In The Know: Thunder arena vote passes | New bill proposes end to state grocery tax | State receives nearly 30k private school voucher applications in first week

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.

State Government News

New bill proposes end to state grocery tax, similar bills have failed in the past: After years of pushing for tax reform at the capitol, a new bill to eliminate the state’s portion of the grocery tax has been introduced for the 2024 legislative session. [News on 6]

Oklahoma receives nearly 30k Parental Choice Tax Credit applications in first week: Tax Commission spokeswoman Emily Haxton said that since the afternoon of Dec. 6, when what’s known as the Parental Choice Tax Credit program began applications, more than 18,000 taxpayers have submitted a little more than 29,600 applications. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma governor executive order to put higher education diversity programs under review: Gov. Kevin Stitt plans to sign an executive order that will target diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in higher education in Oklahoma. The order, expected to be signed Wednesday at the state Capitol, will require “state agencies and institutes of higher education to formally review the necessity and efficiency of DEI positions, departments, activities, procedures, and programs.” [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma turnpike board greenlights first ACCESS turnpike expansion project: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s oversight board Tuesday gave the green light to the first project that will be built as part of the agency’s planned 15-year, $5 billion toll road expansion and improvement effort. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • ACCESS Oklahoma construction to start with widening, new interchange along Turner Turnpike [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Defense tech startup announces Lawton facility after $950M Pentagon contract: California-based Picogrid, a developer of field intelligence technology that can provide continuous and real-time insight into remote locations, plans to begin groundwork on a Lawton facility in 2024. The facility will focus on manufacturing of Lander, Picogrid’s flagship sensor platform. [Journal Record]

Voting and Election News

Thunder up: OKC voters approve new arena in slam dunk: With all 278 precincts reporting, unofficial results showed 41,129 votes (71 percent) cast in favor of the proposal, while 16,797 ballots (29 percent) were cast against. As a result, the one-cent MAPS sales tax will be extended for six more years, a big win for Mayor David Holt who led the campaign for the new city-owned arena. [NonDoc]

  • OKC voters approve downtown arena proposal [Journal Record]
  • OKC Vote for New Arena Passes [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Oklahoma City voters resoundingly approve new $900M NBA arena [KGOU]
  • OKC voters ‘get game ball’ after voting yes for new arena funding [The Oklahoman]
  • Video: OKC Mayor David Holt celebrates arena measure passing [The Oklahoman]
  • Group against new OKC arena deal disappointed after measure’s overwhelming passage [KOCO]

Republican Dusty Deevers wins Lawton Senate seat in special election: Comanche County residents on Tuesday elected a far-right conservative to fill a vacancy in the state Senate. Republican Dusty Deevers defeated Democrat Larry Bush in a special election in Senate District 32, which includes part of Lawton. Deevers clinched 55.5% of the vote compared to Bush’s 44.5%. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Lawton area: Dusty Deevers elected in SD 32 special [NonDoc]
  • Republican Dusty Deevers wins Lawton state senate seat in Tuesday election [The Oklahoman]

Edmond’s HD 39: Erick Harris, Regan Raff advance in special election: Republican Erick Harris and Democrat Regan Raff each won their respective party’s nomination in the House District 39 special primary election Tuesday and will advance to the Feb. 13 general election, according to unofficial election results. [NonDoc]

  • Harris, Raff to face Libertarian candidate in election for Edmond’s seat in Oklahoma House [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Opinion: Communities building healthier futures: It’s been said that your ZIP code is a better predictor of health and longevity than your genetic code. Where you live, work, learn and play has a profound impact on quality of life. With this in mind, leaders throughout Oklahoma are developing innovative ways to create healthier communities. [Julie Bisbee / Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Five things to know about domestic violence and guns in Oklahoma: Guns are the leading cause of domestic violence homicides, but the state lacks a red-flag law that would let law enforcement seize weapons with a court order. [The Frontier]

FAA says no to proposal to build new county jail near Will Rogers World Airport: Oklahoma City could lose access to federal funds to improve Will Rogers World Airport if it were to sell nearby land to Oklahoma County for a new county jail. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

How rising prices for restaurants, car repair and more kept inflation up in the U.S. and Oklahoma: Held down by sinking gas prices, U.S. inflation was mostly unchanged last month. But underlying price pressures — from apartment rents, restaurant meals, auto insurance and many other services — remained stubbornly high. [Tulsa World]

Education News

On Leave Over Harassment Complaints, Two OSSM Teachers Allowed to Retire: Two teachers under investigation for inappropriate behavior with students will retire from the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, a state-funded high school for academically advanced juniors and seniors. [Oklahoma Watch]

Dr. Ebony Johnson makes history as Tulsa Schools superintendent: In a 4-3 vote, the former TPS student, teacher and principal became the district’s new superintendent. Dr. Johnson, who was serving in the role of interim superintendent, will now be the first Black woman to lead the state’s largest district. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma State University to bolster STEM education with polytechnic initiative: Oklahoma State University plans to increase its STEM education opportunities statewide through a new polytechnic initiative. Through the initiative, the university will take steps to expand its STEM and technology-driven programs and degree offerings at the OSU Institute of Technology in Okmulgee to campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • OSU launches new Polytech project to improve STEM education, workforce development [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Why Oklahoma City’s drinking water may smell, taste different [KOSU]
  • Edmond Council: City center complex cost grows, new attorney and ambulance service approved [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“[T]here are people who literally live on the streets outside of the Paycom center, and we could be using tax dollars to help those people.” 

– Rep. Mauree Turner, D-OKC, explaining their opposition to the newly passed MAPS 4 project to spend 1¢ of sales tax collected in Oklahoma City to fund the construction of a new NBA and event arena. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Black adults who say they prepare for possible insults from providers or staff and/or feel they must be very careful about their appearance to be treated fairly during health care visits. About half of American Indian and Alaska Native (52%) and Hispanic (51%) adults, and 42% of Asian adults also reported this. In contrast, 33% of white adults reported doing these things. [KFF]

Policy Note

New KFF Survey Documents the Extent and Impact of Racism and Discrimination Across Several Facets of American Life, Including Health Care: In a reflection of how pervasive racism and discrimination can be in daily life, a major new KFF survey shows that many Hispanic, Black, Asian, and American Indian and Alaska Native adults in the U.S. believe they must modify both their mindset and the way they look to stave off potential mistreatment during health care visits. [KFF]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.