In The Know: Reinstating citizen oversight boards | Better justice data in Oklahoma | County-by-county look at grocery tax credit | 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.

New from OK Policy

A county-by-county look at how increasing Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit benefits families, seniors: Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit, which stands at $40 per person in a qualifying household, has not been adjusted since its creation more than 30 years ago. HB 3353 proposes to increase the credit from $40 to $180 per person and slightly increase the qualifying income limits with a phase-out. Our interactive map shows county-by-county the impacts of the expanded credit. [Emma Morris / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

Editorial: Solution to lack of budget oversight is reinstating power to a commission: Among the corrections sought in the unraveling of the Swadley’s Bar-B-Q state contract is a request from Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell to give power back to an oversight commission. It’s a good idea that would go far in preventing financial mismanagement. For about five years, the Legislature has been moving authority away from citizen oversight boards and commissions and placing it in the hands of the governor. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Report from OK Policy: A February 2021 report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget. 

How better justice data could benefit Oklahoma: “Where’s the data?” Good data helps tell the story of where we’ve been, where we’re at and where we’re going. It can reveal disparities and areas for improvement. Some justice data in Oklahoma, such as the state prison population, is regularly tabulated and made public. Other information, particularly at the pretrial level, is difficult or impossible to come by.  [Oklahoma Watch

EV startup Canoo is running out of cash and doubtful about its future: Canoo, the struggling electric vehicle startup, thinks it’s about to run out of money. In stark terms, the company reports that it only has enough cash to last another quarter and is unsure whether it will be able to stay afloat beyond that. [The Verge

State Government News

Governor vetoes bill allowing DPS to use tribal court convictions: Writing that it was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill that supporters and tribal leaders contended would have made Oklahoma roadways safer and increased cooperation between tribes and the state. [CHNI via Chickasaw News] Tribal leaders countered that his refusal to sign it was an affront to public safety and an attack on tribal courts. The gulf signals how unlikely it is that their deeper divide will be closed any time soon, particularly as Stitt’s reelection campaign heats up and the Supreme Court mulls a critical case that could once again reshape the criminal justice system in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tribes call for veto override on bill Gov. Stitt calls “wolf in sheep’s clothing” [Ponca City Now
  • Tribal leader: Stitt’s DUI veto ‘petty’ [The Journal Record

Driver’s licenses, vehicle registration legislation headed to governor: A highly touted makeover of the state’s system for issuing driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations is only Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature away from implementation following final adoption by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday. [Tulsa World

Turnpike’s alternative funding draws scrutiny: Sen. Mary Boren has requested an audit of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) after the agency quickly found alternate funding to continue with a controversial turnpike extension project when the original funding got hung up in the courts. [The Journal Record

  • Fight over toll road sparks legislative effort to slow down Turnpike Authority [Southwest Ledger]
  • Oklahoma senator files resolution to require inspection of Oklahoma Turnpike Authority [OU Daily]

Senate approves measure strengthening penalties for marijuana diversion: The Senate has given final approval to Senate Bill 1367, which increases the penalties for those who purchase medical marijuana and then sell the product to non-cardholders. The measure now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature. [The Lawton Constitution]

New law allows child abduction survivors to stay incognito: Address confidentiality for human trafficking and child abduction survivors is “one of the biggest issues” they face, which is why a measure was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [Southwest Ledger]

Several bills become Oklahoma law: The Luther Register receives news releases from the Oklahoma House of Representatives. As the legislative session nears completion this month, several measures have made it through the process and have been signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt. The bills’ authors are touting their successes. They’ve published a sampling of news releases about a variety of new laws. [The Luther Register]

Federal Government News

Inhofe: Water resources bill will benefit Oklahoma: Congress’ new water resources bill contains several provisions that will benefit Oklahoma, said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. [Southwest Ledger]

Tribal Nations News

Supreme Court urged to reject Oklahoma’s arguments about who should be defined as ‘Indian’: Taking aim at Oklahoma’s latest move to narrow the scope of the McGirt decision, attorneys for two men whose convictions were overturned urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to reject the state’s arguments about the definition of “Indian” in criminal law. In written arguments, the attorneys said people do not have to be enrolled tribal members to qualify as “Indians.” [The Oklahoman

Shawnee Chief Ben Barnes to testify before Congress supporting Native American boarding school commission legislation: Ben Barnes, the chief of the Shawnee Tribe will testify before the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States on Thursday, May 12 at 1 p.m. (EST) in support of H.R. 5444, the “The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policies in the U.S. Act.” The legislation would establish a federal commission to locate and analyze the records from over 360 known Indian boarding schools that operated in the U.S. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Initially blocked, pair of campaign websites ‘now available’ on state network: For weeks, computers at multiple state agencies in Oklahoma had been blocked from accessing the campaign websites of a pair of candidates for statewide office, but the Office of Management and Enterprise Services has now whitelisted the sites after being asked about the issue by NonDoc. [NonDoc

