In The Know: Special session for ARPA funds began Wednesday | Secretive budget process | 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.

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Policy Matters: Oklahoma’s secretive budget process: I can remember the adrenaline rush of scrambling to complete school assignments before their deadline. In hindsight, my efforts earned me a passing grade, but it assuredly was not my best work. I was reflecting on my school days on Monday while I watched lawmakers scramble to publicly introduce budget bills – just 11 days before the required end of its three-month regular session. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Oklahoma News

Calling concurrent special session, Legislature to limit Stitt influence on ARPA funds: The Oklahoma Legislature is calling for a concurrent special session beginning Wednesday that will extend into the summer and allow lawmakers to have more control of the use of American Rescue Plan Act funding, sending it through a more typical appropriation process. [NonDoc

$9.84B budget package advances in Oklahoma Legislature: Legislative leaders brushed aside complaints that their $9.84 billion budget proposal is too light on common education funding and tax relief and moved the entire package, consisting of almost 30 bills, a step closer to final approval on Wednesday. [Tulsa World

  • Historic progress for developmental disabilities waiting list in new Oklahoma budget [The City-Sentinel]

Billionaire philanthropists pushing charter schools and school vouchers also fund Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education’s six-figure salary: Gov. Kevin Stitt blocked a bill that would have required cabinet members to disclose their finances. The bill would have shown Secretary of Education Ryan Walters makes at least $120,000 a year as executive director of a nonprofit organization that keeps its donors secret. Walters is also paid about $40,000 a year by the state, according to state payroll data. [The Frontier] [Oklahoma Watch

State Government News

After hearing in banking committee, resolution that could change judge appointments awaits vote: A proposed law giving the governor more power to appoint judges to Oklahoma’s highest court was discussed in a state House committee Wednesday. Although Senate Joint Resolution 43 would see state Supreme Court justices and other judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature, it was heard in a committee dedicated to banking. [Public Radio Tulsa

State fire marshal: Half of former Swadley’s state park restaurants code compliant: Following the termination of Swadley’s Foggy Bottoms Kitchen contracts with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, assistant state fire marshal James Fullingim said only three of the six state park restaurant facilities are code compliant at Friday’s State Fire Marshal Commission meeting. [NonDoc

Oklahoma bill makes state lawmakers final authority on election matters: A bill that limits who has the authority to enter legal agreements relating to election procedures is now in the hands of Gov. Kevin Stitt. Senate Bill 523, which passed by a 35-8 vote, specifies that only the Legislature can settle legal matters that would alter election procedures. [KPVI]

Hundreds file a lawsuit filed against OTA, alleged Open Meeting Act violation: Nearly 200 Norman area residents have filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority that accuses the agency of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act. The OTA announced its Advancing and Connecting Communities and Economics Safely Statewide [ACCESS] plan Feb. 22. The $5 billion, 15-year plan includes two new toll roads in Norman. [The Norman Transcript]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma paid outside counsel double the fees for arguing SCOTUS case: Oklahoma paid outside counsel double the amount originally promised as part of the state’s battle against the tribes in the U.S. Supreme Court. According to Bloomberg Law, Oklahoma originally signed a contract with the Washington, D.C. law firm Paul Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton and Garrison for $700,000. But the state attorney general’s office signed an addendum, doubling that amount to $1.4 million. [KOSU

Tribal Nations News

The Wrap: Oklahoma governor continues to clash with tribes: Over the weekend Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Cherokee Nation, warned tribal nations not to create abortion safe havens. During a taping of “Fox News Sunday” Stitt said that he is monitoring the situation if Roe v. Wade is overturned. On May 2, the state passed into law a total ban on abortions after six weeks. That law would go into effect immediately if Roe v. Wade is overturned. [Indian Country Today]

Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth face difficult challenge with new laws: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Cherokee Nation, signed a bill in late April explicitly prohibiting the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates, a ban experts say is the first of its kind in the nation. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Sample ballots for June election available for viewing: Sample ballots are available for the upcoming election in June. Voters can download a sample ballot for the June 28 primary election using the Oklahoma State Election Board’s OK Portal Voter by visiting [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma County district attorney candidates agree to debate night: The four candidates seeking the Republican nomination and the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 2022 Oklahoma County district attorney race have agreed to participate in a debate night hosted by NonDoc and News 9 on Wednesday, June 15. [NonDoc

