In The Know: State budget bills become law without governor’s signature | Schools scrambling to find teachers | 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

$13 billion Oklahoma budget becomes law without Stitt approval: Gov. Kevin Stitt allowed Oklahoma’s $13 billion budget to become law Friday without his signature, despite his objections to a portion of the revenue in the package. The Legislature approved the general appropriations bill with veto-proof majorities in a special session last month, meaning both houses could have easily overridden a veto. [The Oklahoman]

Litigation, controversy stall Oklahoma turnpike improvement plans: The battle over proposed new suburban toll roads has effectively stalled much needed and wanted improvements to Oklahoma’s outdated rural turnpike network. [CNHI]

How Bills Authored By Democrats Fared in 2023: From securing a committee hearing to finding support in the opposing chamber, bills face several hurdles in their quest to become law. In Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature, struggles can be pronounced for minority party members. Last June, Oklahoma Watch reported that just a handful of Democratic-authored bills reached the governor’s desk in 2022. The trend has continued as a Republican supermajority in both chambers has grown. [Oklahoma Watch]

Capitol Insider: Closing out the legislative regular session as special session looms: Governor Kevin Stitt has been taking action on various bills passed during the 2023 regular session, including vetoing two bills related to state-tribal compacts. [KGOU]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma dispute with Biden administration freezes family planning money: Friction over abortion between the Biden administration and the Oklahoma State Department of Health has led to the suspension of federal grant funding for family planning. The Health and Human Services Department suspended a $4.5 million grant in late May, though the state and federal departments are still working to resolve the dispute. Oklahoma’s congressional delegation called the federal department’s position “absurd” and is seeking to have the grant reinstated. [The Oklahoman]

  • D.C. Digest: Oklahoma delegation protests loss of federal family planning grant [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Hoskin Jr. and Warner coast to victory in Cherokee Nation elections: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner were re-elected Saturday. The unofficial results point to a landslide victory for incumbents Hoskin Jr. and Warner. Both walked away with more than 60% of the vote on Saturday — that’s nearly 30 points more than their next closest challenger Cara Cowan Watts and her running mate David Walkingstick. [KOSU]

  • Chuck Hoskin Jr., Bryan Warner reelected as Cherokee Nation principal chief, deputy chief [NonDoc]

Two Black Members of Native Tribes Were Arrested. The Law Sees Only One as Indian: A Supreme Court ruling barred Oklahoma from prosecuting crimes committed by Native Americans on tribal land, but some Black tribal members are still being prosecuted because they lack “Indian blood.” [New York Times]

Editorial: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is our chance to learn from white supremacy: White supremacists targeted Oklahoma communities 169 times in 2022. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual assessment of propaganda activity said that’s an increase of 164% from the previous year. Twenty-nine of those incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution and events happened in Tulsa. Oklahoma City saw 21. While we all want a great movie to spring from all the filming in our state, let us also take an opportunity to learn from the words of author David Grann and the direction of Martin Scorsese. Allow “Killers of the Flower Moon” to spark a movement to evolve past a deadly history. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Health News

Stephenson Cancer Center one step closer to offering care in northeastern Oklahoma: Northeastern Oklahoma is one step closer to getting services from the Stephenson Cancer Center. Lawmakers appropriated $10 million for the center to expand into Tulsa, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma agrees to $1 million wrongful death lawsuit settlement involving ill inmate: Oklahoma legislators have approved a $1 million payment to the mother of a man who died from acute appendicitis while being held in a state prison. The payment of $1,050,000 to Christina Smith will resolve a federal lawsuit she filed against Oklahoma after her son, Joshua England, 21, died in 2018. [The Oklahoman]

White supremacist gang probe shrouded in secrecy as list of missing, dead grows: In all, 12 disappearances have come under investigation by a task force that has focused on the alleged leader of a violent white supremacist prison gang, according to records obtained by The Oklahoman. The records portray a chilling litany of violence in the rural outskirts of Oklahoma City that has largely been kept out of the spotlight even as the number of people missing and confirmed dead has grown. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Statewide virtual board member replaced ahead of Monday’s scheduled Catholic school vote: The governing board that is to determine whether Oklahoma sponsors the nation’s first religious charter school on Monday got a new member on Friday. The change comes with a weighty decision looming Monday for the five-member Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. [Tulsa World]

TPS, Union, Broken Arrow scrambling to find teachers: ‘Nothing scares me more than the teacher shortage that we’re in the middle of right now’: Although the 2023-2024 school year does not start for at least two months, area school districts are already hustling to fill staffing vacancies for the coming school year. “We’ve always been having to hustle,” Union Public Schools Executive Director of Human Resources Jay Loegering said. “If you take the baseline that we’re 4,000 teachers short in Oklahoma based on the number of emergency certifications, everyone is fighting for a pool that’s not there.” [Tulsa World]

General News

Column: Justice delayed is justice denied with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Acknowledging that a grievous wrong has been done is important, but simply acknowledging it is not enough. Acknowledgement without action is worse than no acknowledgement at all. [William D. Zabel & Damario Solomon-Simmons Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma invites property owners to scrub land records of racist restrictive covenants: Systemic racism from a century ago set the stage for a state law in 2023 that enables Oklahoma property owners to denounce racist title documents and declare that they are “illegal and unenforceable and should be removed,” 75 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they were unconstitutional. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Transgender people deserve human rights: My community is incredibly diverse, with a range of experiences, perspectives and cultures. We have just been living our lives here in Oklahoma, and all over the country, but these bills could make it difficult to continue. [Cassie Middlebrook Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Democrats square their shoulders at Tulsa convention: For party that hasn’t won a lot of elections lately, the Oklahoma Democrats put on a pretty lively two-day convention in Tulsa this weekend. More purposeful than giddily optimistic, delegates re-elected Tulsan Alicia Andrews as chairwoman by a large margin and approved an “Oklahoma-specific addendum” to the national party platform that includes open, ranked-choice primaries, sales tax relief, diversification of the state’s economy and “collaboration regardless of party” but without compromise on diversity. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Pride goers worried for the future of the Oklahoma LGBTQ+ Community [KOKH Fox 25]
  • City would invest big in parks if Improve Our Tulsa package is approved Aug. 8 [Tulsa World]
  • Frustrated with city staff, developer pulls plug on Edmond sculpture park [NonDoc]
  • Entrepreneur kills $61 million Edmond sculpture park project after tiring of process [The Oklahoman]
  • City councilors to consider $1 million or more settlement in Trump rally lawsuit [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“What keeps me up at night is that we’re 4,000 teachers short (statewide) and I have nowhere to find them. I’ve gone to Arkansas, I’ve gone to Missouri, I’ve gone to western Kansas to try to find special education teachers. The problem is that all the other states are doing the same thing.”

– Jay Loegering, Union Public Schools Executive Director of Human Resources, speaking on the teacher shortage in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

1.3 million

More than 1.3 million Oklahomans were enrolled in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as of February 2023. []

Policy Note

The Unwinding of Medicaid Continuous Enrollment: Knowledge and Experiences of Enrollees: Most Medicaid enrollees were not aware that states are now permitted to resume disenrolling people from the Medicaid program. This brief gauges Medicaid enrollees’ knowledge of and preparedness for the Medicaid renewal process and possible disenrollment from the program, based on early findings from KFF’s new Survey of Health Insurance Consumers. [KFF]

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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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