In The Know: Requests for ARPA funding released | Call to address gun violence | Occupational licensing laws updated

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

Lawton to host statewide listening session in June: Together Oklahoma, in conjunction with the City of Lawton and the McMahon Memorial Authority, is excited to announce the upcoming Statewide 2SLGBTQIA+ Listening Session: Pride and Policy. Featuring best-selling author John Paul Brammer, this hybrid event will take place in Lawton and available to join online via Zoom across the state. [Southwest Ledger]

Visit to register and learn more!

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma officials release requests for billions in federal pandemic relief funds: After denying requests for them for months, Oklahoma purchasing officials have released details on more than 1,400 projects asking for billions in federal pandemic relief under the American Rescue Plan Act. [Oklahoma Watch

  • Who asked for a share of Oklahoma’s federal pandemic relief funds [Oklahoma Watch

Holt, other mayors press Congress to address gun violence: In the wake of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt signed on to a statement issued by the executive committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors calling on Congress to strengthen background checks for Americans who want to buy guns. [The Journal Record

Law to help ex-convicts get jobs: Bipartisanship opened doors for a new law that creates employment opportunities for Oklahomans recently released from state custody. House Bill 3002 by Sen. Zack Taylor and Rep. Cyndi Munson amends the requirements and qualifications for five occupational licenses: Oklahoma scrap metal dealers, the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, motor vehicle dealers, used motor vehicle dealers, and the Oklahoma Micropigmentation Regulation Act. [Southwest Ledger]

State Government News

Oklahoma enacts tribal-backed public safety law, overriding veto: Oklahoma will revoke the driver’s licenses of people convicted in tribal court of certain crimes, after lawmakers last week overrode Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto, which Native American groups in the state had warned would threaten public safety. [Law 360

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Legislature sends message with veto overrides on final day of regular session: As they raced toward the 5:00 p.m. Friday deadline for completing the 2022 legislative regular session, members of the state House and Senate decisively overrode six of Governor Kevin Stitt’s bill vetoes and hinted at more differences of opinion in the upcoming special session. [KGOU] This year’s state budget includes $340 million to fund mental health and substance use services statewide, a 5.8% increase over last year. [The Journal Record]

Recent Statement from OK Policy: The budget reflect some good investments in Oklahoma, however, lawmakers again have missed the chance to make strategic and targeted investments to help more Oklahomans live healthy lives, raise thriving families, and create safer communities. 

New law cuts duration of jobless benefits: Legislation that will cut the number of weeks a jobless worker can collect unemployment benefits, from 26 weeks to 16, was signed into law by Governor Stitt. House Bill 1933 by Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) and Sen. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) goes into effect next year. [Southwest Ledger]

New from OK Policy: Oklahoma’s lawmakers should recognize the importance of a well-designed unemployment insurance program and strengthen this necessary program rather than undermine it. Unfortunately, a piece of legislation (HB1933) recently passed into law threatens the efficacy of our state’s unemployment insurance program.

Rosecrants’ bill raises stalking to felony, adds warning letter before prosecution: With the passage of a bill from one of Norman’s lawmakers, Oklahoma will soon have one of the strongest anti-stalking laws in the United States. Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 3286, the “Homicide Prevention Act,” into law last Wednesday. [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma cracks down on ‘energy discrimination’: Earlier this month, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed into law the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, which requires the state to stop doing business with financial firms that are “discriminating” against fossil fuel companies. The measure tasks the state treasurer with creating a list of such firms. [Washington Post]

Legislators appropriate $5M to assist small towns hit with large fuel bills: The state Legislature appropriated $5 million this year to help several small towns that were hit with staggering fuel bills after Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. [Southwest Ledger]

Making the cut: Oklahoma governor signs final round of medical cannabis legislation for 2022 session: As the legislature entered its final day of the session on Friday, the long list of cannabis-related legislation had been whittled down to a little over a dozen new bills. Here are the cannabis-related bills that were signed into law this legislative session. [State Impact Oklahoma

Federal Government News

Census Bureau invites appeals of counts of dorms, prisons: Governments across the U.S. can start challenging the counts of prisons, dorms and nursing homes in their jurisdictions starting next week if they believe they are incorrect, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday in mailings sent out to communities. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation Businesses denied zoning variance for immigration intake facility at industrial park: It was inevitable that immigration policy would seep into Tuesday’s public meeting on the Cherokee Nation Businesses’ proposal to establish a temporary emergency intake facility for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States. [Tulsa World

Biden-Harris administration releases Tribal Playbook, announces massive new tribal funding from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: On Tuesday, the White House released a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Tribal Playbook to help tribal governments unlock the benefits from the historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure, including the more than $13 billion set aside in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for Indian Country. [Indian Country Today]

