In 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.
New from OK Policy
An early look at the FY 2022 budget (Capitol Update): There was an informative interview in last Friday’s Journal Record of Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, about his thoughts for the FY 2022 budget to be passed when the Legislature reconvenes in February. Last March, the pandemic hit legislators with a projected $1.3 billion in cuts to be made for FY 2021, which will end June 30, 2021. The $1.3 billion was a number wisely agreed to by legislators last session for crafting the budget in order to avoid the possibility of a revenue failure this year, even though the Board of Equalization had already met in February and certified a higher budget target. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
With four weeks until election day, campaigns for, against State Question 805 intensify: Campaigns for and against State Question 805 have ratcheted up a month ahead of the Nov. 3 election, and the opposing messages have left some voters confused on what the reform would actually accomplish. State Question 805 is Oklahoma’s latest large-scale criminal justice reform measure that would end the use of sentence enhancements based on prior felony convictions for repeat, nonviolent offenders if approved. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 805 available at okpolicy.org/okvotes.
- Grover Norquist and Jonathan Small Op-Ed: State Question 805 is common-sense, conservative reform [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]
Health care groups form coalition to oppose SQ 814: Several care groups have united to oppose a state question that would allow Oklahoma legislators to tap a greater portion of the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. The American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network recently formed the No on 814 — Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma to oppose State Question 814. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 814 available at okpolicy.org/okvotes.
Experts warn evictions may skyrocket in Oklahoma: A scary side effect of the pandemic may be that high numbers of evictions, which are already all too common in Oklahoma, may soon skyrocket. As a result of people losing jobs, she said as many as 500,000 Oklahomans may be in jeopardy of losing roofs over their heads within the next six months. Some 44,612 eviction cases were filed in Oklahoma courts last year, including many by large, out-of-state corporations labeled as “eviction mills” by a number of advocates for Oklahomans who spoke to lawmakers. In fact, more than 60% of evictions in the state are filed by only 5% of landlords, according to Ryan Gentzler, director of Open Justice Oklahoma, a program of OK Policy. [The Journal Record] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
- Housing experts recommend Oklahoma lawmakers act to help with potential flood of evictions [Public Radio Tulsa]
- Hard Reset: The eviction ban that most renters don’t know about (audio) [Big If True]
COVID-19 in Oklahoma tracker: Updates on new cases, deaths: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 665 new COVID-19 cases. The total number of cases since the pandemic began in the state is now 91,982. The Health Department also reported three new coronavirus-related deaths. [The Oklahoman]
- Oklahoma reports more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations remain elevated [The Frontier]
- Tulsa Health Department’s COVID-19 map now has 10 area ZIP codes in high risk, down from 12 at launch [Tulsa World]
- Oklahoma’s COVID 7-day average back below 1,000 as total cases near 92,000 [Public Radio Tulsa]
- What local leaders, health officials have to say about managing through COVID-19 [Stillwater News Press]
How to bring care to mental health emergencies: Mental health emergencies are best handled by mental health professionals, says the Oklahoma City police captain charged with training officers for the calls they must make under state law. But until the law changes, police and the state agency charged with providing mental health care are finding ways to minimize officer involvement. [Oklahoma Watch]
State Government News
Michael Rogers out as Oklahoma’s secretary of state, Native American affairs: Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers announced his resignation Monday. Rogers has also resigned his position as secretary of Native American affairs, a role Gov. Kevin Stitt assigned to him just last month. A news release from the Stitt’s office said Rogers will transition into a new role as special adviser to the governor. No details of the new position were given. [The Oklahoman]
Federal Government News
Demonstrators protest U.S. Senate lack of movement on stimulus relief: A mobile demonstration was held outside a senator’s Oklahoma City office on Monday to protest the U.S. Senate’s plans to hold Supreme Court confirmation hearings while refusing to approve a second pandemic stimulus package. The Oklahoma Poor People’s Campaign, the state chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, protested outside the building that houses Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe’s Oklahoma City office. [The Oklahoman]
Broyles, tribes disappointed after EPA grants Oklahoma environmental regulatory authority in Indian Country: Federal regulators have granted Oklahoma continued authority to regulate key environmental programs across Indian Country. But at least one tribe in eastern Oklahoma and the Democratic nominee for Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seat up for election this year are criticizing the decision. [The Oklahoman] In the July 22 letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Stitt requested state authority to administer all EPA programs in areas of the state that are in Indian Country, with a few exceptions. Wheeler approved the state’s request in an Oct. 1 response. It applies to more than two dozen federal environmental programs overseen by several state agencies. [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa]
Federal government’s stopgap spending bill extended transportation funding crucial for Oklahoma: President Donald Trump signed a stopgap spending bill last week before going to Walter Reed Medical Center because of COVID-19. The continuing resolution reauthorized the five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST Act, which sends Oklahoma more than $600 million a year for road and bridge work and other transportation initiatives. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Oklahoma Rep. Cole suggests establishing COVID-19 commission: Oklahoma Republican U.S. Representative Tom Cole says the country would be well served by a 9/11-style commission to study the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a way forward. In an online conversation with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Cole said to him, it’s more likely Congress moves ahead on such a commission after the election, noting the 9/11 commission probably would have stalled if the attack had been in 2003 instead of 2001. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Criminal Justice News
