In The Know: Stitt signs massive incentive proposal | Controversial Swadley’s contract canceled | Attack on indispensable workforce support

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

HB 1933 attacks an indispensable support to our workforce: Oklahoma’s lawmakers should recognize the importance of a well-designed unemployment insurance program and strengthen this necessary program rather than undermine it. Unfortunately, a piece of legislation recently passed by the state House of Representatives and now due to be considered on the Senate floor threatens the efficacy of our state’s unemployment insurance program. House Bill 1933 — which would drastically reduce the length of time laid-off workers may draw unemployment benefits — would weaken our economy, threaten families’ financial security, and fail to get more Oklahomans back to work. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

Stitt signs lucrative ‘Project Ocean’ incentive proposal to attract major manufacturer: After moving swiftly through the Oklahoma Legislature last week, “mega-legislation” meant to attract a multi-billion-dollar business to the Sooner state was signed Monday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Oklahoman

  • Incentives game filled with wins and losses with long-term success rarely guaranteed [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt signs bill for massive corporate subsidy [Public Radio Tulsa]  
  • Gov. signs $698M rebate bill as some lawmakers question how this impacts tax cut bills [Fox 25
  • Stitt signs $698 million economic incentive package to bring in major employer [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Tourism Department cancels controversial Swadley’s contract for state park restaurants: With a criminal investigation ongoing, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department has canceled its controversial state park restaurant contract with Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen “due to suspected fraudulent activity and questionable business practices.” [NonDoc] “After extensive review, it has become clear the continuation of the agreement with Foggy Bottom Kitchen is not in the best interest of Oklahoma taxpayers,” according to the statement, released Monday. [Enid News & Eagle]

  • Tourism Department ends Foggy Bottom contract for ‘suspected fraudulent activity’ [The Frontier
  • Swadley’s says almost 300 employees will lose their jobs after Tourism Dept. ends contract [KFOR
  • Oklahoma state parks without concession services amid fraud investigation [The Lawton Constitution]
  • (Audio) Headlines: Swadley’s contract suspended, “The Patriot” removed & Tulsa golf courses [KOSU

State Government News

Debate emerges over bill allowing parents to give tax-deductible $1K donations to teachers: A bill that incentivizes parents to gift their children’s teachers $1,000 is facing pushback amid criticism that it would create inequities, cause favoritism and pressure parents rather than lawmakers to increase educator compensation. [CNHI via Mskogee Phoenix]

OMMA will give OJA $2 million for substance abuse interventions: Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority announced it will allocate $2 million to the state Office of Juvenile Affairs to fund statewide evidence-based substance abuse interventions. [Southwest Ledger]

Before and after construction: a closer look at studies the OTA will and will not perform: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority says it does not perform environmental impact studies on nearby lakes following construction, but it does follow regulations to control pollutants. Residents have raised concerns about pollution of Norman’s primary drinking water supply, Lake Thunderbird after the OTA announced in February that it would construct a toll road within the watershed, west of the lake. [The Norman Transcript]

Ex-legislator says Corporation Commission vote on ONG 2021 storm bonds was invalid: A former state legislator contends the Corporation Commission vote to authorize Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. to securitize $1.3 billion in expenses incurred during a winter storm 14 months ago – via the issuance of bonds that ONG customers would be required to pay off over a 25-year period – was invalid. [Southwest Ledger]

Engrossment allowed abortion bill to be held for a vote this year: Oklahoma Senate Bill 612, known as the abortion ban, co-authored by state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, and state Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, passed the Senate on March 10, 2021 by a vote of 38-9. The measure was then engrossed to the House on March 11, 2021. [The Lawton Constitution]

Pro-gun group grows into potent political force in Oklahoma: In short order, he and his friends recruited a Republican challenger for Shaw, held a fundraiser in his district and helped defeat the incumbent in the primary. [AP News]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation confident in opposition to state’s call for concurrent jurisdiction in Oklahoma: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. expressed confidence Monday that tribes would prevail in their latest legal battle before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding tribal sovereignty. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Supreme Court rejects tribal claims that state, some cities ‘unjustly enriched’ by fines and fees: The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied relief last Tuesday for members of the Cherokee Nation who alleged certain municipalities and the state were “unjustly enriched” when they collected fines and fees levied against defendants whose state prosecutions would be impossible following the McGirt decision. [CNHI via McAlester News Capital]

Enoch Kelly Haney, politician and artist who left a lasting mark on the state Capitol, dies: Enoch Kelly Haney, the former Seminole Nation Chief who served in the state Legislature, ran for governor and had his art showcased around the world, including on top of the Oklahoma state Capitol, died Saturday. He was 81. [The Oklahoman] A renowned painter and sculptor whose piece “The Guardian” stands atop the Oklahoma State Capitol, Haney served as a Democrat in the House from 1980 to 1986 and in the Senate from 1986 to 2002. [NonDoc]

  • Enoch Kelly Haney leaves lasting legacy: A 2021 conversation with Oklahoma leader in multiple fields [The Norman Transcript]
  • Guardian of culture: Norman artist Enoch Kelly Haney a creative force for over 70 years [The Norman Transcript]
  • Native American artist, chief, Oklahoma lawmaker Haney dies [AP News]

