In The Know: School voucher bill move forward | Oklahoma’s Clean Slate law | Six abortion bills advance at state Legislature | 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.

From OK Policy

Hiring Deadline Approaching: Join our team as a Development Manager: The Development Manager is a vital position that ensures the financial health of the organization through targeted donations and grants. The Development Manager identifies new sources of grant funding, works to raise visibility & awareness of the organization and its mission, and leads the coordination of our public events, providing increased access to OK Policy’s work. The deadline to apply is Monday, March 14 at 5:00 PM CST. Remote work is available for Oklahoma residents.  [Learn more and apply]

Oklahoma News

An Oklahoma bill to implement school vouchers is moving forward. Here’s what we know: A school voucher bill that has divided the statehouse advanced in the Senate last week, and new estimates show the program would likely cost over $116 million. The bill has a ways to go before becoming law, but it’s already one of the most talked about and debated pieces of legislation this year. [Oklahoma Watch

  • ‘We see this as a potential dismantling of public education,’ Controversial Oklahoma school bill receives more pushback [KFOR

Bill to automate Oklahoma’s expungement process goes to the Senate: A bill to automate expungement passed Wednesday through the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Proponents say HB3316 will modernize the current process, saving time and money for people eligible for expungement by using a computer-based system to sidestep the current need for attorneys to file suit on behalf of those eligible. [Stillwater News Press]

Previously from OK Policy: If Oklahomans could expunge their criminal records through automatic expungements, it would be much easier for them to access employment and become productive citizens, but the current expungement system is too expensive and complicated for most eligible Oklahomans to access the benefits of an expungement.

At 2-year mark, Oklahomans reflect on how COVID-19 changed lives and future with the virus: Two years ago, on March 11, 2020, Oklahoma City was where the pandemic went from feeling abstract to concrete. The Thunder game against the Utah Jazz scheduled for that night never tipped off, but it was a tipping point. Since that day, when COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic — the “day that changed everything,” as some have dubbed it — the virus has changed countless lives in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma Senate advances six bills to ban most abortions: Senate GOP lawmakers advanced on Thursday six bills to restrict abortions in Oklahoma after hours of debate and opposition from Democrats and far-right Republicans. [The Oklahoman] Two would effectively ban the procedure in the state. A third would let voters decide whether “personhood” begins at conception and ban abortion. [Tulsa World] SB 1503 author Republican Julie Daniels of Bartlesville said her other abortion restriction bills have foundered, but she thinks Senate Bill 1503 is a winner because it mirrors a Texas law that has so far has not been struck down. [Public Radio Tulsa

(Audio) Long Story Short: On Expungement, Drug Court and the Public’s Right To Know: Oklahoma Watch journalists discuss their recent and upcoming stories: Keaton Ross on a proposal to automate record expungement for minor, non-violent offenders; Whitney Bryen on Oklahoma County’s drug court; and Mike Sherman on Sunshine Week and government transparency. Ted Streuli hosts. [Oklahoma Watch]

House passes bill to broaden protective orders: The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that modifies the definition of “family or household member” and defines “living in the same household” for the purpose of obtaining a protective order. [The Lawton Constitution]

Federal Government News

The 2020 census undercounted Latino, Black and Native American people: Latino, Black and Native American populations were significantly undercounted in the 2020 census, officials announced Thursday. [KOCO]

Report from OK Policy: Oklahoma, along with 18 other states, did not allocate any state funds for the census. Recommendations for improving future counts include early allocation of state funds to support census work, improved broadband infrastructure, and meaningful, inclusive collaboration with non-traditional partners. 

