In The Know: Resignation and lawsuit over Swadley’s | GEER Fund distribution during pandemic | Day of Action at the Capitol today

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

(TODAY) Together OK’s Day of Action will be held on Monday, May 2, 2022, on the second floor rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The free event will begin at 11 a.m. with a short program, including brief remarks and a Legislative update from Oklahoma Policy Institute staff. Check-in will begin at 10 a.m. During the event, attendees will receive resources to help make effective contact with lawmakers. In addition to sharing tools and resources, Together Oklahoma will also assist in scheduling appointments with legislators to spark conversations. [Register Today]

Oklahoma News

Head of Tourism resigns and the state sues over Foggy Bottom Kitchen scandal: The head of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation has stepped down and the state has filed a lawsuit against the operator of Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen restaurants amid a growing scandal over questionable spending. [The Frontier] During a five-minute press conference Friday afternoon where neither he nor Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell answered questions, Stitt also announced a state lawsuit against the Swadley’s company. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma tourism leader resigns, state files lawsuit against Swadley’s after parks deal [The Oklahoman]  [Tulsa World]  [The Journal Record]  [AP News]
  • (Video) Gov. Stitt expected to address investigation into Swadley’s, Tourism Department [The Oklahoman]
  • (Audio) Capitol Insider: Tourism and Recreation Department executive director resigns as House of Representatives launches probe [KGOU]

Stitt gave families $8 Million for school supplies in the pandemic; They bought Christmas trees, gaming consoles and hundreds of TVs: Just get the money to families. That was the driving force behind Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan for $18 million in U.S. Department of Education relief dollars intended to help students during the coronavirus pandemic. Other states used federal money to train new teachers or support programs for deaf and blind students. But in Oklahoma, a history teacher with political ambitions helped a Florida tech company win a no-bid state contract to rapidly distribute $8 million to families with little government oversight. Another $10 million went to private school vouchers. [The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch]

Previously from OK Policy (2020): Gov. Stitt’s GEER plan widens the gap in access to technology and online learning for low-income students and students of color

Bill making expungement process easier heading to Gov. Stitt’s desk: House Bill 3316 will now head to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk, after being passed by legislators last week. The bill will automate the expungement of old criminal records for thousands of Oklahomans. The bill was authored by Rep. Nichole Miller and Sen. Adam Pugh. Oklahoma Director of Right on Crime Marilyn Davidson is very grateful lawmakers have stood behind this bill. [FOX 25]

Previously from OK Policy: HB 3316, Oklahoma’s Clean Slate law, can knock down a major barrier to employment, housing, and education.

State Government News

(Monday Minute Newsletter) BBW and bonding capacity: In theory, this could be a light week at the State Capitol. Fresh from last week’s second floor deadline, lawmakers have until Friday, May 27, to do three things: Finish a state budget; Confirm or reject people nominated by the governor for various positions; And conclude remaining negotiations on policy bills that were amended in their opposite chamber (which could conclude having their titles or enacting clauses removed). [NonDoc]

(Democracy Watch Newsletter) With the stroke of a pen, Stitt vetoes government transparency proposal: Senate Bill 1695 couldn’t have had an easier trip through the legislative process. The proposal to require cabinet official and agency heads file financial disclosure forms each year passed on bipartisan and unanimous votes in both of its committee hearings earlier this year. On the House and Senate floors, there was no debate or opposition again as lawmakers quickly give the green light to the government transparency measure. Gov. Kevin Stitt stopped the move in its tracks this week when he vetoed the proposal. [Oklahoma Watch]

Governor’s veto criticized by lawmakers, OPEA director: A Republican state senator from Springer said he was shocked and disappointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s veto this week of a bill passed in the Legislature that would have allowed state employees more time to take annual leave that they weren’t able to use during the darkest days of the pandemic. [The Journal Record]

‘Culture war’ bills could cost state jobs, damage reputation: Legislative leaders and Gov. Kevin Stitt spent the week advancing a series of “culture war” bills intended to please certain voters, but which may cost the state the year’s biggest economic development deal. The Oklahoma House of Representatives rammed through a series of bills dealing with abortion, transsexual people, school curricula, voting and protest rights on Thursday morning, in time to meet a legislative deadline. [The Journal Record]

  • Trans bathroom ban advances in Oklahoma legislature amid open letter battle [KGOU]
  • Transgender students navigate anti-trans legislation and bans in Oklahoma [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

