In The Know: Thousands more students held back than originally reported; health agency shakeups continue; Stitt cabinet lacks diversity…

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Policy Pitch: Restore refundability of the EITC: In Oklahoma’s tax code, there are multiple tax breaks for high-income individuals and businesses. But just three tax credits are targeted at low-income Oklahomans, and one of those — the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — was slashed in 2016 to help balance the books during a severe budget crisis. That move to undercut a key poverty-fighting tool with a long history of bipartisan support was one many lawmakers regretted at the time and still regret today. [Courtney Cullison / NonDoc] Take Action: Click here to write to your legislators and ask them to restore the state EITC this session! 

Bill Watch: At a dead end: Six weeks into the 2019 legislative session, the House and Senate hit their second major deadline last Thursday. Bills that failed to pass off the floor of their chamber of origin are now dead for this session (for various exceptions to this deadline, see our 2019 Legislative Primer).  Bills that have made it this far now will be assigned to committees in the other chamber, where they will have until April 11th (or April 18th in the case of Senate bills assigned to the House Appropriations committee) to pass out of committee. [OK Policy]

(Capitol Update) Opportunities this session to bend Oklahoma’s justice system toward justice: With the deadline for passage in its house of origin, every major criminal justice reform was passed and moves forward in the legislative process. This is a tribute to the House and Senate leadership, to the authors of the bills and to the committee chairs who took the time to review and hear the measures. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

In The News

Thousands more students held back than originally reported: Thousands more Oklahoma students were held back in early grades than what the U.S. Department of Education reported, according to newly released state data. The state Education Department’s data is likely more accurate because it is pulled directly from the public-school enrollment database, whereas the federal data is collected from schools in a biennial survey. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt appoints members to three state agency boards: A day after he signed legislation giving him more power over five state agencies, Gov. Kevin Stitt quietly began replacing and reappointing board members at three of the agencies. As of Monday, Stitt had made changes to the governing boards of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma health agency shakeups continue: A meeting of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board scheduled for Thursday was canceled after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill last week to reorganize the board. “In effect, the governor’s signature did away with the board,” OHCA spokeswoman Jo Stainsby said Monday. [NewsOK]

Stitt’s cabinet lacks diversity: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet is nearly all male and white, falling well short of the state’s demographics, which are becoming more diverse. Two months into office, Stitt has nominated 14 cabinet positions, with one opening left. All but three cabinet members are male. None are Hispanic or black. [NewsOK ????]

Hunter approves Stitt’s conflict of interest plan: Attorney General Mike Hunter approved Gov. Stitt’s conflict of interest plan late last week. Stitt submitted his plan in early January, focusing mostly on separating himself from Gateway Mortgage Group, the lending company he founded in 2000. [KGOU]

Drug and mental health courts could get more funding under a bill advancing through Oklahoma Legislature: Millions of dollars to make more room in the state’s drug courts, mental health courts, and community sentencing programs could be a possibility under a bill now being considered by the Oklahoma Senate. State Representative John Waldron wants the Legislature to authorize a new fund to pay for up to 875 additional people to be diverted into treatment programs instead of prison. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Lawmakers extinguish bill barring smoking in bars: A bill that would have banned smoking in bars, restaurants and most other public places in Oklahoma has been snuffed out in the House of Representatives, but its author pledges to reintroduce the measure in the next legislative session. [Journal Record ????]

Bill funding Tulsa Race Massacre Commission falls in OK Legislature: A bill falls in the Oklahoma legislature which would shovel over a million dollars to the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. While it passed in the Senate, the author of the bill decided to go a different route for funding. [KJRH]

Nowata County sheriff, undersheriff resign, call county ‘corrupt’: Faced with a decision between putting inmates back in a century-old jail they feel is unsafe or defying a court order, Nowata County Sheriff’s Office officials decided to just resign instead. Nowata County Sheriff Terry Barnett, Undersheriff Mark Kirschner and several other employees, including deputies and a canine officer, resigned on Monday. [The Frontier]