Biden: Fight inflation by bringing jobs back to US: President Joe Biden has offered a solution for fighting inflation that may seem counterintuitive: He wants to bring factory jobs back from places like China and Singapore and reestablish them in places like Oklahoma and Tennessee. [The Journal Record

Rep. Frank Lucas talks federal budget, Russia with Stillwater Rotary: Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) addressed Stillwater’s Frontier Rotary Club Thursday, sharing his insights on the inner workings of Congress and touching on relations with Russia, federal energy policy and agriculture, before taking questions from the audience. [Stillwater News Press]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt launches first TV ads for reelection bid: Gov. Kevin Stitt launched his first campaign commercials of the 2022 election cycle this week with a 60-second ad that touts successes from his first three years in office. The ads from Stitt’s campaign come at a time when the governor is facing millions of dollars in attack ads from dark money groups that don’t have to reveal their donors. [The Oklahoman

After eight years, T.W. Shannon ready for one more race: In some ways, the past week has been a scramble for T.W. Shannon. But it’s also a moment on which the former Oklahoma speaker of the House of Representatives has been waiting for eight years. “Since 2014, I knew there was another race in me,” said Shannon. [Tulsa World] Shannon, 44, a Republican, said the Constitution, capitalism and Christianity had made the country great and that capitalism was the “real reason” he was running for the Senate. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Weekly state initial jobless claims decline 8.5%: Initial jobless claims in the state declined about 8% last week when compared to adjusted totals from the prior seven-day-period, according to a government report. The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 1,316 initial claims for unemployment benefits were filed the week ending Saturday in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World

German company chooses Pryor for data center that could mean 300 jobs: Northern Data, which specializes in cloud computing, bitcoin mining and third-party hosting and services, plans to invest about $270 million to build its headquarters and a data center on 100 acres located at the city’s MidAmerica Industrial Park. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Education News

State Board of Education approves permanent rules for teaching about race under HB 1775: At a meeting Thursday, State Board of Education members approved permanent rules for the controversial HB 1775, which bans the teaching of certain concepts about race and gender in Oklahoma public schools. [NonDoc

  • State school board quickly passes HB 1775 rules, rejects new health education standards [The Oklahoman
  • State Board of Education intervenes in new academic standards-setting for health, physical education [Tulsa World

Oklahoma’s education secretary says schools should teach children “Christian values” and belief in God: Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters said Thursday that the state’s schools should teach students that they should lead Christian lifestyles. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Epic approves school-district consolidation that could save millions: Epic Charter Schools Board members approved the consolidation of the Epic One-on-One and Epic Blended school districts at their meeting Wednesday evening. Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield said the move could result in $4 to $8 million in savings owing to lower charter authorization fees, technology fees and personnel time savings and efficiencies. [NonDoc]

OU Regents approve fee increase for STEM classes, talk performance-based pay raises: University of Oklahoma students in certain STEM classes will see $40/credit hour fee increases in the coming school year after the Board of Regents approved the increase Wednesday. [The Norman Transcript]

General News

Ginnie Graham: Just pointing out facts on race irritates people: A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the diversity among elected officials in Oklahoma; it included gender, race and LGBTQ+ representation at the local, state and federal levels. A representative government ought to look like a representation of its people. This year the response was different — and more angry. [Column / Tulsa World

Oklahoma Muslims return to state Capitol for day of advocacy: Members of Oklahoma’s Islamic faith community received different greetings as they returned to the state’s seat of government Thursday for a day of advocacy and prayer. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“The government doesn’t need to be the artificial barrier to people moving on with their lives who have paid their debt to society.”

— Representative Nicole Miller (R-Edmond), speaking about HB 3316, Oklahoma’s Clean Slate law, a bill she authored that would automate expungements for eligible people with criminal records and past convictions. The bill would address Oklahoma’s complicated and expensive expungement system and improve access to employment, housing and education. [Stillwater News Press]

Previously from OK Policy: If Oklahomans could expunge their criminal records through automatic expungements, it would be much easier for them to access employment and become productive citizens, but the current expungement system is too expensive and complicated for most eligible Oklahomans to access the benefits of an expungement.

Number of the Day

$18.6 billion

Estimated spending generated nationally in local economies each month by the expanded Advanced Child Tax Credit 

[Source: U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee]

Policy Note

American Rescue Plan’s Fiscal Recovery Funds Are Helping Produce a Stronger Recovery: Federal policymakers enacted five relief bills in 2020 that provided an estimated $3.3 trillion of relief and the American Rescue Plan in 2021, which added another $1.8 trillion. This robust policy response helped make the COVID-19 recession the shortest on record and helped fuel an economic recovery that has brought unemployment, which peaked at 14.8 percent in April 2020, down to 4.0 percent. [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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