In The Know: State agencies largely funding Gov.’s DC office | Mental health advocates protest proposed rule change | Education news | 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.

State Government News

Gov. Stitt’s D.C. office largely funded by Oklahoma state agencies: State agencies are covering the bulk of the costs for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office in Washington, D.C., but some lawmakers are questioning why they weren’t consulted about the funding. Seven state agencies — all led by Stitt appointees — are paying a combined $300,000 annually for the office near Capitol Hill while the Governor’s Office picks up the remaining costs, according to public records obtained by the Tulsa World. [Tulsa World]

CLO: State gas bill reduced, huge OKC property for sale, Red River land dispute discussed: During a meeting of the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office on March 9, state leaders approved a major land sale opportunity in Oklahoma City, authorized legal action in a property dispute regarding the Red River in Jefferson County and received an update on a negotiated settlement between the state and Symmetry to pay off gas bills inflated by Winter Storm Uri. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma House Passes Affordable Housing Bill: House Bill 2098 would allow Oklahomans to donate up to 1% of the proceeds made from selling personal property. The money would go to a fund overseen by the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, used by the state to develop affordable housing. [News On 6]

Federal judge grants Oklahoma additional time to reach agreement with poultry growers: A federal judge has agreed to extend the length of time Oklahoma has to reach an agreement with 11 poultry companies and subsidiaries over damages they caused to the state’s scenic watersheds. [The Oklahoman]

  • Attorneys ask for more time to reach agreement in Illinois River watershed poultry-waste lawsuit [Tulsa World]

Proposal to Boost Poll Worker Pay Clears Senate: In the Senate, a bill to double the daily compensation for poll workers was widely embraced. Senate Bill 290 by Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, cleared the Senate without objection. [Oklahoma Watch]

Political notebook: Drummond wants compliance with Open Records and Open Meeting acts: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said his office has cleared an inherited backlog of Open Records Act requests and has hired former state Sen. Anthony Sykes to work with “state, county and municipal government agencies and commissions to ensure they strictly comply with the Open Meeting and Open Records Acts,” according to a press release. [Tulsa World]

  • Former Oklahoma lawmaker to help ensure government transparency [Journal Record]

Column: As Oklahoma trans kids are bullied, lawmakers celebrate actions that lead to suffering: As I sat on my pickup tailgate, soaking in the sunshine within the safety of the Oklahoma City Gay District, I spoke with numerous friends who were walking by. We discussed in detail the outrage we feel regarding the onslaught of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ legislation that has been levied against us by lawmakers. I sensed no despair nor surrender. Instead, I felt their exasperation and the indisputable will to fight back. [Tessa White Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Read a primer on Oklahoma’s funding formula and why it’s important: The typical person does not know how Oklahoma funds public schools through the Oklahoma state funding formula. More importantly than how the districts are funded is the answer of why the formula is structured as it is. [Ken Hancock Column / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Committee to examine Oklahoma business recruitment needs to be diverse, honest: Oklahoma has among the lowest taxes and cost-of-living in the nation and best business tax incentives. It’s clear that a financial package isn’t the winning factor. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Lankford says bank bailout a ‘back door tax’: U.S. Sen. James Lankford wanted to know last week what the failure of banks in California and New York had to with Oklahoma, especially after the Biden administration said it will assure that all depositors, including those surpassing the $250,000 FDIC limit, will be fully insured by assessing a fee on other banks. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Opioids are devastating Cherokee families. The tribe has a $100 million plan to heal: Fentanyl is now a leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 40. Even when people survive, addiction is breaking up families, as far more parents lose custody of their kids. The Cherokee nation’s Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin says the drug crisis here is so intense, it threatens efforts to strengthen his people’s way of life. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

When Are Voting Rights Restored in Oklahoma? Legislature Considers Clearing Up Confusion: Oklahoma law has been consistent for decades: A person convicted of a felony loses their voting rights for their entire court-mandated sentence. But what if that felony is later changed to a misdemeanor? [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

Mental health advocates protest proposed rule to share patients’ data: Mental health providers are demonstrating their opposition to a proposed state rule that would require them to share patient names and diagnoses information to regulators and other health professionals through a health information exchange. [The Oklahoman]

OU Health confirms data for 3,000 patients could have been breached after laptop’s theft: OU Health is notifying approximately 3,000 patients their protected health information may have been compromised after an employee’s laptop was stolen on Dec. 26. [The Oklahoman]

OU Health’s CEO stays positive as system’s debt worries climb: While Dr. Richard Lofgren acknowledges that OU Health is continuing to struggle with increased costs and labor shortages, a spokesperson for the organization tells The Oklahoman it expects a recently completed management reorganization will enable it to avoid defaulting on $1.3 billion in debt. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Oklahoma could have avoided 70% of COVID deaths with a temporary mask mandate: Looking back at June 2020, after we started reopening, if we would have had a temporary statewide mask mandate (until the vaccine became widely available), we could have avoided 70% (the effectiveness of reasonable masks) of the deaths over those nine months or so. We could have avoided 5,000 deaths. [Dr. Ervin Yen Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Video: OKC police captain asks officer to turn off bodycam during DUI arrest: OKC Police Capt. James French asked Ofc. Christopher Skinner to turn off his body camera multiple times in the lead up to French’s arrest. [The Oklahoman]

