In The Know: Tax cuts and ‘political theater’ | Report: Oklahoma prisons understaffed | Pandemic projects head to Governor | 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

Policy Matters: Oklahomans need targeted, timely help: The House on Monday afternoon unveiled 15 complicated bills – with some of them contradictory – just minutes before the special session was to be called to order. The breakneck schedule had House lawmakers introducing the bills on Monday, holding a second reading on Tuesday, and voting on them on Wednesday. It’s plain that this plan provides little opportunity for thoughtful conversation about complicated tax law. [Shiloh Kantz / The Journal Record]

City of Lawton partnering with Together Oklahoma for ‘Pride and Policy’ listening session: The McMahon Memorial Auditorium in Lawton has been chosen to house a statewide educational LGBTQ+ program, that will also be available for anyone in Oklahoma to attend online. The Pride and Policy Statewide listening session is happening Thursday evening at 6:30, at the McMahon Auditorium. The City of Lawton, Together Oklahoma, and the McMahon Memorial Authority are teaming up to make the event happen. [KSWO]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma House approves tax cuts; Senate leader calls it ‘political theater’: The Oklahoma House on Wednesday approved a package of bills to cut the state’s grocery tax and reduce personal income taxes, but the head of the state Senate wrote it off as “political theater.” [The Oklahoman] Sales and income tax reductions totaling around $500 million passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday, but the citizenry might hold off on spending the roughly $125 per capita projected benefit. [Tulsa World

  • House, Senate leaders trade barbs over action on tax relief legislation [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]
  • PPT Greg Treat announces membership of tax reform working group [FOX25]

New from OK Policy: Targeted relief can help Oklahoma families weather inflation

Almost $70 million in pandemic relief projects head to Governor: Almost $70 million in pandemic relief projects now await approval by Gov. Kevin Stitt as the Oklahoma Legislature continued work Wednesday on a special session on the state’s share of $1.87 billion under the federal American Rescue Plan Act. [Oklahoma Watch]

Report: Oklahoma prisons plagued with staffing shortages, operational inefficiencies: Severe staffing shortages and operational inefficiencies within Oklahoma’s prison system are placing a legal and financial burden on the state, examiners from the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency wrote in a draft report released on Thursday. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Oklahoma City teenagers ask policymakers not to ‘downplay’ their experiences: In their conversation with StateImpact’s Robby Korth on the cusp of high school graduation, they say there are some encouraging strides being made in representation, specifically the election of Rep. Mauree Turner in 2020. But there’s still more work to be done. And young people like them are happy to take up that mantle. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Tribal Nations News

The Cherokee Phoenix Breakdown: GOTV and Election Season: In this episode of The Cherokee Phoenix Breakdown, we are joined by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. as well as “Rock the Native Vote” Director Rev. David Wilson as we discuss the upcoming state and federal elections in Oklahoma and why it is important to know where candidates stand on Native issues, especially when it comes to tribes’ sovereignty. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Voting and Election News

‘That’s a lie’: Calvey, Gieger clash in OK County GOP district attorney debate: Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger and Oklahoma County District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey sparred over endorsements, the prosecution of law enforcement officers and who is most fit to become Oklahoma County’s next district attorney during a Republican primary debate Tuesday night at the University of Central Oklahoma presented by NonDoc and News 9. [NonDoc]

OK County District 1 candidates mostly agree on new jail: Democrats running for Oklahoma County Commissioner District 1 mostly agreed on issues like the need for a new jail in a debate hosted by Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC) on Tuesday night, with some notable caveats. [NonDoc]

Winner in GOP primary will take Creek County state Senate post: The winner of the June 28 Republican primary for Senate District 12 — which includes the Sapulpa, Bristow, Kiefer, Kellyville and Drumright areas in Creek County — will take the office. Only two Republicans filed to replace Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, who chose not to seek reelection. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma GOP looks to boost fundraising under new leadership: After a year of controversy and fundraising struggles, the Oklahoma Republican Party is looking for a fresh start under newly elected Chairman A.J. Ferate. Ferate has long been involved in Republican politics nationally and statewide. [The Frontier]

No shortage of City Council candidates after three-day filing period: There will be no shortage of Tulsa City Council candidates this year. On Wednesday, the third and final day to file for municipal office, seven more candidates signed up to run. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma ranks 50th in COVID-19 response, according to Commonwealth Fund study: Oklahoma ranked 50th in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other states and the District of Columbia in a nonprofit’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance released late Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Promising cancer drug trial marks a major first for Oklahoma. Here’s what you need to know: The OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center on Wednesday announced a first for the state: a cancer drug, developed entirely in Oklahoma and without the help of a pharmaceutical company, is set to be tested in humans for the first time. [The Oklahoman] The researchers are hopeful this drug can kill cancer without the miserable side effects that come with current treatments like chemotherapy. [KOSU]

Some clinics aren’t waiting for Roe decision to stop abortions: Although Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land, women can no longer get a legal abortion in two states, Oklahoma and South Dakota. In at least one other, Missouri, the only clinic is booked and not accepting new appointments. And in a fourth state, Wisconsin, clinics will not schedule abortions for after the end of the Supreme Court’s term in late June. [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

