In The Know: State budget talks heat up | Lack of data hinders justice reform | Gov. Stitt signs rural broadband bill | 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.

Oklahoma News

Capitol Insider: State budget talks heating up as end of legislative session nears: The most important part of the legislative session is still a work in progress. With three weeks left before the Legislature adjourns Sine Die, budget negotiators are moving closer to finalizing the state budget and appropriations for the next fiscal year. [KGOU

  • Editorial: With nearly $700 million committed to landing factory, now isn’t the time for tax cuts [Editorial / Tulsa World]
  • As budget picture clears, new teacher scholarship incentive praised [NonDoc

Recently from OK Policy: Personal income tax cuts won’t deliver relief to low- and middle-class Oklahomans

How a lack of data hinders Oklahoma justice reform efforts: On any given day, several thousand people in Oklahoma are sitting in county jails.  The outcome of a single case is simple to track, either through an online records service like the Oklahoma State Courts Network or by obtaining records in person. It’s much more difficult to identify larger trends and possible disparities in the pretrial justice system. [Oklahoma Watch

Governor Kevin Stitt signs bills expanding Rural broadband connectivity: Governor Kevin Stitt has signed into law House Bill 3363, a measure aiming to assure that high-speed Internet access will, by 2027, reach 95 percent of Oklahomans.  The new goes into effect immediately. It creates a federally-funded Oklahoma Broadband Office. The U.S. government dollars will “wind down when the project is complete,” the Stitt release said. [The Oklahoma City Sentinel

Previously from OK Policy (Guest Post): House Bill 3363 would help Oklahoma ensure that federal relief funding to improve connectivity would go where it’s needed most

14 tornadoes tore through Oklahoma Monday and Wednesday, National Weather Service says: Central and southwestern Oklahoma had 14 confirmed tornadoes among Monday’s and Wednesday’s severe weather events, the National Weather Service has so far reported. The largest of them, an EF2, spanned over 21 miles on Wednesday evening from Maud in Pottawatomie County to Seminole in Seminole County. [Tulsa World] Severe weather inundated the state during the first week of May, including multiple EF1 and EF2 tornadoes, heavy rainfall, hail and flooding. [The Oklahoman

State Government News

State officials refuse to release a report on a troubled relief program where parents purchased TVs and smartwatches: Oklahoma is keeping secret a review of a pandemic relief program where some families spent money intended for school supplies on video game consoles and barbecue smokers. State officials have repeatedly denied Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier’s requests over the past month to release a state monitor’s report on how Oklahoma used federal relief funds, claiming the document is not a public record. [The Frontier] [Oklahoma Watch

Despite lawsuits, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority moves ahead with Norman-area toll expansion: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is proceeding with plans to begin work, including buying properties, for a disputed toll road expansion after being told it could not fund the work with a $200 million line of credit due to pending lawsuits. [The Oklahoman

  • A closer look at Pike Off OTA Lawsuit, contends OTA in violation of state law bond procedure [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma seeks new operator for state park restaurants after Swadley’s scandal: Amid intense scrutiny, including an ongoing criminal investigation and forensic audit, into the tourism department’s now-defunct partnership with Swadley’s, the state agency on Friday issued a public request for businesses to submit bids to operate the park eateries. [The Oklahoman] “The transition is underway at Tourism and we’re committed to protecting the taxpayers at every turn,” Lt. Gov Matt Pinnell said in a statement issued by Tourism. [The Journal Record

Number of poor, unsatisfactory condition dams nearly triples since 2019: The number of state dams in poor or worse condition that would likely threaten human life should they fail has nearly tripled since 2019, a Tulsa World analysis of federal data indicates. The increase in the number rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition could be linked to a toughening of inspection criteria, according to Zachary Hollandsworth, Dam Safety Program manager at the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. [Tulsa World

Capitol Notebook: Stitt to decide on bill to make Marijuana Authority freestanding agency: A bill to make the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority a freestanding state agency awaits action from Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation hires investigator to probe missing person cases: The Cherokee Nation has hired a criminal investigator who solely works Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, or MMIP, cases. Perry Proctor is a former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation cold case detective and Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator. [The Journal Record

Muscogee (Creek) Nation authorizes lawsuit over state income tax: A Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council Quarterly Session was held in person April 30 at the Mound Building. The National Council addressed the following legislation, the interpretation of which is attributed to language in the bills [Mvskoke Media]

‘We are still here’: Oklahoma tribes increasingly reclaim out-of-state ancestral homelands: Tribes across the nation are increasingly buying back or being gifted back property in their ancestral homelands and using it either to build economic sustainability or to manage cultural preservation sites. [NonDoc

McGirt figures in ruling on Keetoowah, Cherokee dispute: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday declared moot a dispute between the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The federal government’s decision to simply withdraw its previous decision in light of the McGirt ruling leaves the parties with no case to continue arguing, the appeals court ruled. [The Journal Record

Voting and Election News

Attorney General race pits the Oklahoma governor’s pick vs. ‘independent’ challenger: Attorney General John O’Connor may be the most vulnerable incumbent this election year and his race could be a statement of just how close voters feel the state’s top law enforcement official should be to the governor. [The Oklahoman

