In The Know: Push to change State Question laws | Trial over state’s execution protocol | Race for newly-vacated Senate seat | 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.

Oklahoma News

Claiming out-of-state influences, Oklahoma looks to clamp down on State Question laws: Several Oklahoma lawmakers are looking to add hurdles for citizen-led groups to pass the type of state questions that legalized medical marijuana, expanded Medicaid and won voter support despite Republican leaders opposition in recent years. More than a dozen bills up for consideration, all authored by GOP legislators, seek to either requirements for citizen-led voter initiatives to get on the ballot or increase the threshold for some of the proposals to pass on election day. [Oklahoma Watch

Federal trial over Oklahoma execution protocol starts Monday, with challengers claiming ‘cruel and unusual punishment’: Several investigations looked into Oklahoma’s botched executions in 2014 and 2015, and with their findings, they offered advice on preventing the same problems in the future. Nearly none of the recommendations targeted the state’s secrecy laws, which allow officials to hide where they get the lethal injection drugs. But critics — including global health scholars, death penalty policy experts and defense attorneys — have been raising concerns about those secrecy laws for years. In October, Oklahoma resumed its lethal injection practice, and state law continued to hide how and where officials bought the drugs. [StateImpact Oklahoma

Rallies for Ukraine held in Tulsa, Oklahoma City; Cherokee chief condemns Russian attack: Dozens rallied in Tulsa and Oklahoma City over the weekend in support of Ukraine, which continues to be under siege by Russian forces seeking to topple its government. In Tulsa, Boston Avenue United Methodist Church held a Sunday evening prayer vigil and rally, with organizers saying they hoped to “bring together all parts of the community who are supporting the Ukrainian people, government, and Ukrainian sovereignty.” [Public Radio Tulsa

  • Russian invasion of Ukraine likely will impact energy costs in Oklahoma [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
  • Economic turmoil felt across US and Oklahoma as Russia, Ukraine crisis unfolds [The Oklahoman
  • Congressmen said U.S. must respond strongly to Russian invasion [The Lawton Constitution]
  • OSU professor says Ukraine unwilling to accept puppet regime, but external pressures needed for Putin withdrawal [Stillwater News Press]
  • Ukraine agreed to peace talks, while Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert [The Black Wall Street Times
  • Bob Doucette: How the Ukraine crisis will hit home [Column / Tulsa World
  • An Oklahoma teacher is giving tips on teaching Ukraine history to high school students [News 9

Contenders for Oklahoma’s open Senate seat face a crowded race: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe officially announced his retirement at a press conference on Friday and endorsed his former chief of staff Luke Holland in the race for his open seat. [The Frontier

  • Luke Holland first out of gate in race to replace Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe [The Oklahoman
  • Mullin announces bid for U.S. Senate seat [Tulsa World
  • (Audio) Capitol Insider: Inhofe retirement likely to set off candidate scramble in 2022 elections [KGOU] | [The Lawton Constitution]
  • Does Holland have a snowball’s chance for the Senate? [NonDoc
  • Mayor Bynum on Inhofe’s seat: ‘I will not be a candidate for anything in 2022’ [Tulsa World

State Government News

GOP leaders say state won’t spend all of its assets: Although the Oklahoma Legislature will have access to more than $10.4 billion for the next fiscal year, the Legislature’s Republican leadership said this week it won’t spend all that money on programs and agencies. [Southwest Ledger]

Report from OK Policy: A Better Path Forward: Oklahoma has cut its taxes and public services too much, and this has created real harms to the health, safety, and prosperity of all Oklahomans. Each year our elected officials and policymakers have fewer dollars to answer today’s needs or to invest in our state’s future success.

