In The Know: Unpaid tolls prevent residents from renewing vehicle registration | Proposed state question to raise minimum wage | Federal audit dings OK Republican Party PAC for misreporting finances

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.

Oklahoma News

Unpaid tolls prevent thousands of Oklahomans from renewing vehicle registrations: Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans who has had a vehicle registration frozen due to unpaid tolls. State lawmakers have long allowed the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to place a hold on vehicle registrations in an effort to help collect unpaid tolls, but the number of holds could increase as the agency continues to transition to a cashless tolling system on all turnpikes. [Oklahoma Voice]

Would Oklahoma voters approve an increase in the state’s $7.25 minimum wage?: State Question 832 would gradually raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma from its current $7.25 per hour to $15 in 2029. Future increases would be tied to the cost-of-living index. Supporters of the proposal filed documents with the secretary of state’s office on Oct. 27. The petition, which creates a state statute — meaning it doesn’t amend the Oklahoma Constitution — requires 92,263 signatures to get on the ballot. Two industry groups — the Oklahoma State Chamber and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau — are challenging the petition. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

‘A terrible mistake’: Barry Switzer urges Gov. Stitt to issue statement opposing cockfighting: Barry Switzer, who won three national championships and 12 conference titles in 16 years as the University of Oklahoma’s head football coach, called on Gov. Kevin Stitt to issue an unambiguous statement opposing cockfighting after the governor recorded a video to “cheer” on a gamefowl breeder group that is seeking to reduce criminal punishments for the blood sport. [NonDoc]

  • Switzer latest to blast Gov. Stitt for cockfighting video [Tulsa World]

Women seeking or having abortions can’t be prosecuted under Oklahoma law, AG says: Women having or attempting to have an abortion performed cannot be prosecuted under state law, according to a formal opinion issued by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s office late Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Lawsuit over Oklahoma’s health information exchange going to trial in February: Just days after an Oklahoma County judge heard arguments in a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and its health information exchange, the judge dismissed three of the plaintiff’s claims but kept the case alive for trial in February. [The Oklahoman]

Corporation Commission approves rate increase cap for some PSO customers. What that means for your utility bill: Yielding to pressure from the attorney general’s office, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission adopted a 2.5% cap on a residential rate increase for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma utility customers. [The Oklahoman]

Actor, medical organizations oppose state ban on gender-affirming care for minors:  Actor and producer Elliot Page and others who have received gender-affirming care are opposing a new Oklahoma law that bans the treatment for minors with gender dysphoria. Page and 56 other individuals with a wide range of backgrounds claim in a court filing that gender-affirming care, which the state law blocked for minors, was “lifesaving” for their gender dysphoria. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: While thankful for assistance, navigating waivered services has not been easy: While we are thankful for waivered services, the administration of the funds is a classic example of unnecessary government red tape, siloed processes and no accountability. The Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) and Acumen representatives are well-meaning, but the systems in place by both DDS and Acumen are wasting valuable taxpayer resources in inefficient administration. [Mike and Rebecca Klehm / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

After 100-year gap, Creek Council House tells history from Muscogee Nation’s perspective: The Council House stood as the center of Muscogee (Creek) government for more than 30 years, and the town of Okmulgee built around it. But the Muscogee Nation was forced out of the building when Congress stripped the powers of tribal governments around the turn of the 20th century. More than 100 years passed before the tribe was able to buy it back. Now the Council House stands as an educational space that shares that chapter of time from the tribe’s perspective. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal mental health summit in Oklahoma focuses on suicide prevention: Last week, tribal nations and the national 988 suicide prevention hotline held a two-day summit focused on the mental health of tribal citizens. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Audit dings Oklahoma Republican Party PAC for misreporting finances, election spending: A federal audit uncovered millions in misreported income and expenses for a political action committee associated with the Oklahoma Republican Party. A Federal Election Commission draft audit found the Oklahoma Leadership Council’s bank records did not match its federal campaign finance reports by nearly $2 million. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Oklahoma GOP cited for lax reporting during 2020 election cycle [Tulsa World]

Courts, state officials hesitate to keep Trump off 2024 ballots: Some scholars say a little-known, Civil War-era provision in the U.S. Constitution should prohibit former President Donald Trump from appearing on state ballots in next year’s presidential election. But it seems increasingly unlikely that he will be disqualified. [Oklahoma Voice]

Capitol Insider: Looking ahead to the 2024 elections: Less than a year remains before the 2024 general election. Capitol Insider talks to Oklahoma Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax about preparations for statewide voting next year. [KGOU]

Health News

Opinion: Oklahoma’s lack of sex ed curriculum harming the state’s health outcomes: The only sexual education topic that must be taught in Oklahoma schools is AIDS prevention instruction. Any additional sex ed instruction is left to local districts to determine, meaning that children have inequitable access to those lessons. That’s appalling in a state that ranks fourth nationally for teen birth rates and is seeing increases in sexually transmitted infections.  [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Criminal Justice News

The cost to house prisoners at the Oklahoma County jail is steadily climbing. Here are the numbers: The daily, per-bed cost to house a prisoner in Oklahoma County’s jail during Fiscal 2023 was $66.49, up nearly $5 over the previous year. The data typically is used by the presiding Oklahoma County District Court Judge each January to set an annual daily rate of incarceration for the new calendar year. [The Oklahoman]

