In The Know: Targeting sales tax relief | Gov. Stitt and business incentives, marketing | Rep. Hilbert elected a new speaker pro tem | 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.

From OK Policy

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Oklahoma News

Tulsa wants clarification on grocery tax elimination proposal: Governor Stitt’s proposal to eliminate the sales tax on groceries is causing some raised eyebrows at Tulsa City Hall. By state law, cities are only allowed to raise money through sale taxes. Unlike other government entities, a city cannot charge property taxes or income taxes. If the total sales tax on groceries should be eliminated, the City of Tulsa would face an annual loss of nearly $22 million. [Public Radio Tulsa

New from OK Policy: If Oklahoma lawmakers leverage the Sales Tax Relief Credit to reduce or eliminate the impact of grocery taxes, this would represent a fiscally prudent way to deliver meaningful support to our friends and neighbors who most need tax relief.

Gov. Kevin Stitt seeks millions for Oklahoma business incentives, marketing campaign: Gov. Kevin Stitt proposed a budget Monday that was largely flat compared to last year, although it included one of his favorite ways to spend — business incentives. Like last year, Stitt is asking the Legislature to give him $20 million to use on the Quick Action Closing Fund, a pot of money he controls as a way to throw incentives at businesses considering a move to Oklahoma or wanting to expand within the state. During his first three years in office, Stitt paid incentives to more than 40 companies, a pace far higher than his predecessor who initially launched the Quick Action Closing Fund. [The Oklahoman]

Rep. Kyle Hilbert chosen to be Oklahoma House’s new speaker pro tem: State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, was chosen speaker pro tem of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday by a largely ceremonial, party-line vote of the membership. [Tulsa World] At 27, Hilbert is the youngest House speaker pro tempore in modern history. Oklahoma House members elected a new speaker pro tempore Tuesday following Rep. Terry O’Donnell’s resignation from the leadership post after he was indicted for allegedly misusing his power to change state law so his wife could become a tag agent. [The Oklahoman]

‘COVID is our friend’: Jail leader Greg Williams recorded praising pandemic: A voicemail recording obtained by NonDoc features Oklahoma County Jail chief administrator Greg Williams and director of communications Mark Opgrande calling the COVID-19 pandemic “the greatest thing that has ever happened to us” and “a built-in excuse” to keep media and other visitors out of the troubled jail. [NonDoc

Health News

Sewage testing for COVID-19 at ‘very high plateau’ in Tulsa with ‘optimistic’ signs for decrease soon: Sewage surveillance suggests the spread of the omicron variant in Tulsa remains at “a very high plateau,” which experts don’t expect to be reflected in weekly county data the state will release Wednesday. [Tulsa World

OU Health to invest $25M in front-line nurses, supervisors: Front-line nurses at OU Health will receive pay raises linked to a $25 million investment that should position Oklahoma’s only comprehensive academic health system as the regional leader in nursing compensation. [The Journal Record

Oklahoma AG OKs prescribing ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said Tuesday his office has found no legal basis for medical boards to discipline doctors for prescribing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. [AP

Nonprofit’s top priorities for Oklahoma’s mental health focus on wellness in children: Improving the mental wellness of Oklahoma’s children — and ensuring families are equipped financially to give children a strong start — is key to strengthening the state’s future health outcomes, according to recommendations from an Oklahoma nonprofit. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Proposal would alter law addressing passage of state questions: A state lawmaker has proposed making major changes in the law addressing how state questions might be passed in Oklahoma, changes that he said are needed to give rural Oklahomans more influence over outcomes. [The Journal Record

Local legislator vouches for state GOP’s private school funding proposal: Enid’s state legislator who sits on the House Education Committee signaled his support for the governor’s “bold” agenda for public school reform that would partly involve a private school voucher proposal. [Enid News & Eagle]

Committee passes bill for 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave for teachers: A Senate panel passed a measure Tues day that would give teachers 12 paid weeks of maternity leave. The measure, Senate Bill 703 by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, passed the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 12-1 and now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. [Tulsa World]

Previously from OK Policy: Paid family and medical leave is good for families and businesses

Bill distancing Oklahoma National Guard from federal command advances: Legislation intended to limit federal authority over Oklahoma National Guard members passed its first test on Tuesday, the second day of the 2022 legislative session, with a do-pass vote from the House Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma Senate Bill that will add protections for victims of sex trafficking advances: A bill has been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee that will add sex trafficking victims to the Address Confidentiality Program. Senator Darrell Weaver, R-District 24 proposed SB1569 and stated in Tuesday’s committee meeting that it was a request bill from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. [KFOR

