Weekly Wonk: Zoning reforms would help address housing needs | Proposed bill would provide overdue legal reform | Senator’s ‘filth’ comment shameful | 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.

This Week from OK Policy

Proposed bill would provide overdue reform of the criminal legal process (Capitol Update): House Bill 3777 by Rep. Collin Duel, R-Guthrie, is an important and long overdue reform in the criminal legal process. The bill, which deals with discovery in criminal trials, passed unanimously out of the House’s Judiciary-Civil Committee at the end of the first week of session. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Oklahomans should welcome a variety of new housing in their communities: Oklahoma is experiencing a housing shortage that is quickly becoming a crisis with tens of thousands of housing units needed to meet our growing needs. One way to efficiently expand affordable housing and save taxpayer money is to rethink our zoning laws. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

February 28, 6:00 p.m. [Wednesday]

ONLINE AFFINITY GROUP: Healthy Oklahomans (Health Care Access)


The Healthy Oklahomans Affinity Group works on safeguarding and expanding access to health care in Oklahoma. This statewide group meets online regularly in the winter and spring to discuss legislation, share resources, and plan community outreach related to health care reform in Oklahoma. Contact Southwest Regional Organizer Katie Applegate for more information.

Weekly What’s That

Striking Title

Striking title is a common procedural maneuver in the Oklahoma Legislature. It is used especially on bills that impact the state budget or bills that are considered to be works-in-progress.

The Oklahoma Constitution requires that every bill contain a concise statement  at the beginning of the bill accurately expressing the bill’s subject. If a legislator offers an amendment to “strike the title,” the amendment deletes this introductory definition and causes the bill or joint resolution to be out of compliance with the Constitution. This means the measure must be returned to that chamber and be amended again, including having its title restored, before it can become law. Essentially, striking the title allows the bill to move forward in the legislative process while recognizing that it needs further changes before it gets final approval. This can allow some lawmakers to cast a provisional vote in favor of a bill that they have concerns about. 

Titles are most often stricken in committee by unanimous consent based on a request by the bill’s author or the committee chair. Title can also be struck during floor debate on a bill. Bills can be amended to restore title at any stage during the process. Bills that pass one or both chambers with their titles stricken are typically sent to a conference committee to be resolved.

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

Quote of the Week

“It’s only gotten worse over the last two years. Before that, it still existed, of course, but you can see people that would have before been more accepting that now started harassing trans individuals, because it’s what they hear. It’s what they see all around them. So then they bring that over to the schools themselves.”

-Hali, a trans girl who is a senior at an Oklahoma high school, said the state’s bathroom law and other education policies make her feel unsafe at school. [NBC News]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial, Tahlequah Daily Press: Woods’ ‘filth’ comment is source of shame

State Sen. Tom Woods’ characterization of LGBTQ+ Oklahomans as “filth,” and his followup statement that his constituents “don’t want them,” could be described in many ways, but most aren’t fit for a family newspaper.

Woods, during a legislative update Friday morning, was responding to a question from a local woman who wanted to know why LGBTQ+ people are being targeted by the Legislature. Her concern was prompted by the recent death of a 16-year-old nonbinary Owasso student. Nex Benedict had been bullied at school, and although preliminary reports suggest an alleged beating in a girls’ bathroom wasn’t the cause of death, many people – including Nex’s parents – have questions.

Whatever the ultimate reason for the teen’s demise, the prior bullying constituted a bomb ready to explode. And Woods lit the fuse.

A couple of decades ago, it would be shocking if someone in Woods’ position made such a revolting statement – one that could potentially incite like-minded individuals to carry out violence against anyone they “don’t want.” In modern times, it evokes images from the past of guys wearing hoods and white sheets, with brown dress shoes peeking from beneath.

Since that time, with the advent of social media and the recent tendency of certain politicians to overtly coax their followers into subversive action, perhaps no one should be surprised that Woods revealed his brutal innermost thoughts. But it’s difficult to believe the assessment of his constituents is correct, and that they’d like all LGBTQ+ people run out of his entire district on a rail – even innocent teens, who desperately need the support of their families and communities…

[Read the full editorial at the Tahlequah Daily Press website]

Numbers of the Day

  • 13% – Percentage of people in Oklahoma prisons who are over the age of 55. [Prison Policy Initiative]

  • 90 – Number of days Oklahoma allows for collecting signatures during the initiative petition/state question process, which is the shortest such period in the nation. [National Conference of State Legislatures via OK Policy]

  • 55% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s population that lives in an area considered a child care desert where families don’t have ready access to childcare. This represents 34 of 77 counties. [Oklahoma Human Services]

  • 66% – About two-thirds (66%) of Americans surveyed say they have a favorable view of their local government, compared with 54% who have a favorable view of their state government and just 32% who have a favorable view of the federal government. [Pew Research]

  • 51.7% – Percentage of eligible Oklahoma residents who participate in the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. More than 171,000 women, infants, and children are eligible for WIC benefits, but only about 88,000 of them participate. [USDA]

What We’re Reading

  • 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]
  • Politicians Take Aim at Ballot Initiatives: Aiming to derail a citizen initiative to protect abortion rights, Republicans in the Ohio legislature in 2023 tried to make it harder for citizens to amend the state constitution. Their methods were cynical but familiar. For years, some state lawmakers and officials have been trying to undermine avenues of direct democracy. {Brennan Center for Justice]
  • With Arrival of Child Care Cliff, Some States Have Stepped in to Save the Sector:  As it stands today, there remains a big disconnect between what families can pay and the resources providers need to provide high-quality care, leading to a shortage of child care supply in practically every community. The stabilization funds not only kept businesses open, but also demonstrated what is possible when the math adds up because child care is being treated like the essential infrastructure that it is. Children can count on receiving consistent care, providers are less stressed and have an easier time recruiting and retaining early educators, early educators are able to pay their bills and, in some cases, even save for the future. [The Century Foundation]
  • How trusted are state and local governments?: While states and localities are unquestionably considered more trustworthy than are the feds, a look at the numbers shows they still confront a significant lack of confidence. [Route Fifty]
  • WIC’s Critical Benefits Reach Only Half of Those Eligible: The federally funded WIC program — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — improves lifetime health for low-income pregnant and postpartum people, their infants, and young children, but just half of those eligible are enrolled. This underutilization has no single cause and has occurred despite adequate funding to serve all eligible applicants for more than 25 years. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]


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.