In The Know: AG fights school mask mandate injunction | Nursing shortage | Responses to Biden’s planned vaccine mandate | More

In The KnowIn 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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma attorney general now fighting temporary injunction in school mask mandate case: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office is appealing a temporary injunction that is now blocking the enforcement of the state’s new law against school mask mandates. The appeal was filed Thursday morning, according to Alex Gerszewski, spokesman for the AG’s Office. On Wednesday, an Oklahoma County judge signed a written order that gives school districts the ability to mandate face coverings with one caveat — that they offer the same exemptions required by law for mandatory school vaccines. [Tulsa World]

  • More Oklahoma school districts require COVID-19 masks, citing court order [The Oklahoman]
  • See which Oklahoma schools are requiring masks with opt out provisions, now that it’s officially allowed under state law [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • Jenks school board approves mask mandate [Tulsa World]
  • Teachers are getting COVID in anti-mask states: ‘I could have lost my life’ [Vice]

COVID-19 crushes state with convergence of low vaccination, nursing shortage: Oklahoma State health officials have two points they are trying to get across to the public as the COVID-19 surge continues its crush. The experts said the impact of the COVID-19 surge are from too low a level of vaccinations by the public and staffing shortages for clinical care hospital staffs to the verge of catastrophe. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Sen. James Lankford rebuke Biden’s planned vaccine mandates: Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country, President Joe Biden announced Thursday new vaccination and testing requirements for workers at businesses employing 100 workers or more. His policy could impact up to 80 million workers across the nation. But as Biden pushed for more mandates, Oklahoma’s governor and one of its two U.S. Senators were denouncing the president’s plan. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma Blood Institute joining 5-state coalition to shore up emergency blood reserves: The Oklahoma Blood Institute is partnering with blood centers in five states to shore up emergency blood reserves in the event of a crisis situation, leaders with the blood center and other local officials said Thursday. Oklahoma and states across the U.S. have dealt with a shortage of blood donations that has left supply critically low in recent months. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Dismissal of two doctors from health care board will impact its activities, Hausheer said: A Lawton ophthalmologist said the absence of doctors from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board will have an impact on the work it does to oversee Medicaid services for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable population. A staffer from Gov. Kevin Stitt told Dr. Jean Hausheer and Oklahoma City pediatrician Laura Shamblin Saturday that they had been removed from the health care authority’s governing board. [The Lawton Constitution]

First-time jobless claims set new pandemic-era low: First-time jobless claims declined again last week in Oklahoma, once again hitting lows not seen since the start of the pandemic, according to a government report. For both Oklahoma and the U.S. as a whole, the number of first-time claims filed last week is the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Marcie Mack resigning as Oklahoma CareerTech director: Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education director Marcie Mack has informed her board that she will resign effective Nov. 15. NonDoc obtained Mack’s resignation letter, which was distributed to the the agency’s nine-member board this morning: [NonDoc]

‘Long Story Short’ Podcast: Oklahoma’s Approach to Rental Assistance, Masks in Schools, Refugee Resettlement: In Episode 2 of Long Story Short (listen below), three reporters share findings and insights from their latest stories with host Ted Streuli, Oklahoma Watch executive director. [Oklahoma Watch

Nearly 5,000 plants seized in two raids of eastern Oklahoma cannabis farms: The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics announced the seizure of nearly 5,000 cannabis plants from two rural grow sites with aid from the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, whose director called a partnership between the two groups “essential.” [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma’s rural power grid gets a boost from the Feds: Oklahoma is receiving a piece of $325 million dollars set aside by the federal government for an electric loan program meant to strengthen the rural power grid. US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke today at a press conference. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Redistricting battles kick off in state courts: Some states, including Illinois and Oklahoma, were forced to use census population estimates rather than wait for redistricting data based on actual population counts to meet their states’ constitutional deadlines. That has led to lawsuits. [Pew Trusts]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee opioid lawsuit against pharmacies on hold: A federal judge on Wednesday agreed to postpone a hearing scheduled for Thursday in the Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit against the largest pharmacies in the U.S. for allegedly filling “suspicious” orders that contributed to the tribe’s opioid crisis. The postponement of the hearing in Oklahoma’s Eastern District court may allow the parties time to reach a settlement. [The Journal Record]

