In The Know: ARPA funds could bring generational change | State seeing COVID-19 slowdown | 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

ARPA funds could bring generational change to Oklahoma: The figure given most often is $3.2 billion. That’s how much the state ($1.9 billion) and county and local governments ($1.3 billion) have been directly allocated. But that doesn’t include the $1.5 billion already given public schools, the billions going to the state’s tribal governments and, potentially, billions more available through grant programs and other revenue streams. The amount is so large the state has hired two consultants to manage its share of ARPA. One of those consultants, Gatehouse, is also working with the Oklahoma Municipal League, and some individual counties and municipalities have also signed consulting contracts of one kind or another. [Tulsa World]

Debate over Gov. Kevin Stitt’s power renewed after governor removes health officials: With the quick flick of a pen two years ago, Gov. Kevin Stitt became the most powerful governor in Oklahoma’s history. Early in his governorship, the GOP-led Oklahoma Legislature gave Stitt the power to hire and fire the leaders of five major state agencies and make a majority of appointments to their governing boards. [The Oklahoman]

  • Opinion: Calling foul: Oklahomans should care for Oklahomans, not out-of-state insurers: It was Labor Day weekend, and OU and OSU both had big games at home. Fans were turned up and tuned in to the games, which is why it almost went unnoticed that between the kickoff and the last call, Gov. Stitt quietly removed Drs. Jean Hausheer and Laura Shamblin from their roles as board members of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. These doctors were ousted seemingly for their vocal opposition to proposed OHCA rules concerning Senate Bill 131, a bill that was passed by the Legislature last May. [Opinion / The Oklahoman]

‘Cautiously optimistic:’ Oklahoma seeing slowdown in COVID-19 delta variant surge, state leaders say: Oklahoma health leaders are “cautiously optimistic” as COVID-19 case counts have steadily declined over the past few weeks, a top Health Department official said this week. Cases climbed rapidly from July into August, reaching levels that neared the winter peak and overwhelming hospitals. Last week, cases declined by about 15% from the week before, according to data from the state Health Department. On Friday, the seven-day average of new cases was about 2,100, down from about 2,600 two weeks earlier. [The Oklahoman]

  • Long waits for a bed, delayed surgeries: What crowded hospitals mean for Oklahoma patients [The Oklahoman]
  • What to know about the mu variant of COVID-19 in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]
  • Virus update: 9 charts that show how COVID-19 is still spreading in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • White House Promises Equitable Shares From $3B COVID Treatment Buy As Use Picks Up In Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Watch Now: Tulsa clinics offer Regeneron, ‘the only effective therapy’ for COVID, doctor says [Tulsa World]
  • How not to confuse allergies with COVID-19: Oklahoma experts explain what symptoms to look for [Tulsa World]
  • “I wish I said bye to my dad,” Oklahoma teen loses mother months after father, sister die from COVID-19 [KFOR]
  • Oklahoma Rolling Out Free, Optional In-School COVID Testing Program [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa County Kids Account For More New COVID Cases, But Hospitalizations Down [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Oklahoma Catholic leaders grapple with requests for COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions: Some parishioners in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are having discussions about COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions with their priests, while the faith group’s archbishop has also spoken on the issue. [The Oklahoman]

  • Local pastor trying to dunk COVID vaccine myths [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma State Department of Education faces audit amid ‘record investments’: Thursday afternoon, Gov. Kevin Stitt formally asked the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office to complete an audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education and “all related entities.” The resulting audit — which will take months, if not a year or more — could become the most comprehensive external review in Oklahoma State Department of Education history at a time when the agency is handling more money than ever, thanks to more than $2 billion in federal pandemic aid and a record state appropriation of $3.2 billion. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma’s high-ranking count of Afghan refugees a ‘testament’ to state’s heart, official says: The news that Oklahoma will be receiving the third highest number of Afghan refugees of any state is just further confirmation of its residents’ welcoming reputation, said one of the leaders of the resettlement effort. [Tulsa World]

