten Commandments in Classrooms [The Black Wall Street Times]

General News

‘Implied contract’: Balkman boots lawsuit claiming ‘fraud’ under expired Norman, OG&E franchise: An attempted class-action lawsuit accusing OG&E of fraudulent collection of electric utility franchise fees from Norman residents was dismissed today by Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman, who said the Oklahoma Supreme Court addressed such situations in a 1945 case. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • See how designers plan to transform an old Motel 6 into a living space for OKC’s homeless population [The Oklahoman]
  • Homicides significantly down in Tulsa in 2023; police still warn against illegal gun possession [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“When you pull out the one-time expenditures, the state has a little more than $264.7 million in recurring revenue. It’s not as rosy as the governor thinks.”

– Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, contesting the governor’s claim that the state’s current budget surplus stands in the neighborhood of $500 million, a number he has repeatedly used to justify proposed tax cuts. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma City lacks adequate housing for the 44 percent of residents earning below the area median income of $74,400 for an average household, according to a 2021 report. [City of Oklahoma City]

Policy Note

8 Things Your Town Can Do to Add More Housing — Without Spending a Dime (2019): Housing affordability is often treated as a “big city” problem. The reality is that housing affordability is a nationwide issue, affecting big cities, suburbs, and small towns alike. As with transportation, some like to write off housing affordability as a problem of insufficient funding. “If only we spent more money,” the thinking goes, “we could tackle housing affordability.” Indeed, more funding is needed for homeless shelters and housing vouchers for low-income families. But this argument belies two key points: First, we realistically need far more new housing than subsidies could ever possibly provide. Second, policymakers already have a buffet of policies they could adopt that would increase housing affordability and accessibility without spending a dime of taxpayer dollars. If your town is serious about tackling the housing affordability crisis, consider adopting one or more policies. [Strong Towns]

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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.