In The Know: New federal data shows Oklahoma among poorest states | OK Supreme Court turns down rehearing request on min. wage petition | Tulsa Race Massacre survivors appeal | Capitol Update

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

HB 4063 provides only politically practical way to increase sheriff’s department salaries given local revenue limitations in Oklahoma (Capitol Update): House Bill 4063 would establish a grant program to provide state funding for county sheriff’s offices to bring salaries of the sheriffs, deputies, and jailers around the state. Due to local revenue restrictions, state funding might be only politically available solution to more fully fund some local law enforcement agencies. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma remains one of nation’s poorest states according to new federal data: Oklahoma remains one of the poorest states in the nation, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Sooner state moved up one step to rank 42nd on the state-by-state list released Friday by the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Oklahoma ranked 43rd in 2022. “Even with a modest change in Oklahoma’s ranking for per capita income, the bottom line remains that Oklahoma is among the nation’s poorest states, and too many Oklahomans are struggling just to get by,” said Shiloh Kantz, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Supreme Court turns down request for rehearing on minimum wage petition: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday turned down a motion to reconsider its earlier ruling that an initiative petition to increase the state’s minimum wage could move ahead. [The Oklahoman]

A final chance for the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre: ‘This is it’: The families of the remaining Tulsa Race Massacre have made an appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who took up the case in August 2023. On April 2, the state high court will hear oral arguments not on reparations but simply for the right to go to trial to argue for reparations. [CNN]

  • Last 2 survivors of Tulsa Race Massacre appearing in court, making case for reparations [Fox 23]
  • Remaining Tulsa Race Massacre survivors to speak before Oklahoma Supreme Court, fighting for reparations [KOCO]

State Government News

Oklahoma Tribes, conservationists oppose poultry industry House measure: A controversial poultry pollution bill that has been scrutinized since it was proposed in the Oklahoma House earlier this session passed through a Senate committee Monday. [Journal Record]

  • Bill offering poultry producers protection from lawsuits passes Senate committee [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa opposes poultry pollution bill [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill that could lead to raises for top Oklahoma teachers clears another hurdle in House: After a spirited round of questioning, an Oklahoma House subcommittee approved a Senate bill to remove a matching-fund requirement for school districts to provide pay raises for their top teachers. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma House committee advances bill to create hydrogen rebate incentive program: An Oklahoma House committee on Monday advanced legislation that would create a rebate program for companies that refine, manufacture or process hydrogen in small municipalities. [Oklahoma Voice]

Oklahoma Ethics Commission closer to funding for new online filing system: The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is one step closer to having the money it needs to replace its online filing system for campaign finance reporting. Senate Bill 1488 passed through the House Subcommittee on Appropriations and Budget for General Government. It will now be considered in the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget. If it passes there, it will go to the House floor. [Tulsa World]

More electric vehicle charging stations in the works along Oklahoma’s interstates: The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday awarded bids to three companies to build 13 electric vehicle charging stations along three interstates. The slightly more than $8.7 million in awards comes from $5 billion in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. [Oklahoma Voice]

Reminders of housing discrimination targeted by Oklahoma legislators: Buried in the title abstracts of many Tulsa neighborhoods are reminders of a time ancestry mattered as much as a down payment when buying a home. Restrictive covenants were common addendums to housing development plats through much of the United States from roughly World War I into the 1950s. They limited ownership and usually residency by race and kept housing in Tulsa and elsewhere largely segregated. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma, Choctaw Nation sign latest tribal compact: What to know about the deal: Oklahoma’s second-largest tribe has worked out a tobacco tax-sharing agreement with the state. The 10-year compact became public Monday after Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt both signed on. The deal mirrors recent agreements between the governor’s office and other tribal nations, with the state and tribe agreeing to equally divide the tax money generated from tobacco products sold on tribal lands. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation wants federal law fix for Black tribal citizens: One of the nation’s largest Indigenous tribes is seeking to change a 140-year-old federal law that governs criminal jurisdiction of tribal citizens on reservations based on “blood quantum.” The move by the Cherokee Nation comes as the Oklahoma tribe is welcoming the descendants of formerly enslaved Black people once owned by tribal members as citizens. The challenge to the federal Major Crimes Act also comes as more Indigenous tribes assert themselves over issues of sovereignty, political representation and how they should define who is a tribal member. [Axios]

Voting and Election News

Tuesday, April 2 Board of Education General Election and Special Elections: Elections will be held statewide on Tuesday, April 2. Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the OK Voter Portal to view a list of elections in your community, polling places, view sample ballots, and more. [Oklahoma Election Board]

