In The Know: State of the state kicks off 2022 session | New Legislative Primer | Strengthening the Grocery Tax Credit | 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.

New from OK Policy

Strengthening the Grocery Tax Credit would provide fiscally smart tax relief to working Oklahomans: At a time when many Oklahomans are struggling to put food on the table and are at risk of eviction, a more robust Sales Tax Relief Credit can help put money back into the pockets of those who need it most. Doing so would bolster family finances, make purchasing food more cost-effective, and stimulate our local economies. [Emma Morris / OK Policy

OK Policy 2022 Legislative Primer: Oklahoma’s 2022 Legislative Session begins today! How does a bill become a law? Who chairs key legislative committees? How much is in Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund? With the 2022 session here, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more. [Web] [Download PDF].

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma governor’s speech to kick off legislative session: Improving Oklahoma’s health care, education, infrastructure and business climate were expected to be priorities outlined by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday, when he delivers his fourth State of the State address. [AP News]

  • (Audio) Capitol Insider: Governor Kevin Stitt identifies challenges and goals ahead of 2022 State of the State Address [KGOU]
  • Capitol Watch: Tracking key legislation as Oklahoma’s 2022 Legislative Session kicks off [Oklahoma Watch]

Vaccine mandates, tax cuts, marijuana and culture wars on agenda as Oklahoma Legislature returns: When Oklahoma lawmakers return to the state Capitol this week to kick off a new legislative session, a laundry list of policy items awaits their attention. [The Oklahoman

  • Tax cuts, vouchers to be hot topics as lawmakers head into session [Tulsa World
  • Legislative leaders all smiles as session approaches [Tulsa World
  • (Audio) Long Story Short: Change coming to utility bills, voting, criminal justice? [Oklahoma Watch

With OSBI report finally complete, O’Connor sends Epic investigation back to David Prater: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor announced late this afternoon that he has granted Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater’s request to reclaim the investigation — and potential prosecution decisions — of Epic Charter Schools nearly two years after he stepped aside and let O’Connor’s predecessor, Mike Hunter, take the lead. [NonDoc] “I have full faith and confidence in the Attorney General’s Office in their ability to investigate and prosecute a matter like this,” Prater said. “But, since this started with me I think this is where it needs to end.” [The Oklahoman

  • Epic Charter Schools investigative audit makes some lawmakers question voucher push [Tulsa World

Health News

COVID hospitalizations high as ever in Oklahoma, but four promising trends spur optimism: Oklahoma’s COVID-19 hospitalizations remain nearly as high as ever, but four promising trends have a local doctor optimistic about the next few months — not withstanding usual caveats. [Tulsa World

  • COVID-19’s impact on state and local government profound, but not in the way expected [Tulsa World

Oklahoma National Guard members can’t sue anonymously over COVID-19 vaccine mandate, judge rules: A federal judge ruled this week that members of the Oklahoma National Guard cannot sue the Biden administration anonymously over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, saying that the public interest overrides concerns about privacy or personal safety. [The Oklahoman

(Opinion) We must break down barriers to addiction treatment: The numbers tell the story. According to a report released in January by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. crossed a gruesome milestone in 2021: 100,000 people died of drug overdoses in just one year. Not only is this the highest number of overdose deaths in our country’s history, but the trajectory shows these numbers climbing every month. [Opinion / NonDoc

Mental health roundtable for Black-owned businesses goes deep: Once stigmatized and criticized sharply within our community, now the mental health conversation is changing–and not a moment too soon. [The Black Wall Street Times

State Government News

Indicted Oklahoma state Rep. Terry O’Donnell giving up leadership role Feb. 2: An indicted legislator is resigning his leadership role in the state House, saying he “will not allow false narratives to be a distraction.” Rep. Terry O’Donnell announced Thursday night he will step down Feb. 2 from the No. 2 position. The Catoosa Republican will continue to represent his district. [The Oklahoman

Strong state revenues reflect economy, inflation, federal infusions: While rising state tax revenues reflect growth in the economy, they’re also an indication of rising inflation, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday. Record revenues recorded over the past year also were likely pumped up by infusions of federal pandemic relief funds channeled into the state. [The Journal Record

Political Roundup: Lawmakers want doctors on health care board: With the Oklahoma Legislature set to enter regular session on Monday, lawmakers will begin deliberating on a number of health-related bills, including one that would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to have physicians serve on its board. [Tahlequah Daily Press

Major changes proposed for Oklahoma’s marijuana business: As legislators make their way back to the state Capitol this week, thousands of bills are waiting to be heard with several aiming to significantly change oversight of Oklahoma’s marijuana industry, which has grabbed the attention of both House and Senate leadership. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

US Rep. Tom Cole says he doesn’t want to ‘overhype’ prospects for McGirt funding: Despite requests from Oklahoma lawmakers, Congress may not earmark any money this year to help tribes beef up law enforcement and criminal justice systems to meet their new obligations, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said Friday. [The Oklahoman