Lawmakers look to revamp the way Oklahomans get driver’s licenses, car tags and other state documents: A year from now, if all goes to plan, Oklahomans will no longer go to a tag agent or the Department of Public Service for a driver’s license or a car tag. They’ll go to something called Service Oklahoma. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma Legislature again pushing to protect conversion therapy: A bill to prohibit bans on conversion therapy for LGBTQ individuals was filed in the Oklahoma Legislature this session, and has since passed through the State Powers Committee. Conversion therapy is an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Proposed bill would allow guns at Oklahoma State Fair, some local government buildings: A proposed bill would significantly increase where guns can be carried in Oklahoma, including city, town and county buildings as well as the Tulsa and Oklahoma State Fairs. [The Oklahoman

In shortened week, abortion bills sailed through committees but one could have an impact on schools: Five bills snagged headlines after they sailed through committee before the winter storm hit and closed the legislature for two days. Senate Bill 1544 would keep organizations that provide abortions from conducting any programming in a school. [KGOU

With lawsuit pending, bill proposes protecting controversial method of handling elephants: One of the more niche bills before the Oklahoma Legislature this session may be HB 3281, which seeks to ensure that certain controversial elephant-handling techniques “shall not be considered cruelty to animals.” [NonDoc

Tribal Nations News

Supreme Court to hear challenge to law on adopting Native American children: The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which makes it hard to remove Native American children from their parents, their tribes and their heritage. [New York Times]

  • Native American tribes respond to Supreme Court granting cert in Indian Child Welfare Act case [Indian Country Today]

Tribal leaders expect economic boost from expanded Buy Indian Act: Oklahoma tribes hope an update to a century-old law will spur tribal economies and create a uniform approach to contracting procedures. Oklahoma tribal leaders say the new regulations and procedures could provide the economic boost they’ve been seeking and energize native businesses. [NonDoc

Ginnie Graham: Remedies to resolve consequences from McGirt left untouched: For all the rhetoric and efforts to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2020 landmark McGirt decision, two fixes have remained untried — an act of Congress and compacting. [Column / Tulsa World

Voting and Election News

Column: New Oklahoma analysis shows election system not broken: Several bills filed in the Oklahoma Legislature this session call into question the integrity of Oklahoma elections. The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma conducted an analytical study of the 2020 election results to find the facts behind the integrity of Oklahoma elections. [Column / Tulsa World

Health News

COVID focus now: Protect the vulnerable, doctor says as widespread mitigation measures subside: Without widespread mitigation measures in place, the focus in fighting COVID-19 must shift toward protecting the most vulnerable in society, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer said. [Tulsa World

Missouri takes months to process Medicaid applications — longer than law allows: Oklahoma expanded Medicaid in much the same way as Missouri: Voters approved it in 2020, to begin July 1, 2021. But Oklahoma has been far quicker to enroll people in its expansion program — more than 230,000 had been enrolled through December 2021, nearly four times as many as Missouri had signed up through early February. Oklahoma gives people an answer as soon as they submit their application. [Kaiser Health News]

Column: Oklahoma Medicaid must work better, longer for mothers with postpartum depression: Earlier this month, when Georgia’s Senate approved expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage from six months to a year, reproductive health advocates hoped the vote signaled a shift in the public perception of one of the most stereotyped groups in America: low-income pregnant and new mothers. [Column / Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform push remains, but politics complicates efforts: State legislative committees in recent weeks have approved bills that would automate criminal record expungement for thousands of Oklahomans and reclassify some felony sentences, an early sign that criminal justice reform efforts continue at the state Capitol, even as the political climate has grown more challenging. [The Oklahoman

New from OK Policy: The 2022 session brings a rare opportunity for significant progress in our criminal justice system: Even after progress, Oklahoma still ranks third in overall incarceration. Oklahoma lawmakers can use this session to reduce the prison population, build on past efforts and empower individuals to lead successful, healthy lives after incarceration.