Supreme Court asked to review case of Edmond police officer who killed unarmed teen: For the second straight year, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether police officers in Oklahoma can be sued for killing a suspect, with the focus this year on a case involving a naked teen who was shot to death in Edmond. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Food Bank racing to keep families from going over a ‘financial cliff’: The Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is redoubling efforts to distribute meals and groceries across the Tulsa area after emergency SNAP benefits, which began early in the COVID-19 pandemic, expired at the end of February. This week alone, the local nonprofit prepared 2,500 emergency meal boxes, provided an additional 25 tons of fresh produce and distributed 21,000 frozen meals in response to the return of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to its pre-pandemic levels. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Survey: Energy workers fear for job security, safety: The report includes a national survey of 1,635 American oil and gas workers; 87 work in and 50 live in Oklahoma. The survey focused on non-management and mostly blue-collar oil and gas workers engaged in the physical wage labor of oil and gas exploration, production, transportation and refining. [Journal Record]

Column: If Oklahoma wants businesses to thrive here, fixing state tax code is key: In Oklahoma, we seek to create an environment where businesses can strive to grow free from unnecessary government interference, while providing valuable goods and services to Oklahomans. Unfortunately, the state’s franchise tax, also referred to as the Capital Stock Tax, prevents some businesses from growing to their fullest potential, which in turn impedes businesses from creating jobs and expanding the state’s workforce. [Chad Warmington Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Charter school movement divided over religious Oklahoma proposal: The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has created a schism in the charter school movement with its application for the nation’s first openly religious charter school. Activists and policy experts supportive of charter schools in general are divided over the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School application currently under consideration by the Oklahoma charter school board, with a meeting on the subject set for Tuesday. [KFOR]

Oklahoma public higher ed leaders work to climb back from decade of cuts: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the coordinating board for the state’s 25 public colleges and universities, recently released its fiscal year 2024 budget request, with a focus on Oklahoma’s projected workforce needs in health care and STEM fields. [Tulsa World]

Community reacts to new proposals to restrict what’s available at Oklahoma school libraries: The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is considering new proposals for how Oklahoma schools can control library content. On Friday, members of the State Board of Education heard from concerned parents and even students about their thoughts. [KFOR]

  • Proposed rules on libraries, disclosure draw public criticism [Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: Library proposal ignored librarian input, provides framework for book bans [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Rep. John Waldron Column: Public schools are welcoming of students expressing their faith in classrooms: In my 20 years in Oklahoma public schools, I watched kids assemble for “See you at the Pole Day” to join in prayer. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes had the same right to announce meetings over the loudspeaker as the Chess Club. And everyone was free in their thoughts during the daily moment of silence. Religion remained an important part of school life by choice, not by statute. I believe one of the great strengths of the American system is that we don’t let the government control the marketplace of expression. We don’t force a message down the throats of students. [Rep. John Waldron Column / Tulsa World]

Column: School meals should be more affordable for Oklahoma families: If there is one thing the pandemic taught us, it is that families can quickly find themselves in crisis. Supply chain failures, inflation and illness can wreak havoc on a family’s ability to consistently provide sufficient food for their children ― the definition of food insecurity. Underemployment caused by reduced hours, shuttered businesses and a shifting economy adds to this crisis, but more frustrating is when members of the workforce are forced into underemployment to put food on the table. [Teresa Rose Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Universities should be preparing the future workforce: It’s imperative that higher education institutions tailor its degree offerings to provide world-class education aimed at meeting workforce needs in strategic arenas such as engineering, teacher education and nursing, as well as offering adult nontraditional students with accelerated adult degree completion programs. [Heath A. Thomas Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Parents getting mixed messages from lawmakers: Lawmakers this session are sending mixed messages to parents. Are we unsuspecting victims who need saving from unknown predators and secret agendas? Or are we always right and government ought to stay out of the way? The right-wing fringe wants it both ways. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

General News

Senate passes bill to create Civil Rights Trail connecting Greenwood Rising to other sites: A measure moving through the Legislature would create a Civil Rights Trail, connecting Greenwood Rising to other notable sites. Senate Bill 509, by Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, and Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, passed the Senate by a vote of 45-0 and heads to the House for consideration. [Tulsa World]

National equity summit coming to Tulsa: An entrepreneurship and innovation initiative associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is holding its U.S. Equity Summit in Tulsa on Thursday and Friday. MIT Solve describes its mission as addressing “world challenges by finding promising community-based solutions.” Its programs include the Indigenous Communities Fellowship and Black & Brown Innovators in the US. [Tulsa World]

‘No politics’ — But Trump shakes a lot of hands and poses for a lot of photos during Tulsa visit: Former President Donald Trump’s good friend U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin insisted that Trump’s return to Tulsa was strictly about watching the NCAA Division I wrestling finals and “showing what this city has to offer.” No fundraisers. No speeches. No press conferences. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“People are leery about registering to vote because they don’t know what is true. If we had an opportunity to tell them that if you’ve discharged your sentence you can vote, it’s really the best way for me to communicate with people as little as possible. I don’t want to have a conversation with people who’ve been to prison about parole, probation and all of that. Have you discharged? They know what that means.”

– Donna Thompson, director of the Oklahoma Baptist State Convention Prison Ministry, explains how House Bill 1629, which would clarify that anyone who receives a sentence commutation to time served or is granted a pardon is eligible to vote, could spur more formerly incarcerated people to become civically engaged. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day

233.9 months

In FY 2021, the average person in Oklahoma’s prison system had a 233.9-month (19.5 year) sentence, a 28-month increase from FY 2016. []

Policy Note

Oklahoma’s Long Sentences Undermine Certainty, Cost Taxpayers Money, and Provide No Public Safety Return: Despite years of progress, Oklahoma still has the fourth-highest imprisonment rate in the United States driven by the very long time people in Oklahoma spend in prison compared to those in other states. Research has long found that harsher sentences do nothing to deter future crime, and may in fact increase recidivism while wasting taxpayer dollars. Yet Oklahoma’s criminal code continues to allow, and prosecutors and judges continue to embrace, extraordinarily punitive sentence terms that vary from county to county and DA district to DA district. [

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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