[Weekly Wonk] Protecting state question process | Investing in OK’s success | Broadband access | More

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.

Editor’s note: The Number of the Day has been updated to correct the number of statewide initiatives.

This Week from OK Policy

Oklahoma’s state question process should be protected: State questions provide the opportunity for Oklahoma voters to consider changes to Oklahoma laws or the state constitution through a vote of the people. From Medicaid expansion to criminal justice reform, Oklahoma voters have used initiative petitions to implement solutions addressing our state’s dire problems when lawmakers may have been unwilling or unable to take action themselves. In response, legislators this session have filed several bills that would increase the threshold for citizen-led petitions or raise the bar needed to approve them once they’re on the ballot. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy

Legislators have an opportunity to make a down payment on the state’s future: Oklahoma is in a unique position this year to make a downpayment on the future of our state. Through public investments and targeted tax relief for low-income Oklahomans, state leaders can use this year’s larger-than-usual state budget to make long-lasting, positive change. Premature tax cuts will set the state up to fail; investments will allow us to thrive. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Broadband bill presents opportunity for Oklahoma (Guest Post): Access to broadband was an issue in Oklahoma before the COVID-19 pandemic — a problem that the sudden and long-term shift to remote work and learning threw into sharp relief. A few years before the pandemic, Oklahoma ranked 47th nationwide for average internet speeds and the share of residents connected, and in April 2020, schools estimated that nearly 1 in 4 students did not have a home internet connection. Now, a new bill (House Bill 3363) would help Oklahoma ensure that federal relief funding to improve connectivity would go where it’s needed most. [Dr. Brian Whitacre / OK Policy]  

2022 Statewide candidate filing period this week (Capitol Update): Sometime in the late fall preceding an election year, most politicians begin to occasionally sense an ever-so-slight tightening in the pit of their stomach that they can’t readily explain. The filing period for state office is this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Filing period for incumbents is something only those who have experienced it, and those close to them, can appreciate. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update

Policy Matters: Oklahoma voters deserve choices: A quick quiz: Do you feel your values are reflected in the votes of your state and local lawmakers? If your answer is yes, then continuing the status quo may be a good option for you, and you can probably stop reading here. If you answered no, however, then this week could be crucial for changing Oklahoman’s current trajectory. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Weekly What’s That

Initiative Petition

Oklahoma citizens have the right to initiate statewide legislation via ballot measures, or State Questions, as either statutory or constitutional amendments.

After an initiative petition is drafted, it goes through a lengthy process which can include various legal challenges. To qualify for the ballot, a citizen-initiated statutory amendment requires signatures of registered voters equal to 8 percent of the votes cast at the last general election for the Office of Governor, while a constitutional amendment requires 15 percent. Citizens also have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum.  Once a petition has been determined to have a sufficient number of signatures and meets all other requirements, the Governor has the authority to call a special election to decide the petition or to place it on the ballot at the time of the next primary or general election.

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

Quote of the Week

“The states with the lowest per capita state and local tax revenues are not thriving economically compared to other states at higher per capita levels. While this observation is merely a correlation it suggests that adequately funded government services are essential for economic growth.” 

– Susan Pace Hamill, professor of law at the University of Alabama School of Law, noting that low taxes are not necessarily the key to prosperity [The Journal Record]

Editorial of the Week

Cooperation Makes Sense

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to attack Native Americans because of the McGirt decision that puts prosecution of Native-related criminal cases in the hands of the federal government.

We believe Stitt is confused. He said in an interview on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that there were two sets of laws in Oklahoma, depending on if a person was Native American following the July 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma that changed criminal jurisdiction.

And that is all that has changed — jurisdiction. People are still being prosecuted, just in a different court. Stitt’s problem is that it is no longer the state’s jurisdiction.  

But the biggest problem as a result of McGirt is the lack of cooperation on the part of the state to work with tribes in Oklahoma to sort out the issues.

In August 2021, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals said the McGirt ruling could not be used retroactively in cases where the defendant has exhausted all appeals and a final judgment issued. This was one of Stitt’s biggest complaints — that some criminal sentences had been vacated, causing the state to release inmates who should not have been released.

That’s true, but with the OCCA ruling, that problem is solved.

The tribes are simply seeking cooperation on the part of the state (and the governor) to move forward following an historic ruling. 

[Muskogee Phoenix Editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 12% – Since 1997, Oklahoma has cut taxes by nearly 12% [OK Policy]
  • 235 – Since statehood, Oklahoma voters have passed 235 statewide initiates that reached the ballot via initiative petition, legislative referendum, or popular referendum [NCLS Statewide Ballot Measures Database]
  • 1 in 4 – In April 2020, Oklahoma schools estimated that nearly 1 in 4 public school students did not have a home internet connection [Oklahoma Education Department]
  • -41% – Since 2009, higher education in Oklahoma has seen 41% fewer state dollars [OK Policy]
  • -43% – Oklahoma’s Office of Disability Concerns has seen a 43 percent cut since 2009 [OK Policy]

What We’re Reading


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.

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