In The Know: Rents across U.S. above $2,000 first time | Manufacturing facility in Stillwater | Restoring Tourism Commission oversight | 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

Policy Matters: Hits, misses for FY ’23 state budget: With Oklahoma’s 2022 regular legislative session officially closed, I wanted to reflect on the upcoming state budget, as well as look ahead to the upcoming special session that starts on Monday. Oklahoma lawmakers appropriated $10.68 billion for the fiscal year 2023 state budget, which begins on July 1. The budget contained bright spots, including long-awaited investments to increase mental health care access and reduce the 13-year wait for services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Lawmakers, however, missed opportunities to implement targeted tax relief for working Oklahomans and to increase public education support. [Shiloh Kantz / OK Policy]

New from OK Policy: The FY 2023 budget makes some good and long-awaited investments in Oklahomans. It also misses several critical opportunities to make generational change, such as investing in common education and funding State Question 781. 

Oklahoma News

Rents across U.S. rise above $2,000 a month for the first time ever: A new report from Redfin shows that nationally listed rents for available apartments rose 15% from a year ago. And the median listed rent for an available apartment rose above $2,000 a month for the first time. [NPR]

Rare earth manufacturing facility to open in Oklahoma: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the president of USA Rare Earth on Thursday announced plans for a $100 million metal and manufacturing facility in Stillwater that’s expected to create more than 100 jobs. [AP News] CEO of the company Thayer Smith said he was impressed by the ease with which he will be able to set up shop in the state. [Public Radio Tulsa] It’s unclear exactly how much in incentives the state is offering the company, though state officials stressed any money USA Rare Earth receives from the state will come on the back end. The Stillwater News Press reported earlier this week the City of Stillwater is offering $7 million in incentives. [StateImpact Oklahoma via KGOU]

  • City of Stillwater approves $7 million incentive for USA Rare Earth manufacturing facility [Stillwater News Press]
  • City and state leaders celebrate deal to bring rare earth magnet manufacturing to Stillwater [Stillwater News Press]

Swadley’s investigation prompts Oklahoma lawmaker to file bill restoring Tourism Commission oversight: A state Senator is drafting a bill to restore powers to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission. In 2018, the state legislature took oversight of the Tourism Department away from the commission. House Bill 3603 transferred those duties and powers to the agency’s executive director, and gave the governor the authority to appoint that director. Subsequently, the Commission was relegated to an advisory capacity only. [KGOU] Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) said his proposed legislation would revert the management structure at the tourism department back to a board of commissioners providing oversight, rather than giving the governor direct power over the hiring and firing of the agency’s director, a change that was made in 2018. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Turnpike authority board quickly, silently approves moving ahead with $1 billion bond sale: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board made no comments and asked no questions Thursday as members quickly approved a series of measures designed to accelerate funding of Access Oklahoma, the $5 billion expansion of the state’s toll road network. [The Oklahoman]

Customers continue to question OG&E as utility seeks to increase bills yet again: Oklahoma Gas and Electric customers are expressing frustration as the utility seeks to increase their bills a second time in less than a year. Many expressed concerns last month during a public hearing an administrative law judge at the Corporation Commission held to receive public comments on the utility’s plans. [The Oklahoman]

Weekly initial jobless claims drop after mini-surge: Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined by a third last week when compared to the prior week totals, according to a government report released Thursday. The decline follows a similar-sized increase the prior week. [Tulsa World]

Stitt pulls election ads, executions declared constitutional, gun laws and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics dicuss Gov. Kevin Stitt pulling political ads featuring current Attorney General John O’Connor after ethical and legal questions from a bipartisan group of lawmakers and a federal judge ruling Oklahoma’s three-drug execution protocol as constitutional. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

EEOC: AI technology may discriminate: Employers who use artificial intelligence and other technologies to screen job candidates might unknowingly be screening out applicants with disabilities. Decision-making tools that claim to be bias-free typically are designed to prevent discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, color or religion, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

‘So much work’: Tribal criminal justice systems discussed at Sovereignty Symposium: While tensions between state and tribal leaders still hung in the air during Wednesday’s half of the 2022 Sovereignty Symposium, a pair of criminal law panel discussions centered on justice system challenges faced by tribal nations after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt v. Oklahoma decision and what long-term success will look like. [NonDoc]

United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe, and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition to host a session on Indian Boarding Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma: The United Indian Nations of Oklahoma (UINO), the Shawnee Tribe and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (NABS) announced today that they will host a summit with tribes in the area discussing the history and impacts of Indian Boarding schools on June 22 at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Oklahoma. [Indian Country Today]

Federal judge won’t stop Fort Sill Apache casino from opening amid legal challenge: A federal judge declined to stop Fort Sill Apache leaders from opening the tribe’s second casino, which is facing a legal challenge filed by the neighboring Comanche and Kiowa nations. [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Mullin promoting plumbing company despite Ethics Committee guidance: U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin has been lending his voice to television ads for his plumbing company, despite explicit guidance from the House Ethics Committee that he no longer personally promote his company in broadcast or internet advertising. [The Oklahoman]