Most Oklahoma District Attorney races are uncontested: The vast majority of Oklahoma’s district attorneys are resting easy this election cycle. Twenty-three of 27 district attorney races have already been decided without a single vote. Incumbents, three of whom were appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt within the past year, secured re-election in 22 of the 23 uncontested races. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

Hundreds of suicidal teens sleep in emergency rooms. Every night: With inpatient psychiatric services in short supply, adolescents are spending days, even weeks, in hospital emergency departments awaiting the help they desperately need. [New York Times]

How abortion clinics are preparing for possible fall of Roe v. Wade: Trust Women operates abortion clinics in Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas. Both have seen an influx of patients since SB8 went into effect; patient volume at the Oklahoma City clinic has doubled since September, with a majority of patients now coming from Texas, according to communications director Zack Gingrich-Gaylord. [ABC News]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma City police request more money for reform recommendations, new civilian positions: The Oklahoma City Police Department is requesting budget additions, including a licensed professional counselor and an increase to its crisis intervention program, both changes recommended by the city’s police reform consultant. [The Oklahoman

OU prof gives recommendations to lower NPD use of force disparity: After looking at Norman Police Department data, a University of Oklahoma professor who has worked with the department in multiple areas has put forth suggestions on how to fix the department’s racial disparity in uses of force. [The Norman Transcript]

Demonstrators rally for Euwins amid lack of criminal charges and case ‘inconsistencies’: Chants of “Justice for Shed” and “Shame on Mashburn” filled the air near the intersection of Lindsey Street and Elm Avenue Saturday morning, as roughly 40 people protested the killing of Shed Euwins and the district attorney’s decision to not file charges. [The Norman Transcript]

Economic Opportunity

Oasis Fresh Market becomes first Tulsa grocery store to offer Double Up Oklahoma: It was a celebration at Oasis as they became the first grocery store in Tulsa to launch the Double Up Oklahoma Program, which makes it more affordable to buy fresh fruits and foods. “The Double Up program matches snap purchases up to $20 a day, with the benefit that’s only good for fresh produce,” said Chris Bernard, executive director of Hunger Free Oklahoma. [KTUL]

Economy & Business News

Gas prices jump 15 cents; Tulsa still has lowest, survey says: The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline jumped 15 cents over past two weeks to $4.38 per gallon. Nationwide, the highest average price for regular-grade gas is in the San Francisco Bay Area, at $5.85 per gallon. The lowest average is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at $3.80 per gallon. [AP via Tulsa World

  • For independent oil producers, ramping up production isn’t as simple as turning on the tap [The Oklahoman

Ag producers face skyrocketing fertilizer prices: Increased demand, supply chain woes, geo-political conflicts and a host of other complex issues have sent fertilizer prices skyrocketing in recent months. Ag producers have only been able to watch as the prices for phosphorus and nitrogen-based fertilizers have tripled. Other fertilizers utilizing phosphates, potash, ammonia and nitrate also have hit all-time highs. [The Lawton Constitution]

Education News

Debate over transgender bathroom policy draws divide in Stillwater: In a city that uniquely blends rural Oklahoma with a progressive, highly educated college town, school bathroom access for transgender students has become a dividing point for Stillwater residents.  [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

Biotech deal pledges $100 million to OKC company to combat hearing loss: The biotech industry in Oklahoma is booming, with OKC and its countless labs and research foundations at the epicenter. And, with a massive deal struck last month, a local company stands to lead the charge against hearing loss. [OKC Free Press]

Library board to talk possible city lawsuit over policy Monday: The Enid library’s board of directors are set to discuss a possible and still-undisclosed lawsuit against the city over recent policy changes at the library. [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“It would be incredible for transparency, but even more than the transparency and the engagement of our communities, we can actually discover what best practices are. If one county is doing something incredibly effective in criminal justice reform, then we can take that data and implement those methods in other counties. Without having the data you’re really throwing spaghetti at a wall.”

– Rep. Logan Phillips (R-Mounds), speaking about House Bill 3848, which would require jail administrators, sheriffs, district attorneys, and public defenders to send data to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services monthly by the end of 2024. The proposal failed to advance this session but will be eligible for consideration next year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day

$300 million

The Oklahoma House has passed bills to cut corporate and individual taxes that combined would cost more than $300 million in annual revenue.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Recently from OK Policy: Personal income tax cuts won’t deliver relief to low- and middle-class Oklahomans

Policy Note

Reality Check: Drastic Income Tax Cuts Are Dangerous Despite What Anti-Tax Supporters Say: States are flush with cash right now and some lawmakers are using this opportunity to score political points. What many aren’t saying is that cutting taxes now will create structural imbalances that either make it that much harder to raise revenue during tougher economic times or will force regressive sales and other tax increases that fall more heavily on low-income households. Most people don’t want to live in a state where a wealthy business owner pays a lower tax rate than a teacher’s aide. This is not a laudable policy goal. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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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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