In The Know: Rental assistance still in high demand | Youth court fines and fees | A day in OK drug court | 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.

Better Tomorrows Youth Justice Panel Discussion

Please plan on joining us on March 28 as Oklahoma Policy Institute releases its latest report, which focuses on the state’s youth justice system. To celebrate the report’s release, OK Policy will be holding an online panel discussion to look more deeply at issues impacting the state’s youth justice system and the issues raised in the report. The discussion will be streamed live on our website or via OK Policy’s social media channels on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

Oklahoma News

A day in Oklahoma County drug court, where a judge hopes all rise: On the fifth floor of the Oklahoma County courthouse, defendants announced the number of days they’ve been sober as they approached the bench. Whether it was 848 days or 1, every announcement drew applause. In a state where drug use is rampant and incarceration rates are among the nation’s highest, Judge Stoner runs a program designed to keep addicted Oklahomans out of prison.  [Oklahoma Watch

High call volume from eastern Oklahoma’s 211 hotline indicates rent assistance still needed: Call takers for eastern Oklahoma’s 211 hotline say they are still getting a high number of calls from people who need help paying their rent. The eviction moratorium has already ended and at least one local resource in the Tulsa area that helps people with rent is no longer accepting applications. [News On 6

New from OK Policy: Evictions in Oklahoma have been a problem in Oklahoma for many years, but job loss and lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic made it even harder for Oklahomans to stay in their homes. Unless action is taken, Oklahoma evictions will return to problematically high levels.

Editorial: Juveniles deserve chance: Making a person pay for the crimes he or she commits is ingrained in the ethos of our criminal justice system, but there’s a difference between restitution and setting a financial trap. State Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, said he aims to address the issue as it relates to juveniles with House Bill 3205. It is backed by both the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and Oklahoma Policy Institute. [Editorial Board / Muskogee Phoenix] House Bill 3205 lowers court costs, including counsel fees, diversion fees, and probation or supervision fees, that are assessed to children in Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system. [The Lawton Constitution

Recently from OK Policy: Lawmakers must work to repeal youth fines and fees this legislative session, finally ending the practice of saddling Oklahoma children with the persistent weight of criminal court debt. This debt traps children in the criminal court system while leading to lifelong negative consequences in overall well-being.

State Government News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to decide on bill to ban transgender athletes from female sports: Republicans in the Oklahoma Senate gave final passage to legislation that would bar transgender athletes at K-12 schools or universities from participating in female sports teams or individual women’s sporting events. [The Oklahoman

  • State Senate passes bills restricting transgender, nonbinary individuals [Tulsa World
  • ‘These are beautiful children’: Parents of transgender kids worry about future in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman
  • Viewpoint: Anti-LGBTQ legislation in Oklahoma fuels transphobia, attacks against community [Opinion / The Oklahoman
  • Column: Oklahoma’s transgender sports bill raises more questions than answers. Here’s why that’s concerning [Column / The Oklahoman]
  • OU softball: Patty Gasso addresses new transgender athlete legislation, which could affect Women’s College World Series [OU Daily]

Oklahoma House votes to reinstate public employee pension plan: The Oklahoma House of Representatives turned the clock back — after a fashion — on Thursday, but not because of anything to do with timekeeping. Thursday, the Republican-led House reversed course and voted to bring back the defined benefit system. [Tulsa World

Still alive this session: Abortion restrictions, $125 checks for Oklahomans, daylight time, corporate tax cuts and more: Proposals must be voted out of their chambers of origin at the Oklahoma Legislature this week. Here’s a look at what bills and resolutions are still on the table. [Tulsa World

  • Oklahoma state House passes ban on abortion, to be enforced through civil action [CNN]

Treat vows to fight for school choice after Oklahoma voucher bill fails: A polarizing Oklahoma bill that would dedicate $128.5 million in taxpayer dollars for private school costs failed in a late-night vote on the Senate floor Wednesday. [The Oklahoman

Cities and state agencies push back against Oklahoma open records law: For the six years John Browne has served as mayor of McAlester, city staff have struggled to compile thousands of pages of documents for one former municipal worker’s constant open records requests. [OKC Free Press]

Federal Government News

Ketanji Brown Jackson heading for likely confirmation despite GOP darts: Federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson faced down a barrage of Republican questioning Wednesday about her sentencing of criminal defendants, as her history-making bid to join the Supreme Court veered from lofty constitutional questions to attacks on her motivations on the bench. [AP via The Black Wall Street Times

Tribal Nations News

Chickasaw Nation seeks $102 million in tax assistance for OKANA resort along Oklahoma River: Site work is already underway for OKANA, which will include an 11-story, 400-room hotel, conference center, water park, outdoor recreational lagoon, entertainment center, dining and retail. [The Oklahoman

Report: Tribes had $15.5 billion impact in state’s economy in 2019: Tribal leaders in Oklahoma announced Wednesday the results of a 2019 study on the economic impact the 38 federally recognized tribes had in the state. [Enid News & Eagle] “Oklahoma is home and we will continue to reinvest in our communities through job creation, critical service delivery and infrastructure development,” said Victor Flores, President of the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium and Director of Tribal Services, REDW, and LLC. [Mvskoke Media]

