In The Know: Coming spike in evictions? | Expanding the School Counselor Corps | Struggle to find childcare

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

Is it good for the children? (Capitol Update): Several years ago, some business and community organizations in Kansas decided to urge policymakers in making decisions to ask the question, “Is it good for the children?” The question in some political circles might bring hoots of scorn as not hard edged enough for serious public policy. On the other hand, we have a governor who talks about making Oklahoma a “top 10” state. We have a way to go. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

How Oklahoma evictions might spike after July: A federal freeze on most evictions that was enacted last year is scheduled to expire July 31, after the Biden administration extended the date by a month. The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, has been the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and have fallen months behind on their rent. [AP News]

The long, winding road to Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma: More than a decade after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, low-income Oklahomans are about to benefit for the first time from one of the health-care reform’s signature provisions. Starting July 1, Medicaid expansion will take effect in the state. Estimates show more than 200,0000 previously ineligible adults will be able to enroll in the state’s Medicaid program, known as SoonerCare. [Oklahoma Watch]

‘Kids are suffering’: School Counselor Corps to expand mental health services: On the first day of summer school for Okmulgee Public Schools, high school principal LuVona Copeland noticed multiple students exhibiting signs of anxiety. On day two, a few more students were showing signs. [NonDoc] OK Policy: The School Counselor Corps can help Oklahoma students, who experience trauma at higher rates than students in any other state. 

Oklahomans struggle to find daycare as centers closed during the pandemic: As state officials ratchet up pressure on Oklahomans to return to the workforce, some families are struggling to find child care in a post-pandemic world. Oklahoma now has 200 fewer licensed child care facilities than in 2019, according to records obtained by CNHI News. Experts said the average Oklahoma child care facility is licensed to care for 7 to 10 children. [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma sees uptick in COVID-19 cases as faster-spreading delta variant alarms officials: Oklahoma is seeing COVID-19 cases tick up again, a trend that’s alarming health leaders in the state as the more transmissible delta variant is taking hold in parts of the country. As of Wednesday, there were more than 1,500 active cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, according to the state Health Department. That’s about a 14% increase from last week. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma COVID case count rise in June prompts strong push for sequencing as Delta variant emerges [Tulsa World]
  • For kids too young for a COVID-19 shot, what’s safe this summer? Oklahoma doctors weigh in [The Oklahoman]
  • Virus update: 9 charts that show how Oklahoma is coping with COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma is reporting an average of 197 infections per day in the past week. [KOSU]

Health News

Northwest Oklahoma is a ‘maternity desert’: Teirna Adair was six minutes from the hospital when she gave birth to her daughter in the parking lot of Sunset Plaza. She and her husband, Eric Cantrell, already had driven almost an hour from their home to deliver their third child. [Enid News & Eagle]

State Government News

Oklahoma passes $1.5 billion in marijuana sales. But how is the marijuana tax getting used?: Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry has exploded. Oklahomans spent more than $1.5 billion on medical marijuana since it became legal to buy in 2018, according to an analysis of the latest tax collection figures from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. That level of retail means the state collected more than $110 million from the 7% marijuana tax, and another $138 million was levied in state and local sales taxes, according to the most recent data that includes May 2020. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmaker among those concerned for marijuana patients after recent court ruling: An appellate court’s opinion that the odor of cannabis establishes probable cause for criminal activity has some, including at least one state lawmaker, concerned about law enforcement going forward. Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, said the ruling related to a 2019 Tulsa County traffic stop “goes to show Oklahoma still has a long way to go in working on regulations for the legal medical marijuana industry.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma jobless rate drops; new stipend to be available: The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission on Friday reported a drop in the state’s jobless rate in May, even as the numbers of initial unemployment claims and the moving average of initial claims rise. [AP News]

Pandemic communications upgrade lets Stitt reach residents, national audiences more easily: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office used $70,000 in COVID-19 stimulus funds to install a dedicated audio and video network connection at the Oklahoma state Capitol so the governor could more easily address the public in the event of an emergency. Now, Stitt uses that technology to do live local and national TV interviews, including a growing number with conservative news outlet Fox News. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma is going to levy taxes and fees on electric car owners. Here’s why: Faced with a future where cars need less (or no) gasoline, Oklahoma will collect additional taxes and fees from people who drive electric cars. The decision to levy taxes and fees on electric vehicle drivers was made by legislators is in an effort to recapture lost revenues from the state’s gasoline tax. [The Oklahoman]

Q&A: Mr. Stitt goes to Washington in ‘best trip’ yet: After Monday’s meeting of the state Board of Equalization, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt answered questions from reporters about a variety of topics, including state financial matters, his recent trip to Washington, and whether he’d like to go back in 2025 as president. [NonDoc]

Toll collectors to be reassigned as turnpikes transition to cashless: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is working with employees losing jobs as the system goes cashless. The agency is phasing out its option to pay tolls with cash, replacing that with a PlatePay system in the next four to five years. [Tulsa World] OTA Executive Director and State Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz said safety is the primary factor behind phasing out cash. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

How the delayed Census has affected redistricting: Oklahoma’s legislature also needed to pass new maps before the end of its legislative session this spring to avoid sending the mapmaking process to a bipartisan commission. So like Illinois’s legislature, Oklahoma’s also employed ACS data to draw new lines and passed them in May, with the caveat that lawmakers might amend them in a special session after receiving full redistricting data. [Five Thirty Eight]