  • Markwayne Mullin drops out of Republican Senate debate, cites House gun bill vote [The Oklahoman]

U.S. Senate candidates differ on McGirt, Ukraine during debate: Four of the 13 Republicans vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe agreed on most points — including America’s need for fewer Democrats and more God — but differed notably on a couple of others during a televised debate Thursday night. [Tulsa World]

Endorsements could help bolster Oklahoma governor’s influence: The June 28 Republican primary poses a rare opportunity for Gov. Kevin Stitt to get two of his handpicked appointees elected to pivotal roles that could shape the path forward for Oklahoma’s public schools and tribal relations for years to come. [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]

In debate, Corporation Commission candidates agree state could lose regulatory jurisdiction: Sen. Kim David (R-Porter) and former Rep. Todd Thomsen (R-Ada), the two leading Oklahoma Corporation Commission candidates, mostly agreed with each other on regulatory issues during a GOP primary debate Tuesday night at the OSU Hamm Institute for American Energy. [The Ardmoreite]

GOP primary to decide Sapulpa area’s Senate District 12: On June 28, Republican voters in Senate District 12 will pick the Tulsa-area district’s next state senator from two candidates, one who has spent his career in government jobs and the other with a background in the private sector. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County jail inmate found dead in cell, eighth death of 2022: An Oklahoma County jail inmate was found dead in his cell Thursday morning, apparently after hanging himself, officials said. It was the eighth inmate death this year at the troubled, aging facility just west of downtown Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Research group conducting study on visitation in Oklahoma prisons: This summer, a research group will conduct a study on visitation inside men’s prisons in Oklahoma including here in Lawton. The Oklahoma Appleseed Center for Law and Justice reached out to the Department of Corrections to get started on it. [KSWO]

Town hall on active shooter situations brings Tulsa law enforcement leaders to table: Two weeks after a mass slaying on the Saint Francis campus, those with questions about active shooter situations are invited to discuss them with area law enforcement leaders at a Tulsa Crime Stoppers event. [Tulsa World]

  • Shooting victim Amanda Glenn remembered as a caretaker to all [Tulsa World]

Lawton library holds record expungement event: The Lawton Public Library and the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma teamed up to host a class that will help show people how to expunge their misdemeanor or non-violent felony criminal records. [KSWO]

Economy & Business News

No end in sight to high gas, energy prices, local industry leaders say: With gasoline and diesel prices setting new records on a daily basis for weeks, there is no foreseeable end, and possibly much worse pain to come at the pump — and at grocery and other stores, local industry leaders said. [Tulsa World]

War and drought are affecting the world’s wheat supply. That could mean higher prices at the grocery store: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cut off wheat exports, while drought conditions in the Great Plains will further reduce grain stocks. Reduced supplies could trickle down into higher prices for grocery list staples, such as bread and pasta. [KOSU]

Education News

Epic Charter Schools budget shrinks with enrollment, superintendent contract extended: As its sky-high enrollment comes back to earth, Epic Charter Schools budgeted tens of millions less in revenue and spending for the next school year. The public virtual charter school system experienced a stunning increase in enrollment in 2020 as droves of families sought online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: If you want to know school budgets, boards are approving them now: The Tulsa Public Schools board is among the first to approve a budget for the next school year, complying with state law deadline of June 30. Other districts will quickly follow. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Duncan’s summer feeding program in full swing: For the last 10 years, children in Duncan have gone to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School to get a hot, free lunch. It’s the only place in town where some children from low-income families can get one, according to Cindy Williams, the manager for all elementary school cafeterias in Duncan. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma Local News

Employees Speak Out After Oklahoma County Clerk Plans Mandatory Training To Include Drinking, Gambling: Oklahoma County employees are raising red flags after an elected official told them they’ll have to drink alcohol on a mandatory work trip. Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten is running for State Treasurer. [News 9]

Pride Month kickoff features ribbon-cutting, heartfelt speeches, resolve: One week later than originally planned due to weather the week before, the OKC Pride Alliance Pride Month Opening Ceremony finally happened in Kerr Park in downtown OKC. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“Housing is getting less affordable for everyone at every level”

– Daryl Fairweather, the chief economist for Redfin, speaking about housing costs across the nation. A new report from Redfin shows that nationally listed rents for available apartments rose 15% from a year ago. And the median listed rent for an available apartment rose above $2,000 a month for the first time. [NPR]

Number of the Day


Percentage of transgender and nonbinary youth who attempted suicide in 2021

[Source: The Trevor Project]

Previously from OK Policy: A lack of data hinders policy efforts to address anti-LGBTQ2S+ discrimination

Policy Note

HRC Report: State and Federal Officials Failing LGBTQ Community in Data Collection: Failure to include sexual orientation and gender identity in demographic surveys brings about real and dire consequences for LGBTQ Americans. It is long past time that officials in every level of government include all marginalized communities, including LGBTQ Americans, in all relevant data collection efforts. [Human Right Campaign]

NOTE: June is Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The month is a time of reflection, celebration, and commitment to achieving equal justice and equal opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQ2SIA+) Americans. 

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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