In The Know: Convulsions during Oklahoma’s 1st execution in 7 years | New record for emergency certified teachers | 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

Condemned man went into convulsions during Oklahoma’s first execution in nearly seven years: John Marion Grant went into “full-body convulsions” then vomited on himself twice as he was put to death on Thursday after a last-minute U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for Oklahoma to conduct its first execution in nearly seven years. The 60-year-old convicted killer went into “about two dozen full body convulsions” when midazolam, the first drug in Oklahoma’s three-drug lethal injection protocol, entered his system, according to Sean Murphy, a reporter with the Associated Press who witnessed Thursday’s execution. [The Frontier] Someone vomiting while being executed is rare, according to observers. [AP News] The execution came less than two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-3 to vacate a stay of execution for John Marion Grant. Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections administered a lethal concoction of drugs that made Grant the first man executed by the state in more than six years. [NonDoc] Up next is high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones. [The Oklahoman] The stay for Jones was also dissolved Thursday by the Supreme Court. [Tulsa World]

Teacher shortage milestone: New record set for nonaccredited teachers given emergency certification in Oklahoma: Oklahoma public schools’ reliance on filling teaching vacancies with teachers who are not accredited for the position has reached a record high and is likely to continue climbing during the current academic year. On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved another 254 emergency teacher certifications for school districts that reported having no certified candidates to hire. That brings the year-to-date total since June 1 to 3,428, exceeding the state’s previous record of 3,321, set in 2019-20. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma’s recent COVID-19 hospitalization spike created a strain on oxygen — and not just for hospitals: Throughout late August and early September, Oklahoma’s COVID-19 hospitalization figures rivaled those of the post-Christmas surge. Oklahoma was back to shipping patients out of state because of capacity issues, which ranged from nursing shortages to a simple lack of empty beds. One resulting strain kind of missed the spotlight: oxygen. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

The Source podcast: Turmoil at the Oklahoma health department: Oklahoman reporter Carmen Forman joins the podcast this week to talk about a recent court settlement over birth certificates and how, at least for now, Oklahoma can recognize someone as being non-binary. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Report: First-time claims for state unemployment increased nearly 41%: Initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in Oklahoma last week increased at their fastest rate since May, climbing nearly 41% since the prior week, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 3,077 workers filed first-time claims for unemployment assistance for the week ending Saturday with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. [Tulsa World]

Judge briefly blocks parts of Oklahoma law limiting protests: An Oklahoma federal judge has temporarily blocked parts of a new state law that makes it a misdemeanor for people to unlawfully obstruct a public street or highway during a protest. U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron also put on hold Wednesday a provision that could result in fines of up $50,000 for groups or organizations “found to be a conspirator” with someone who violates any one of a number of state laws pertaining to riots and unlawful assemblies. [AP News]

Health commissioner resigns, abortion bills halted and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the resignation of Health Commissioner Lance Frye a day after his agency settled a lawsuit allowing nonbinary Oklahomans to the gender on their birth certificates and an appellate court puts executions on hold again after granting stays for two death row inmates. [KOSU]

Study: Oklahoma among nation’s least safe states: Oklahoma is the fifth least safe state in the nation – ahead of only Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana – according to a study released this week by the personal-finance website WalletHub. WalletHub compared the 50 states across 55 metrics in five categories. The data set ranges from the percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is one metric where Oklahoma ranked high, eighth best with 3.7% unemployment. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

2020 Census: Big cities grew and became more diverse, especially among their youth: In 2000, the white population represented over half of residents in 25 of these 50 cities; this fell to 17 cities in 2010 and 14 cities in 2020. Newly designated minority-white cities since 2010 are Jacksonville, Fla., Tulsa, Okla., and Oklahoma City. Yet even the “whitest” big cities in 2020, Portland, Ore., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Omaha, Neb. were less than 70% white. [Brookings]

Tribal Nations News

‘A great woman’: Female tribal leaders praise planned Wilma Mankiller quarter: The design has been chosen for a new quarter honoring Wilma Mankiller. It will be the third coin of the American Women Quarters program, which will begin circulating in 2022. The selection of Mankiller, who was the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, was announced in June by the U.S. Mint. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Residents hope to remain center of continued development on OKC’s east side: As growth progresses in north east Oklahoma City, residents and black business owners are continuing to push developers and city officials to ensure they have the right intentions. During a Tuesday town hall hosted by Ward 7 City Councilwoman Nikki Nice, multiple recently completed, proposed and in progress projects throughout the neighborhood were discussed. [The Oklahoman]

Primary care services are coming soon to former Sequoyah Elementary, now a health center: Primary care services are coming soon inside what was once an elementary school in northwest Oklahoma City, the latest development in the transformation of the building into a community health and wellness center. [The Oklahoman]

Close to $200K in affordable housing assistance approved for north Tulsa rental home project: The Tulsa Authority for Economic Development on Thursday OK’d negotiating an agreement that would offer a local redeveloper $187,000 in affordable housing assistance for a rental-home project. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Aviation workers protest vaccine mandates at American Airlines, Spirit AeroSystems: Protesters against airline COVID-19 vaccine mandates and President Joe Biden stood firm Thursday afternoon, just as Oklahoma Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Sherwood instructed earlier this week. [Tulsa World]

Education News

State board lifts certificate suspension of former Ninnekah High School principal: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday lifted the emergency suspension of former Ninnekah High School principal David Pitts’ educator certificate, pending a formal revocation hearing. [NonDoc]

Tulsa school board member seeking financial audit of district: A member of the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education is asking the state auditor to take a look at the district’s financial records. Claiming that he has been denied access to the records, District 6 representative Jerry Griffin made a public request Wednesday afternoon for State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd to conduct a forensic audit of the district’s finances for the last six years. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The concerns are displacement and in five years, will you still be able to tell that we were ever here? We’ve seen it several times. You drive through the Innovation District, you drive through Deep Deuce, there’s no way to even know that those were prominent Black communities with prominent Black businesses.”

—Jabee Williams, an east side resident, business owner, artist and activist. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$2.1 billion

If Oklahoma had maintained its state and local taxes at its 2004 level, the state budget would have been $2.1 billion higher in 2017 than it actually was.

[Source: A Better Path Forward by Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

State Income Taxes and Racial Equity: Narrowing Racial Income and Wealth Gaps with State Personal Income Taxes: Fully addressing disparities will require a concerted effort across policy areas at all levels of government. This report focuses on one of many areas where state governments can advance racial equity: personal income tax reform. Specifically, this report recommends reforming the tax treatment of investment, business, and retirement income as well as homeownership and various tax credits for families. [ITEP]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.