U.S. Supreme Court backs refineries in biofuel waiver dispute: The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday made it easier for small oil refineries to win exemptions from a federal law requiring increasing levels of ethanol and other renewable fuels to be blended into their products, a major setback for biofuel producers. The justices overturned a lower court decision that had faulted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for giving refineries in Wyoming, Utah and Oklahoma extensions on waivers from renewable fuel standard (RFS) requirements under a law called the Clean Air Act even though the companies’ prior exemptions had expired. [Reuters]

Tribal Nations News

CNHS leaders encourage citizens to apply for SoonerCare under new Medicaid expansion: For Cherokee Nation citizens, CN Health System leaders are encouraging citizens to sign up for benefits and have been working to get citizens signed up in the month of June. Officials said the Medicaid expansion allows citizens additional access to health care. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Rocky Barrett re-elected to 10th term as Citizen Potawatomi Nation chairman: The Citizen Potawatomi Nation Election Committee released the unofficial results of its 2021 tribal election Saturday, which included the race for tribal chairman and CPN Legislature elections for District 1 and District 4, which lie outside Oklahoma. [NonDoc]

‘See us as people:’ Osage citizens work with ‘Flower Moon’ filmmakers to ensure authenticity, accuracy: The Water Bird Gallery pops with color as the history and culture of the Osage Nation combine in a charmingly beautiful mix of offerings. In the middle of the store is owner Danette Daniels, making friends out of new visitors. She’s a chatty, self-styled ambassador welcoming newcomers to her hometown and tribal nation. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Police reform panel makes oversight proposals: Members of the mayor’s police reform task force say police department oversight should be independent, transparent and open to more community members, with the power and resources to conduct thorough investigations. [The Oklahoman]

Highway Patrol protocols for reporting serious encounters and deadly force leave gaps: In the most serious of law enforcement encounters, Oklahoma Highway Patrol protocols leave opportunities for gaps in reporting and documentation that invite questions about accountability and transparency. The Tulsa World filed litigation against OHP in October to compel the agency to adhere to a lawsuit the newspaper won in 2010 in which the state courts declared use-of-force records to be public and mandated their release. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City police to release video sooner: Oklahoma City police will release body-worn camera footage of many “critical” incidents such as police shootings within 10 days, according to an order issued by the chief. The new policy fills a gap that has facilitated police department decisions to keep video of controversial incidents from the public for months, despite calls for transparency. [The Oklahoman]

As policing becomes ‘a job less than a career,’ retention challenges paramount for Tulsa agencies: “It’s never been a more difficult time to be a police officer.” Jeff Downs, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, was quoting a speaker at a recent FOP conference, but he said he agrees. Law enforcement agencies across the nation are losing manpower to resignations among younger officers, making recruitment even more important amid the challenge of finding applicants. [Tulsa World]

  • As market boom helps surge of retiring officers, Tulsa finds police jobs harder to fill [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Grand reopening: As museums open and live performances return, local economy begins recovery: Tulsa Ballet was preparing for the opening night performance of its final production of the season when the company received news for which it had been waiting 15 months. No masks. [Tulsa World]

July 4 travel expected to be up 40% from last year: July 4 holiday travel is expected to increase 40% compared to last year, reaching the second-highest travel volume on record for the period, the AAA auto club said. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Thousands of Oklahoma kids stayed in virtual school. What will they do next?: All Oklahoma districts welcomed students back for face-to-face classes at least one day a week before the end of the school year. But some students learned from their home from the first day of school to the last. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Oaklawn search ends with exhumation of 19 sets of remains; at least one bears signs of violence: Archeological work ended Friday at Oaklawn Cemetery with those searching for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 race massacre reporting the exhumation of 19 sets of remains, one of which showed obvious signs of trauma. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Development, rather than ridership, a measure of success for Oklahoma City streetcar [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa Transit survey explores public interest in new service options [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Out and proud’: OKC Pride Alliance show goes on despite canceled parade [The Oklahoman] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Celebration of Pride propelled renewed enthusiasm and commitment to broader community support [Tulsa World]
  • Western Heights superintendent suspended, school district in turmoil [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I think finding child care right now is quite difficult. I anticipate what you’ll see is more parents, maybe dropping out of the workforce, particularly women.”

-Rachel Proper, president of the Oklahoma Child Care Association, speaking about the shortage of daycares in Oklahoma as a result of the pandemic [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma workers impacted by the state cutting off federal unemployment benefits.

[Source: The Century Foundation]

Policy Note

Fact Sheet: What’s at Stake As States Cancel Federal Unemployment Benefits: On May 4, 2021, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte announced that his state was backing out of federal pandemic unemployment benefits, including the $300 per week supplement (PUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for gig workers and others not eligible for UI, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) for the long-term unemployed. Governors from South Carolina, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Indiana, Idaho, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Wyoming, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and North Dakota quickly followed suit and more could follow. This fact sheet outlines the damage that these governors will inflict upon their most vulnerable populations (especially workers of color) and their economy by making this rash decision, and the potential harm to the recovery if more of the nation’s governors were to take a similar step. [The Century Foundation]

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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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