In The Know: State Supreme Court strikes down two abortion bans | Former OSDE employees sue Ryan Walters for wrongful termination | Tulsa Race Massacre Anniversary

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

Oklahoma Supreme Court rules two abortion ban laws unconstitutional: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out two state laws outlawing abortion. The state’s high court found that Senate Bill 1503 and House Bill 4327 were unconstitutional. Both measures were passed and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2022. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down two state abortion bans [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Education Dept. employees sue Ryan Walters after being fired for sharing memos: Two employees recently fired from the Oklahoma State Department of Education filed lawsuits Tuesday against the state schools superintendent and his adviser, alleging they were wrongly punished for sharing agency communications outside of the department. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Calculated effort to deprive people of their rights’: Two former OSDE employees file lawsuit against Ryan Walters for wrongful termination [KFOR]
  • Email threat sent to Oklahoma Education Department employees results in terminations, lawsuits [Tulsa World]
  • Whistleblowers file lawsuits against Oklahoma education boss, top aide [AP News]

Oklahoma lawmakers want checks on education superintendent: Lawmakers want to put guardrails on the state superintendent in an effort to ensure that he can’t unilaterally decide to make good on campaign promises to reject federal education funding. Republican lawmakers took the unusual step of adding a provision into this year’s public education funding measure that bars the State Department of Education — and Superintendent Ryan Walters — from declining any federal grants that have been previously accepted without first obtaining agreement from Senate and House leaders. [CNHI News]

State Government News

Oklahoma could soon be tied for highest juror pay in nation: Oklahoma lawmakers are hoping to give jurors a pay raise for the first time in more than 20 years. The state legislature approved House Bill 1024 last week, raising the pay for jury duty from $20 to $50 per day. Federal courts already pay their jurors $50 a day for their service. This raise marks the first time in more than 20 years the state has raised pay for jurors. [KOSU]

Minds change, and Workforce Commission expected to become law: A Senate bill that would create an Oklahoma Workforce Commission passed the House in the final hour of the regular session Friday and awaits Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature. Senate Bill 621 establishes the commission, which will be led by private-sector business leaders and government officials who will coordinate the state’s workforce development strategy and administer and oversee funding allocated by the Legislature for workforce development initiatives. [Journal Record]

Lawmakers hope bill incentivizes homebuilders to create affordable housing: A bill sitting on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk is designed to create affordable housing. After passionate debate on Friday, the Oklahoma Senate passed House Bill 1031, which would create the “Oklahoma Housing Stability Program,” by a vote of 25-19. It takes 25 votes to pass a bill in the upper chamber. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers split on debt deal, with Cole, Bice in support: Three Oklahomans in the U.S. House have come out strongly on both sides of the bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling, while some members of the all-Republican delegation declined to announce a position ahead of the first vote. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Three challenge Hoskin Jr. in race for Cherokee Nation principal chief: The Cherokee Nation’s general election is set for Saturday, June 3, and the race for principal chief has featured lawsuits, disagreements over health care and questions about financial decisions. Elected in 2019, incumbent Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. is vying to retain his seat for a second four-year term, but the three candidates running against him all have bones to pick with his administration. [NonDoc]

Podcast: Long Story Short: Another Looming Supreme Court Decision Centers On Oklahomans: The Indian Child Welfare Act’s future is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Lionel Ramos reports on how overturning the 1978 law would affect Oklahomans. [Oklahoma Watch]

Criminal Justice News

46 cameras being deployed in Tulsa’s high-crime areas: Tulsa will have 46 Flock Safety cameras deployed in high-crime areas when the installations are completed this week. The cameras capture a still image of a license plate and the vehicle. The system is used primarily to identify stolen vehicles and to help find missing people. It is not used to issue traffic tickets, according to the Tulsa Police Department. [Tulsa World]

Investigators turn case of Ringling coach over to prosecutors: A state investigation is complete into allegations that Ringling’s head football coach harassed and bullied players, but it remains to be seen whether Phil Koons will face criminal charges tied to the case. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

