In The Know: COVID hospitalizations topple records | State carries out first execution of 2022 | Grocery sales tax | 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.

New from OK Policy

The Oklahoma Policy Institute’s 8th State Budget Summit: If you missed OK Policy’s 2022 State Budget Summit, we have made a recording available on our website along with resources that were referenced during the event. You can also find a recording on our YouTube channel. Learn about the state’s current fiscal circumstances, what we might expect during this year’s legislative session, and where we can improve OK’s budget and tax system. [2022 State Budget Summit Recording and Materials]

Policy Matters: Budget process should be inclusive, deliberative: When it comes to crafting the annual state budget in Oklahoma, the process seems to come down to, “What do we have left?” rather than, “What could we accomplish if we had the resources?” Or at least that’s how the budget process seems to play out, because in reality very few people – even most lawmakers – aren’t involved in drafting the state budget. But as is the case with many of Oklahoma’s foibles, it doesn’t have to be this way. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record

Oklahoma News

State of Oklahoma carries out Donald Grant execution: Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced this morning that the state had completed the execution of Donald Grant, a man with a history of mental illness who admitted to committing a 2001 double murder in Del City. Grant becomes the third man Oklahoma has put to death since resuming executions late last year. [NonDoc

  • Oklahoma first to execute in 2022, kills Donald Grant [The Black Wall Street Times
  • Oklahoma executes Donald Grant, the third death row inmate to be killed since the state resumed capital punishment [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma kills schizophrenic man in first execution of 2022 [Public Radio Tulsa
  • Oklahoma AG says ‘zero complications’ in nation’s first 2022 execution of OSP inmate Grant [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
  • Oklahoma executes man for 2001 slayings of 2 hotel workers [Tulsa World
  • Governor Stitt has the power to stop executions [The Black Wall Street Times
  • Death penalty opponents gather following Donald Grant execution [The Oklahoman

‘We have never seen death like this before’: Providers overwhelmed, COVID hospitalizations keep toppling records in Oklahoma: The human toll of the pandemic on health care providers can be as overwhelming as COVID-19 is right now to Oklahoma hospitals — and the answer to both harms is vaccination, a local doctor said Thursday. COVID-19 hospitalizations are at all-time highs in Tulsa County and Oklahoma with the state’s latest data release Thursday, toppling records set in COVID’s original and delta variant waves. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma breaks all-time record for COVID hospitalizations [KGOU
  • State, county health departments will move away from contact tracing for COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]  
  • When will COVID-19 cases peak in Oklahoma? Here’s what our sewage can tell us [The Oklahoman
  • Oklahoma’s rate of COVID hospitalizations worse than ever as data indicates latest peak is ending [Tulsa World]

State lawmakers consider eliminating grocery sales taxes: Emma Morris, a health care and revenue analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the best bet for lawmakers would be to strengthen and increase the existing sales tax relief credit, which also is known as the “grocery tax credit.” In place for more than 30 years, the credit is intended to offset sales taxes for groceries in low-income households by providing a $40 tax rebate per household member, she said. It applies to those who make $50,000 or less. [CNHI via The Duncan Banner

Health News

Medical school addressing need for rural physicians: As the inaugural class at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation prepares to start clinical rotations this July, Dr. Natasha Bray, interim dean for OSU-COM’s Cherokee Nation Campus, is excited to see the results of years of planning.  “It’s fun to see things that you have theoretically talked about for a lot of years begin to become real for a student.”  [The Journal Record

OHCA: 150k Oklahomans to lose Medicaid coverage after pandemic: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority says 150,000 people will lose SoonerCare over the next approximately year and a half. CEO Kevin Corbett told state lawmakers during an appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday that OHCA received more than a billion federal dollars during the pandemic but that money came with requirements. [Public Radio Tulsa

State Government News

State Board of Education hears report on HB 1775, recommendations for Western Heights: Two complaints alleging violations of HB 1775, which bans the teaching of certain concepts about race and gender in Oklahoma public schools, were received by the State Department of Education between September and December. During today’s State Board of Education meeting, the general counsel for the Board of Education, Brad Clark, said the complaints came from Tulsa and Talequah Public Schools and have been dismissed by the OSDE. [NonDoc

  • Public comment period for Oklahoma’s new rules on talking about race in the classroom available through next week [KGOU
  • School board candidate lashes out at LGBTQ books, Critical Race Theory [The Black Wall Street Times

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court could disrupt OG&E’s $760 million storm cost plan. Here’s how: A former state legislator is asking Oklahoma’s Supreme Court to delay considering whether or not bonds can be sold that Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers would retire as a way to handle the regulated utility’s fuel costs during February’s winter storm. [The Oklahoman] Customers of Oklahoma Natural Gas will be paying an extra $7.80 per month for the next 25 years under a plan approved Tuesday by the three-member Oklahoma Corporation Commission. [Oklahoma Watch

  • (Audio) Higher gas bills, McGirt v. Oklahoma, Congressman Lucas challenger and more [KOSU]

Amid a housing industry boom, renters are paying more for substandard homes: In Oklahoma, two new bills would change the game for renters seeking repairs. A bill in the Oklahoma Legislature would make landlord retaliation illegal, and another would improve the outlook for renters forced to make urgent repairs themselves. [Big If True]

Oklahoma lawmaker pushes for adult-sized changing tables at welcome centers: Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC, has pushed legislation that would make visiting Oklahoma Tourism Information Centers easier for travelers living with disabilities. [KOCO