Federal Government News

Biden appointing Black women as federal judge at record pace: With President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), a growing number of Black women will preside over federal judicial cases. In fact, in his first full year in office, President Biden has already appointed 11 Black women as federal judges — more than nearly all other previous presidents. [The Black Wall Street Times

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma City reelects Holt, Stillwater chooses Joyce, Norman mayoral race headed to runoff: Voters in 65 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties took to the polls Tuesday to decide on several local elections – including mayoral and city council races, school board and bond elections and other propositions. [KGOU

  • David Holt reelected as mayor of Oklahoma City [NonDoc]  [The Oklahoman]  [OKC Free Press]
  • Breea Clark, Larry Heikkila headed for Norman mayoral runoff [NonDoc] [The Oklahoman
  • Joyce wins re-election to Stillwater mayor; both tax proposals approved by voters [Stillwater News Press]
  • Voters pass bonds, send both Edmond school board races to runoffs [NonDoc
  • Oklahoma City area school board races send 8 candidates to runoffs, 1 wins outright [The Oklahoman]
  • Ward races: Incumbents win Wards 2, 6, 8; Ward 4 heads to runoff [The Norman Transcript]
  • (Audio) Headlines: Election results, Epic consolidation & Thunder trade rumors [KOSU

Tulsa voters overwhelmingly approve franchise agreement with PSO: The 15-year deal between the city and PSO passed with 8,578 voters — 75.82% — in favor of the agreement. The agreement sets out the terms under which the private company can use public rights of ways and associated fees the company pays for the access. [Tulsa World

Economic Opportunity

At 6.9%, Black unemployment rate lowest since pandemic started: Black workers are seeing relief from a pandemic that’s created the highest national rates of unemployment since the Great Recession. January’s jobless rate painted a picture of steady growth as President Biden argues the economy is improving. [The Black Wall Street Times

Economy & Business News

OKC expects sales tax revenues to return to normal in FY23: Strong sales tax revenues are expected to continue through the end of the fiscal year before returning to normal levels as government stimulus payments end. Households that spent those federal dollars helped fuel city sales tax collections that came in 13.6% higher than projected during the first half of fiscal year 2022. [The Journal Record

Education News

Epic Charter Schools considering massive merger: In what could be a seismic shift for the state’s largest public school system, Epic Charter Schools has suggested merging its two branches into one school district. [The Oklahoman] Epic Superintendent Bart Banfield said the move to become one school, sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, would streamline almost every single administrative function, result in cost savings and reduce confusion for parents and the public. [Tulsa World

General News

Daughter of civil rights icon discusses a legacy ‘etched into the fabric’ of America: For years, Cheryl Brown Henderson cringed when classroom history lessons landed on Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme court ruling against segregated public schools. “Sometimes, your life script is written for you before you were born and I believe that about myself,” Henderson told a crowd gathered Monday at Oklahoma Christian University. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City police are investigating allegations that sexual assault continues at Mount St. Mary [The Oklahoman]
  • Prominent Pawnee artist “Bunky” Echo-Hawk Jr. faces sex abuse charge [KOSU]  [Indian Country Today]

Quote of the Day

“Now is the time to form partnerships around issues such as infrastructure, education and criminal justice. Moving forward, we urge lawmakers and Stitt to find common ground benefiting all Oklahomans.”

– Tulsa World Editorial Board in response to the Governor’s 2022 State of the State address [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

$22 million

Estimated annual revenue loss for the City of Tulsa if the sales tax on groceries is eliminated

[Source: Public Radio Tulsa]

New from OK Policy: If Oklahoma lawmakers leverage the Sales Tax Relief Credit to reduce or eliminate the impact of grocery taxes, this would represent a fiscally prudent way to deliver meaningful support to our friends and neighbors who most need tax relief.

Policy Note

States Can Thoughtfully Implement Grocery Tax Reforms to Help Families and Improve Equity: States that are considering major grocery tax changes this year should do so with an eye toward their longer-term fiscal health and needs. These changes could make state tax codes more equitable, help families better afford nutritious foods and other basic needs, and maintain revenue for critical public investments. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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