In The Know: Changes to Pardon and Parole Board | ‘Fierce urgency of now’ on MLK Day | Omicron’s overwhelming impact

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

The cheeseburger economics of the minimum wage: When talking about raising the minimum wage, opponents sometimes claim that a higher minimum wage will raise the prices of goods, especially in labor-intensive industries like restaurants. This is sometimes accompanied by a jab such as “enjoy paying $20 for a cheeseburger.” However, when actually analyzing the prices of cheeseburgers — specifically Big Macs — Oklahomans already pay more than diners in some of our neighboring states with higher minimum wages. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Adam Luck resigns from Pardon and Parole Board, Stitt appoints Edward Konieczny: Noting that his beliefs on the death penalty are different than Gov. Kevin Stitt’s, Adam Luck said he resigned today from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board at the governor’s request. [NonDoc] Luck wrote in his resignation letter that he was stepping down immediately so Gov. Kevin Stitt could appoint someone more aligned with his support for the death penalty. [AP News] The governor replaced Luck on the board with a retired Episcopalian bishop who promised to fulfill “my duty and responsibility impartially and in accordance with the law of Oklahoma.” [The Oklahoman

‘Fierce urgency of now’: Tulsa MLK Jr. Parade entries draw on themes of hope and action: The 43rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Parade came roaring down John Hope Franklin Boulevard on Monday morning, but in the quiet moments beforehand, a Tulsa father and his daughter perused the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial. [Tulsa World]

  • “No celebration without legislation”: Terence Crutcher Foundation pushes for change on MLK Day [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Communities come together to celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [The Oklahoman]
  • Op-ed: For King’s legacy, abolish the death penalty, demolish the death house [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • ‘Our country is at a crossroads’: The work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in OKC [The Oklahoman]
  • MLK Day: 10 years since renaming, Tulsa’s MLK Boulevard remains source of pride for former councilor [Tulsa World
  • Edmond mayor sees power in confronting racial issues [The Journal Record]

‘You shouldn’t take anything for granted’: Family loses three to COVID in nine months: More than 12,500 Oklahomans have been lost to COVID-19, and many of their families no doubt experienced the unique anguish of deciding when to let them go — when to silence the cacophony of machines working overtime to keep these husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and other beloveds on this side of the veil. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘Omicron is very, very serious’: 41,400 lives could be saved if we double booster shots [Tulsa World]
  • We fact-checked Oklahoma politicians on COVID-19 and vaccines, again [The Frontier]
  • Business shutdowns, governmental delays: Omicron surges hit Oklahoma’s tribal nations hard [The Oklahoman]
  • Rise of COVID cases in Oklahoma County impact jail and meetings as courts press on [The Oklahoman]
  • Staffing shortages affecting EMSA response times [The Journal Record]

Omicron isn’t ‘mild’ when kids get infected: ‘We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations,’ Saint Francis doctors say: The most recent surge of COVID-19 isn’t “mild” for the youngest who are getting infected, with new hospital admissions surging at the Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis. “This is becoming an increasingly worrisome state for our pediatric patients,” said Dr. John Lukeman, Warren Clinic pediatrician, in a COVID-19 response update Monday afternoon. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘A dire situation:’ Oklahoma hospitals resume reporting capacity amid omicron wave of COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • Pediatric hospital admissions for COVID-19 on the rise in Oklahoma, doctors say [The Oklahoman]
  • Area schools announce distance learning plans for Tuesday and beyond [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma has record-breaking COVID case count for third straight day with 14,403 infections [KOSU]
  • Why vaccines still offer some help after six months, why Omicron still poses a problem for hospitals and other COVID questions answered [State Impact Oklahoma]
  • 20 questions on COVID-19: What do Oklahomans need to know? [Tulsa World]

State Government News

“Nothing in either of these bills is good for the public,” Two Open Records bills draw criticism for increasing the price of accessibility: Experts say new legislation on the slate for this spring at the State Capitol would make it more expensive to access public records in Oklahoma and some information would be not available to the public at all. There are two new bills filed for this session that critics say would cut access. [KFOR]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Economic Uncertainty Exists Despite Strong Oklahoma Financial Picture: Oklahoma’s economy begins 2022 in a strong position. Dr. Robert Dauffenbach, Senior Associate Dean for Economic Development and Impact at the University of Oklahoma Price College of Business, says economic conditions are largely positive to start the year, but uncertainty over inflation, unemployment and interest rates are cause for concern. [KGOU

Editorial: Use surplus revenues to shore up mental health, education and other state services: With state revenues projected toward a significant surplus this fiscal year, it’s time for Oklahoma lawmakers and the Governor’s Office to consider some long-needed investments. We’re halfway through FY 2022, and revenues are 20% higher than projections. Thus far, that equals nearly $610 million. This represents an opportunity to put those tax dollars to work. [Tulsa World

