In The Know: Calls for OKC Jail staffing increase | Gov. receives vaccine as state’s Phase 4 starts | Schools push back against settlement

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

Turn Key Health to Oklahoma County Jail: Staff up or we’re out: Days after a hostage situation at the Oklahoma County Jail left one inmate dead and a detention officer hospitalized, Oklahoma City-based Turn Key Health notified jail administrator Greg Williams today that the company intends to terminate its medical services contract with the jail if staffing levels are not improved. [NonDoc] Turn Key Health gave the jail trust a one-month deadline to increase the number of detention officers at the overcrowded 13-story facility just west of downtown Oklahoma City. The jail trust chair, Tricia Everest, said Monday that steps have already been taken to increase staffing. [The Oklahoman] The family of the inmate shot dead by police Saturday during a hostage situation inside the Oklahoma County jail has called for Police Chief Wade Gourley to resign and the police officers involved to face criminal charges. In a pair of news conferences Monday outside the jail and on the steps of the Oklahoma City Police Department, those close to Curtis Montrell Williams, 34, said he was killed for speaking out against poor conditions at the jail. [The Oklahoman]

  • Police: Oklahoma jail worker beaten, stabbed by inmates [AP News]
  • OKCPD officers who shot hostage suspect in OK County Jail identified [Free Press OKC]
  • Family of slain Oklahoma County Jail detainee express sorrow from loss [Free Press OKC]

Gov. Stitt celebrates move to Phase 4 of state’s vaccination plan with his own shot: The room buzzed with nervous laughter and anticipatory chatter as Gov. Kevin Stitt sat in a leather chair and rolled up his sleeve, ready to receive his COVID-19 vaccine. Stitt received his first and only dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Monday at the conclusion of a news conference to celebrate the state’s open vaccine eligibility. [Tulsa World] Stitt, a Republican who in July became the first U.S. governor to announce testing positive for COVID-19, said he hopes that receiving his shot publicly will encourage Oklahomans who may be hesitant to get vaccinated. [AP News] “I’m trying to lead by example, so that’s why I’m doing it today,” Stitt said. “We think all three vaccines are safe.” [KOSU] Polling has identified Republican men as the group least likely to get vaccinated. Stitt said he waited until more vulnerable Oklahomans were able to get vaccinated. [Public Radio Tulsa] Across Oklahoma, 1.8 million vaccine doses have been administered through state and federal allocations. As the state nears the 2 million dose mark, Stitt pointed to COVID-19 case numbers that have dramatically dropped since their worst highs in January. [The Oklahoman]

  • Experts say doctors will be key messengers in push to overcome remaining vaccine hesitancy [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Health experts against early end to Oklahoma City mask mandate [The Oklahoman] | [The Journal Record]
  • COVID-19 in Oklahoma tracker: Updates on new cases, deaths, vaccines for March 2021 [The Oklahoman]

TPS demands state board rescind vote on state funding lawsuit; Stitt commends board’s action: Tulsa Public Schools on Monday demanded that the Oklahoma State Board of Education rescind its Thursday vote that could have the practical effect of redistributing tens of millions of state dollars to charter schools. Superintendent Deborah Gist said to distract from how underfunded as a whole Oklahoma’s public school system is, state leaders are pitting different kinds of public school leaders against one another. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma City Public Schools predicts it will lose millions of dollars after the State Board of Education abruptly adopted a resolution last week to equally fund traditional public and charter schools. OKCPS was a party to the original lawsuit, and OKCPS Superintendent  McDaniel says his district wouldn’t accept the terms of the settlement if given the option he believes he’s owed. [KOSU]

Health News

OU Physicians and BlueCross and BlueShield OK’s rate dispute could force thousands to find a new doc: You might have seen the full page ad that OU Physicians took out in The Oklahoman, which argued that BlueCross and BlueShield undervalues its workers. You might have seen the dueling web pages about the dispute, on OU Health’s website and on BlueCross’ website — the latter aiming to dispel so-called myths about the fight. [KGOU]