Health News

Oklahoma families with premature babies are struggling amid the formula shortage: After one of the country’s largest formula manufacturers, Abbott Nutrition, had a bacterial outbreak in one of its facilities, Oklahoma parents and health providers have been struggling to find food for infants — especially those born too early. [StateImpact Oklahoma

As nearly all abortions come to a halt in Oklahoma, clinics search for new ways to connect patients with care: Before Oklahoma’s governor signed a six-week abortion ban earlier this month, Dr. Iman Alsaden was often driving hundreds of miles a week, mostly from Kansas to Oklahoma, to see patients. [PBS]

  • With Roe in doubt, some fear tech surveillance of pregnancy [AP News]

Criminal Justice News

Former OK County detention officer booked in detainee death: A former Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC) or Jail officer has surrendered for booking on one felony and one misdemeanor in the death of a detainee the day after Christmas in 2021. [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

West Lawton to have new internet, cable carrier by mid-summer: West Lawton residents will have a new cable and internet option by mid-summer. Bluepeak officially broke ground Wednesday on a $40 million project that will extend cable television and internet service to approximately 40,000 Lawton households and businesses in the next three years. [The Lawton Constitution]

Economy & Business News

PGA Championship means millions for NE Oklahoma:  The 104th PGA Championship tees off Thursday at Southern Hills Country Club, bringing 156 of the world’s best golfers, thousands of fans and millions of dollars to town. “This is by far the largest and most successful PGA Championship ever in terms of number of tickets sold and sponsorship revenue,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. [The Journal Record

Education News

Substitute shortage persisted even after Oklahoma school closures slowed down: Earlier this year a teacher shortage in Oklahoma forced hundreds of school districts to close their doors because of a lack of substitutes to fill in for educators out with the coronavirus. But even though that substitute shortage no longer occupies the headlines, it persists. [State Impact Oklahoma

Crisis in the Classroom Town Hall explores challenges facing Oklahoma teachers, students: KTUL’s Crisis in the Classroom Town Hall explores ideas to solve some of the biggest issues facing education today, with special guests state Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President Shawna Mott-Wright, and Bartlesville junior Joyce Yang. [KTUL]

Sex abuse suit filed against Oklahoma City Catholic school: Ten current and former students of Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City and six parents or guardians are suing the private school, alleging it fostered “a rape culture” for more than 10 years. [The Norman Transcript]

General News

Oklahoma organizers work to help Afghan refugees get settled: The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in partnership with St. John’s Episcopal Church, announced the opening of the Afghan Refugee Resource Center. With the opening of the new Afghan Refugee Resource Center, families can now receive help in one centralized place at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City. [KOCO

Three survivors of Tulsa Race Massacre receive $1 million donation: The last known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre received a $1 million donation Wednesday from a philanthropic organization — a substantial sum for the three centenarians more than 100 years after White mobs destroyed their community. [The Washington Post]

Oklahoma Local News

Tulsa to help launch national effort to break link between jail and homelessness: Tulsa will become one of only four communities nationwide to launch a multimillion-dollar effort to break the link between spending time in jail and facing homelessness, officials announced Wednesday. [Tulsa World

Proposed ordinance would provide another tool for officers to deal with homeless people, deputy chief says: A Tulsa Police Department deputy chief indicated Wednesday that a proposed ordinance amendment that would give police the authority to remove people obstructing sidewalks and other public rights of way won’t necessarily be officers’ first option for addressing the problem. [Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“When we look at data on the drivers of homelessness and housing insecurity in Tulsa, the impact of incarceration becomes glaringly apparent”

– Kian Kamas, executive director of the Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity, speaking on Tulsa becoming one of only four communities nationwide to launch a multimillion-dollar effort to break the link between spending time in jail and facing homelessness [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

11 days

The Oklahoma Legislature publicly introduced budget bills just 11 days before the required end of its three-month regular session.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

A Better Path Forward: Focus on Transparency: A January 2022 report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget. OK Policy found that the average state deliberated about their budget for 82 days. The three days Oklahoma used for budget deliberations was the nation’s third shortest such timeframe last year, behind only Utah and Nevada at two days and one day, respectively. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]

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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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