These Latino entrepreneurs are shattering stereotypes while they make their first million: Eleven people from nine companies are reaping the benefits of an inaugural Latino-centric business “accelerator” program by StitchCrew, an Oklahoma City-based firm founded by Erika and Chris Lucas to help connect traditionally overlooked business owners with capital, resources and networks so they can build and scale companies in Oklahoma. The business accelerator program, in partnership with the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, focused specifically on Latino-owned businesses, which StitchCrew founders see as a fast-growing powerhouse in the city. [The Oklahoman]

‘Ahead of the curve’: The unique ownership, mission and kitchen of Equity Brewing Co.: Oklahoma is home to nearly 60 craft breweries, of those Equity is the only one entirely owned by women. This is a stark contrast to the history of brewing across the world in which women are lauded as the creators and overseers of beer and the brewing profession. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Guest: It’s time to acknowledge that prioritizing mental health is a winning move: In the high-pressure world of startups, the focus on growth and innovation can overshadow the need for self-care and mental health support. It’s time to acknowledge that prioritizing mental health is a winning move. [Cody Merrill Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Mother sues Edmond Public Schools over bathroom fight involving transgender student: The mother of an Edmond Memorial High School girl is suing the school district, claiming her daughter was left severely beaten after an attack by a transgender student in a bathroom designated for girls. [The Oklahoman]

Summer feeding programs for kids starting back up: After three years of grab-and-go service due to COVID-19, Owasso Public Schools and all Tulsa-area sites participating in the Summer Feeding Program are once again offering sit-down meals for children. That means being able once again to serve lunchroom favorites that did not necessarily travel well or taste quite as good when served cold. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City teacher fired after reportedly holding student’s head to the ground: An Oklahoma City Public Schools teacher accused of physically abusing an 11-year-old student has been fired. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Will Todd Lamb be a successful UCO president? It’s unknown, but let process unfold: As Oklahoma’s higher education funding model transitioned from a “state-supported” to a “state-assisted” approach, the responsibilities of the university president evolved. The survival and prosperity of universities began to rely heavily on external funding. Therefore, it became essential for the president to possess a unique skill set that encompassed public relations, fundraising, university management and curriculum oversight. [Steve Poag Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

General News

102 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, here’s where efforts to reconcile and revitalize stand: More than 100 years after what some consider one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the country’s history, Tulsa is making progress towards the revitalization of “Black Wall Street” and reckoning with the destruction of one of the most thriving communities in its heyday. [USA Today via The Oklahoman

  • Hundreds were killed in the Tulsa race massacre. Are we already forgetting them? [The Guardian]
  • How Greenwood Grew a Thriving Black Economy [New York Times]
  • Oldest living Tulsa Race Massacre survivor to release memoir [Tulsa World]

Book ban panel makes case for inclusion: ‘Largest form of censorship right now’: Representatives from Tulsa’s local bookstores and community organizations are speaking out about the need for inclusive spaces, including on bookshelves. As part of a Wednesday afternoon panel at the University of Tulsa’s Switchyard Festival, Fulton Street Books & Coffee owner Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, Jeff Martin with Booksmart Tulsa, and Michelle Simmons, a volunteer librarian at Oklahomans for Equality’s Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, laid out their concerns about an increase in book banning attempts both nationally and at the local level. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“It amounts to a gag order. If [a confidentiality agreement] exists, I would like to know about it. There are so many problems, legal and ethical, and just good government. Democracy doesn’t work if there’s no transparency, and for an office holder to essentially say, ‘I’m going to conduct my public office business in secret, and nobody can know what is going on.’”

– Oklahoma City Attorney Mark Hammons, who filed federal lawsuits Tuesday on behalf of two Oklahoma State Department of Education employees who were terminated for reportedly violating a confidentiality agreement when they shared documents to outside the agency, including the state attorney general’s office, a state representative, and media members. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

14 million

Number of children nationwide who benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides nutrition assistance benefits to low-income individuals and families in an effort to reduce hunger and improve the health and well-being of low-income people nationwide. [No Kid Hungry]

Policy Note

Characteristics of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: In Fiscal Year  2020, about 39.9 million people living in 20.5 million U.S. households participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in an average month. This report provides information about the demographic and economic circumstances of SNAP households in FY 2020 (October 2019 through September 2020). [USDA]

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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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