Becky Mannel: ‘Breastfeeding is now a serious public health issue’: Becky Mannel is an international board certified lactation consultant who, in 1999, started the lactation program at the OU Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and has since come to wear “multiple hats,” as she puts it, in the lactation field. [NonDoc]

State Government News

Muslim leader gives opening prayer in Oklahoma Senate: In a historic move, an Islamic faith leader gave the opening prayer in the Oklahoma Senate on Monday. Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, led the upper chamber in prayer. [Tulsa World] Thought to be the first Muslim invocation in the Oklahoma Senate, Imad Enchassi’s prayer was years in the making. [The Oklahoman] Minutes before facing lawmakers, the senior imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City fought back tears as he spoke about the hurt he felt in 2017. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma Senate panel advances three abortion bills: The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed three abortion measures along party-line votes on Monday. House Bill 1102 would classify abortion as unprofessional conduct, subjecting a physician who performs one to at least a one-year medical license suspension. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma City loses bid to have U.S. Supreme Court revive panhandling ordinance, taxpayers’ bill could exceed $1 million: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied the city of Oklahoma City’s effort to reinstate a 2015 panhandling ordinance, leaving taxpayers on the hook for legal fees that could exceed $1 million. The nation’s highest court rejected without comment the city’s petition seeking a hearing on a ruling last August by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The Denver judges said the measure violated First Amendment free-speech protections. [The Oklahoman]

Census delays cause Oklahoma, other states to rethink redistricting: Stymied by delayed census data needed for redistricting, some states are considering postponing their 2022 primaries or turning to other population estimates to start the once-a-decade task of redrawing voting districts used for U.S. House and state legislative elections. [The Journal Record]

In pro-Trump Oklahoma, a challenge to an incumbent senator taps into election anger: By most accounts, Sen. James Lankford is the type of politician a person like Jackson Lahmeyer would seem to support. Both have been pastors and subscribe to a deeply conservative and evangelical faith tradition. Their views against abortion, defense of the 2nd Amendment, and that conservative culture is under attack from the “radical left” also align. But where Lahmeyer diverges is in his belief that Donald Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

Biden extends CDC eviction moratorium, a lifesaver for many Oklahoma renters: The Biden administration announced Monday morning that the moratorium on evictions implemented to protect renters in danger of becoming unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended through the end of June. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Tulsa to provide millions of dollars in rental assistance as federal government extends eviction moratorium yet again [Tulsa World]

Education News

Forum: OKCPS board chairperson candidates talk leadership, equity, charters: Equity in education, Pathways to Greatness and charter school funding were each addressed by candidates during Monday night’s voter forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma County ahead of the April 6 runoff for chairperson of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma Watch to moderate OKC School Board Candidate Forum [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

Seminole Nation segregating its Freedmen, violating federal law: Seminole Nation Tribal Councilor LeEtta Sampson-Osborne’s family has mourned the loss of more than 20 relatives since March of 2020. Generations of Sampson-Osborne’s ancestors and loved ones are buried at her family’s original allotments. Many tribes, including the Seminole Nation, provide burial assistance to their people who are laid to rest on tribal land. But burial assistance is just one of many services the Seminole Nation has deemed unavailable to Seminole Natives whose ancestors were once enslaved by the tribe – Seminole Freedmen. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Quote of the Day

“(I)t is just one example in which state leaders in Oklahoma are taking actions that leave us sort of fighting for crumbs. What we should do is band together and say we are not going to allow the further destruction of public schools in Oklahoma.”

-Tulsa Public School Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist, speaking about a decision by the State Board of Education to settle a 2017 lawsuit, which would effectively redistribute tens of millions of state dollars to charter schools [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of states with laws that allow for Paid Family Medical Leave

[Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]

Policy Note

To Grow Our Economy, Start with Paid Leave: A national paid leave program would enable workers to take temporary leave to recover from a serious illness, care for a newborn or ill family member, or for certain military purposes, which in turn would boost family economic security, worker productivity, the supply of labor, and overall economic growth. [CATO 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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