In The Know: School voucher bill fails | More tax cuts proposed | Tribes’ contribution to economy | 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: COVID-19 pandemic: Two years and counting: Two years ago, the COVID-19 virus turned our worlds upside down. During that time, the virus’ impacts have been staggering. In Oklahoma alone, more than one million COVID-19 cases were confirmed, which averages about one case for every four Oklahomans. In some rural areas, the ratio of cases to populations climbed to more than one case for every three residents. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Oklahoma News

School voucher bill narrowly fails in Oklahoma Senate during late night vote: A school voucher bill narrowly failed late Wednesday night after hours of debate and lobbying from lawmakers. [KGOU] Senate Bill 1647 failed by a vote of 22 to 24. Senate leadership held the vote open well over an hour hoping to flip votes. The measure needed 25 votes to pass the Senate. The vote was declared shortly before midnight. It faced an uncertain future in the House should it have passed. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said he would not hear the bill. Gov. Kevin Stitt supported the bill. [Tulsa World

House lobs $400 million ‘live round’ at the Senate: One day after approving $500 million in potential tax cuts, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved measures intended to phase out the state’s personal and business income taxes over several years, temporarily expand sales tax rebates to the tune of $185 million over two years, and to mail out $321 million in tax rebates just ahead of the November general election. [Tulsa World]

New from OK Policy: This legislative session, the Oklahoma legislature is set to consider several proposals that would significantly cut state revenue. Rather than cutting taxes, legislators must consider the state’s long-term fiscal health and its structural deficit by maintaining revenue streams this year and for years to come.

Oklahoma tribes contributing more than ever to state’s economy, according to new study: Native American tribes contributed $15.6 billion to the Oklahoma economy in 2019, the most recent year with available data, according to a study released Wednesday. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma tribal nations employed more than 50,000 people, paid nearly $2.5 billion in wages and benefits and spent more than $300 million on roads and construction projects in 2019. [The Oklahoman] “This study shows just how important tribes are to Oklahoma’s economy,” said Neal McCaleb, Chickasaw Nation Ambassador to the United States. [Indian Country Today]

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmaker renews push to free death row inmate Richard Glossip: Wednesday, Rep. Kevin McDugle wasn’t pushing a bill. Instead, he spent the day lobbying alongside Richard Glossip’s attorney. The pair are pleading for more signatures on a letter that was sent to Governor Stitt almost a year ago. [Fox 25

Oklahoma Senate approves bill requiring parental consent for birth control, vaccinations: A measure voted through the Oklahoma Senate would require parental consent for minors to access birth control or vaccinations.  It would require schools and health professionals to get consent from parents before administering vaccinations and female contraceptives. [Tulsa World] The bill touches on several kinds of medication and medical care, but the author and critics focused mostly on the portions about birth control. [KGOU

The votes for and against Oklahoma’s controversial anti-abortion bill in the House of Representatives: Here is how members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives votes on HB 4327, which would ban most abortions in the state. The voting was along party lines with 78 Republican representatives voting in favor, and no Democrats. [The Oklahoman] The ban on abortions would be enforced through private civil actions, similar to a new Texas law that has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state. [AP News]

  • Oklahoma House passes near-total ban on abortions [The Hill] | [Axios]

One lawmaker’s solution to school bus driver woes: School bus driver shortages, exacerbated by the pandemic, have led schools to alter bus routes, shrink areas with service and even cancel school. House Bill 3086 would give school districts “innovation grants” they could use to pay parents or neighborhood carpools to deliver students to school. [Oklahoma Watch

Military family sales tax exemption bill moves to House: A bill that would provide a sales tax exemption to spouses of military veterans killed in the line of duty passed the state Senate and now moves to the House for its consideration. The Senate passed Senate Bill 1670 and an emergency clause 46-0 on March 14. [Southwest Ledger]

Senate passes bill that would create teams to probe elder abuse: Each district attorney in Oklahoma will be required to form a team that investigates and prosecutes people accused of elder and vulnerable adult abuse if a Senate approved bill is signed into law. Senate Bill 1163 passed the Senate 42-3 on March 14 and has been sent to the state House for consideration. [Southwest Ledger]

(Audio) Long Story Short: Public records delays, COVID miscounts, proposed Race and Equality Commission: Oklahoma Watch reporters provide deeper insight into their recent or upcoming stories: Paul Monies reports on Oklahoma’s challenges with timely responses to public records requests; Whitney Bryen discusses her revelation that at least 537 unreported nursing home deaths from COVID; Rebecca Najera explains why Sen. George Young wants to create a Race and Equality Commission and the resistance he’s encountered. [Oklahoma Watch