Voting and Election News

What’s in a nickname? Election Board strikes ‘The Patriot’ from Sean Roberts’ candidacy: Social media account banners, a plaque from the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association and a birthday card were admitted as evidence during a nearly two-hour hearing over whether Sean “The Patriot” Roberts was an appropriate moniker for his 2022 commissioner of labor candidacy. [NonDoc] In a unanimous vote, the three-person board decided a Republican state lawmaker cannot appear on the ballot for statewide office as Sean “The Patriot” Roberts. [The Oklahoman] Election officials said Oklahoma law allows candidates to use nicknames on the ballot as long as they’re generally known by or do business using the name. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Tulsa legislative candidate retains spot on ballot after challenge to eligibility: A Republican candidate for House District 79 in southeastern Tulsa remains on the June 28 primary ballot after the Oklahoma State Election Board, on a split vote, turned down a challenge to his eligibility. [Tulsa World

Reports: Burleson nets more Enid donors, but Lucas still out-raises GOP challenger in 2022: With a candidate hailing from Enid this election cycle, the Northwestern Oklahoma city has emerged as a political fundraising hot spot not seen in over a decade for the state’s 3rd Congressional District. [Enid News & Eagle]

Health News

As COVID wanes again, who’s calling the shots? Oklahoma health leaders share their outlook: Oklahoma, like much of the U.S., is headed toward a new phase of the pandemic as the omicron variant surge has subsided. We spoke to three public health leaders about their thoughts on the moment we’re in and where we’re headed. Here’s what they said. [The Oklahoman

Bringing Different Perspective Together: Local think tank nonprofit hopes to address Enid’s mental health: The report, compiled from 30 recommendations from several town halls held last fall, found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness and substance abuse issues in adulthood. [Enid News & Eagle]

Criminal Justice News

‘Soft on crime’ attacks target Republicans who favor changes: With violent crime increasing in many parts of the U.S., Republicans see a winning strategy in portraying Democrats as soft on crime ahead of this year’s elections. In ads, campaign appearances and interviews, the GOP has ripped liberal policies and blamed Democratic lawmakers from the White House to city councils for the violence. But in Oklahoma, where Gov. Kevin Stitt is being targeted for mass commutations and a crime that involved cannibalism, the attacks are different: Stitt is a Republican. [AP News]

Former assistant district attorney alleged to have sought sex favors in bribery, racketeering case: A former assistant district attorney agreed to accept sexual favors from a defendant in exchange for helping her with her child-custody case, prosecutors allege in a federal criminal complaint filed Monday in Tulsa federal court. [Tulsa World

Wrongfully convicted man: ‘I’ve made peace with it, but it hasn’t made peace with me’: Perry Lott was sentenced to 300 years in prison for the November 1987 rape and robbery of an Ada woman. Lott maintained his innocence throughout his trial and three decades of incarceration. With the assistance of The Innocence Project, he was released from prison in July 2018. Under an agreement made with the Pontotoc County District Attorney’s office, Lott will be on unsupervised probation for the rest of his life. He is also ineligible for financial compensation. [Oklahoma Watch

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma Starbucks employees are following the national trend of pushing for unionization: Many Starbucks employees in Oklahoma are unhappy with corporate and higher management. But these employees don’t want to leave Starbucks – they want to change it. “We care about the company enough to fix some of the issues that we have. But overall, we all love the company,” said Jennifer Ramirez. [KGOU

Economy & Business News

PGA foundation donates $250,000 to improve Tulsa’s public golf courses: The PGA Championship comes to Southern Hills Country Club in three weeks, but Monday brought its own big golf news. PGA of America announced that its nonprofit PGA Reach Foundation is donating $250,000 to a public-private effort to improve conditions at the city’s municipal golf courses. [Tulsa World

General News

‘Focus: Black Oklahoma’: minority voters, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Oklahoma’s Black history: A series, In A Confused State, will follow Oklahoma advocacy groups navigating new restrictions on freedoms in four areas: reproductive rights, voting laws, teaching history and direct action/activism. [KOSU]

Tar Creek on ‘America’s Most Endangered Rivers’ list again: Tar Creek, an 11-mile stream polluted with heavy metals from historic lead and zinc mining in the region, nabbed a spot on “America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2022” for its second consecutive year. [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“Public education is the business of the state. The state’s obligation is to fund public education. It’s not our place to ask parents to fund education. If you want private education, you want to pay for private education that’s one thing, but public education, we should fund that.”

– State Senator Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, speaking about a bill that incentivizes parents to give a tax-deductible donation of $1,000 per child to their child’s classroom teacher [Muskogee Phoenix]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans lifted out of poverty by SNAP between 2013 and 2017

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

New from OK Policy: State lawmakers are considering tax cuts that could devastate state revenue and funding for public services like public education in future years.

Policy Note

Building a Better Social Safety Net: Millions of Americans rely on the social safety net to provide basic economic, food, and housing support when experiencing hardship. When COVID-19 killed millions of jobs and drove benefit demand to unprecedented levels, the often-difficult steps to receiving benefits — submitting documents about your income and household at a government office or by mail, waiting for a decision on your application, and needing to recertify your eligibility often if your situation doesn’t improve quickly — got even harder. [Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation]

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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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