Lawmaker: Report shows Oklahoma death row inmate’s innocence: A Republican Oklahoma state representative who is a self-described death-penalty supporter on Wednesday said a report by a Houston law firm into the conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip proves Glossip’s innocence. [AP News] After presenting a 342-page report detailing all the reasons why Richard Glossip should not be executed, state Rep. Kevin McDugle paused, took a breath, and issued an impassioned plea. [The Journal Record

Tulsa County Sheriff speaks on officer safety, gun policy: After a forum on active shootings held at Tulsa Tech on Tuesday evening, Sheriff Vic Regalado weighed in on whether or not permitless carry combined with other lax gun regulations in Oklahoma is a safety problem for police. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Long Story Short: The Ruling That Restarts Executions in Oklahoma: Keaton Ross discusses the court ruling that will let executions resume in Oklahoma. Keaton also reports on a new Oklahoma City Police Department restriction on vehicular pursuits. Jennifer Palmer looks at the settlement of an Oklahoma Watch lawsuit against Epic Charter Schools. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economic Opportunity

Proposed homeless ordinance ‘puts progress at risk,’ stakeholders group tells Tulsa mayor, councilors: Nearly 20 service organizations have signed off on a letter to Mayor G.T. Bynum and city councilors urging them to withdraw a proposed ordinance that would subject the city’s homeless population to fines and jail time for obstructing public rights of way. [Tulsa World]

Green Country Habitat for Humanity announces $13.5 million in funding gifts for north Tulsa initiative: Three local philanthropic arms flexed their collective muscle Wednesday for Green Country Habitat for Humanity and its North Tulsa Initiative. Habitat announced that it recently has received $13.5 million from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Ascension St. John, and the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Supply chain issues, war causing empty shelves in Oklahoma: Oklahomans are seeing more empty shelves on everything from pasta to tampons, regionwide experts say. From farmers’ fields to local grocery stores, national supply chains have undergone great strain since the pandemic and the problems are not going away anytime soon. [The Journal Record]

Lawsuit accusing Continental Resources of ‘Watergate’ like behavior hits legal hurdle: A lawsuit against Continental Resources hit a legal hurdle this week when an Oklahoma County District Court judge issued a stay of proceedings until it is determined whether the court has jurisdiction over the case involving the oil giant. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Education Watch: Involving Families in School Decisions on Spending COVID-19 Relief Funds: A new review of the country’s 100 largest school districts found more than 1 in 3 still aren’t collecting local feedback in violation of federal law. The review was completed by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and published this week on The 74. [Oklahoma Watch]

Western Heights district audit finds overpaid employees, misused funds, ignored policies: A leaked audit of Western Heights Public Schools reported vast overpayments of certain employees, a lack of internal financial controls and mishandling of federal dollars. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Sexual abuse reform lauded by Oklahoma Southern Baptist trio, though delays trigger anger: The Southern Baptist Convention’s historic approval of sexual abuse reforms was somewhat bittersweet for one Oklahoma preacher. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

City Council approves $945 million FY 2023 budget: The City Council on Wednesday passed a $945 million budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, but most of the discussion focused on a paltry $3 million. Before the vote, about two dozen members of the public rose to speak about the proposed funding package, with most objecting to a $2.55 million allocation to the Tulsa Police Department for a Real Time Information Center. [Tulsa World]

Five black-owned restaurants in Tulsa to enjoy during Juneteenth: Juneteenth is a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States while also shining a light on African Americans for their accomplishments in enriching the country. However, the recognition of Juneteenth extends beyond the United States, as many other countries celebrate this momentous day in history. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Quote of the Day

“This really is about having political mailers to send out to say, ‘we cut your taxes,'”

– Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City), speaking about the tax cuts passed by the state House during special session [The Oklahoman]

Previously from OK Policy: Rather than cutting taxes, legislators must consider the state’s long-term fiscal health and its structural deficit by maintaining revenue streams this year and for years to come. 

Number of the Day


Oklahoma has cut taxes by nearly 12% since 1997. During this time, Oklahoma’s economic growth – other than the historically volatile oil and gas industry — has been substantially lower than that of the surrounding region and the nation. Concurrently, Oklahoma has also seen comparatively less employment growth.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Recently from OK Policy: Cuts to the personal income tax rate are unfair to low- and middle-class families since they return the largest benefit to the wealthiest Oklahomans. Tax cuts now can devastate state revenue and funding for services like public education in future years.

Policy Note

Punitive fines and fees are an invisible cost of state tax cuts: When you’re poor, there is no margin of error in any part of life. A one-time splurge often requires sacrificing timely payment of some necessity. Those with financial resources can make youthful indiscretions disappear, but for a poor person, a misdemeanor can become a years-long, costly entanglement with the criminal justice system. Municipal fines for a parking ticket or traffic infraction that many of us eliminate with the swipe of a credit card can result in mounting penalties, a suspended driver’s license and worsened consumer credit for poor people—or even an arrest warrant for unpaid fines. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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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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