In The Know: Ryan Walters subpoenaed by OK House | Cherokee Nation prosecutor Sara Hill confirmed as federal judge | AG office launches tip line for natural gas price gouging info | 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.

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers subpoena Ryan Walters for documents, information: Invoking a little used provision of the Oklahoma Constitution, the Oklahoma House of Representatives issued a subpoena Friday for documents and information from Ryan Walters, the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The subpoena, signed by Representatives Mark McBride, Rhonda Baker and House Speaker Charles McCall, referenced Article 5, Section 42 of the Oklahoma Constitution and gave Walters until 3 p.m. Jan. 5, 2024 to comply. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma House subpoenas Ryan Walters for State Department of Education records [Tulsa World]
  • State Lawmaker Reacts To State Superintendent Subpoena [KWTV]

Oklahoma wildlife officials refuse to release former director’s severance agreement: A state agency contends that Oklahoma taxpayers are not entitled to know the terms of a severance agreement for its former director who abruptly resigned nor how much public money he will receive as a result. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma AG’s Office launches tip line for info on natural gas prices during Winter Storm Uri: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office is seeking people with inside knowledge about how natural gas marketers handled Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. The AG’s Office isn’t seeking information about how the storm affected individual gas bills, but is soliciting insights from people who have worked for or with the natural gas marketers. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

US Senate confirms Oklahoma’s Sara Hill as a federal judge, overcoming GOP opposition: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed the first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge for the state of Oklahoma, despite some Republicans’ protest of her work as the top prosecutor for the Cherokee Nation. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Sara Hill confirmed as federal judge for Northern District of Oklahoma [NonDoc]
  • Former Cherokee Nation attorney general Sara Hill confirmed as federal judge [The Oklahoman]
  • Senate confirms Hill as first Native American woman on federal bench in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Tribal nations get $24.1 million for high-speed internet, education initiatives: The Choctaw Nation, Cherokee Nation and College of the Muscogee Nation received a total of $24.1 million in federal assistance grants for education initiatives and high-speed internet. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Some Hillcrest patients still frustrated by access issues following ransomware attack: Officials say digital records and other systems are slowly coming back online at Hillcrest HealthCare System, though some patients may still be unable to access the online portal. The situation stemmed from a ransomware attack that Ardent, the parent company of Hillcrest, confirmed Nov. 20. [Tulsa World]

A growing COVID-19 variant has taken off this holiday season. How to protect yourself.: Scientists are narrowing in on the fastest-growing COVID-19 variant, learning more about the strain that has coincided with a rise in cases as Americans head into the holidays. [The Oklahoman]

OU Health researchers receive millions in grants to study endometrial cancer: The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center is receiving millions in grant funding alongside Washington University in St. Louis and the University of New Mexico to fund research on endometrial cancer. [KGOU / StateImpact Oklahoma]

Criminal Justice News

After 48 years of imprisonment, Glynn Simmons formally exonerated in Oklahoma: An Oklahoma man who served the longest wrongful imprisonment in U.S. history has now been found “actually innocent” of a murder he has always maintained he did not commit. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma seniors face housing affordability challenges: Seniors in Oklahoma and across the U.S. on a fixed income are struggling to afford housing and utilities. A rising number of seniors are impacted by increased housing costs, according to a 2023 report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. [Journal Record]

Legal aid help for renters facing eviction in Oklahoma City is working and being expanded: It’s working, keeping people in their homes and apartments, and free legal help is coming to more renters facing eviction in Oklahoma City’s most vulnerable areas. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Opinion: DEI initiatives promote success of students, businesses: Business leaders should trumpet their success with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives even more these days. That message was voiced as Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order targeting DEI programs. [Joe Hight / Journal Record]

Education News

Walters: White attackers in 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre ‘chose to be racist’: Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters is taking his views to a national stage. Walters appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press Reports on Dec. 16 to talk about education with host Chuck Todd and fellow panelist Francesca Tripodi, a sociologist. Walters continuously praised education based on individual choice. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma ACLU, partners say University of Oklahoma misinterpreted new DEI policy: The ACLU’s Oklahoma chapter and other partners say the response from the University of Oklahoma to a recent executive order regarding diversity, equity and inclusion programs is overblown. [KGOU / StateImpact Oklahoma]

General News

Tulsa Catholics react to pope’s approval of same-sex couple blessings: Some Tulsa-area Catholics are hailing the pope’s officially granting approval to priestly blessings for same-sex couples this week as needed progress. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Quest for new Thunder arena benefits agreement will develop slowly [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“Where taxpayer money is concerned we must be diligent. The time for playing political games is over, and the time for answers is at hand.”

– Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) who, along with other House Representatives, subpoenaed State Superintendent Ryan Walters after several ignored requests for information about OSDE’s teacher bonus recruitment program. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of states that are raising their minimum wage in January 2024. [USA Today]

Policy Note

Minimum wages are going up, but typical workers still don’t make enough to get by in any U.S. state: Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., raised their minimum wage in January 2023. While the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant at $7.25 per hour since 2009, many states have continually raised theirs. Still, the vast majority of single people working fulltime and making a local minimum wage aren’t earning enough to get by. [CNBC]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.