$2 million governor’s mansion renovation nearly complete: First lady Sarah Stitt is finishing a historic renovation of the governor’s mansion. The nearly 100-year-old home was plagued by electrical, plumbing, structural and mechanical problems. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate leaves companies in limbo, unsure of how to proceed: President Joe Biden recently announced a plan calling for an employer-focused vaccine mandate in an attempt to rein in surging cases of COVID-19 across the country. All businesses with more than 100 employees, plus those who work in government or are government contractors, would be subject to the requirements. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma AG Among 24 Threatening Lawsuit Over Federal COVID Testing Or Vaccination Mandate [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Business viewpoint: Can the president really mandate vaccines? [Tulsa World]
  • Hern, Lankford Rail Against White House Vaccine-Or-Test Plan For Businesses [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Editorial: Biden’s vaccine mandate necessary to keep a healthy American workforce [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

D.C. Digest: Hern says Democrats’ spending plan endangers Medicare Advantage: First District Congressman Kevin Hern said he’s concerned that Medicare Advantage, otherwise known as Part C, might be in trouble because of changes to Medicare sought be Democrats. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

‘Momentous occasion’: People from all 39 Oklahoma tribes celebrate OKC’s new First Americans Museum: After more than three decades of planning, delays and construction, the First Americans Museum opened to the public Saturday with a flurry of speeches, dance exhibitions, fashion shows and more. Representatives from all 39 Native American tribes based in Oklahoma — as well as hundreds of visitors — turned out for the morning opening ceremonies. [The Oklahoman]

  • First Americans Museum offers honest history – hard truth at opening [OKC Free Press]

Muscogee Nation voters put press protections in constitution, Jones ousted by Cloud: In Saturday’s Muscogee Nation primary election, three incumbents on the National Council won their races outright, one incumbent lost and three races will head to a Nov. 6 runoff election. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Listen Frontier: Board recommends Julius Jones have his sentence commuted. What comes next?: Listen Frontier host Ben Felder and Frontier editor Dylan Goforth discuss what happened in Julius Jones’ commutation case this week, as well as what comes next as the state attempts to start executions again. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

Ginnie Graham: Federal pandemic programs found to be effective at preventing poverty: The pandemic isn’t over, and neither are problems for people lingering on the poverty line or living paycheck-to-paycheck. Last week, the census released data showing poverty could have been much worse in 2020 without federal interventions. [Column / Tulsa World]

‘A godsend’: Tiny homes make big impact for Norman residents in need: The tiny home village where Bohannan’s family resides is a successful example of how a community can solve temporary housing needs. The Rev. Bo Ireland, senior minister at Clark Memorial United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City is launching a similar project, with different types of housing structures but the same compassionate foundation as its Norman counterpart. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Economy by the numbers: 7 charts that show how the economy is performing in Tulsa and Oklahoma: Find out what the unemployment rate is, plus how much gas costs across the state, and more economic indicators with these charts and maps, updated weekly. [Tulsa World]

Grading Oklahoma: This state has the second-most beef cows in the nation: This week The Oklahoman takes a look at Oklahoma’s beef industry. The state has the second-most beef cows in the nations, behind only Texas, and beef production is an important part of the state’s agriculture industry as a whole. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

ACLU sends letter to Lawton Public Schools after students handcuffed, suspended over national anthem: The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the superintendent of Lawton Public Schools in Oklahoma on Friday, warning that the recent handcuffing and suspension of two students who refused to stand for the national anthem violates their First Amendment rights. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Davis police officer fatally shoots man during struggle [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘I believe I am one of many’: Witness speaks out against former Shawnee coach accused of misconduct [The Oklahoman]
  • `Outsiders’ house: Tiny Tulsa museum draws big names [AP News]
  • New weapons unleashed in fight against feral hogs in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“At one point, we had 22 ICU patients in our hospital, and we only have a seven-bed ICU. We are still under the crisis standard of care.”

-Dr. Woody Jenkins, a physician in Stillwater [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of children nationally who have lost health care coverage between 2016 and 2019. [Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: Center for Children and Families]

Policy Note

Children in rural areas face increasing barriers to pediatric care, study finds: Hospital beds for children with asthma, pneumonia, viral infections, and other serious illnesses have declined in the last 10 years, mainly in rural areas. In a new study published Monday in Pediatrics, researchers found that the percentage of U.S. hospitals with inpatient units for pediatric care decreased, as did the number of beds in units that remained open. [Stat]

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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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