In The Know: AG reviewing gas price ‘market manipulation’ | Company files protest against OHCA’s managed care bid process | 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

Attorney general says evidence of ‘market manipulation’ on natural gas prices during crisis: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said Monday that there is evidence that some natural gas market sales during the historic winter storm that hit the state and nation last week may have violated state price-gouging laws. Hunter’s comments came during a press conference of top state officials addressing the possibility of customers possibly facing high utility bills as a result of restricted supply and spiking demand during the previous weeks’ sub-freezing weather and winter storms. [The Frontier]

Medicaid managed care company files protest over state’s contract picks: One of the losing bidders for the contracts to handle Oklahoma’s Medicaid program has filed a protest to challenge the state’s decision, claiming the bid process was flawed and unfair. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will spend up to $2.2 billion to partially privatize Medicaid through what’s known as a managed care model. Up to 75 percent of the state’s Medicaid enrollees will be managed by for-profit companies. [The Frontier] OK Policy: Managed care is a bad investment for Oklahoma, but could be especially harmful for patients, providers, and Indigenous communities.

Vaccine race to spring break starts with first day of Oklahoma school staff vaccinations: A push to vaccinate tens of thousands of school teachers and staff by spring break began Monday as state-scheduled vaccine appointments widely opened to Oklahoma educators for the first time. [The Oklahoman] State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was with a handful of teachers receiving the vaccine at a mega-POD in Norman where 3,500 vaccines were set aside for Pre-K through 12 school personnel. [KOSU] The Lawton High School Cafeteria hosted about 1,000 teachers and staff not only from Lawton Public Schools but from area schools such as Apache and Geronimo. [Lawton Constitution]

  • Oklahoma expanding vaccine access to teachers, school staff [AP News]
  • Listen Frontier: Winter storm delays vaccines and stretches the energy grid [The Frontier]
  • COVID-19: 22 more deaths identified; fewer than 500 new cases confirmed; statewide 7-day average falls below 800 [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa County ZIP codes shifting predominantly from red to orange as COVID-19 spread declines [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma’s GOP lawmakers aim to invalidate Joe Biden’s executive orders: Republican state legislators have signed onto legislation to challenge President Joe Biden’s authority to impose federal directives over the state of Oklahoma. More than 60 Oklahoma House Republicans support a bill that would allow Oklahoma to challenge orders from the federal government and declare those actions unconstitutional through a majority vote of the GOP-controlled state Legislature. [The Oklahoman]

Senate confirms D. Trent Smith to state Board of Education: The Oklahoma Senate on Monday confirmed Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointment of D. Trent Smith of Yukon to the State Board of Education. He is a former University of Oklahoma football star turned businessman. [Tulsa World]

Kelsey Smith Act advances in Oklahoma legislature: Oklahoma lawmakers advanced a bill last week that would help locate kidnapped victims faster. Senate Bill 272, which passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, would require cell phone companies to provide phone location information in emergency situations, including abductions. [KOSU]

Opinion: Proposed bill is a threat to the future health and safety of our community: House Bill 2504 removes certain authority from the Tulsa City-County Board of Health, including the hiring and firing of the executive director. It also prohibits any actions that are more protective for our community than the state’s actions. [Opinion / Tulsa World]

Editorial: A bipartisan plan to protect the state’s poor and elderly homeowners: State Rep. Lonnie Sims is proposing a reasonable tax break for some of the state’s poorest residents. Sims’ House Bill 1009 would raise the income limit for double homestead exemptions from $20,000 to $25,000. The basic homestead exemption reduces assessed value on homes by $1,000 if the owner lives in their own home on Jan. 1. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

‘Who gets to call whom a domestic terrorist?’: former FBI agent in OKC to discuss threat: In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol, a former FBI special agent is warning against the rise of domestic terrorism and its spread through social media channels. [The Oklahoman]

  • At his confirmation hearing on Monday, Judge Merrick B. Garland promised to focus on prosecuting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot attack with the same motivation as the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County promised to fix its jail more than 10 year ago, but deaths and staffing issues continue: Six detention officers at the Oklahoma County jail have been charged with assault and mistreatment of inmates since October. Seven inmates have died there in the last three months and at least 84 inmates there have died since 2009, a rate more than double the national average. [The Frontier]