State senator criticizes ‘shameful, dangerous’ comments from gun lobbyist: The head of the state’s most powerful gun lobby must be removed from his post after he made incendiary and threatening remarks aimed at politicians who don’t agree with his views, a powerful Republican state senator said. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

(Audio) The Source Podcast: Could Oklahoma voters legalize recreational marijuana?: Two initiative petitions could give Oklahomans the chance to vote on legalizing recreational marijuana. The first 2022 episode of The Source podcast features reporter Carmen Forman and podcast co-host Dale Denwalt discussing the latest push for recreational cannabis in Oklahoma, a state whose medical marijuana industry is positively booming. [The Oklahoman

Federal Government News

Grant to extend, improve telehealth care in Oklahoma: A federal grant announced Friday should make it easier for Oklahomans who live in rural parts of the state to access health care without having to drive to see doctors in their offices or in hospitals. A grant awarded by the Federal Communications Commission to Mercy included $776,620 intended specifically to enhance and extend telehealth care services provided by Mercy in Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma tribes seek to shape their own narrative with TV ads amid battles with Gov. Stitt: The ads begin with panoramic scenes and a common refrain, “Oklahomans understand the importance of unity.” City leaders, county sheriffs, school administrators and district health officials then describe how an Oklahoma tribe made a positive difference in their community. [The Oklahoman]

  • Leaders of some Oklahoma tribes signal they won’t back Gov. Kevin Stitt’s re-election [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt again blasts McGirt ruling, saying Martin Luther King Jr. might be ‘disgusted’ by decision [The Oklahoman]
  • Editorial: McGirt not causing sky to fall as state leaders, law enforcement claim [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County jail inmate found unresponsive in cell, dies: An Oklahoma County jail inmate died Monday after being found unresponsive in his cell, according to county jail officials. Winfred Lowe, 57, of Midwest City died Monday after being found by jail staff who were distributing medications to inmates. [AP News] This is the second death of 2022 at the Oklahoma County Jail. [OKC Free Press]

Federal judge declines to halt upcoming executions: A federal judge on Friday declined to temporarily halt the executions of two Oklahoma inmates who are scheduled to die in the coming weeks. [The Journal Record]

Ex-Inmates Get Second Chance Through New Tulsa Trade School Program: A state lawmaker from Tulsa is starting a new construction trade school for people getting out of prison. State Senator Kevin Matthews said it’s about giving people who have served their time a fair shot at re-entering society. [KOTV

Economic Opportunity

Treasury Secretary says US economy is unfair to Black people: The U.S. economy “has never worked fairly for Black Americans — or, really, for any American of color,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a speech delivered Monday, one of many by national leaders acknowledging unmet needs for racial equality on Martin Luther King Day. [The Black Wall Street Times

New low-barrier homeless shelter for those with pets to open in February: The city of Tulsa is partnering with local service agencies to establish a low-barrier homeless shelter. The City Council voted last week to approve $392,500 for the shelter, which will operate out of the old Avalon Correctional Services building at 302 W. Archer St. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Oklahoma Public School Enrollment: New Data Shows Where Students Returned: Thousands of Oklahoma students returned to public schools for the fall of 2021 – the third school year impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. There were a total of 698,696 students in pre-K through 12th grades, according to enrollment data released Wednesday by the state Department of Education. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma received only two unfounded allegations of violations of Critical Race Theory ban law: Oklahoma’s State Department of Education fielded a pair of allegations that schools violated the state’s so-called Critical Race Theory ban last fall. Both of the unfounded allegations accused schools of violating the rules created under House Bill 1775. [KGOU

Oklahoma Local News

Edmond mayor sees power in confronting racial issues: Discussions about race can be so uncomfortable and polarizing, business leaders may be tempted to avoid the topic in the workplace. But leaders who confront issues of race have tremendous power to effect change in their communities – and in the process identify, attract and retain top talent, say the organizers of an initiative fostering those discussions. [The Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

Considering the challenges and crises now confronting the state, stinginess is not a virtue. Carefully considered investments in the state are needed now.

—Quote of the day from the Tulsa World Editorial Board on investing surplus revenue in essential shared services like public education, health care, social services, and infrastructure [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

12 years, 5 months, 25 days

Time that has passed since Oklahoma’s minimum wage has been adjusted, when the federal minimum wage was increased on July 24, 2009.

[Source: Department of Labor]

Policy Note

Twenty-one states raised their minimum wages on New Year’s Day: On January 1, minimum wages went up in 21 states. The increases range from a $0.22 inflation adjustment in Michigan to a $1.50 per hour raise in Virginia, the equivalent of an annual increase ranging from $458 to $3,120 for a full-time, full-year minimum wage worker. [Economic Policy Institute]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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