Latest Oklahoma County jail death being investigated as suicide: Another Oklahoma County jail inmate has died, the fourth so far this year. Andrew Avelar, 27, of Midwest City, died at 4:48 a.m. Saturday after being taken to a hospital by ambulance, the jail announced in a news release. [The Oklahoman] The State Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating and will make the final determination of Avelar’s cause of death. [OKC Free Press]

City council to consider policing recommendations that could ‘transform Oklahoma City.’: City council will vote Tuesday on accepting 39 recommendations for improving the Oklahoma City Police Department in eight areas, including de-escalation, community accountability, mental health call response and officer wellness. [The Oklahoman]

Cash-strapped Oklahoma DA under investigation for making money from secret deals: Some call it super secret probation. A prosecutor makes a deal with an offender — for a fee — that results in no criminal charge ever being filed. There is no guilty plea, no appearance before any judge and no time behind any bars. Allan Grubb, the district attorney for Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties, admits he has been doing more of these deals to combat a financial crisis in his office. [The Oklahoman

Police: Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee accused of embezzlement: Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice has asked the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to handle the review of embezzlement allegations against Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee. [NonDoc

Economy & Business News

Developers share visions for Evans-Fintube mixed-use development: The city of Tulsa has made clear what it would like to see from the mixed-used development planned for the Evans-Fintube site just north of downtown. It’s right there in the request for proposals: “The development will be connected physically, economically and emotionally to the surrounding neighborhood.” [Tulsa World]

Minority-owned startups flourishing in Tulsa: The entrepreneurial spirit that founded Greenwood’s Black Wall Street a century ago is today fueling a project to spur minority-owned technology startups in Tulsa. [The Journal Record

Medical marijuana businesses have 90 days to comply with state’s seed-to-sale tracking system: After nearly a year languishing in court, Oklahoma’s marijuana seed-to-sale tracking system is expected to launch within 90 days. Now, the attorneys who filed the suit announced Friday they had reached an agreement with the state, clearing the way for the state to move forward. [The Oklahoman

Report: Increase seen in SBA loans: The average loan amount approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2021 was $727,343, a 27% increase from 2020, according to the report. In Oklahoma, the average loan was $651,000. These loans were in addition to coronavirus relief dollars allocated to help businesses stay open. [The Journal Record

Education News

Sand Springs superintendent among critics of school voucher bills: Two similar measures in the Oklahoma Senate are purported by their author to be pro-student, but educators, including Sand Springs Superintendent Sherry Durkee, say the bills could cause real harm to public schools and the students who are succeeding in them. [Sand Springs Leader

General News

Lt. Gov. Pinnell clarifies statement on possible downtown stadium for FC Tulsa soccer team: Atop city official insisted Friday that the process of selecting a mixed-use development project for the Evans-Fintube property north of downtown is ongoing and won’t be completed without more public input. [Tulsa World]

Flags, rifles and fingers: ‘The People’s Convoy’ trucker protest rolls through Oklahoma: A group of truckers calling itself “The People’s Convoy” protested pandemic-era mandates Sunday as the group made its way through Oklahoma and past supporters waving American flags on overpasses and from the side of the road. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“On the national stage there has been a pendulum swing back towards a tough on crime rhetoric, but I don’t think that’s the reality here in Oklahoma. The truth is rural lawmakers, lawmakers from the biggest cities, right and left, they all still have a real interest in this.”

– Damion Shade, Justice and Economic Mobility project manager for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about the opportunity to advance criminal justice reform in the state. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Increase in median rent (including utilities) nationwide since 2001, while median renter household income has only increased 3.4% during that time.

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Recently from OK Policy: While raising the minimum wage would not likely be a big deal to financially stable Oklahomans, it would be a lifeline to the one in three Oklahoma workers earning less than the living wage for a single person.

Policy Note

Why America has been so stingy in fighting child poverty: The failure of Washington to renew the enhanced Child Tax Credit continues a long tradition in America: Our welfare system has long spent generously on the old, but it has consistently skimped on the young. While America spends about as much, or even more on the elderly than many other rich nations, it spends significantly less on kids. Among the almost 40 countries in the OECD, only Turkey spends less per child as a percentage of their GDP. It’s a big reason why the United States has a much higher rate of child poverty than most other affluent countries — and even has a higher rate of child poverty than some not-so-affluent countries. [NPR]

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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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