‘No mental help:’ Man’s death in jail preceded by pleas for help from family, they say: Family members and a former staff member say they repeatedly asked for Parker Stephens to be moved to a mental health unit at the jail before he died at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. A detention officer found the 21-year old dead in his cell on Feb. 3. Family members say staff from the medical examiner’s office and the jail told them there was evidence the death was a suicide. [The Frontier]

Tablets and video calls are coming to Oklahoma prisons. but at what cost?: As Oklahoma inmates wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine, in-person visitation remains canceled indefinitely. But prisoners will soon gain access to technology that the public has used to stay connected during the pandemic. Prisoner advocates say video calls and tablets can be effective communication tools, but argue that high fees charged by Securus and competitor GTL financially exploit inmate family members who disproportionately face economic hardships. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economy & Business News

Experts: COVID-19, stimulus complicate 2020 taxes: It’s tax time and the usual questions and considerations are more complicated this year courtesy of federal relief legislation. Businesses and individuals who usually do their own taxes may need assistance filing their 2020 return, experts stressed during the latest JR Now webinar. [The Journal Record]

EPA sides with ethanol industry in Wynnewood refinery’s Renewable Fuel Standards case: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday emphasized it is taking the side of the ethanol industry in a case that pits the agency against small, independent refiners. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma college admissions changed during COVID-19, but how much?: Data from more than 2,300 American high schools showed 21.7% fewer students went to college directly after graduating from high school in 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That decline is nearly eight times greater than before the pandemic. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Oklahoma among worst states for higher education cuts, harming students who already face the greatest barriers.

Epic asks SVCSB to dismiss charter termination hearing: The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board is set to hold a charter termination hearing March 8-11 for Epic One-on-One, but the controversial virtual school has filed a motion for summary judgement that asks the SVCSB to dismiss certain allegations. [NonDoc]

Months of distance learning: TPS families talk about changes, challenges: After more than 11 months of learning from home, Mason Smith has missed seeing his friends and classmates face to face. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Supreme Court removes all references to ‘blood’ from tribal laws and constitution: Further solidifying citizenship status for the descendants of Cherokee-owned slaves, the tribe’s Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday to remove the words “by blood” from all tribal laws and even from the tribe’s own constitution. [Tulsa World] Citizenship in the Cherokee Nation is not based on blood, but still, language in the tribe’s laws, constitution, and policies was central to an ongoing cultural and legal debate over whether the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen, those formerly enslaved by the tribe, were considered tribal members. [KOSU]

  • Cherokee chief: Time for Jeep to end use of tribe’s name [AP News]

General News

Previously unknown Tulsa Race Massacre survivor added to lawsuit plaintiffs: Attorneys behind a new lawsuit over the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre say they’ve added two more massacre survivors, including one who was previously unknown, to the list of plaintiffs. The additions to the suit, which seeks reparations for the massacre, are Viola Fletcher, 106, of Bartlesville and Hughes Van Ellis, 100, of Aurora, Colorado. [Tulsa World]

‘The truth needs to be told’ — Church opens Tulsa Race Massacre Prayer Room: The expression on her face said it all. The Rev. Deron Spoo walked with one of the Black members of his predominantly white church as she and her young grandson visited a specially designated area of First Baptist Church of Tulsa for the first time. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

  • Prosecutor warned mayor against public appearance with terrorism suspect amid summer unrest [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa International Airport to get more than $5.5 million under new pandemic relief program [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Remote will now help participants buy homes here [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“It is in everybody’s interest, it’s in your interest to suspend automatic payments that are in place and go ahead and bill people manually because people haven’t contemplated the bills we’re going to perhaps be looking at.”

-Oklahoma Attorney Mike Hunter speaking about higher utility bills after last week’s winter storm [The Frontier

Number of the Day


Reported natural gas price per thousand cubic feet during high-demand periods resulting from the recent winter storm. The natural gas price usually reaches $5 per thousand cubic feet for a typical winter storm. [NonDoc]

Policy Note

8 Steps That Paved the Way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. When it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, it was a major victory for the civil rights movement in its battle against unjust Jim Crow laws that marginalized Black Americans. It took years of activism, courage, and the leadership of Civil Rights icons from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Little Rock Nine to bring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to fruition. These are eight key steps that ultimately led to the Act’s adoption. [History Channel] February is Black History Month. 

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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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