‘I want justice.’ Former Oklahoma Cabinet secretary asks Stitt to appoint special prosecutors: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s former secretary of digital transformation and administration wants special prosecutors to look into why he was indicted. “I feel like I’ve been completely mistreated and ignored, and I want justice,” David Ostrowe said Friday. [The Oklahoman]

Keith Reed nominated for state health commissioner after holding the role on interim basis: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday nominated Keith Reed to serve as state health commissioner. Reed has held the role on an interim basis since Oct. 2021, when the previous commissioner, Dr. Lance Frye, announced his resignation. [The Oklahoman]

What to know about Oklahoma’s embrace of the electric vehicle industry: From the introduction of electric vehicle startup Canoo, to the murky details of “Project Ocean,” Oklahoma is making plays to lure EV manufacturing into the state. The aggressive recruitment of EV companies marks an apparent recognition that fossil fuels won’t always drive the economy, and it’s coming at a time when Oklahoma’s governor says he favors an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy production. [The Oklahoman]

(Audio) Long Story Short: Fallout from health lab relocation and decades old injustice: For Long Story Short episode 17 of season 2, Oklahoma Watch’s Paul Monies reports on the continued fallout from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to relocate the state public health lab to Stillwater; Criminal justice reporter Keaton Ross talks about his encounter with a man freed by new evidence after three decades in prison. Ted Streuli hosts. [Oklahoma Watch]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers resist Air Force move to slash AWACS planes at Tinker: Oklahoma lawmakers are warning Air Force officials against trying to slash the E-3 Sentry fleet that has long been based at Tinker Air Force Base, unless the timetable is accelerated for replacement aircraft. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahomans remember Native American artist Enoch Kelly Haney: People from all over the state spent Saturday afternoon remembering one of the most influential Native Americans of the last half century, Enoch Kelly Haney. [KFOR] The service was held at the new First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City. [KTUL]

Cherokee Nation ‘Anadisgoi Magazine,’ language perpetuation efforts receive highest honors in international contest: Cherokee Nation’s Anadisgoi Magazine and the tribe’s ongoing efforts to perpetuate the Cherokee language through traditional and emerging media both received the highest honors awarded as part of this year’s Hermes Creative Awards international competition. [Indian Country Today]

Health News

What banning abortion means for Oklahoma doctors and pregnant patients: Restrictions on abortion — including legislation modeled after Texas’ abortion ban — could have serious ramifications for the ways doctors and other health care providers care for Oklahomans during pregnancy, physicians said. [The Oklahoman]

  • We fact-checked Gov. Kevin Stitt on abortion [The Frontier]
  • What is happening with abortion in Oklahoma? [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Reproductive rights supporters challenge two Oklahoma anti-abortion bills [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Oklahoma just passed its own 6-week abortion ban. Here’s what this one does. [Vox]
  • Uber and Lyft extend legal fee coverage to drivers sued under Oklahoma’s forthcoming abortion law [The Verge]

Don’t want long COVID woes? Consider the ‘miserable’ people and get vaccinated, OU doctor says: COVID-19 remains rather unpredictable, but through it all the vaccine has been safe and stayed effective at preventing acute complications and hospitalizations from the disease, according to Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer. [Tulsa World]

  • 15 charts that show how COVID-19 is spreading in Tulsa and Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Vaping bans are expanding across Oklahoma. Enforcement, however, remains minimal in OKC: The park bench is no longer a legal place to vape in this small community just east of Oklahoma City, or in a growing number of cities across the country. Amid contradictory reports on the safety of vaping and whether the practice is an effective alternative to cigarette smoking, Spencer’s elected leaders recently joined towns and counties in the state and across the nation that have banned vaping on publicly owned and operated property. [The Oklahoman]

University Of Arizona, Oklahoma State team up to fight opioid crisis, chronic pain: The University of Arizona and Oklahoma State University announced last week that the two research universities will form a partnership to address the opioid crisis and the problem of chronic pain. [Forbes]

Criminal Justice News

French documentary examines Oklahoma’s female incarceration rate: The documentary produced by a French journalist whose Oklahoma County Jail media request became the subject of a controversial voicemail by jail officials has made a partial debut. Brice Lambert has released a shortened 24-minute version of his film, which will eventually be a feature-length documentary about the female incarceration rate in the United States. [NonDoc]

Stitt does about-face, approving then revoking ex-cop’s parole in Tulsa murder case: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday reversed his week-old decision to grant parole to a former Tulsa police officer convicted of murder. [AP News and Public Radio Tulsa]

