The Weekly Wonk: Immigrants are vital to Oklahoma’s well-being | Proposed changes to judicial nominating process are unnecessary and increase polarization | Throwing people in jail for experiencing homelessness doesn’t solve the problem

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Throwing people in jail for experiencing homelessness doesn’t solve the problem: Senate Bill 1854 and House Bill 3686 would prohibit unauthorized camping on state-owned land. Violators would be subject to fines or even jail time. Not only are these proposals harmful and cruel, they are counterproductive. Research shows us that the best way to combat homelessness is to increase access to affordable housing. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Immigrants are vital to Oklahoma’s well-being: America’s history centers on welcoming immigrants to make new lives and become part of the great American mosaic. Even just a generation ago, this belief was bedrock. Today, however, this principle has come under attack from national pundits making immigration a wedge issue. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Capitol Update: Proposed changes to the judicial nominating process are unnecessary and increase politicization: The Judicial Nominating Commission assures qualified candidates for appellate judicial offices who are vetted on their merits, their judgment, and their perceived ability to interpret the law and constitution, not their association with a politician or one of his friends or donors. Competence counts. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

Join advocates and community activists from all across the state on Thursday, April 25, for our 2024 Day of Action at the State Capitol, hosted by OK Policy and Together Oklahoma. Tap into your political power and work toward changes that make our communities safer, healthier, and more equitable. [Learn More] | [Register]

Day of Action at the Capitol

April 25, 9:00 a.m. [Thursday]

Second Floor Rotunda | Oklahoma State Capitol
2300 N Lincoln Blvd. | Oklahoma City
Check-in begins at 9:00 a.m. | Event starts at 10:00 a.m.


Weekly What’s That

Voter ID Requirements

In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 746, which established new voter identification requirements. The state question requires voters to present a valid government-issued document that includes their name and picture or a voter identification card issued by their county election board. A person who cannot or does not provide one of those forms of identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot.

SQ 746 was approved with 74.3 percent of the vote and took effect in July 2011. After a lengthy legal challenge, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously upheld Oklahoma’s voter ID law in 2018.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Allyship is bound in uncomfortable action. I think what several folks have mentioned today that I can only echo is that our lives are difficult, and made so every day by the policy thought of, spoken of and passed in this building.”

– Oklahoma Rep. Mauree Turner, a non-binary lawmaker representing Oklahoma City,  speaking at an annual gathering called The People’s Hearing at the Oklahoma State Capitol. “The People’s Hearing,” is a storytelling event aimed at fostering solidarity among trans and gender-nonconforming Oklahomans. [KOSU]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World: Gov. Stitt should renew the mutually beneficial Cherokee Nation tag compacts

Gov. Kevin Stitt has an opportunity with the Cherokee Nation car tag compacts to continue an agreement that has been working for everyone. We encourage him to take it.

Stitt, who is a Cherokee citizen, and most of the American Indian tribes have developed a contentious relationship in various attempts at renegotiating compacts on everything from gaming to fishing. Tensions worsened after the U.S. Supreme Court found in McGirt v. Oklahoma that — for law enforcement purposes — the Muscogee Nation Reservation was never de-established. Following that precedent, a lower court has ruled the same for several other Oklahoma tribes.

A welcomed change would be extending the existing Cherokee Nation tag compacts, which have been mutually beneficial to the state and the tribe.

In 2002, the Cherokee Nation entered into the first tag compact with the state and added another compact in 2013. The first one is for tags sold to tribal citizens living in a county at least partially within the tribe’s reservation. The other is for tags sold to citizens living elsewhere in the state.

Of the income the tribe receives from tag sales, 38% is given directly to public schools, 20% goes for roads, 5% goes to law enforcement and municipalities, and the rest is retained for tribal services, including health, food and language preservation.

The agreements include the sharing of vehicle information with the state.

Over the last two decades, the tribe has donated $92 million in car tag revenue to public education, reports Tulsa World journalist Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton. Also, it donated $50 million for roads and infrastructure and $9 million for northeastern Oklahoma law enforcement.

On Tuesday, the Cherokee Nation awarded public school districts in Tulsa County $1.72 million, more than any other county within the tribe’s reservation received. The breakdown includes nearly $200,000 to Tulsa Public Schools, $342,062 to Broken Arrow, $164,055 to Union, $144,811 to Owasso and $111,855 to Jenks.

These are unrestricted funds, meaning schools can spend the money however they want. Districts have used it for teacher salaries, technology or bills.

If the compacts expire, future funding disappears.

A spokeswoman with Stitt’s office said negotiations are happening “in good faith” but pointed to the Choctaw and Chickasaw compacts as “the better deal.”

We caution against using a cookie-cutter approach to tribal compacting. Every tribe operates differently based on its resources, laws and infrastructure. What works for one tribe may not apply to another.

Choctaw and Chickasaw citizens buy tags through the state’s tag offices and receive a 20% rebate from their tribes later. Cherokee citizens purchase tags through their tribe’s Tax Commission, and income is distributed directly to state entities.

The Cherokee Nation Tax Commission employs 80 people and has seven tag offices. The nation takes on the cost of issuing tags, and the state gets a cut of its profits.

A bonus to beneficiaries is not having to go through the sometimes cumbersome processes to get the funds.

Last year, the Legislature passed House Bill 1005x to extend vehicle compacts for a year (expiring Dec. 31). The bill was vetoed by Stitt, and his veto was overridden by the Legislature, which led to a lawsuit filed by the governor. That remains pending.

If an agreement is not reached in the next few weeks, lawmakers may need to intervene again. We hope it doesn’t come to that.

[Editorial / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • -6% – Percentage change of larceny reports nationwide in the 4th quarter of 2023 when compared with the same period in 2022. [FBI Crime Data Reporter
  • 24 – Black families owned about 24 cents for every $1 of white family wealth, on average. Hispanic families owned about 19 cents for every $1 of white family wealth, on average. [Federal Reserve Bank of St, Louis]
  • 19.5 – The data show that poverty is especially concentrated for Oklahoma’s children with 19.5 percent, or almost 1 in 5 children, living at or below the federal poverty level. For a family of three, this means the child lived in a household that earned around $23,000 or less in 2022. While Oklahoma was one of 11 states that saw a decrease in child poverty, Oklahoma had the nation’s 8th highest rate of children living in poverty during 2022. [U.S. Census Bureau via OK Policy]
  • $16 billion – Undocumented immigrants in 2016 contributed $16 billion to major federal programs —$13 billion into the Social Security funds and $3 billion to Medicare — despite not being able to receive benefits from these programs. [Marketplace]
  • 18,900 – Estimated number of Oklahoma adults who identify as transgender. [Williams Institute / UCLA School of Law]
    • Sunday, March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility celebrating the lives and contributions of trans people, while also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination, and violence the community faces.

What We’re Reading

  • 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health: The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health demonstrates that rates of suicidal thoughts have trended upward among LGBTQ young people over the last three years, making our life-saving work all the more important. Capturing the experiences of nearly 34,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the United States, with 45% of respondents being LGBTQ youth of color and 48% being transgender or nonbinary, our fourth annual national survey is one of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted. [The Trevor Project]


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.