Republican lawmakers file dozens of bills to curb vaccine mandates in Oklahoma: While similar proposals didn’t get a hearing last year, GOP lawmakers are hoping a more nuanced approach will help their legislation gain traction. [The Frontier]  

Oklahoma Senate leader wants to ban abortions 30 days after a woman’s last period: The Republican leader of the Oklahoma Senate wants to prohibit abortions 30 days after the start of a pregnant woman’s last menstrual cycle. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma bill would allow voters to vote out unopposed incumbents: A state lawmaker filed a bill that aims to give Oklahomans a voice regardless of whether an incumbent legislator has an opponent. [KOKH

Lawmaker seeks $300 million Race Massacre restitution fund: In legislation filed last week, state Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, is asking for a $300 million “Tulsa Race Massacre Victims’ Compensation Revolving Fund” to dispense “reparations for damages to persons and property” during the events of May 31-June 1, 1921. [Tulsa World]

Prater outlines investigation as indicted O’Donnell blames ‘woke left,’ hints at Hunter history: Indicted with his wife Dec. 17 on allegations that he amended a tag agency law for their family’s direct financial benefit, Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa) has blamed his prosecution on “Democrats” and “Oklahoma City operatives.” [NonDoc

Federal Government News

Biden confirmed he will nominate a “qualified” Black woman to Supreme Court: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has heard the noise and heeded the call. Now, he’s stepping down, making way for President Biden to follow through on one of many campaign promises. [The Black Wall Street Times

Tribal Nations News

Merger creates largest tribally owned bank in the U.S.: When First National Bank & Trust, owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, entered into an agreement to acquire MidWest Community Financial Corp. and its wholly owned subsidiary, The First State Bank, in June, the deal made First National Bank & Trust the largest tribally owned bank in the United States.  Now, several months into the acquisition, which represented Oklahoma’s largest merger-and-acquisition transaction in banking since 2016, First National is already anticipating that it will become a “billion-dollar bank” within the next 24 months. [The Journal Record

Voting and Election News

Poll workers are needed for upcoming election: The help wanted sign is up at the Tulsa County Election Board. Area school board and bond elections are set for February 8th. Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Gwen Freeman says she has, as of last count, over 90 openings. There will be 222 precincts open that day and each precinct will need three election officials. [Public Radio Tulsa

Oklahoma City mayor election central: All about the 2022 candidates and more: As the Oklahoma City mayoral campaign heads toward the Feb. 8 election date, candidates are increasingly making their positions known. After the Feb. 8 general election, if no candidate receives a majority vote, a runoff will be held April 5 between the two candidates receiving the most votes. [The Oklahoman

Criminal Justice News

Ten criminal justice bills worth tracking this legislative session: Bills aimed at easing the reentry process for Oklahomans incarcerated received strong bipartisan support in 2021.  The Senate and House unanimously voted to enact the Sarah Stitt Act, which directs the Department of Corrections to ensure prisoners obtain state-issued identification cards prior to their release. [Oklahoma Watch

In case of stillborn baby, appeals court orders judge to consider child neglect charge: Over the objections of the presiding judge, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday took the highly unusual step of telling a district court to consider a new charge against a defendant because the original charge was dismissed. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

State’s unemployment claims continue to drop: Initial unemployment claims in the state declined by nearly a quarter from the previous number during the week ending Saturday, according to a government report. [Tulsa World

Tulsa’s rental assistance to ‘pause’ applications and tackle current requests: After distributing nearly $34 million in less than a year, Tulsa’s federally funded rental assistance program will stop taking new applications to avoid running out of money before meeting all the existing requests, officials announced Wednesday. [Tulsa World

Economy & Business News

Further diversification of local economy among goals for 2022 Tulsa Regional Chamber chair: Tulsa’s road to success in the next decade must be paved, in part, by economic diversification. That was among the messages conveyed Wednesday by Hillcrest President and CEO Kevin Gross, who was inaugurated as 2022 board chair of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. [Tulsa World]

Fortune 500 companies invest in wind in Oklahoma: Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s, Walmart and Starbucks working to cut “carbon footprints” are among corporate investors in renewable energy being produced in rural Oklahoma. [The Journal Record

Education News

Teaching tech to teachers is a STEM need: Workers in most fields increasingly must be able to use technology to do their jobs. The growing need for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education can be challenging for teachers trying to prepare their students for the future job market. [The Journal Record

Quote of the Day

“(Eliminating the grocery sales tax altogether) would harm Oklahoma’s ability to provide the public services upon which we all rely, especially considering the considerable cuts in state revenue during the past two decades.”

– Emma Morris, a health care and revenue analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking on efforts to eliminate the grocery sales tax [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s corporate income tax rate, which is tied for the second lowest in the nation with Missouri.

[Source: Tax Foundation]

OK Policy Report: Focus on Transparency is a new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget. 

Policy Note

Boosting Incomes and Improving Tax Equity with State Earned Income Tax Credits in 2021: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is designed to boost low-wage workers’ incomes and offset some of the taxes they pay, providing the opportunity for lower-income families to move toward meaningful economic security. The federal EITC has kept millions of Americans out of poverty since its enactment in the mid-1970s. Over the past several decades, the effectiveness of the EITC has been amplified as many states have enacted and expanded their own credits. [ITEP]

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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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