In The Know: Tax Day 2022 | Some races already decided without a vote | Investing in crime prevention | 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

Tax Day 2022–The view from VITA (Guest Post): In the past, I’ve written Tax Day articles for OK Policy about a world without taxes. This year I’m celebrating Tax Day by describing my work helping dozens of Oklahomans file their federal and state income taxes through the VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) program. During my volunteer work here, I’ve seen first-hand the essential role that refundable tax credits play in the well-being of low-income Americans of all ages and the need for a more nuanced approach to tax policy for senior citizens. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

Nearly half of Oklahoma legislative races already are decided without a vote: Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma won’t have a say in selecting their state senator or representatives this year. Of the 125 legislative seats on the 2022 ballot, 44% have already been decided. Fewer than one-third will be contested in November. [Oklahoma Watch

  • Open races could determine future of State Senate [NonDoc
  • Democracy Watch: There’s Even Fewer Contested Elections in Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch
  • Who is and isn’t running for the Oklahoma Legislature in 2022? What you should know [The Oklahoman

Column: Oklahoma’s juvenile justice system fails families in crisis: Recently, the Oklahoma Policy Institute released an analysis of the state’s youth justice system and suggested reforms, including providing legal counsel and eliminating fees and fines. I participated in a panel to share my experience as a parent of justice-involved youth. [Opinion / Tulsa World

Report from OK Policy: Better Tomorrows reviews the historical context for Oklahoma’s youth justice system, examines contemporary processes and actors within the system, and recommends a series of reforms that can help achieve better outcomes for justice-involved children and their families.

‘We never made that investment’: Oklahoma mass release report prompts call for program funding: Criminal justice reform advocates are calling on the state to invest more in crime prevention, substance abuse programs and mental health treatment after newly released data showed nearly half of prisoners released under a recent mass commutation have been rearrested. “We really have to be investing in crime prevention, and for populations like these, Oklahoma needs to build a comprehensive re-entry system,” Damion Shade, justice and economic mobility project manager for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said. [The Oklahoman

Previously from OK Policy (2021): Voters still waiting for SQ 781’s investments in mental health, substance use disorders

State Government News

Former cabinet secretary sues state over open records: One of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s former cabinet secretaries has sued the Oklahoma Tax Commission alleging violations of open records laws. David Ostrowe is Stitt’s former secretary of digital transformation and administration. He resigned the post in 2021 after a multi-county grand jury indictment alleging bribery was dismissed against him. [Tulsa World

Lawmaker who pushed for turnpike expansion has subcontracted road projects while in office: The author of legislation that urged the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to extend the Kickapoo Turnpike in the Arcadia Lake area is himself a road builder who while in office worked as a subcontractor on multiple state highway projects. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Supreme Court approves new transportation funding plan: No one objected, and there was no legal reason to say no: so reads the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s stated reasoning for its decision to approve a new funding mechanism for state transportation projects. [The Journal Record

Swadley’s whistleblower alleges overcharges, excessive fees in Oklahoma tourism deal: On Dec. 7, 2021, State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s Office received an email through its anonymous whistleblower site that stated: “As a former employee of Swadley’s Smoked Meats I was asked by Brent Swadley to ‘find him more money from the OTRD because they were low on money and needed to get ours first.'” [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma educators weigh in on bills moving forward: A dozen education bills are moving forward this week after Thursday’s legislative deadline. As school districts work to recruit teachers, lawmakers are doing their part to incentivize educators to stay in Oklahoma. [KTUL]

Viewpoint: Need evidence that trans athlete ban is unnecessary? Look to OKC school district: From 1997 to 2009, the Oklahoma City school district refused to broaden its policies on bullying, harassment and nondiscrimination to include, at first, sexual orientation and then — as people became more informed about gender — also gender identity. However, in spite of the Bible-verse accompanied prophesies, the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were finally added and none of the predictions have come true. [Opinion / The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma state officials resist Supreme Court ruling affirming tribal authority over American Indian country: It’s unusual for someone to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit one of its decisions. It’s very rare for that to happen almost immediately after the ruling was issued. But in the two years since the court’s ruling in a key case about Native American rights, the state of Oklahoma has made that request more than 40 times. [The Conversation

Comanche Nation general council offers budget, leadership nominations: The Comanche Nation came together Saturday for its annual meeting to take care of business for the year ahead. [The Lawton Constitution]

Voting and Election News

Crowded fields for most statewide offices in Oklahoma: No Democrat filed to run in a pair of influential statewide races: attorney general and state auditor and inspector. The year’s hottest statewide positions — governor and state superintendent of public instruction — will feature expansive fields of candidates. [NonDoc

  • ‘The more the merrier’: Who looks to unseat Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2022 election? [The Oklahoman
  • Gentner Drummond returns to AG race to face John O’Connor in Oklahoma Republican primary [The Oklahoman
  • Multiple challengers emerge for countywide offices [Tulsa World
  • Filing for Oklahoma County races brings familiar faces, new names to ballots for primaries [The Oklahoman

Packed CD 2 race tops Oklahoma congressional contests: The race for Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District promises to be a mad dash, with a grand total of 16 candidates throwing their hats in the ring before the filing deadline at 5 p.m. Friday. [NonDoc

