In the Know: Special session lasts only 15 minutes on Day 1 | Teacher sues Walters, Ed Dept over teacher bonus | Lawmaker pushes for Ten Commandments monument at capitol

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

A tale of two brothers: Kevin Stitt fights to limit McGirt ruling, Keith Stitt uses it to challenge ticket: While Gov. Kevin Stitt has made defending state sovereignty a major goal of his administration since the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision, his older brother — Marvin Keith Stitt — is the appellant in a case before the state’s highest criminal court that argues tribal sovereignty prohibits cities from adjudicating traffic tickets issued to Indigenous people within reservation boundaries. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma AG wants a federal judge to release Oklahoma’s family planning funds : Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is asking a federal judge for a preliminary injunction that would force the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide funds from a Title X family planning grant to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers begin special session with House, Senate at odds on tax cut: Lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Monday for a special legislative session on tax cuts, but the state Senate quickly adjourned without taking any action. The House plans to vote Wednesday on the personal income tax cut requested by Gov. Kevin Stitt, but state senators will not resume the special session without an agreement on tax reform. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Treat fires back at critics as Senate goes home for the week [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Senate leader leaves door open for income tax negotiations with Governor, House Speaker [KOSU]
  • No action — as expected — as lawmakers open, then close special session on tax cuts [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma special session lasts only 15 minutes on Day 1 [Journal Record]

Oklahoma teacher sues Ryan Walters, education department over demand to repay $50K bonus: An Oklahoma teacher has filed a lawsuit against the state Education Department and state schools superintendent Ryan Walters after the department demanded she and other teachers repay a bonus it said they received in error. [The Oklahoman]

  • Teacher fights OSDE, Supt. Ryan Walters with lawsuit over demanded bonus repayment [Fox 25]
  • Ryan Walters blames teachers, media for fallout over erroneously paid teacher bonuses [The Oklahoman]
  • State Superintendent defends teacher bonus program amid criticism and legal battle [Fox 25]

Lawmaker seeks to restore Ten Commandments monument to Oklahoma Capitol:  Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, has filed Senate Bill 1858 that would place privately funded Ten Commandments monuments inside and outside the Capitol “as a symbol of its historical significance for Oklahoman and American history.” [Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

Condemnation of Lankford termed ‘illegitimate’: A resolution condemning U.S. Sen. James Lankford revealed a schism in the Oklahoma Republican Party leadership over the weekend. One faction of the GOP’s state committee voted to withdraw party support for Lankford because of his work with Democrats on a comprehensive border security bill. On  Monday, State GOP Chairman Nathan Dahm called the earlier resolution “illegitimate.” [Tulsa World]

  • US Sen. Lankord faces backlash from Republican Party over potential border deal [The Oklahoman]

Keep air traffic controller training in OKC, congressional delegation urges FAA: Oklahoma’s congressional delegation is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to reconsider plans to expand some air traffic controller training outside Oklahoma City. A report published last year identified bottlenecks at the training academy in Oklahoma City, which prevent the FAA from training enough controllers to meet demand. [The Oklahoma]

Tribal Nations News

N. Scott Momaday remembered for inspiring Native Americans to ‘write our own stories’: Literary giant and Oklahoma native N. Scott Momaday died Wednesday, Jan. 24 at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, publisher HarperCollins announced. A member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Momaday was the first Native American writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He earned the prestigious prize in 1969 with his novel “House Made of Dawn,” regarded as a breakthrough work in contemporary Native American literature. [The Oklahoman]

The Tonkawa Tribe was forced out of its Texas homelands. Now it’s reclaiming a sacred site: The Tonkawa Tribe is the latest tribal nation to reclaim lands they were forced to leave behind as the United States expanded. Now two centuries later, momentum is building to return tribal lands to the ownership and stewardship of the tribal nations that cared for them for centuries. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

