In The Know: State’s $5B turnpike plan | Officials speak about state lawsuit over vaccine mandate | Opening the state’s budget process

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

It’s time to reopen Oklahoma’s budget process to the public: An effective, open budget process both informs and involves the public. Oklahomans can be informed if the legislature widely shares budget requests from our public agencies, debates budgets in public, holds votes on individual budget issues, and provides ample time for all interested parties to evaluate the budget. The public should be involved through public hearings and through the opportunity to comment — both in person and online — about budgets. Our state’s budget process won’t be this transparent until Oklahomans demand it. While many steps must be taken, moving back toward the more open and participative process of the 1990s would put us on the right track. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

‘A need for new access.’ Proposed $5B Oklahoma turnpike plan to add small-town connections: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is eyeing a $5 billion, 15-year plan that would widen all of the Turner Turnpike to six lanes, connect the Kilpatrick and Kickapoo turnpikes south of Oklahoma City, and add access points for communities throughout the turnpike system. [The Oklahoman] Additional access points will increase safety and economic development. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt joins AG to slam Biden’s vaccine mandates, discuss lawsuits: Gov. Kevin Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor on Tuesday panned the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates and answered questions about state lawsuits challenging national vaccine requirements for the military, some businesses, health care workers and federal employees and contractors. [The Oklahoman] Stitt again expressed his reluctance to dictate to Oklahoma businesses how they should handle vaccination mandates – a stance appreciated by business leaders in Oklahoma who don’t want either the federal or the state government making those decisions for them. [The Journal Record] Oklahoma’s attorney general said Tuesday lingering doubts he has about the science behind COVID-19 vaccines is one reason the state is pushing back on federal vaccination mandates with lawsuits. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] The Oklahoma State Medical Association’s president says state leadership is doing a “gross disservice to the public” by questioning the science underlying COVID-19 vaccines despite two years of unprecedented global efforts to develop the safe and effective vaccines. [Tulsa World]

State Opens Investigation of Epic Charter Schools Over New Allegations: The state Department of Education is investigating “allegations of fraud, suppression of fraud, intimidation and harassment in the workplace” made against Epic Charter School’s board chairman by its former vice chair. [Oklahoma Watch] Epic school board member Kathren Stehno resigned last week after one year of service, saying she believed she had been given false, partial or misleading information in recent months to influence her decision-making as a board member by Paul Campbell, Epic’s board chairman, and Superintendent Bart Banfield. [Tulsa World]

Health News

COVID cases soaring in Oklahoma with 120% increase last week: Coronavirus cases in Oklahoma increased 120% last week from the week before, and state health leaders say fall activities are likely the cause. Hospitalizations are up also, as well as the demand for monoclonal antibodies, the treatment for newly-diagnosed patients that can lower their risk of hospitalization. [KTUL]

  • The state’s seven-day average in new coronavirus cases increased to 1,258 per day [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma Health Officials Discuss Omicron Variant Nearing Oklahoma [News on 6]
  • Court issues temporary injunction against Edmond Public Schools over COVID-19 protocols [KFOR]
  • OKCPS to keep mask requirement in place amid omicron variant news [KOCO]

‘Dead Last’: Oklahoma City ranked as unhealthiest of America’s 100 largest cities; how new grant program aims to change that: This year, the American Fitness Index ranked Oklahoma City as the unhealthiest of America’s 100 most populous cities. The index ranking considered a multitude of variables, including personal health behaviors. According to the report, only 69% of Oklahoma City residents reported exercising in the last 30 days. [KFOR]

State Government News

Public Health Lab had issues with staffing, storing COVID-19 samples, CMS report shows: A federal investigation into Oklahoma’s Public Health Lab found that the lab lacked enough staff for the volume of testing it handles after its move to Stillwater, a report detailing the findings shows. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma posts $1 billion in November state tax receipts: Gross receipts to the state treasury again rose sharply in November, signaling continuing expansion of economic activity, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Tuesday. [Tulsa World] In fact, all major revenue streams in the Sooner State rose by at least double digits last month, pushing gross receipts up nearly 25% as compared to totals recorded in November 2020. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma lawmaker files bill to allow school districts to carryover funds: An Oklahoma state senator has filed a measure that would allow local school districts to carryover unused funds year after year. Sen. Garvin filed Senate Bill 1126, which would remove the carryover caps for school district general funds. It would also require those carryover amounts are reported to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. [KFOR]