  • Controversial Oklahoma GOP Chairman John Bennett plans to resign to focus on congressional campaign [The Oklahoman

Former EPA chief, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt resurfaces, files for U.S. Senate: Scott Pruitt’s political comeback began Friday. Four years after exiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s top spot amid a hail of ethics and management scandals and complaints, the former state senator and Oklahoma attorney general walked unannounced into the Capitol at midday Friday and filed for U.S. Senate. [Tulsa World] Pruitt, 53, a former Oklahoma attorney general and outspoken supporter of the energy industry, is seeking the seat being vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe. [AP News]

  • In race to replace U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, Markwayne Mullin puts up $1 million of his money [The Oklahoman

Health News

Experts watch for potential summer COVID-19 surge as ER visits level off in Oklahoma: Emergency room visits have been back to normal levels in Oklahoma since late January after a precipitous drop at the start of the year, said Dr. David Kendrick, CEO of MyHealth Access Network. [Tulsa World

  • Chickasaw Nation remains vigilant on public health [The Ada News]

Will tribal land provide safe haven when Oklahoma’s abortion ban goes into effect? Experts say not anytime soon: Under the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, nearly 40 percent of eastern Oklahoma, including the city of Tulsa, is reservation land, which is subject to tribal and federal laws. That means a doctor who is a citizen of a federally recognized tribe could set up a practice providing abortion services. But experts say people shouldn’t count on it. [KOSU

  • Abortion training under threat for med students, residents [AP News]
  • Red states race to enact new abortion restrictions [Axios]

Black women fear the steady rise in abortion restrictions across the US will worsen maternal health crisis: Oklahoma and Florida’s bills are just the latest examples of the steady rise in restrictive measures across the US limiting women’s access to abortions, especially for Black women, who are five times more likely to have an abortion than White women. [CNN

Criminal Justice News

Former Oklahoma jailer facing prison time for allowing inmate attacks: A former Oklahoma jailer is facing prison time for allowing inmate attacks. Former jailer Matthew Ware is facing up to 30 years in prison for allowing Black inmates to be attacked by white supremacists. A federal jury convicted Ware of violating the Civil Rights of three inmates in Kay County. [KOCO]

Economic Opportunity

Rep. Dollens plans legislative fight against corporate interests in housing: Though there are plenty of conflicting opinions from each of those groups about how to approach and handle the growing problems of housing affordability and availability, there seems to be one thing they all agree on: Any meaningful solutions will have to come at a state level. [OKC Free Press]

Education News

Chief Chat: Investing in public education, northeast Oklahoma’s future: Public schools are central to communities across the Cherokee Nation Reservation in northeast Oklahoma. [Muskogee Phoenix

  • Viewpoint: Oklahoma must invest in arts education if it wants to improve academic outcomes [Opinion / The Oklahoman

Stillwater schools consider asking for guidance on bathroom policy: The culture wars surrounding bathrooms and who gets to use them died down for a few years as states experienced economic backlash from organizations put off by the legislation and policies they inspired. But legislation and policies regarding transgender people have once again moved to the forefront, as seen in Stillwater over the past month. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Oklahoma Local News

Mayor Bynum signs resolution creating community-led process to discuss possible Race Massacre redress: Mayor G.T. Bynum signed a nonbinding City Council resolution last week that establishes a framework for holding a community discussion on how the city can make amends for the harm caused by the 1921 Race Massacre. [Tulsa World

Police want public input on plan to install license plate reader cameras: Tulsa Crime Stoppers and the police department have released the dates of upcoming town hall meetings to discuss the city’s plan to install license plate reader cameras. [Tulsa World

Water rate increase fails: What’s next for Norman?: City officials are back to the drawing board for needed water infrastructure improvements under fear of state fines in the thousands after voters said no to a water rate increase at the polls on April 5. [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“You have people sitting in prison who don’t have access to programs, access to good jobs, access to training. Studies show over and over again that steady employment is the number one indicator — and housing — for those individuals who are able to be moved safely back into society. Those individuals are unquestionably less likely to reoffend and we just haven’t built that infrastructure.”

– Damion Shade, Justice and Economic Mobility Project Manager for Oklahoma Policy Institute, describes the need for a comprehensive re-entry system in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]

Previously from OK Policy (2021): Voters still waiting for SQ 781’s investments in mental health, substance use disorders

Number of the Day

1 in 3

More than 1 in 3 of the working taxpayers helped by a volunteer through the VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) program received the federal and Oklahoma EITC. 

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New Guest Post from OK Policy: “During my volunteer work here, I’ve seen first-hand the essential role that refundable tax credits play in the well-being of low-income Americans of all ages and the need for a more nuanced approach to tax policy for senior citizens.”

Policy Note

Tax Day 2022: Top State Tax Charts: State taxes fund community assets such as K-12 schools and higher education, health care, infrastructure, and family support programs — all of which expand opportunity, limit hardship, and promote a broadly shared prosperity. Over the last two years, the investments state taxes make possible have helped mitigate the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts. Adequate state revenues have always been crucial for the well-being of families and communities but the pandemic, like the Great Recession over a decade ago, has shown how crucial state revenues are to the public good. [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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