Subpoena authority jeopardizes bipartisan support for boarding school Truth and Healing Commission: Efforts to create a federal commission to explore the legacy of the nation’s Indian Boarding Schools have hit a stumbling block. Subpoena authority is triggering warnings in a key House subcommittee as backers hope to advance a bill establishing the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools. [Gaylord News via The Norman Transcript]

Combining Old and New: Aquaponics opens the door to indigenous food security: All across the United States, Indigenous peoples suffer higher rates of mortality than other ethnic groups, largely due to poorer diets and other colonial stressors that have completely altered their traditional lifeways. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma teamed up with Symbiotic Aquaponic, a Native-run company, to build customized aquaponics farming systems for individuals, schools, businesses, communities, and tribes. [Yes Magazine]

Criminal Justice News

‘It boggles the mind’: A sexual abuse survivor discusses Southern Baptists’ ‘secret’ list: Grateful. It’s how Christa Brown felt when a Southern Baptist minister from Oklahoma listened to her instead of berating her or smearing her name. Brown, 64, is currently one of the more well-known sexual abuse survivors and advocates who has spent decades trying to get Southern Baptist Convention leaders to take measures to prevent abusers from preying on people in the pews with no consequences. [The Oklahoman

Death row inmate’s competency trial scheduled for 2023: A competency trial for an Oklahoma death row inmate is scheduled to begin next year. Wade Lay was set to be the first inmate executed in America in 2022 before a southeast Oklahoma district judge ordered a stay in December 2021. [McAlester News Capital]

Economy & Business News

Starbucks baristas in OKC NW 23rd store first in state to win union vote: The Starbucks store crew at the N.W. 23rd and Robinson store in Oklahoma City are the first in Oklahoma to win outright the vote to unionize. The next step for them is to form a bargaining committee to begin the collective bargaining process with the store’s management. [Free Press OKC]

Education News

Law dictating bathroom, changing area use for trans youth goes into effect: Transgender youth will be required to immediately begin using public school restrooms and changing areas that correspond with the biological sex on their birth certificates. Gov. Kevin Stitt, who signed Senate Bill 615 into law, said “it’s common sense” for youth to use the restroom that aligns with their biological sex as opposed to the gender with which they most closely identify. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

‘Triage effort from multiple entities’: Afghan students settling in Oklahoma: With hundreds of school-aged Afghan children arriving in the Oklahoma City area following the 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover, local resettlement organizations identified the need for an educational transition program to help these students acclimate to American culture and learn English. [NonDoc

General News

NOAA survey allows residents to report tornado experiences: Oklahoma residents are no strangers to tornadoes, especially this time of year. As storm season continues, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NOAA NSSL) are spreading the word about a new online survey that allows people to anonymously report their experiences with tornadoes. [State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Local News

How OKC’s first diversity officer is working to make city the ‘most inclusive employer’: The city’s first Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Shalynne Jackson, came on board last February. Sixteen months later, Jackson said she has spent a lot of time listening to department needs and is looking forward to the city’s new equity council, an employee survey and is working with some departments on assessing inter-cultural competence. [The Oklahoman

OKC City Council hears final round of budget proposals for FY23: On Tuesday, the City Council of Oklahoma City convened their final budget hearing for the coming Fiscal Year 2023, which begins on July 1. Directors of Public Works, Utilities, and Airports each gave brief presentations on their proposed budgets. [Free Press OKC]

Quote of the Day

“This bipartisan effort to prioritize employment opportunities for individuals recently released from state custody will change lives. Financial stability is often the difference between a happy, productive life and prison. I hope we continue to build on this momentum to create a criminal justice system that focuses on rehabilitation.”

– Rep. Cyndi Munson (D-OKC), speaking about a recent bipartisan law she co-authored that creates employment opportunities for Oklahomans recently released from state custody. [Southwest Ledger]

Number of the Day

30+ years

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.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Previously from OK Policy: Completely eliminating the sales tax on groceries will cost critical revenue now and in the future. To avoid this, lawmakers should consider significantly expanding the Sales Tax Relief Credit that would provide targeted tax relief to Oklahomans who need it, cost less revenue, and give lawmakers more flexibility to raise revenue in the future.

Policy Note

Exodus from Urban Counties Hit a Record in 2021: The Great Plains struggled to retain population with Oklahoma being a clear exception. Its two major urban counties and the surrounding region all saw gain in population. The upper Midwest performed better than the lower Midwest overall, but both areas had few urban counties that gained population with Allen County, Indiana the biggest exception. The St. Louis metro provides an interesting example of state policy effects with the exurban counties on the Missouri side experiencing growth while those on the Illinois side lost population. [Economic Innovation Group]

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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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