In The Know: Broadband, ed funding on House’s to-do list | Poll shows partisan split on pandemic | Oklahomans deserve budget transparency

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.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Oklahomans deserve budget transparency: It’s been nearly three months since this legislative session kicked off, and lawmakers have not shared a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1. Only a very few lawmakers are involved in developing the budget, leaving the public – and the majority of their fellow lawmakers – in the dark. But it doesn’t have to be this way. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Broadband, education funding at the top of Oklahoma House’s to-do list: Rural broadband and a boost to common education are among House Republican leadership’s priorities heading into the closing weeks of the current session, says Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. The budget, of course, is the No. 1 priority ahead of the May 28 deadline for final adjournment, but there are other wants and needs on lawmakers’ wish lists. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma poll confirms partisan split on COVID-19 pandemic: Oklahoma poll confirms partisan split on COVID-19 pandemic: A new poll shows Republican voters in Oklahoma are far more likely than Democrats to believe it is already safe to gather in groups of 10 or more. The poll, by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, also shows that Republican voters are more likely to believe the bigger risk from the pandemic now is to the economy rather than to health. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa mask mandate for restaurant, bar employees will end along with citywide ordinance Friday: Updated local contact tracing data has paved the way for Tulsa’s mask mandate for restaurant and bar employees to end on Friday along with the citywide order, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Wednesday. The city had said previously that the citywide mask ordinance would end Friday but that the mayor executive order requiring bar and restaurant workers to wear masks would continue. [Tulsa World] A civil emergency declaration and a requirement for events with 500 or more people to have a THD-approved safety plan will remain in place. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Community Vaccination Center in north Tulsa averaging ‘very, very low’ COVID-19 shots per day [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 32% people fully vaccinated [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID-19: Case counts, hospitalizations remain largely stable in Oklahoma [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Measure that changes criteria for medical parole approved by Oklahoma governor: A measure that changes the criteria by which prison inmates apply for medical parole has been signed into law. Senate Bill 320, written by Sen. Jessica Garvin, allows inmates who are medically frail and vulnerable to be considered for medical parole proceedings, also known as compassionate release. [KFOR]

Health News

Opinion: What is in the patient’s best interest?: Rural health care in Oklahoma is in danger, thanks to the governor’s plan to privatize Medicaid. Under his plan, health care administration would be outsourced to four large for-profit insurance companies. The result would be disastrous for roughly 1 million Oklahoma Medicaid recipients. [Woody Jenkins, M.D. / Stillwater News Press]

Technology may help Oklahoma turn tide on opioid addiction: Opioid addiction in Oklahoma may be on the decline in part because of technology leveraged to help physicians make more informed decisions about prescribing drugs for patients. Physicians in the state have made more than 15.5 million “patient queries” to a Prescription Monitoring Program database since the launch of an initiative by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control and Appris Health, the company reported on Wednesday. [The Journal Record]

Oklahomans we’ve lost: She lost four family members to COVID-19: The walls of Anita Greenwalt’s barber shop just off the old U.S. Route 66 in El Reno are covered with four decades of family photographs. Nick’s Barber Shop has been a constant in El Reno since Anita’s father opened the business in 1983, but the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything for her and her family over the past year. [The Frontier]

State Government News

‘Excellent’ bond market could help Oklahoma’s new utility securitization plan: After the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority and the Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority adjourned their meetings this morning, the agencies’ president, Mike Davis, needed to head back to his desk quickly. The ODFA was “in the market” selling State Regents for Higher Education master lease real property bonds, and Davis told his board of state bankers that “it’s over-subscribed three times.” [NonDoc]

Oklahoma governor signs bill to ban abortion if SCOTUS rules: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed legislation to immediately outlaw abortion in Oklahoma if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 case that legalized abortion. Stitt signed the so-called “trigger” bill late Tuesday. The law would become effective once the attorney general has determined that the U.S. Supreme Court has overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. [AP News]

Millions at stake in OKC if transgender sports legislation becomes law: The newly-renovated USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in OKC may have to go without NCAA events if Senate Bill 2 currently in the Oklahoma Legislature becomes law. While praised by politicians on the political right in Oklahoma’s Legislature, the bill restricting transgender youth in high school and college sports may cause businesses in Oklahoma City to suffer. [OKC Free Press] OK Policy: SB 2 traumatizes Oklahomans, threatens economic progress

Oklahoma activist wants statewide vote on law that protects drivers fleeing riots: A local activist wants Oklahoma voters to weigh in on a new law that would grant immunity to motorists who unintentionally injure or kill Oklahomans in certain situations. Joshua Harris-Till, the Oklahoma leader of Young Democrats of America, is launching a referendum petition to try to force a statewide vote on a bill Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law last week. [The Oklahoman]