Two Cleveland County Detention officers arrested on complaints related to jail contraband: Cleveland County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two jail guards Wednesday on complaints related to possession or distribution of contraband at the county jail. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Latest City of Tulsa effort to address homelessness focuses on involuntary detention and what comes next: A new city initiative to address homelessness focuses on helping those individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis or whose mental health is deteriorating over time — often in plain view of the community they inhabit. The state’s mental health laws provide a mechanism — and strict criteria — under which individuals who are an imminent danger to themselves or others can be involuntarily detained for treatment. [Tulsa World]

Motel 6 east of Bricktown to be converted into housing for chronically homeless: A Motel 6 east of Bricktown is set to become the first conversion to housing for the homeless using funding from the city’s MAPS 4 program. The 75-unit motel at 1800 E Reno Ave., built in 1970 as a Trade Winds Central, is being acquired by the Oklahoma City Housing Authority for $3.75 million with another $2.2 million to be spent on renovations. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Company planning to build lithium refinery in Oklahoma: A Connecticut-based energy startup company plans to build a lithium refinery in Oklahoma, using a process to derive lithium from oil and gas production wastewater. Stardust Energy says the refinery would be built in two phases in an industrial park near Tulsa. [News 9]

  • Lithium refiner Stardust Power to go public via $490M blank-check deal [Reuters]

Education News

Oklahoma restricted how race can be taught. So these Black teachers stepped up: The schoolchildren arrived at the community center’s cafeteria on a Saturday morning, their parents in tow. Some adults came without children, because they, too, wanted to learn the African American history that a new law has made many Oklahoma schoolteachers too afraid to teach. [NPR via KOSU]

Statewide teacher shortage compounded in Tulsa: ‘We have a sense of urgency’: The teacher shortage is not unique to Tulsa Public Schools, as Oklahoma has a statewide teacher shortage. For example, as of Thanksgiving week, Broken Arrow had 11 teaching vacancies publicly posted, including seven for special education. Union had 10 vacancies, Jenks and Owasso each had five, and Sand Springs and Catoosa each had two. [Tulsa World]

Chickasaw Nation gives $5M toward new East Central University nursing building: The Chickasaw Nation has donated $5 million toward the construction of a new building at East Central University in Ada that will house ECU’s nursing and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs and allow its nursing program to expand. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma 529 college savings plan has passed a major milestone: The 23-year-old program helps families save for college expenses. Oklahoma’s program on Oct. 30 surpassed the $1 billion mark in account withdrawals. Through Nov. 17, the total had risen to $1,003,786,327, which state Treasurer Todd Russ, whose office administers the program, said has helped more than 87,000 students with their educational savings needs. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Corporal punishment is still legal in Oklahoma schools. Does it improve behaviors?: Despite anecdotal claims, there is a consistent lack of empirical support for the effectiveness of corporal punishment in altering student behavior. [Sara Rich / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Oklahomans should now know that corporal punishment harms kids: With all the misinformation, disinformation and false narratives these days, it’s hard to tell fact from fiction. But one thing has been clear for a very long time: Corporal punishment is harmful to kids. Something else is also quite clear. In Oklahoma, corporal punishment is used disproportionately on Native students and students with disabilities. [Ross Greene and Ben Jones / The Oklahoman]

General News

Violence plagued the small city of Wewoka. Some don’t want to talk about it. Others are afraid: The violence, which included a surge in reports of gunfire, was met mostly with silence by local authorities. Community events were canceled, and residents were left to wonder what was happening to their bucolic community. [The Oklahoman

  • How an Oklahoma DA and Seminole Nation worked together to combat gang violence [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘Focus: Black Oklahoma’ (audio): This episode of Focus: Black Oklahoma features stories on Oklahomans Against Occupation rallying for the ceasefire in Gaza, a court victory for Muscogee Freedmen and the legacy of The Gap Band. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • An economic impact study on the OKC NBA arena is out. Do the numbers justify a new one? [The Oklahoman]
  • Fired Tulsa police officer’s civil rights lawsuit dismissed [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I think the minimum wage needs to go up because the cost of everything has gone up, and it is time that wages people earn can actually help them make a living.” 

-Kelsey Cobbs of El Reno, a petitioner for State Question 832 to raise the minimum wage, saying that Oklahomans should be able to earn a livable wage. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Average first-day of incarceration cost for the Oklahoma County jail; the daily per-bed cost is $66.49. Initial intake consist of additional expenses, such as a pat down, an inventorying (and subsequent storage) of personal belongings, fingerprinting, a classification evaluation, a body scan, and a medical exam. [The Oklahoman]

Policy Note

Hidden in Plain Sight: Race and Tax Policy in 2023 State Legislative Sessions: Tax policy is an important tool to mitigate injustices confronting marginalized communities and to advance genuine racial equity. Done well, tax reform can create a dream scenario of equitable taxation and well-funded public services for everyone. It can also create a nightmare of regressive taxation and weak public investment. More than one-third of states made strides this year to improve their tax systems. This mostly happened through strengthening refundable credits, which offer a proven means of bolstering economic security. In a few states, lawmakers also opted to raise new tax revenue in equitable ways to fund public priorities. Other states, however, prioritized top-heavy tax cuts that will leave fewer resources to respond to the challenges that lie ahead. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.