In The Know: State COVID-19 relief funds remain undistributed | Improving child welfare representation | Investing in our state, not tax cuts | State Supreme Court ruling on abortion

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.

New from OK Policy

Oklahoma would be better served by investing in programs that improve our state, not tax cuts (Capitol Update): The legislature, after the February meeting of the State Board of Equalization, has a whopping $967 million in recurring revenue available this session to appropriate for state services for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023. Recurring revenue means those dollars, if spent, can be expected to be replaced in the same amount by new revenue in the following years if economic conditions remain relatively stable and there are no tax cuts. In addition, the state has about $1.1 billion in “one-time” funding available that could be spent for expenditures such as capital projects or other investments that would not be recurring. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Why Oklahoma is Still Sitting On COVID-19 Relief Funds: Six months after a special legislative session ended to allocate almost $1.7 billion, just a fraction of those federal coronavirus relief funds have been sent from state coffers to agencies or other entities [Oklahoma Watch]

A good attorney can be hard to find for parents in the child welfare system. A new program could help: In Oklahoma, parents have a right to an attorney, but the state doesn’t currently have the funding or systems in place to ensure high-quality legal representation. Judges and lawyers say it contributes to fewer family reunifications and kids spending a longer time in state custody. [The Frontier]

Breaking news: Oklahoma Supreme Court finds ‘limited right’ to abortion in state Constitution: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the state Constitution includes “an inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to save her life.” The court struck down one law passed by the Legislature to criminalize abortions but left another in place. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

House reconsiders corporal punishment for disabled: The Oklahoma House of Representatives didn’t exactly do a 180 on corporal punishment for disabled children, but it did change direction on Monday. Less than a week after receiving national attention for narrowly rejecting a ban on school paddling of special needs students, the House gave broad support to a narrower version of the legislation. [Tulsa World]

  • Corporal punishment bill passes Oklahoma House [KFOR]

Oklahoma’s narcotics bureau got sued after a meeting about medical marijuana: In a lawsuit filed Monday, four people are claiming the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control violated the Open Meetings Act by keeping people from attending a public meeting. The meeting was a public hearing to comment on proposed changes to the bureau’s governing rules to allow the bureau to better address medical marijuana license holders involved in criminal activity. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmakers could vote on bill regarding gender identity, sexual orientation in classrooms: House Bill 2546, which some call the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” is on the agenda for state lawmakers on the House to vote on Tuesday. The measure asks whether children should learn about sex and gender and at what age. It would make the topics of sex and gender off-limits until after fifth grade, and some topics would be restricted after that. [KOCO]

Criminalized survivors of domestic violence may see relief from proposed bill: Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of female incarceration in the nation and in the world. One proposed bill could help address the issue. [KGOU]

Federal Government News

EPA says Oklahoma cannot refuse to dispose of waste from Ohio train derailment: After a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, generated thousands of tons of contaminated soil, the company responsible must find licensed facilities to take that waste. Gov. Kevin Stitt blocked a shipment to Oklahoma, but the EPA said his refusal is not legally permissible. [KOSU]

Health News

Some Oklahoma families forced to wait years for disability services are now getting help: More than 100 families who’ve spent more than a decade on the waiting list for state-funded developmental disability services are finally receiving help. Some others on the list can’t be found. Last year, with about 5,000 individuals and families waiting for services, state lawmakers and the governor agreed to spend $32.5 million to finally begin crossing names off the list. [The Oklahoman]

  • State clearing waiting list for those with developmental disabilities, finding some roadblocks [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
  • Oklahoma making progress to clear disability waiting list [Tulsa World]

Column: 3 years of COVID: How Oklahoma stacks up on cases, deaths, repercussions: The Oklahoman takes a look at how our state compares to the U.S. in COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the effect that it has had on people’s lives over the last 3 years. [Todd Pendleton / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa mayor supports bill that would require law enforcement review panels to be majority law enforcement officers: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he supports proposed state legislation that would require government review bodies investigating alleged law enforcement misconduct to be made up of at least two-thirds law enforcement officers. But he doesn’t necessarily believe that House Bill 2161 would have precluded the city from implementing the Office of the Independent Monitor he proposed in 2019. [Tulsa World]

Education News

State board vote on Catholic online charter school postponed: A Tuesday meeting of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board where a vote on a proposal to establish the nation’s first online religious charter school was expected has been postponed. Board chairman Robert Franklin said he made the call because he believes more time is needed because Gov. Kevin Stitt and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, appointed new board members since the public body’s last meeting. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Public School board fills District 2 seat, rejects calendar proposal [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We have a montage of systems, and it has not worked for the best interests of our children and our parents.” 

-District Judge Michael Flanagan in Cotton County said he once had a budget of $3,000 for a full year to pay lawyers to take child welfare cases. Flanagan told lawmakers in October that outside of Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, about $5.25 million is budgeted yearly for indigent representation statewide. [The Frontier]  

Number of the Day


The number of U.S. senators and representatives in the 118th Congress who identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian, or Alaska Native. This represents 25% of the 534 voting member of Congress, as of Jan. 3, 2023. [Pew Research Center]

Policy Note

We the (Native) People? How Indigenous Peoples Debated the U.S. Constitution: Writing in the name of the “People of the United States,” white men drafted the U.S. Constitution in 1787. The following year, white men, chosen by an almost exclusively white, male, property-holding electorate, voted to ratify the Constitution. These historical facts have important implications for constitutional law. They have led many commentators to question or reject the authority of the Constitution because it rests on such an undemocratic conception of the people. They also mean that present efforts to discern the Constitution’s historical meaning have focused almost exclusively on the views of the document’s drafters and elite interpreters. Yet the actual “People of the United States” were far less homogenous than the circumscribed group who claimed to represent them. [Columbia Law Review]

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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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