Marshall challenges Yahola-Osborn for Muscogee Nation’s Tukvpvtce District B: Incumbent Thomasene Yahola-Osborn will take on challenger Edwin Marshall in the upcoming primary election for the Muscogee Nation’s Tukvpvtce District B seat. Yahola-Osborn is the second generation of her family to take part in tribal politics. [NonDoc]

Cloud challenges Jones for McIntosh District B seat in Muscogee Nation: In the Sept. 18 Muscogee Nation primary election, incumbent Adam Jones will take on challenger Galen Cloud for the McIntosh District B seat on the tribe’s National Council. Jones is currently in his fourth term on the Muscogee National Council, having served since 2008. Cloud is a tribal preservation officer for Thlopthlocco Tribal Town. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma high court to hear prosecutor’s death row request: The Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed Thursday to hear a prosecutor’s request that two members of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board be prevented from voting on a high-profile death row inmate’s commutation hearing. [AP News]

  • Another celebrity speaks out on Julius Jones while DA seeks removal of Board Members [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Julius Jones poised for Sept 13 commutation hearing as District Attorney tries to block parole board members [The Black Wall Street Times]

A judge has ordered the release of video from a man’s fatal struggle with jailers after The Frontier sued: The Frontier and reporter Kassie McClung filed a lawsuit in June to force the public trust that oversees the Pottawatomie County jail to release records in connection with the death of Ronald Gene Given. For more than a year, the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center Trust has denied McClung access to the records. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

More Tulsans seeking help with rent now that eviction moratorium has ended: With September rents due and no more federal moratoriums to prevent evictions, an increasing number of Tulsans are seeking help with making overdue payments, local officials said this week. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

The Source Podcast: Real estate, retail market on pandemic rollercoaster: The COVID-19 pandemic tanked already struggling retail business and sent commercial properties in Oklahoma City on a rollercoaster. Meanwhile, the local housing market has surged, elevating home prices by 14%. [The Oklahoman]

Amazon’s warehouse rules lead lawmakers to press for worker protections: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) letter to the EEOC cites one of those cases, in which a pregnant worker at an Amazon warehouse in Oklahoma accused the company of denying requests to transfer to a less strenuous job as an accommodation for her high-risk pregnancy. Gillibrand said she is particularly concerned about the impact of the company’s constant performance monitoring. [The Washington Post]

Education News

OSDE announces $8 million school leadership and talent development initiative: The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) announced today it is using approximately $8 million in federal relief to strengthen school leadership and teacher retention in the state. The three-year initiative starts this school year and includes five specialized programs. [Skiatook Journal] “The research is clear and compelling: Within schools, teachers have the greatest impact on students and their futures, with building leaders coming in a close second,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. [Examiner-Enterprise]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Marathon adopts coronavirus rules for runners [AP News]
  • Broken Arrow Republican to jump into governor’s race, challenge Stitt from the right [The Oklahoman]
  • Early voting begins today for mayor, Ward 2 council representative [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Staffing shortages are becoming more difficult to overcome. We simply can’t keep going at this rate.”

— Noble Superintendent Frank Solomon wrote in announcing the school district’s updated masking policy. The update follows a decision from Oklahoma County District Judge Natalie Mai that said districts could mandate face coverings as long as they offer the same exemptions required by law for mandatory school vaccines. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


The number of open Failure to Pay warrants in Tulsa county in 2019

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

Targeted Fines and Fees Against Communities of Color: Harmful fines and fees practices are most common in communities of color and, to a lesser degree, in low-income communities. The targeted imposition of fines and fees on low-income communities and communities of color not only impacts the ticketed individuals within those communities, but also impacts the efficacy of and public confidence in the judicial system as a whole. National data on the extent to which individuals are jailed or otherwise penalized because of their inability to pay fines and fees are insufficiently developed. A lack of data prevents stakeholders from fully capturing the impact of fines and fees on individuals within low-income communities and communities of color. [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights / Fines and Fees Justice Center]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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