In The Know: Senate overrides veto of compact bills | Walters threatens Tulsa school accreditation | Christian nationalism on rise

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.

Oklahoma News

As tension mounts, Oklahoma Senate leader asks AG to intervene in gaming compact lawsuit: The leader of the Oklahoma Senate has formally asked the state’s attorney general to intervene in a federal lawsuit over tribal gaming compacts, castigating Gov. Kevin Stitt’s handling of the case as a personal conflict at the state’s expense. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma Senate votes to override tribal tobacco tax compact veto [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma Senate overrides Stitt veto of compact bills [KOSU]
  • Treat: Governor ‘ineffective,’ Oklahoma Senate must override his vetoes of compacts with tribes [KOSU]
  • Senate trying again to override Stitt’s vetoes of tribal compact extensions [Tulsa World]
  • If it feels like the 2023 legislative session just won’t end, that’s because it hasn’t ended yet [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma Attorney General calls for accountability amidst strained tribal relations [KTUL]

‘Respectful cooperation’: Stitt, Anoatubby emails precede meeting of their representatives: Behind the scenes of their tense public disagreements on a variety of policy, political and legal matters, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby have exchanged several emails over the past two months negotiating a possible extension of a state-tribal tobacco tax compact set to expire at the end of the year. The emails were polite, business-like and personal. [NonDoc]

Walters in Tulsa after what he calls ‘assault’ on religious liberty, implies threat to school district accreditation: State Superintendent Ryan Walters staged a press conference Friday on the grounds of Tulsa Public Schools’ administration building about an incident he views as a violation of a local school board member’s religious freedom. He vowed to make an issue of the matter when the school district’s accreditation is up for renewal next week by the Oklahoma State Board of Education. [Tulsa World]

  • Walters threatens TPS with accreditation lowering after religious freedom rally [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • AG Drummond warns of spreading Christian nationalism in public schools [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Special fall election to be held to replace retiring Lawton area state senator: Voters in the Lawton area will have a special election this fall to fill an open state Senate seat, a solidly Republican-leaning district that is even more so after recent redistricting. [The Oklahoman

Political notebook: Stitt to share tacos with PBS host: Gov. Kevin Stitt is scheduled to appear on an episode of a program called “Breaking Bread,” which according to its publicity involves host Alexander Heffner eating and talking with political leaders from across the country. [Tulsa World]

Sen. Floyd attends White House ‘Convening on Child Care’: Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, was among more than 90 state legislators from 41 states to attend an in-person convening of state leaders at the White House on efforts to improve access to affordable, quality child care. Floyd said it’s a timely issue as Oklahomans throughout the state are deeply impacted by the ability to find appropriate care for their children. [Okemah News Leader]

Editorial: Pay attention to the resignation letter from the Ethics Commission executive director: As campaign finance sophistication leads to untraceable donors and as politicians get better at hiding their questionable behavior, the Ethics Commission needs more resources to root out violations. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: U.S. Rep. Tom Cole offers insights into House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership: As chairman of the House Rules Committee — often called the “Speaker’s Committee” — Rep. Tom Cole is responsible for getting the final drafts of legislation and the conditions of debating them onto the House floor. He said McCarthy is careful to include as many factions of the Republican Conference as possible in that process. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Treaty promise for a Cherokee voice in Congress places tribes on different paths: The Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band share a history and operate less than three miles apart, but disputes over land and status have divided them for generations. Those tensions are resurfacing today around the push for Cherokee representation in Congress. [The Oklahoman]

Muscogee Nation renews effort to protect sacred tribal site in former Alabama home: The Muscogee Nation filed an appeal Friday in federal court to revive its legal fight to protect a sacred Alabama site tribal leaders say was desecrated.  [The Oklahoman]

A theme park could transform the Cherokee reservation. Officials say they haven’t been looped in: When developers unveiled plans this week to build a massive new theme park in eastern Oklahoma, state and local officials were on hand to celebrate the news. But Cherokee government officials weren’t at the announcement event. They say they weren’t invited until the day before the event. [The Oklahoman]

  • $2B theme park planned off Route 66: Questions and answers [Tulsa World]

Chief Gary Batton: The Choctaw Nation, tribal governments will enforce the law: Our justice system does not operate in a vacuum. The Choctaw Nation has 77 agreements with other law enforcement agencies, and we meet regularly to make sure our goals and tactics are aligned. [Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Capitol Insider: New group seeks changes in Oklahoma closed primary system: In an effort to increase voter participation and lessen partisanship, an Oklahoma group is pushing for electoral reforms that would change Oklahoma primary elections. [KGOU]

Health News

Training to stay: Oklahoma’s homegrown, educational approach to the rural physician shortage: There aren’t enough doctors in rural Oklahoma to meet patients’ needs. In fact, the majority of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are designated as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [KOSU]

With 40K calls in first year, Oklahoma’s 988 mental health hotline has momentum for continued growth: A three-digit phone number that links Oklahomans to mental health support generated nearly 40,000 calls in its first year, a number that should only keep rising as efforts to promote it continue. [Tulsa World]

Edibles Are Main Cause of Oklahoma Marijuana Overdoses, Accidental Consumption: Accidental consumption and overdoses rose dramatically in Oklahoma after the state legalized the drug for medicinal use in 2018. According to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, there was a 253% increase in discharges from Oklahoma hospitals for marijuana overdose between 2017 and 2021. [Oklahoma Watch]