More potent drugs a driver of Oklahoma’s mental health and addiction crisis: According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Drugs and Dangerous Substances, through 2022 meth was still Oklahoma’s No. 1 cause of accidental drug overdose deaths, even with the rise of opioids via a cycle almost identical to meth’s. An informal one-month study at the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health found that 54% of admissions for psychosis were connected to meth use. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma tops 20,000 COVID-19 deaths, 2nd highest death rate in the nation: Oklahoma has the second highest COVID-19 death rate in the nation as the state recently topped 20,000 COVID-19 deaths since 2020. With 20,055 deaths, the rate of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people is 437.5 in the entire state, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit accusing Oklahoma County jail of negligence after inmate death: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing the Oklahoma County jail staff of negligence in the suspected fentanyl-related death of detainee Kyle Steven Shaw. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Watch Sues Ponca City Seeking Arrest Details, Public Oversight: Oklahoma Watch and reporter Whitney Bryen are suing Ponca City seeking details about the arrest of Patrick Hansen who was taken by police to the Kay County jail where he died. Bryen requested the arrest report from the Ponca City Police Department under the Oklahoma Open Records Act on July 19. The officer’s summary of the incident and arrest was missing from the document provided to Bryen. [Oklahoma Watch]

Norman authorities discover ‘large-scale’ cockfighting operation while trying to save puppies from fire: Authorities are investigating an apparent cockfighting operation after a barn fire. Police said seized roosters were found in “deplorable conditions alongside evidence of brutal training and exploitation of the animals for fighting purposes.” Cockfighting has been illegal in Oklahoma for nearly 20 years after a statewide election that saw 56% of voters approve the ban. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Agriculture built these High Plains towns. Now, it might run them dry: ‘We’re running out of water,’ said Micheal Shannon, the interim city manager in Guymon. The Ogallala Aquifer, the underground rock and sediment formation that spans eight states from South Dakota to the Texas panhandle, is the only reliable water source for some parts of the region. But for decades, states have allowed farmers to overpump groundwater to irrigate corn and other crops that would otherwise struggle on the arid High Plains. [Oklahoma Voice]

USPS purchases six electric vehicles from Canoo: The U.S. Postal Service will purchase six electric vehicles from Canoo, which has a manufacturing plant in Oklahoma, as part of its plans to electrify its fleet of vehicles. USPS has already bought more than 9,000 EVs from Ford, but now is planning to buy six Lifestyle Delivery Vehicles from Canoo. Three of the same vehicles were received by the state of Oklahoma earlier this month. [StateImpact Oklahoma / KGOU]

Opinion: 64 million Americans risk losing work under Biden administration rule: A Department of Labor rule, scheduled to take effect March 11, would significantly restrict the right to work as an independent contractor instead of being treated as an employee. Proponents of the rule argue that workers who aren’t formal employees won’t be protected by labor laws regulating things such as minimum wages, work hours and unemployment insurance. Opponent say the rule eliminates jobs. Why? Because being an employee — including a prescribed schedule and reporting to a boss — isn’t possible for everyone. Freelancing in America reports that more than half of independent workers surveyed say they can’t work for a traditional employer because of their caregiving duties or their personal health conditions. [ Rachel Greszler / Tulsa World]

Education News

Construction to begin on $76M ‘long overdue’ Oklahoma City high school: Construction is finally set to begin on Belle Isle Enterprise High School more than 20 years after parents first requested it. The $76 million state-of-the-art high school is being funded by the $955 million bond issue Oklahoma City Public Schools voters passed in 2022. Officials expect to open the doors to students in fall 2026, which would allow Belle Isle’s current sixth graders to become the first freshman class. [Journal Record]

TPS board adjusts five-year plan to align with state goals: Citing a desire to have the district’s student outcome goals be more reflective of the requirements set by the Oklahoma State Board of Education, the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to change its five-year strategic plan. The board voted to incorporate results from the Oklahoma State Testing Program in the testing portion of the five-year strategic plan. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Last year between the December (revenue) estimate and the certification in February, there was a $611 million swing to the negative. We don’t anticipate that big of a swing this time, but we do anticipate some swing.”

-Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, speaking about why the Senate is being cautious about proposed revenue cuts being pushed by the governor and House leaders. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day

1 in 4

About 232,000 Oklahoma children (nearly 1 in 4 of all children) would benefit from the proposed bipartisan expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

Bipartisan Child Tax Credit Expansion Would Help Roughly Half a Million Children in Veteran and Active-Duty Families in First Year:  Among the roughly 16 million children in families with low incomes who would benefit from the proposed bipartisan expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit during the first year, about half a million are in the families of U.S. veterans and active-duty service members. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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


Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.