In The Know: Special House committee to investigate Swadley’s | Oklahoma passes Texas-style abortion ban | Study highlights disparities for Okla. women

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

Increasing economic security in Oklahoma can strengthen families, assist in child abuse prevention (Child Abuse Prevention Month): Each year, leaders from across Oklahoma — including the governor, state agencies, and nonprofits — have declared April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in order to bring attention to the issue and make children a priority. When it comes to child maltreatment, neglect is the most pervasive form because it can occur unintentionally due to a lack of resources. Historically, interventions to decrease child maltreatment focus on services such as parenting education and an overreliance on the child welfare system. However, when it comes to providing meaningful solutions to stopping child maltreatment, Oklahoma should focus on addressing poverty, which is intrinsically linked with child maltreatment, particularly neglect. If Oklahoma leaders really want to make children a priority in this state, then improving economic stability for their families is the first step. [Gabrielle Jacobi / OK Policy]

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

A special House committee will investigate the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen deal: Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall on Thursday launched a special committee to investigate the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s dealings with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen. McCall named Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond to lead the special House committee, which will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. [The Frontier]

  • ‘Very questionable’: House committee launching own Swadley’s investigation [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma House to investigate Swadley’s, tourism deal as failed fire inspection surfaces [The Oklahoman] [Tulsa World]
  • Bipartisan panel to review Swadley’s scandal [The Journal Record] [KGOU] [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Former tourism deputy director reacts to Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen controversy [FOX 25]
  • New bombshell in Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen scandal [FOX 25]
  • (Audio) Swadley’s Bar-B-Q, nonbinary birth certificates, “The Patriot” and more [KOSU]

Oklahoma lawmakers pass abortion bill similar to controversial Texas law: Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday sent a bill to the governor that would ban abortion procedures after about six weeks of pregnancy. The bill, modeled after one passed in Texas last year, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected unless there’s a verified medical emergency. It takes effect immediately upon the signature of Gov. Kevin Stitt. The Republican has previously vowed to sign any anti-abortion legislation that crosses his desk, and he could act on the bill as early as next week. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Study highlights disparities for Oklahoma women: If current wage gap trends continue in Oklahoma, women will not receive equal pay until 2076. This is one figure from the Status of Women in Oklahoma research study that United We, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, and Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business conducted. The study covers topics impacting women like employment and earnings, poverty, childcare and civic engagement. [KOSU]

Previously from OK Policy: While the state acted swiftly to provide some guidance and support, a larger long-term investment in the child care industry is still desperately needed.

State Government News

‘Maybe the attorney general can chime in’: Board of Education members clash over meeting agendas: Frustration was apparent this morning as State Board of Education members Jennifer Monies and Trent Smith used the public comment section of the board’s monthly meeting to express concerns about the management of those meetings. Specifically, they mentioned certain items not being placed on meeting agendas even though board members had requested they be discussed, the lack of a “new business” section on meeting agendas and the process of calling for special meetings. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma House passes bathroom bill while state school board members decry Hofmeister: Lawmakers rapidly advanced a bill limiting school bathroom access to biological sex as members of Oklahoma’s top school board lamented being blocked from addressing the issue. The state House passed legislation on Thursday that would require people in public schools to use the restroom that matches their birth sex, or they could use a private single-use restroom if one is available. [The Oklahoman]

  • Bathroom access for transgender students added to legislation, subject of state education board squabble [Tulsa World]
  • School bathroom bill passes in Oklahoma House, heads back to Senate [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]
  • Democrats walk off the House Floor during controversial biological sex bathroom bill [FOX 25]

Gov. Stitt appoints Keith Reed as Health Commissioner: Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Keith Reed to serve as State Commissioner of Health on Thursday. Reed has nearly 20 years of experience at the Oklahoma State Department of Health and has served as interim commissioner since October 2021. He replaced Dr. Lance Frye, who resigned. [Tulsa World] If the Senate approves, Reed will become the fourth health commissioner since Stitt took office in 2019. [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa]

Looking into ‘bill mills’ and who’s writing your lawmakers’ legislation: Every year, hot-button bills pop up at the Oklahoma Capitol. Often, they’re the same as those in other states – in some cases, exactly the same. A lot of the bills come from advocacy groups in and around Washington, D.C. Critics call them “bill mills.” And these groups have set their sights on state legislatures. [KOCO]

Hamilton: State government tramples trumpeted ‘transparency’: Oklahoma, we have a problem. Slowly but surely, state government’s powers-that-be seek to conduct more of the people’s business behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. [Arnold Hamilton / The Journal Record]

House passes OTA “studies bill”: The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday passed Senate Bill 1610, which forces the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to perform environmental impact studies, and heads back to the senate with an amendment before consideration by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Norman Transcript]

Lawmakers pause to debate SB 1522 over free speech concerns amid deadline push: It was a race to the finish line on “Deadline Day” at the Oklahoma Capitol on Thursday as lawmakers voted on dozens of bills. In a marathon session to get through reams of legislation, SB 1522 made lawmakers pause and engage in some lively debate. [FOX 25]

Senate resolution would ask voters to approve sweeping changes to Oklahoma’s judicial system: A resolution that would ask Oklahoma voters to make district judge elections partisan, give the state Senate confirmation power over state Supreme Court nominees, and change some of the qualifications for practicing law in the state is moving through the Legislature but would likely require significant changes in order to receive final passage. [The Oklahoman]

Initial jobless claims decline for fourth consecutive week: Initial state jobless claims totals for the week ending Saturday declined again after peaking for the year in March, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 1,657 first-time claims for unemployment benefits were filed in the state last week, a 6.8% decline from the 1,778 claims filed the week ending April 16. [Tulsa World]

