In The Know: Weighing tax cuts vs unmet state needs | Sports betting | Feds tell state to correct SNAP application errors | 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.

State Government News

Lawmakers weighing the lure of tax cuts vs. the need for supporting crucial state services: The call for reducing Oklahoma’s tax rates has a long and storied history. In addition to the efforts of Gov. Kevin Stitt, the three governors who held office before him also pushed for tax cuts. During the tenure of Gov. Mary Fallin, the state’s personal income-tax rate was reduced twice. And before that, governors Brad Henry, a Democrat, and Frank Keating, a Republican, passed their own tax-cut proposals. Four governors; four rounds of tax cuts. But history shows tax cuts can backfire. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Kevin Stitt continues push for Oklahoma grocery, income tax cuts: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday continued to press the Senate for a tax cut. The action comes after Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said Thursday the state could not afford to both cut the personal income tax and eliminate the state’s sales tax on groceries. Treat said he prefers to reduce the grocery tax because more Oklahomans will benefit. Stitt has been advocating for a 0.25% cut to the state’s 4.75% income tax with a pathway toward eliminating it. [Oklahoma Voice]

Republican legislators push bills requiring government to collect reasons for abortion: Oklahoma has a near-total abortion ban, and lawmakers pre-filed bills before the session started Feb. 5. Some have advanced, while others are still awaiting a hearing. [Oklahoma Voice]

Sports betting still isn’t legal in Oklahoma. Could that change this year?: Some Oklahoma lawmakers want to bring the state off the sidelines of sports betting and into the game. They’re facing long odds, however. [The Oklahoman]

Political notebook: Oklahoma House of Representatives returning to full strength: The House is expected to return to its full complement of 101 members this week following the election of Republican Erick Harris to fill the vacancy in House District 39. [Tulsa World]

Legal roundup: ClassWallet suit dismissed, SCOTUS takes Glossip case again, Eagleton sentenced: For the second time, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has dismissed litigation filed by Gov. Kevin Stitt against a vendor involved in the administration of federal education relief funds. Meanwhile, Oklahoma continues to make national legal news with the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to consider the pending execution of Richard Glossip, whose execution has been stayed several times before. [NonDoc]

Monday Minute: Budget estimates (sort of) set: With the Board of Equalization finalizing FY 2025 revenue estimates last week, chamber budget leaders are expected to meet somewhere, sometime and agree on which spreadsheets, graph paper and safety scissors to use while crafting next year’s agency appropriations. [NonDoc]

Opinion: Contraception limits are foolhardy. Let’s not turn it into the next anti-abortion battleground: Oklahoma’s male-dominated Legislature wants it both ways: Lawmakers decided women should have to carry most pregnancies to term, regardless of whether they want to. Now they want to make it harder for women to take medication that would keep them from getting pregnant in the first place. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Money can solve a lot of problems: Last week my 16-year-old daughter was involved in an inter-city youth program that encourages civic participation, starting with a discussion of challenges facing our community. In getting to know each other, the youths naturally bring up their schools. They realized an imbalance, or an inequity, among schools: the wealthier the student body, the more resources they have. All agreed that the have-nots ought to have the same opportunities. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

The feds sent letters to Oklahoma, 43 other states to fix SNAP application errors: The majority of states are not processing food assistance applications on time and making too many payment errors, according to the federal government. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent a letter to the governors of 44 states earlier this month that are failing to meet federal standards when it comes to processing applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The states include Oklahoma and a number of its neighbors. [KOSU]

Oklahoma USDA office awards $2 million in business development grants: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is doling out $2 million in grants to Oklahoma rural businesses, municipalities and the Cherokee Nation. Business grant opportunities are open again through the end of the month. [KOSU]

D.C. Digest: Lucas locks horns with ag secretary: Third District Congressman Frank Lucas tangled with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during a lengthy Ag Committee hearing last week. Members of both parties complained to Vilsack about everything from a lack of support for walking horses to food prices. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

‘Why are you doing this?’: Muscogee Nation same-sex marriage bill fails: Despite constitutional concerns about the tribe’s prohibition on recognizing same-sex marriage, a Muscogee National Council committee rejected a bill 1-3 Thursday that would have guaranteed equal recognition to married same-sex couples. [NonDoc]