Criminal Justice News

Federal prosecutors in Oklahoma stepping up enforcement of gun laws: Federal prosecutors in Oklahoma have stepped up enforcement of gun laws as a way to curb violent crime, using the charges to secure lengthy sentences for people who may have been involved in other illegal activity. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s new multicounty grand jury returns first two indictments despite bomb threat: The grand jury meets at the attorney general’s offices in Oklahoma City. The building was evacuated Wednesday because of the threat. The AG’s assistants advise the grand jury. [The Oklahoman]

Jail replacing mattresses in effort to evict bed bugs from detainee population: Oklahoma County’s jail is taking additional steps to rid itself of detainees nobody wants — bed bugs. Earlier this summer, attorneys representing the jail finalized a deal with the Oklahoma State Department of Health to spend $175,000 to go after the unwelcome guests as a way to end an administrative action brought against the jail. Inspectors had observed continuing health and safety issues inside the facility during a visit just over a year ago. [The Oklahoman]

Pulled off the street for jury duty?: Several people in Oklahoma County were randomly selected off the street by Oklahoma County Sheriff’s deputies Thursday to serve jury duty the next day. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Put former inmates on criminal justice task force to get full perspective: Gov. Kevin Stitt recently created another task force for criminal justice reforms. He needs to consider adding a few people with criminal records to his task force. Welcoming the voices of reason from those who’ve lived and experienced it will only add value to these efforts. [Tony Green Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Cultural changes needed at OHP for transparency, public safety: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has a problem with high-speed chases that too many leaders and officers are refusing to acknowledge. Innocent people have died while the OHP attitude and response to these deadly pursuits remains unchanged. It puts Oklahomans at risk and must be transformed. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Why some Oklahoma parents who homeschool their children are not in favor of state support: The number of students being taught at home has risen significantly nationwide since the COVID-19 pandemic caused many school buildings to close for several months. Some conservatives also have pushed a narrative of public schools as indoctrination factories, causing parents to question what their children are being taught. By some counts, that growth has been largest in Oklahoma, where one national estimate puts the state’s homeschool student population at more than 100,000. [The Oklahoman]

Education Watch: Textbook Committee Begins Annual Review, Focus on Math: The State Textbook Committee is undertaking its first evaluation of textbooks for use by Oklahoma public schools since Ryan Walters was elected superintendent of public instruction. [Oklahoma Watch]

Okmulgee school board shuts out rural charter school application; state appeal now planned: A charter school looking to expand to a second small Oklahoma town has been summarily shut out by the local school board it had hoped to partner with. But that’s hardly the end of this school choice story out of Okmulgee. [Tulsa World]

COVID aid ticking down on Tulsa summer school programs: The American Rescue Plan Act requires school districts to put at least 20% of their federal COVID-19 recovery funds toward addressing the impact of lost instructional time due to the pandemic through any number of routes, including expanded summer programming. [Tulsa World]

Chickasaw Nation summer nutrition programs help citizens and communities: Designed specifically for summer, the Chickasaw Nation Summer EBT for Children program provides qualifying children a monthly benefit for food purchase during the summer months. This federally funded program is available to First American and non-First American families. [Ada News]

General News

What happened at a church forum that focused on white Christian nationalism?: A photo of robed Ku Klux Klan members proudly posing at a 1933 Oklahoma City church dedication was shown Saturday as an example of how Christianity has been linked over the years to ideologies deemed as un-democratic and un-Christian in some circles. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s tax-free weekend: how to save on back-to-school shopping: The tax-free weekend for 2023 will kick off on Friday, Aug. 4 at 12:01 a.m. and will conclude on Sunday, Aug. 6 at midnight. During this time, the state sales tax of 4.5% will be completely waived, and even county and municipal taxes will be exempted, resulting in a higher overall discount for shoppers. [The Oklahoman]

Column: My parents raised me to be independent, which has stayed with me throughout my life: I was born two years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed into law. I have seen automatic doors in more buildings growing up, and I rarely see an entrance without a ramp. However, adjustments still need to be made, such as wheelchair stalls in bathrooms that need more space, and some buildings have ramps that are not near the entrance. One in six Oklahomans has a disability, and I am one of them. [Rachel McLemore Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Continue with leadership training and placements of diverse people: Organizational leadership matters. Leadership is an activity, not a position. Thus, everyone is capable of leading. Unfortunately, access to leadership positions has been far from equitable. [Jonathan Long Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“It’s horrible what politicians are doing to this country — right, left, you name it. We are one nation and one people. This division, this foolishness? Scripture says: ‘Divided we fall; together we stand.’”

-The Rev. Randy Lewis of All Souls Unitarian Church, who attended a press conference by State School Superintendent Ryan Walters on Friday. During the event, Walters threatened Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation after a school board member was reprimanded for leading prayer at a high school graduation ceremony. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Total number of releases from Oklahoma prisons and jails in 2019. There were 9,365 releases from prisons, while releases from jails were 207,432. [Prison Policy Initiative]

Policy Note

Successful Reentry: Exploring Funding Models to Support Rehabilitation, Reduce Recidivism: Reentry programs are essential for ensuring the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals released from jails and prisons into their communities. Reentry programs provide a range of services, including job training, housing assistance, health care and substance abuse treatment, among others. The effectiveness of reentry programs in reducing recidivism rates continues to be explored with some promising preliminary results. The National Institute of Justice explains, “[w]e don’t have a strong understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and there’s a pressing need for additional research to help us better understand the dynamic process of reentry.” [National Conference of State Legislatures]


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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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