New from OK Policy: Oklahoma Policy Institute now includes tribal-state policy advocacy

With Muscogee reservation question settled, tribal attorneys look to future talks with Oklahoma: The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to let stand its ruling on the Muscogee (Creek) reservation provides a new opportunity for Native American tribes and the state of Oklahoma to reach agreements on criminal and civil issues, top attorneys for the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations said Thursday. [The Oklahoman

Voting and Election News

Editorial: Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday: On Tuesday, many Oklahoma voters face decisions on a wide array of municipal and school issues. [Editorial / Tulsa World

  • Mayor, city council, school board seats to be decided across Oklahoma on Tuesday [KOSU
  • Oklahoma City mayoral candidates use different avenues to get people to the polls [The Oklahoman]
  • The race for Mayor of Okla City — a quick rundown on each candidate [OKC Free Press]
  • Tulsans to vote on new PSO franchise agreement Tuesday [Tulsa World
  • Oklahoma school board candidates running on parental-control platforms [The Oklahoman

Allegations of election fraud linger in Oklahoma as GOP candidates seek to energize voters: Donald Trump won every county in the state in 2020, but some lawmakers still seek investigations and tighter voting laws. The Oklahoma State Election Board has found allegations of outside voting manipulation are “entirely without merit,” but Republican state lawmakers have filed at least 22 bills in advance of the coming legislative session that seek to investigate the 2020 election or tighten voting laws. [The Frontier]

How Oklahoma Republicans, Democrats Are Taking Aim at Voting Bills: Dozens of bills filed in advance of Oklahoma’s 2022 legislative session are seeking to change how, when and where Oklahomans vote. Though a number of the proposals seek to expand voting times or make it easier for some to vote, others could force residents off the state’s voter rolls or add hurdles for absentee voters in the name of security and preventing fraud. [Oklahoma Watch

Criminal Justice News

State auditor spotlights ex-police chief’s financial misdeeds in small Oklahoma town: A small Lincoln County town saw 13% of its annual budget misappropriated, a state audit found, with a report noting that the former police chief withdrew town funds at area casinos. [Tulsa World

Former Senate leader Mike Morgan gets law license back 10 years after bribery conviction: Former state Senate leader Mike Morgan is being reinstated as a lawyer 10 years after he was convicted of accepting bribes disguised as legal fees. The Oklahoma Supreme Court voted 5-3 to allow him to practice law again. [The Oklahoman

Economic Opportunity

Ginnie Graham: Want to know why workers might turn down a job? Child care.: The small story about a $500,000 federal grant awarded to Northeastern State University caught my attention for its purpose: drop-in child care for students. It’s another employment gap being met. [Column / Tulsa World

Bob Doucette: Until we solve the student debt crisis, we can just stow our financial advice: Recently, I found myself talking to a friend who is the same age I was when I first opened an IRA and, one year later, bought my first house. Like a sage old hand, I rattled off all those tips, then, midsentence, stopped myself cold. Everything I told this gal was behind the times. [Column / Tulsa World

Economy & Business News

Study: OKC a great place for startups: Oklahoma City is an extremely attractive place for business owners and entrepreneurs, according to a new study that ranks it the 12th-best city for startups among the largest U.S. metro areas. [The Journal Record

Millennials, kids contribute to rise in home values in OKC: There are various reasons why home values in Oklahoma City have jumped considerably over the past year – among them children. [The Journal Record

Education News

Stitt talks increasing teacher pay, beefing up STEM education:  Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt says computer science education, an increased focus on career tech and higher teacher pay are keys to the future industries of Oklahoma. “One of my priorities this year is to unleash some pay for performance. We want to keep our best and brightest in the classroom,” Stitt, who is facing reelection this year, told Gaylord News. “I want teachers to be able to make $100,000 a year and stay in this profession.” [NonDoc

General News

Palmer sisters take inclusive approach to Black History Month with their online guide: Three sisters — the great-great-granddaughters of a prominent preacher — wrote prayers for each day of February to help friends and loved ones observe Black History Month. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“The public right now is wanting reasons to trust their government, whether it’s the state government or the federal government. By giving them more information and being open and transparent about what’s going on, it’s a great way to do that.”

– House Minority Leader Emily Virgin speaking at an online call with state legislative leaders about the legislative process and the 2022 session [Tulsa World]

New OK Policy Report: Focus on Transparency is a new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget. 

Number of the Day

$87 billion

Estimated annual loss of GDP due to underemployment of formerly incarcerated people the U.S.

[Source: Clean Slate Initiative

Policy Note

More States Consider Automatic Criminal Record Expungement: A growing number of states are trying to ease the burden of expungement and record clearing by making the process automatic, without requiring any action by the people seeking to clear their records. In 10 states, Stateline found a dozen bills introduced this year that push for automatic clearing, expungement or sealing of criminal records. [Pew Trusts]

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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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