Montgomery to chair Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee: Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, is the new chair of the Senate Retirement and Insurance Committee. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat announced Tuesday he was naming a new chair and vice chair of the committee after the former chair, Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, resigned to announce his candidacy for the Second Congressional District seat. Quinn will remain a member of the committee. [The Lawton Constitution]

Federal Government News

US Sen. Jim Inhofe urges President Joe Biden to request more defense spending: Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, who pushed defense spending higher in the current fiscal year, told President Joe Biden on Wednesday that national security requires a boost of at least 5% above inflation in the next defense budget. [The Oklahoman

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Supreme Court hears arguments in Jim Inhofe special election challenge: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case challenging the timing of the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim Inhofe. [The Oklahoman

  • (Audio) Listen Frontier: Jim Inhofe is resigning. How is the race to replace him shaping up? [The Frontier
  • Attorney asks Oklahoma court to stop US Senate election [AP News]

Joshua Harris-Till, cousin of Emmett Till, running for Congress in Oklahoma: With proven experience as a community organizer on the local, state and national level, Democrat Joshua Harris-Till is jumping into the race for U.S. Congress. Harris-Till, a cousin of the late Emmett Till, whose gruesome murder in 1955 sparked the Civil Rights Movement, looks to prove that a Black Democrat from Oklahoma can be elected to one of the nation’s highest offices. [The Black Wall Street Times

Incumbent Dan Snell and Alex Ruggiers face off in Norman school board race: Dan Snell has held the Office 2 seat on the Norman Public Schools Board of Education for more than two decades, but challenger and former district teacher Alex Ruggiers thinks it’s time for some new blood. [NonDoc

Criminal Justice News

OSBI releases identity of inmate who died at CCDC: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is releasing new details in the death of an inmate at the Comanche County Detention Center. They’ve identified the inmate as Vanessa Thorpe, 39. The OSBI said they were called to CCDC Sunday to investigate the death. [KSWO]

Economy & Business News

Opportunities, concerns grow with CLO direct investments in private companies: As much as 5 percent of Oklahoma’s $4 billion “land commission” trust fund — a pool of money generated by state-owned real estate and earmarked for public education — can now be invested in private development projects. [NonDoc

General News

‘My mother would be joyous,’ says Clara Luper’s daughter at sit-in monument announcement: The design for a downtown Oklahoma City monument depicting the 13 Black children who participated in the first Katz Drug Store sit-in led by Clara Luper was announced Wednesday. The $3.6 million bronze monument — with sculptures featuring the Katz lunch counter, the 13 children and the waitress who refused to serve them — will be part of the Clara Luper Sit-In Plaza where the drug store once stood. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

City Council advances process for providing redress for those harmed in 1921 Race Massacre: City councilors voted 7-2 on Wednesday night to approve a resolution establishing a community-led process to come up with recommendations for making amends for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Tulsa World

‘No, no and hell no’: Norman residents rally at Oklahoma Capitol in turnpike protest: With homemade signs and a fear their homes may be destroyed in an effort to build a new turnpike, Norman residents took to the state Capitol on Wednesday in protest to a planned expansion. [The Oklahoman

Quote of the Day

“Tribes are an economic driver as well as a constant and reliable partner. Unlike corporations that move based on economic conditions, our tribes are here to stay.”

– Victor Flores, President of the Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


The estimated number of previously uninsured Oklahomans who now have health care coverage through Medicaid after the expansion was implemented in July 2020

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New from OK Policy: Since expansion began on July 1, 2021, Medicaid expansion has improved the lives of more than 260,000 Oklahomans. Medicaid expansion, along with the continuous coverage provision of the public health emergency, have increased access to coverage throughout the pandemic. Maintaining our shared commitment towards the health and well-being of all Oklahomans will improve our state’s quality of life and economic outlook.

Policy Note

Unwinding the Medicaid Continuous Coverage Provision: What States Can Do Now to Keep Eligible People Covered: To receive the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s 6.2-percentage-point increase in their federal Medicaid matching rates, states can’t terminate most enrollees’ Medicaid coverage while the federal public health emergency (PHE) is in place. This continuous coverage requirement has kept millions of people covered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the extension of the PHE, states have time now to establish policies that will reduce their workloads at the end of the PHE by implementing streamlined processes that will benefit both eligible enrollees and state Medicaid agencies. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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