Voting and Election News

Citing jurisdiction, Oklahoma Supreme Court punts on Sen. Jim Inhofe election challenge: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has decided it is not the proper venue to hear a lawsuit challenging the timing of a special election to fill retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s seat. [The Oklahoman] Steven Jones, who gained national prominence as the attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, maintained the governor’s call for a special election was improper because the seat was not yet vacant. [AP News via Tulsa World

Abby Broyles drops out of congressional race, undergoing treatment: Democrat Abby Broyles dropped out of the 5th District congressional race Thursday, saying she was undergoing mental health treatment after an incident last month in which she got intoxicated and insulted young girls at a slumber party. [The Oklahoman

Two vying for seat on Jenks school board: Voters in Jenks Public Schools’ Ward 2 are being asked to head to the polls on April 5 as school board President Terry Keeling  has drawn a challenger for his seat. [Tulsa World

Health News

‘It’s a real relief’: OK Hospital Association discusses recent low COVID case counts: With COVID case numbers still low, the Tulsa Health Department is reporting just 337 new cases this week, and hospitals are finally getting a bit of a COVID break. [KTUL]

Health experts say Oklahoma will see a rise of syphilis cases: Experts say this disease is curable, but it is Important for people to get tested, because an untreated case can lead to something much worse. “Syphilis really is a quite serious illness,” Ellen Niemitalo with the Tulsa Health Department says. [News on 6]

Criminal Justice News

Female inmate dies in Comanche County jail: A 39-year-old female inmate has died in the Comanche County jail in Lawton, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Vanessa Thorpe was found unresponsive in her cell Sunday by jail staff during an inmate count and was later pronounced dead at the jail, the OSBI said. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County DA is preparing to charge two boys in Mount St. Mary sexual misconduct case: The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office is preparing criminal charges against two juveniles accused of sexual misconduct against a female student at Mount St. Mary Catholic High School, The Oklahoman has learned. [The Oklahoman

General News

‘It’s just dangerous’: Tishomingo intersection where teens died has history of crashes: Two busy highways meet just outside Tishomingo, the site of a horrific crash Tuesday that claimed the lives of six teenagers. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol on Thursday said witnesses reported the car carrying the teens rolled through a stop sign at the intersection and was struck by a tractor-trailer. [The Oklahoman

‘Alfalfa Bill’ Murray, governor celebrated across Oklahoma, oppressed minorities with Jim Crow laws: Will Rogers, the Oklahoma legend who never met a man he didn’t like, remains a beloved figure in Oklahoma, his name attached to landmarks across the state. Another legend, “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, is similarly honored, though he had a long list of people he didn’t like based on race and religion. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

Tulsa County, metro population increased slightly during height of pandemic: The populations in both Tulsa County and the Tulsa metro area increased during the height of the pandemic, with credit for some of the gains going to a local incentive program. [Tulsa World

‘Potholes aren’t partisan’; former mayor says locals should seek office: Jason Nichols says getting involved in the community and running local office is important, and he should know about that. The Northeastern State University political science instructor and former Tahlequah mayor addressed the public March 23 on Zoom in a series called “Let’s Talk About It.” [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Quote of the Day

“In Oklahoma, where most of the funding for state courts comes from costs and fees automatically assessed when a criminal case is filed, [a financial trap] is more apt to happen. It is a problem that traps too many Oklahomans in a cycle of poverty, substance abuse and crime.”

– Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board, in an editorial about House Bill 3205, which lowers court costs and fees that are assessed to children in Oklahoma’s youth justice system [Muskogee Phoenix]

Number of the Day

12 years

This week marked the 12th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which offers millions of Americans access to the health care they need. Since its enactment on March 23, 2010, the ACA has led to an historic advancement of health equity in the United States.

[Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services]

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for quality health care abundantly clear. Thanks to Oklahoma voters, Medicaid expansion has already provided life-changing health care coverage to more than 260,000 Oklahomans. In order for every Oklahoman to reach their full potential, it’s vital that we all have access to quality and affordable health care. Here at OK Policy, we will continue to advocate for smart policy decisions that ensure health care remains accessible within our state.

Policy Note

The Affordable Care Act is Crucial to Women’s Health: This week we celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, and its importance to women in the United States. For more than a decade, the ACA has helped to improve the quality of and access to health care for millions of women across the country. In fact, a survey done by the Commonwealth Fund found that by 2016, the number of working-age women (ages 19-64) lacking health insurance had fallen by almost half since 2010. Women with lower income of all races and ethnicities have similar findings. [Community Catalyst]

  • The Affordable Care Act included the permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) [IHS] | [Tribal Health Reform Resource Center]
  • Marking 12 Years of the ACA Improving the Lives of People with Disabilities [Community Catalyst]
  • Outreach, Enrollment and the Affordable Care Act [Community Catalyst]
  • (2021) Medicaid expansion will facilitate easier access to care for justice-involved Oklahomans [OK Policy]
  • Medicaid stories from Oklahomans across the state [OK Policy]

Share Your Medicaid Story: Do you or someone you know have a health care story you would like to share? Visit and tell us about it.

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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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