Oklahoma County Commissioners Calvey, Maughan pass policy requiring county jail cooperation with ICE: With community activists screaming charges of racism and fascism, two of the three members of the Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners voted to create a county policy “to fully cooperate with the personnel and contractors of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency,” allow them full access to the Oklahoma County Jail and honor 48-hour ICE detainers on those jailed. [NonDoc] Commissioner Carrie Blumert, the only ‘no’ vote, said since the Oklahoma County Jail Trust now runs the jail and county trusts are required by law to be independent, she did not believe the commissioners could set policy for the jail. [The Oklahoman] Upon introducing the item, Calvey, who chairs the meetings of the Commissioners, immediately moved the item for approval before hearing any discussion or comment from his fellow Commissioners or the public. [OKC Free Press]
“Baby Shark” kid’s song used to bully jail inmates, DA says: Two former detention officers and their supervisor were charged Monday after an investigation found inmates at the Oklahoma County jail were forced to listen to the popular children’s song, “Baby Shark,” on a loop at loud volumes for extended periods of time. [The Oklahoman]
Economy & Business News
Campaign in California promotes Oklahoma business climate: The Oklahoma Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, has boosted business recruitment efforts in targeted areas of California with a marketing campaign promoting Oklahoma’s pro-business environment. The campaign, which is scheduled to run through November, includes company outreach, digital advertising, a customized webpage hosted on the Department of Commerce website and billboards in key areas of the state. [The Journal Record]
Feds announce child care block grant flexibilities inspired by Oklahoma’s HOPE centers: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken notice of Oklahoma’s HOPE Centers. The state used $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to set up dozens of centers where school-age kids can go during the week while schools are on distance learning plans and their parents are at work, and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services provides access to their services at each one. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Stitt announces program to help vulnerable students: Gov. Stitt on Monday announced the launch of a program to help students facing significant challenges. Jobs for America’s Graduates includes classroom instruction, mentoring, employment training, leadership development and job and postsecondary education placement services and a year of follow-up services. The program began 40 years ago and is in 39 states. [The Oklahoman]
Delay possible for in-person classes in OKC schools: The next two weeks of COVID-19 rates will decide when students in Oklahoma City Public Schools return to in-person classes. The school district plans to bring pre-K and kindergarten students back for face-to-face classes on Oct. 19 with a hybrid schedule. However, if the per-capita rate of COVID-19 increases in Oklahoma County, the return could be delayed. [The Oklahoman]
Tulsa Public Schools considers phased approach to resuming in-person classes: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist on Monday evening recommended a phased approach to returning all students to the classroom by the end of the calendar year. Gist’s long-awaited proposal offers three possible options depending on the severity of COVID-19 in Tulsa County during the next few weeks. [Tulsa World] At a virtual meeting of the TPS Board of Education, Gist listed three options for moving forward beginning Nov. 9. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Governor: Chickasaw Nation financial base remains strong: Despite an 11-week closure of many tribal businesses and offices in 2020, the Chickasaw Nation financial base strengthened this year, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said during his State of the Nation address. Capital reserves supported more than 8,000 employees who were reassigned to shelter in place. Those reserves also supported the continuation of core programs and services for Chickasaw citizens. [The Journal Record]
Anita Arnold: A Black woman’s hope and courage: Anita Arnold’s office is cluttered, but not with junk. Her walls are covered in pieces by Black artists, and the floor features boxes filled to the brim with photo albums. Her desk holds old letters and her own writings. Arnold is the executive director of Black Liberated Arts Center, or BLAC Inc., an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit focused on increasing the presence of the arts in the Oklahoma’s Black communities. [NonDoc]
Oklahoma Local News
- Unite Norman files court protest over mayor’s signature petition [The Oklahoman]
- Tulsa Mayor’s Office ignored Greenwood group’s offer to retain Black Lives Matter sign, advocate says [Tulsa World]
- Enid recall hearing postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak at Garfield County Court Clerk’s office [Enid News & Eagle]
Quote of the Day
“There’s people in Oklahoma who need help and the Senate has had plenty of opportunities to pass a second stimulus package but they haven’t. They’ve completely failed at that job. Now they plan to rush through a Supreme Court justice nominee and there are still people suffering in our state and in our country. And that’s unacceptable.”
-Bradley Havenar, organizer of a protest about the U.S. Senate’s inaction regarding a second stimulus package [The Oklahoman]
Number of the Day
The number of eligible Latnix voters in Oklahoma in 2018, which is a 60% increase from 2010. Latinx voters represent about 6% of Oklahoma’s share of voters.
A triple pandemic? The economic impacts of COVID-19 disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic households: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black and Hispanic households have been more likely to lose income and experience difficulty making rent or mortgage payments. We found that Black and Hispanic households are much more likely to have been hurt by the economic impacts of COVID-19. More than half of Hispanic (58 percent) and Black (53 percent) households experienced a decline in employment income since mid-March, much higher than the share of Asian/other ethnicity (44 percent) and white (39 percent) households. Moreover, renters were more vulnerable than homeowners: 52 percent of all renters had lost income from employment in the past two months compared to 39 percent of all homeowners and Hispanic renters were hit the hardest. [Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University]
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