Human remains found, Oklahoma white supremacist leader might be connected: State and federal agents are investigating whether a white supremacist prison gang is behind nine or more disappearances, multiple sources have told The Oklahoman. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Officials say Oklahoma is getting a handle on its cannabis boom: Oklahoma is getting a grip on the state’s cannabis sector and will have an even firmer grasp if legislation pending this session makes it into law, two knowledgeable officials told the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Friday morning. [Tulsa World]

Despite high gas prices, nearly 60% of Oklahomans plan summer travel, AAA says: If you are planning to fly for a Memorial Day weekend getaway, the best time to purchase tickets is about two weeks before the trip, AAA Oklahoma said. But if you wait until the last minute, the average cost could nearly double to more than $800 per ticket, the auto club said. [Tulsa World]

First case of bird flu confirmed in Oklahoma; poultry exhibitions, public sales put on hold: The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have confirmed a positive case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Sequoyah County. The virus was found in a commercial poultry flock. [Tulsa World]

With retention down in Norman, leaders look for ways to keep qualified workers: Norman is home to a large public research university, but its skilled worker pool is lacking compared to a number of comparable cities — something local business leaders aim to fix. [The Norman Transcript]

Education News

Stitt picks Rick Braught for OU Board of Regents: Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed businessman Rick Braught to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents to fill the final year of an unexpired term vacated by Phil Albert, who resigned in January amid lingering allegations that he embezzled more than $7 million from a former employer. [NonDoc] Braught is the president of Investors Trust Co. He has led the Duncan-based business since 1996. [The Oklahoman] According to Stitt’s office, Braught transformed the company from a back-office bookkeeping operation to a diverse family office entity. [KSWO]

State regent nominee divests of family businesses to avoid conflict of interest: A nominee for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education says he’s divested himself of family businesses that contract with OSRHE’s digital communications network. Dustin Hilliary of Lawton provided the Tulsa World with a copy of a letter dated April 25 in which Hilliary says he had “completely divested my ownership interest in any contract or services from OneNet” as of April 20. [Tulsa World]

General News

Three OU meteorology students die in car crash Friday on way home from storm chasing: A tight-knit community of weather lovers and storm chasers is grieving after the deaths of three University of Oklahoma meteorology students in a car crash late Friday while returning to Norman from storm chasing in Kansas. [The Oklahoman] Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, died in the crash shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report. [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa]  [The Norman Transcript]  [New York Times]

Former Ukrainian refugees in Tulsa working to get their displaced families to U.S.: Taken just weeks before the war began, the photo of her sister’s family still has the power to make Mariia Napelonok smile. At the same time, though, she can’t help feeling a twinge of sadness. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Judge to consider whether Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit should proceed on public nuisance argument: Attorneys representing three Tulsa Race Massacre survivors will have an opportunity in court Monday to make their case that the violent, destructive event created a continuing public nuisance never addressed by its perpetrators. [Tulsa World]

Attorneys, Norman lawmaker weigh in on turnpike plans: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority may have exceeded its authority in planning new pay roads that would affect Norman, Noble and Slaughterville, a Norman lawmaker and attorneys representing OTA opponents said Friday. [The Journal Record]

County Clerk promotes $25 mil COVID grant to campaign donors’ nonprofit: Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten has placed an item on Monday’s County Commissioners meeting asking that $25 million in COVID relief funds be granted to a nonprofit started by contributors to his race for State Treasurer. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“It just brings awareness to all the barriers that people face once they’re released from prison. And so we’re just here to support that”

– Teresa Stanfield, Oklahoma Field Director of Prison Fellowship, speaking about hundreds of Oklahomans who attended the Second Chance Walk on Saturday. [FOX 25]

Number of the Day


For Oklahomans in the middle 20 percent of earners, HB 3350 would cut their taxes by an average of $61 per year, while Oklahomans in the lowest 20 percent of earners would get a tax cut of about $4. The wealthiest one percent of Oklahomans would receive an average tax cut of more than $2,000 annually.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New from OK Policy: Under HB 3350, the majority of the benefit would go to the richest Oklahomans and leave the state scrounging for revenue to provide services that support us all.

Policy Note

Here’s Why Cutting Gas Taxes Doesn’t Work When Prices Soar: A new Urban Institute study finds tax rebates are a better solution, while efforts that discourage driving would have the most significant long-term impact on the inflation problem. [Governing]

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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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