Bill would lower vehicle transfer, trade-in taxes: Rep. Steve Bashore, R-Miami, has filed legislation for 2022 that would reconfigure how the base excise tax is determined when a vehicle is transferred and would allow a trade-in deduction allowance on the purchase price of a vehicle. [The Lawton Constitution]

Federal Government News

Defense bill provides pay raise, won’t require women to register for draft: Congress is poised to approve a $768 billion defense bill this week that includes a 2.7% pay increase for troops and civilian workers and authorizes $160 million to build a maintenance hangar at Tinker Air Force Base. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Norman police data show racial disparity in use of force: An analysis of Norman police’s practices shows a significant racial disparity in the department’s uses of force, which disproportionately affect Black people. Of NPD’s 267 uses of force from 2016 to June 2020, officers used force against Black people 44 times, according to an NPD news release. It’s roughly 16.5% of all uses of force in that time frame — more than three times the 4.7% of Norman residents who are Black. [The Norman Transcript]

OKC activists submit petitions seeking investigation of Oklahoma County DA David Prater: A dozen Oklahoma City activists, including the sister of former death row inmate Julius Jones, submitted thousands of signatures Monday to the Oklahoma County Court Clerk’s Office, seeking a grand jury to be convened to investigate District Attorney David Prater. [The Oklahoman]

Bennie Edwards’ family files federal lawsuit against Oklahoma City, officers over his shooting death: Oklahoma City and two of its police officers are facing a federal lawsuit from the family of a man who was shot and killed last year. 60-year-old Bennie Edwards was shot in the back by police as he ran away from them on December 11, 2020. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

Officials: Environmental, architectural design could lower crime in Norman: A strategic approach to community improvement through environmental and architectural design used across the country has recently been discussed in Norman. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design promotes the use of urban and architectural design and the management of natural areas to deter criminal activity, according to the International CPTED Association. [The Norman Transcript]

Free land and no-strings cash aim to tempt people to small Midwestern towns — with mixed success: When small-town charm isn’t enough to attract new residents, some struggling Midwest communities figure money might be. Cities across the region offer cash and free land for those willing to make the move to smaller communities with room, and a need, for more people. [KOSU]

Economy & Business News

Connex Oklahoma may give manufacturers new edge: The Oklahoma Department of Commerce has included information and links on its website that may help manufacturers to avoid supply chain disruptions or to potentially gain new business. The department recently introduced Connex Oklahoma as a supply chain database especially useful to the manufacturing industry. The application was developed by the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance in partnership with Commerce. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Districts forced to regroup when school bonds fail: A total of 99 Oklahoma school districts placed bond propositions on election ballots in 2021, and 79 districts have had at least one of their presented propositions approved by voters. But getting a bond issue approved by voters can be a complicated endeavor that depends on extensive planning, the right messaging and voter turnout. When school bonds fail, the effects of rejection can linger. [NonDoc]

General News

Oklahoma GOP facing FEC scrutiny over inconsistencies in 2020 election cycle reporting: Errors and inconsistencies in reports from the 2020 election cycle have prompted a Federal Election Commission audit of the Oklahoma Republican Party, sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Council okays police to buy an unknown quantity of military-style rifles [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma senator aims to name stretch of ‘desolate’ highway after Lincoln Riley [The Oklahoman]
  • Residents chime in on homeless study in Norman [Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“In a transparent and democratic political system, we can all trust each other, but we can also verify.”

-OK Policy Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst Paul Shinn writing about the need for Oklahoma’s budget process to become more open and transparent [OK Policy]   

Number of the Day


Number of days for public consideration of Oklahoma’s FY 2021’s $7.7 billion general appropriations bill before it was approved by lawmakers in May [OK Policy]  

Policy Note

Public Engagement in the Budget Process: Good public participation practices can help governments be more accountable and responsive to their communities, and can also improve the public’s perception of governmental performance and the value the public receives from their government. Transparency is a core value of governmental budgeting.  Developing a transparent budget process will improve the government’s credibility and trust within the community. [Government Finance Officers Association]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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