Health News

Still recovering, Oklahoma clinic confirms ransomware attack, data breach: The ongoing network disruption at Oklahoma City Indian Clinic was brought on by a ransomware attack, a newly released notification confirms. OKCIC also informed 38,239 patients that their protected health information was accessed during the incident. [SC Media]

Criminal Justice News

Outcome of Hogue’s trial may have been different if DV expert testified, advocate says: A domestic violence expert who has pushed to update Oklahoma’s abuse laws believes the outcome of Rebecca Hogue’s trial may have been different had someone with abuse expertise been allowed to testify. [The Norman Transcript]

Economic Opportunity

Energy efficiency programs help all types of customers: Local and state organizations continue to work to find ways to serve the community. Human Service Alliance of Enid met Tuesday in a regular session to discuss regular and annual reports, and later heard from OG&E’s program manager Toney Cooper. [Enid News & Eagle]

Economy & Business News

Farmers in the Plains are in ‘dire straits’ due to drought, wildfire conditions: Even with a few recent rains, much of the Great Plains are in a drought. Wildfires have swept across the grasslands and farmers are worried about how they’ll make it through the growing season. [KOSU

Education News

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to offer free books to kids every month in Oklahoma: A $2.5 million expansion of country music icon Dolly Parton’s literacy program could deliver a free book every month to any Oklahoma child age 5 and under. [The Oklahoman]  The State Department of Education will use $2.5 million worth of federal COVID-19 relief funds to expand the program to all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. [KGOU

Stillwater Public Schools to propose $195 million bond issue: With funds from a $74 million bond issue approved in 2017 drawing down, Stillwater Public Schools is planning for the next one. When it met Tuesday, the Board of Education unanimously voted to move forward with a proposal for $195 million in school bonds in 2023. They would be issued over 10 years. [Stillwater News Press]

Group asks Oklahoma Christian University to reinstate professor fired for gay guest speaker: Leaders with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, said they conducted an investigation of Oklahoma Christian University’s firing of Michael O’Keefe that confirmed that the longtime graphic design professor was terminated for exercising his academic freedom and he wasn’t given an opportunity to defend himself against any allegations made against him. [The Oklahoman

General News

Bake sale for body armor: Local Ukrainian church keeps faith, raises funds for Ukrainians: Cupcakes topped with blue and yellow icing — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — were among the abundance of treats offered for sale at a local coffee shop. The cupcakes, pies and cakes were sold during a bake sale on Saturday to raise money for body armor and other items for Ukrainians soldiers fighting against Russia. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

Woman suing city: ‘I was mocked, taunted and brutalized’ when arrested while in mental distress: A 70-year-old woman depicted on a body cam video being arrested while said to be suffering a mental health crisis is suing the Tulsa Police Department, three officers involved in the arrest and Mayor G.T. Bynum. [Tulsa World] Ladonna Paris, a 70-year-old great-grandmother said she was terrified at the time of the October incident. [AP

Council approves water park, resort investment, sells oldest public park: In Tuesday morning’s regular meeting of the City Council of Oklahoma City, the Council voted to approve use of TIF funds for the development of a resort and water park adjacent to the First Americans Museum by the Chickasaw Nation. [OKC Free Press]

Heikkila keeps a promise, resigns from county board position: Mayor-elect Larry Heikkila will keep a promise he made to resign from other offices that would impose a potential conflict of interest. Heikkila serves on the Cleveland County Industrial Authority, the county’s excise board and equalization board, but told The Transcript in March that he would step aside. [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“A reality of eliminating authority from citizen commissions is it took away a critical tool in oversight and transparency. More eyes on a budget makes for better, more sound, financial decisions.”

– Tulsa World Editorial Board [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

1 year

A personal income tax cut like the one proposed in HB 3350 would provide more money in 1 day to the top one percent of earners than it would to the lowest 20 percent of earners in 1 year.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Recently from OK Policy: Personal income tax cuts won’t deliver relief to low- and middle-class Oklahomans

Policy Note

More states are switching to flat income taxes. Critics say it’s relief for the wealthy: There’s a recent uptick in states swapping tiered income taxes for a flat tax, charging the same rate to all residents, regardless of earnings. Over the past 100 years, only four states have changed from graduated rates to flat taxes, according to the Tax Foundation. Another three states — Iowa, Mississippi and Georgia — passed legislation to make the shift this year. Arizona cleared the way after a recent court decision, and Oklahoma is eyeing the move to join nine other flat tax states. [FA PLaybook via CNBC]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristin Wells joined OK Policy in October 2021 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. 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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