How a ruling on a disputed wind farm on the Osage Reservation served as a wake-up call: In December, a federal judge found that Enel Green Power, an Italian energy corporation operating an 84-turbine wind farm on the Osage Reservation in northern Oklahoma for nearly a decade, had trespassed on Native land. Attorneys say it’s uncommon for U.S. courts to side so clearly with tribal nations and actually expel developers trespassing on their land. But observers also see the ruling as part of a broader trend: Gone are the days when developers could ignore Indigenous rights with impunity. [Grist via The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma governor was uninformed and disrespectful about Navajo Nation, leaders say: Oklahoma and Arizona may have their distinctions, but Navajo leaders say Gov. Stitt’s comments in his State of the State address failed to grasp the significant contributions made by the Navajo Nation, along with the other 21 federally recognized tribes that have resided in the state long before its statehood or the establishment of reservations. [Arizona Republic]

Criminal Justice News

Proposed law to help domestic abuse survivors boosted by Republican leader: Advocates for victims of domestic violence are championing a potential law they say could make a big difference, and a top state Republican has expressed support. Senate Bill 1470 would require courts to consider evidence of abuse when sentencing people who kill their abusers. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

New education secretary vows to be a voice for parents, teachers and children fighting to learn: A self-described “warrior mom” and “people person,” Nellie Tayloe Sanders doesn’t want to focus on issues she believes will distract her from what she sees as her most important mission as Oklahoma’s new education secretary — helping kids from a wide variety of backgrounds find better ways to learn. [The Oklahoman]

No one shows up to speak for or against Ryan Walters’ new DEI, drag queen rules proposals: Two public hearings held Friday for proposed new Oklahoma State Department of Education rules drew zero speakers. The new rules would enact policies regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and teacher behavior. [The Oklahoman]

State universities admit more out-of-state students for the tuition bump: Oklahoma’s out-of-state student enrollment has increased nearly 20% over the past two decades. [Oklahoma Voice]

General News

Minority Opportunity Program Facing Elimination: The backlash against Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is coming on strong. This is the story of the rise and recent decline of the set of values that have provided the tools to marginalized minorities to compete in education and to succeed in the work force. The set of values is “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” commonly known as DEI. [Oklahoma Eagle]

Tulsa councilor’s proposal would prohibit using city funds to ‘benefit illegal immigrants’: A Tulsa city councilor and mayoral candidate is proposing to prohibit the use of city funds, either directly or indirectly, to “house, accommodate, or benefit illegal immigrants.” [Tulsa World]

Sustainability as Heritage: Black Communities and Climate Justice: As the side effects of a rapidly changing climate become all too apparent, Black people in America are disproportionately impacted. More than half of Black Americans live in the South, a region that expects to see an increase in severe weather in the coming decades. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Jamie Zumwalt’s ‘grand experiment’ provides sense of community and a good cup of joe: In this Q&A, Jamie Zumwalt discusses the history of Joe’s Addiction coffee shop and the evolution of her own thinking about religion, social outreach and intergenerational poverty. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • If OKC’s new NBA arena goes over budget, who foots the bill? [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma lawmakers have cut the state’s personal income tax rates nine times in the last 20 years. When adjusted for inflation and population growth, the current state budget this year is 12% smaller than it was two decades ago.”

-Shiloh Kantz, OK Policy’s Executive Director, commenting about the impact that two decades of income tax reductions have made on the state’s budget. [The Oklahoman]  

Number of the Day


Percentage of people in Oklahoma prisons who are over the age of 55. [Prison Policy Initiative]

Policy Note

How Mandatory Minimums Perpetuate Mass Incarceration and What to Do About It: Eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing laws is essential to creating a more just and equitable criminal justice system. Widespread evidence shows that mandatory minimum sentences produce substantial harm with no overall benefit to crime control. Determined by lawmakers rather than judges, these sentences represent a uniquely American approach to sentencing that has accelerated prison growth. They constrain judicial discretion, deepen racial disparities in the criminal legal system, and cause far-reaching harm to individuals, families, and communities. [The Sentencing Project]

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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.