  • What’s on the ballot for the April 2nd election in Oklahoma [KOSU]
  • Board of Education general elections and special elections in Oklahoma [Fox 25]
  • OKCPS District 3: Incumbent Cary Pirrong challenged by Jessica Cifuentes [NonDoc]
  • Vote today: School board races in Tulsa, Union, Owasso, Catoosa districts [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa School board member departs as Tulsans urged to vote [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • A Turning Point in Tulsa: The 2024 Public School Board Elections [The Black Wall Street Times]

Special election in Enid challenges veteran: Judd Blevins, 42, an Iraq War veteran who attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlotesville, Virginia, is facing a recall election on Tuesday, when voters in one of the city’s wards are set to decide whether to keep him in office or opt instead for his opponent, Cheryl Patterson, a grandmother and longtime youth leader at an area church. [Associated Press]

Candidate filing week starts Oklahoma’s 2024 political season: This week, Oklahomans will learn whose names will appear on upcoming ballots this election year. It’s candidate filing week in Oklahoma, and here is why it matters. [KOSU]

Health News

Opinion: Insurers have found a way to get out of paying for medication. Oklahoma lawmakers must put an end to it: Oklahoma state lawmakers are considering a bill that’d make it illegal to defraud charities. “Isn’t that already illegal?!” you might be wondering. Remarkably, the answer is no — at least not for health insurers. [Jill Sisco / The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Oklahoma City’s Homeless Alliance director reflects on 20 years at nonprofit: After 20 years leading Oklahoma City’s Homeless Alliance, Executive Director Dan Straughan is retiring. Straughan sat down in the KOSU studios to reflect on how his career evolved with Curbside Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Nathan Poppe. [KOSU]

Go See The City, Redirecting Food Waste to Those Facing Hunger: Tech entrepreneur Aneshai Smith has pioneered a groundbreaking website that channels surplus food from the Paycom Center to individuals facing food insecurity. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Six-figure incomes now needed in nearly half the states to afford a home: Bankrate report: Many more Americans need to earn six-figure salaries now to buy a home, according to a new report from Bankrate. A median-priced home in the U.S. is now over $402,000. That places the needed annual salary for a person, or family, aspiring to buy a home at $110,871. [KTUL]

Education News

Movement coming on pair of lawsuits involving Catholic virtual charter school St. Isidore: Two lawsuits seeking to stop the opening of what would be the nation’s first public religious charter school figure to see movement in the coming weeks, one because of new court filings and the other because of a significant hearing scheduled for Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Government can’t discriminate’: Advocates make cases ahead of OK Supreme Court arguments [Fox 25]

‘Minimize cost, maximize profit’: testimony in Epic Charter Schools hearing outlines multi-level concealment scheme: After five grueling days of preliminary hearing testimony, a decision on whether a case against Epic Charter Schools co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris will go to trial is still over a month away. [KGOU]

Why Edmond district wants state Supreme Court to hear its case against education board: In a filing with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, attorneys for Edmond Public Schools reiterated the district’s lawsuit against the Oklahoma State Board of Education centers around whether or not the board had statutory authority to set the rules for what books other materials should be in school libraries. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Public Schools considering relocating special education transition program: Tulsa Public Schools officials are considering moving a growing special education program to a northeast Tulsa campus that has not housed students since the Ronald Reagan administration. [Tulsa World]

Ryan Walters announces creation of school choice office inside education agency: State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters announced the creation of an “Office of School Choice” within the Oklahoma State Department of Education during the monthly state Board of Education meeting held Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • UPS plans to close hundreds of facilities this year. How will OKC’s new UPS center fare? [The Oklahoman]
  • Neighbors react to eviction that ended with 1 dead after man set himself on fire [KOCO]

Quote of the Day

“(Y)ou’re just way more likely to be successful addressing addiction or mental illness or physical illness or developmental disability while you’re safely and securely housed than you are when you’re on the street.”

-Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan speaking about why addressing housing needs is the most crucial part of addressing the issues that contribute to homelessness. [KOSU]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Tulsans experiencing homelessness who said that lack of affordable housing was the top reason that contributed to their homelessness. [Housing Solutions Tulsa

Policy Note

Policing Doesn’t End Homelessness. Supportive Housing Does: Unsheltered homelessness is on the rise amid a systemic and widespread lack of affordable housing, supportive services, and livable wages. As the housing crisis worsens, homelessness has become increasingly visible and, as a result, increasingly dominant as a public concern. Instead of addressing the issue’s root causes—a lack of housing and supportive services—many cities have leaned into punitive responses that criminalize homelessness, such as arresting people for sitting or sleeping in certain public places. But this approach is costly and ineffective. Police don’t solve homelessness, they only move it around—to other neighborhoods, jails, and emergency rooms—rather than connecting people with the housing and services they need. [Housing Matters]

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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.