  • George Floyd protests trigger wave of GOP ‘anti-riot’ laws [ABC News]

State legislation aims to strengthen Oklahoma’s medical marijuana regulations: Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry is growing beyond initial expectations. In under three years, more than 10,500 businesses cropped up around the state. Nearly 400,000 Oklahomans hold medical marijuana cards. State legislators fear the cannabis consumer business is out ahead of the governing powers to enforce it. [KJRH]

Bill to address mental health needs of law enforcement officers signed: Sen. Kim David authored Senate Bill 848, which directs the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to contract with public and private entities to provide peer support crisis intervention, counseling, and wellness for the law enforcement, firefighter, emergency medical, and corrections communities impacted by trauma, cumulative stress, anxiety, addictions, death and suicide as well as the impact on their personal lives. [KFOR]

Oklahoma lawmakers push to pass bill that enables law enforcement to locate cell phones in emergency situations: Federal laws are not cut and dry on using a cell phone to locate a person during an abduction. But there is a bill passing through the Oklahoma legislature now that lawmakers say would save lives. [KFOR]

Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus honors first Black Oklahoma Legislator A.C. Hamlin: The Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus hosted the biennial 23rd A.C. Hamlin Award Gala virtually this year. Oklahoma business owners and community leaders were honored for their contributions to Oklahoma’s Black community. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Federal Government News

Rebukes from Indian Country swift and forceful after CNN commentator Rick Santorum’s racist remarks: Voices across Indian Country are condemning CNN pundit and former Pennsylvania Republican U.S. senator Rick Santorum’s remarks dismissing Native Americans and their culture as “nothing” at a conservative forum last week. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economic Opportunity

Lawyer takes up mission to help people avoid eviction: A review of data from over 20 cities and states found that about 81% of landlords had attorneys while only 3% of tenants did, according to the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on this legal disparity, and more cities and states are trying to address it. [The Journal Record]

How landlords dodge eviction bans: In January last year, 97% of evictions in Tulsa County, Oklahoma were filed for past-due rent, according to a report from the University of Tulsa’s Terry West Civil Legal Clinic. Because landlords can’t evict tenants for past-due rent under the CDC ban, Eric Hallett, the statewide coordinator of housing advocacy for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, expected evictions to fall dramatically. That’s not quite what happened. [Big If True] 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.

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma employers hope to fill thousands of vacant jobs: More than 200 Oklahoma employers looking to fill thousands of jobs have signed up to take part in career fairs slated across the state in May. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission issued a release on Wednesday encouraging even more participation in events planned from Tulsa to Enid to McAlester. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Oklahoma schools to get $9.78 million for students facing homelessness: Oklahoma public schools are about to get additional federal funds to help serve students facing homelessness. As part of the American Rescue Plan, the U.S. Department of Education announced Friday that it will distribute $800 million nationwide to help address the needs of these students. [Tulsa World]

Experts: Workplace inclusion requires skillful approach: Corporate culture is an important tool in assembling a team that works well together. However, hiring to fit within the corporate culture may unintentionally lead to exclusion – especially when “corporate culture” is interpreted to mean a group that all looks and thinks alike. [The Journal Record]

General News

‘Here is where the healing must begin.’ OKC council condemns Tulsa Race Massacre coverup: The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday unanimously condemned the decades-long coverup of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as the 100th anniversary approaches. “This is our history whether we like it or not,” said Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice, co-sponsor of the resolution with Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper. [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City Of Tulsa Yet To Hear Its Share Of American Rescue Plan Funding [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • City of Tulsa’s utility billing system, format get new look beginning May 1 [Tulsa World]
  • Report: Cold Water And Cast-Iron Pipes Main Factors In Tulsa’s Winter Storm Water Crisis [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Pilot Program Explores On Demand Rides For Public Transit [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Managed care is marked by red tape, and it fails to answer this most basic question: What is in the patient’s best interest?”

-Woody Jenkins, M.D., co-chair of the Oklahoma State Medical Association’s Rural Section [Stillwater News Press]

Number of the Day

2.7 million

Number of children in the United States with an incarcerated parent

[Source: Next 100]

Policy Note

Parents with Nontraditional Work Schedules in Oklahoma Implications for Child Care: Understanding the child care needs of parents working nontraditional hour (NTH) schedules—defined here as any work outside of 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays—has become a growing concern for policymakers trying to reduce barriers to accessible child care. [Urban Institute]

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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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