New from OK Policy: Oklahoma’s lawmakers should recognize the importance of a well-designed unemployment insurance program and strengthen this necessary program rather than undermine it. Unfortunately, a piece of legislation (HB1933) recently passed by the state Senate threatens the efficacy of our state’s unemployment insurance program

Federal Government News

Next release of 2020 census data postponed until next year: The next release of detailed data about U.S. residents from the 2020 census will be postponed until next year because the U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday that it needs more time to crunch the numbers, including implementing a controversial method used to protect participants’ identities. [AP News]

Tom Cole votes to provide Ukraine defense support: Fourth Dist. Rep. Tom Cole released the following statement after he voted in favor of the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday with bipartisan support. [The Lawton Constitution]

Tribal Nations News

Indigenous history, treaties and federal Indian law took center stage in Castro-Huerta arguments: Two hundred years of federal, state and tribal law converged with the realities of Oklahoma and Indigenous history Wednesday as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether the state of Oklahoma should be able to prosecute non-Indians when they commit crimes against Native people inside reservation boundaries affirmed by the Court in 2020. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma GOP Congressional candidate John Bennett calls for execution of Dr. Anthony Fauci: While campaigning for Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District seat, John Bennett recently called for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be placed in front of a firing squad. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

After arrest, low-income defendants may spend weeks or months in jail before they can request a lower bond: Low-income defendants in many courts aren’t guaranteed access to a public defender during their first appearance before a judge, and many states don’t provide them. This moment in court, also called an arraignment, is often a defendant’s first opportunity to ask to be released from jail or to pursue a lower bond. [Big If True]

Previously from OK Policy (2019): Thousands of Oklahomans who have not been convicted of a crime are locked in county jails across the state because they can’t afford to buy their freedom from a bondsman. How long you stay in jail often depends on where you’re arrested.

Stitt rescinds parole for Tulsa’s notorious ‘Crossbow Killer’: Gov. Kevin Stitt reversed course late Thursday, denying parole for Tulsa’s notorious “Crossbow Killer.” Jimmie Dean Stohler, 69, was mere hours from being eligible for early release from a life sentence for the January 1982 murder of 30-year-old Michele Rae Powers in front of her Cherry Street apartment. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Even though they’re teens, students have already built a legacy with Market at Eastpoint: Sixteen young Oklahomans proved that age has nothing to do with one’s ability to leave a legacy. The urban farm student interns from the nonprofit RestoreOKC recently received recognition for their input and creative vision for a grocery store in northeast Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Mayes County commissioners approve TIF district for MidAmerica Industrial Park: Mayes County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to approve a resolution establishing a $300 million tax increment financing district within MidAmerica Industrial Park. The 12-year TIF would cover 588 acres inside the 8,900-acre industrial park. [Tulsa World]

Education News

COVID-19 taught hands-on institutions many lessons they will carry past the pandemic: The places to go and the things to see are hallmarks in every community, bringing people together to learn, to play, to watch, to create. Two years ago, all of that came to a stand-still, and the institutions that provide those opportunities have pivoted, adjusted and evolved since. [The Oklahoman]

OKCPS will ask for massive bond proposal on November ballot: Oklahoma City Public Schools is gearing up to ask voters to approve a massive bond package. Superintendent Sean McDaniel told reporters in a Thursday news conference that the district hopes to ask for between $600 and $900 million in a bond measure that would ultimately need approval from voters in the fall. [KGOU]

‘Why aren’t they taking more action?’: Norman High threat left targeted students rattled: Crudely written racial slurs and graphic drawings coated a girls bathroom stall one February morning at Norman High School. In the middle of the graffiti, sophomore Emma Hawkins found her name on a list of 10 students scrawled on the stall. Also written was a threat of a shooting and a date for it to take place — 11 days away on Feb. 28. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Central U.S. to emerge as flash flood hotspot, study finds: New research has found flash flooding events are likely to become more severe in the future if carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current rate. Using climate simulations and modeling that examined the years 2070-2100, the research team from the University of Oklahoma, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts flash flooding could happen more rapidly and that the events would produce higher flood peaks — a concept the team terms “flashiness.” [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

Private donors pitch in $7.2 million to push pedestrian bridge construction forward: Mayor G.T. Bynum and other officials are scheduled to hold a press conference Friday to announce that the city has raised $7.2 million in private donations for the project and that the bridge will be named Williams Crossing. [Tulsa World]

Garfield County enters extreme drought, but relief may be on the way: Garfield County and much of Northwest Oklahoma are in extreme drought, with a portion of Major, Woodward and Woods counties in exceptional drought, according to the nation’s Drought Monitor. Despite the designation, Garfield County commissioners are not looking at a burn ban at this time, partially because relief may be on the way, said Garfield County Commissioner Marc Bolz. [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“Approximately six in 10 of the minimum wage workers in the state are women. So, this gender earnings gap is something that’s concerning, and it seems it be, unfortunately, kind of getting worse.”

– Laura Ahlstrom, economic professor at OSU and lead researcher on a new study that found that if current wage gap trends continue in Oklahoma, women will not receive equal pay until 2076. [KOSU]

Previously from OK Policy (2019): Women still earn less than men, and it’s putting them at risk of living in poverty

Number of the Day

1 in 3

More than 1 in 3 households receiving federal rent assistance have children in the household

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

New from OK Policy: A home is vital to well-being. Oklahoma should celebrate Fair Housing Month by reducing housing disparities.

Policy Note

How Weak Safety Net Policies Exacerbate Regional and Racial Inequality: A new analysis from the Center for American Progress compares state-level differences in government policy choices, demonstrating that U.S. regions with larger populations of color have weaker safety nets and anti-poverty policies, and that regions with weaker safety nets have higher rates of hardship and worse economic outcomes overall. [Center for American Progress]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.