Attorneys for ‘Innocent Man’ defendant claim police intercepted and kept client’s jailhouse letters: Attorneys for Karl Fontenot, one of the defendants serving a life sentence for the 1984 murder of Denice Haraway in Ada, filed a notice to the court on Monday, making additions to their case as they attempt to free Fontenot from prison. [The Frontier]

Criminal justice reform a hot topic at legislative forum: Finding ways to decrease the number of people imprisoned in Oklahoma sparked a strong reaction Friday among audience members and Stillwater’s state legislative delegation during the monthly forum hosted by the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee. [CHNI]

The Invisibles: Coping with a scarcity of food: More than 650,000 Oklahomans, a third of them children, lack reliable access to sufficient food, according to a Hunger Free Oklahoma study. Food pantries like The Urban Mission in Oklahoma City play a vital role in providing resources to people experiencing food shortages. [Oklahoma Watch]

41 ‘perspective partners’ identified for school buildings uses for closed buildings include health center, theatre: A multitude of community partners are interested in occupying school buildings that will be closed in the coming months, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel told the school board. [NewsOK]

Tulsa County overall health continues step up in annual ranking: Tulsa County has consistently improved in its health outlook year-to-year in an annual ranking that tracks data for nearly every county in the United States. Tulsa County ranked 13th in health outcomes and 12th in health factors among the state’s 77 counties this year in the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa City Council meetings on Equality Indicators to start in May: Public meetings on Tulsa’s Equality Indicators will begin in mid-May. City councilors agreed last week to hold four special meetings to look into racial disparities in policing identified in the report. Meeting dates have not been finalized. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Parent promise expands to serve more families after battling budget cuts: An organization on a mission to break the generational cycle of child abuse across the metro is expanding its reach with a new facility. Parent Promise lost a third of its funding during state budget cuts in 2017, and the private community stepped up to help the organization maintain its level of service. [News9]

At 90, Gene Rainbolt still causing change in Oklahoma: A print of Picasso’s “Don Quixote” leans against a wall alongside a second picture of the famous character in Gene Rainbolt’s downtown Oklahoma City office. The dreamy, errant-knight Quixote is a character to whom Rainbolt can relate. [NonDoc]

The march of white supremacy, from Oklahoma City to Christchurch: The Oklahoma City National Memorial consists of two stark structures connected by a reflecting pool, intended as monuments to the strength and resiliency of the city. It’s also a contemplative space, where visitors can reflect on and honor the 168 people who died in the April 1995 bombing, carried out by a white power terrorist with ties to a network of like-minded extremists. [Jamelle Bouie / New York Times]

Plaintiffs ask for ruling to return oversight of coal ash disposal to the EPA: The plaintiffs in a lawsuit that seeks to void the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow Oklahoma to regulate coal ash disposal is seeking a summary judgement from a U.S. District Court judge in the District of Columbia, they have announced. The motion argues that Oklahoma’s regulatory regime is nearly identical to one a previous federal court decision invalidated. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“Our state doesn’t lack women who can serve in these positions. It feels kind of like another rendition of the good ol’ boys club at a time when more and more people are starting to understand the value and necessity of diversity.”

-Liz Charles, executive director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, speaking about Gov. Stitt’s nearly all male and white cabinet appointments [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Mean number of days in the past 30 days adults in Oklahoma reported their mental health was not good–44th in the United States

[Source: America’s Health Rankings via CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Nursing homes are closing across rural America, scattering residents: Instead of finding new care in their homes and communities, many end up at different nursing homes far from their families. In remote communities like Mobridge, an old railroad town of 3,500 people, there are few choices for an aging population. Home health aides can be scarce and unaffordable to hire around the clock. The few senior-citizen apartments have waiting lists. Adult children have long since moved away to bigger cities. The relocations can be traumatic for older residents, and the separation creates agonizing complications for families. Relatives say they have to cut back visits to one day a week. They spend hours on the road to see their spouses and parents. [New York Times]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.