In The Know: COVID overwhelming state hospitals | Broadband expansion | Lack of data to address anti-LGBTQ2S+ discrimination

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

A lack of data hinders policy efforts to address anti-LGBTQ2S+ discrimination: Data helps LGBTQ2S+ advocates inform policymakers about the prevalence of anti-LGBTQ2S+ discrimination, where that discrimination occurs, and how it impacts the lives of LGBTQ2S+ people. Data allows LGBTQ2S+ advocates to present lawmakers with evidence that this discrimination is pervasive and are not merely isolated incidents of hatred; as such, this requires legislative or administrative solutions. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy

Health News

While omicron symptoms are mild for some, COVID is again overwhelming OKC hospital staff, ERs: Oklahoma City hospitals are struggling to stay afloat again as another COVID-19 surge has taken hold. Each wave of the pandemic has had its own flavor, hospital leaders said in interviews this week. This one has so far been marked by a sudden rush of cases driven by the ultra-contagious omicron variant, emergency rooms overwhelmed by people seeking out COVID-19 tests, and worsened staffing troubles. [The Oklahoman]

  • Don’t go to the ER just for a COVID-19 test, OKC hospitals say. Here’s where to find one [The Oklahoman]
  • COVID ‘continues to break the rules’: OU epidemiologist ‘a little uncomfortable’ about pandemic’s future [Tulsa World]
  • Editorial: Oklahoma’s weakness on COVID opens door to surge of omicron variant [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
  • Legal arguments about vaccine mandate more about who made the rule than the rule itself, local lawyer says [Tulsa World]
  • Religious leader in Tulsa supports COVID protections, condemns Jan. 6 violence [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma GOP lawmaker to introduce Texas-style abortion bill: A Republican lawmaker from Oklahoma has announced plans to introduce a bill mirroring a Texas law that has become the nation’s biggest curb to abortion in nearly 50 years. [AP News] The Texas law, which is still being litigated, allows private citizens with no direct connection to the woman or fetus involved to sue anyone they think has facilitated an abortion for a woman who is past about six weeks of pregnancy. [Tulsa World]

State & Local Government News

Broadband expansion slow-moving, but ‘generational change’ is coming: High-speed internet can be hard to find in Okfuskee County, which is why all 25 of the portable internet hotspots offered at the local library in Okemah are regularly checked out with dozens more on a waiting list. The library’s six computers are also popular with residents whose only connection to the internet is often their phone. [The Oklahoman]

O’Donnell exits leadership, Stitt and Thompson say tag agent bill was House priority: Criminally indicted Rep. Terry O’Donnell completed the Oklahoma County booking process at the Midwest City Jail on Thursday and released a statement blaming “political operatives” with a “personal vendetta” for prosecuting him and his wife “to discredit our family’s character and destroy our reputation.” [NonDoc] State Rep. Terry O’Donnell said in a statement late Thursday that he will resign Feb. 2 from his position as House speaker pro tempore while he and his wife Teresa, who was also indicted on multiple felony counts in connection with the alleged scheme, fight the charges. [AP News]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Record Revenues Available For Appropriation In 2022 Legislative Session: The State Board of Equalization has certified that more than 10 billion dollars is available for the legislature and governor to spend in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. [KGOU]

Listen Frontier: ‘I don’t recognize what a lot of people on the national level consider to be conservatism anymore’:On this edition of Listen Frontier, Holt sits down with me to talk about, among other things: Oklahoma City’s voter base, how he labels himself politically, how long he wants to be mayor, his American Indian heritage, and his thought process behind which topics he chooses to weigh in on. [The Frontier]

Federal Government News

$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has Greenwood stakeholders eying part of Interstate 244 removal: Julius Pegues wants something done about Interstate 244. Born in 1935 — just 14 years after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — the longtime staple of the Greenwood District often laments about the northern leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop that wiped out an estimated 3,000 homes and 500 businesses by the time it was erected. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

McGirt arguments renewed, with a political backdrop: When the U.S. Supreme Court considered, in its 2018 and 2019 terms, whether a major part of Oklahoma was still an Indian reservation, there was much discussion about upending the criminal justice system and the implications for taxes and regulation. Now, as justices ponder whether to review their 2020 ruling, in McGirt v Oklahoma, that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished, they are hearing those same concerns, but this time with an added political slant. [The Oklahoman]

  • Key developments in the landmark ‘McGirt v. Oklahoma’ case [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma cases front and center for Supreme Court [The Journal Record]

Most released due to McGirt have been charged either federally or tribally, Tulsa World analysis finds: As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether to revisit its landmark McGirt ruling, new Oklahoma data indicates that the decision has caused the release of 235 inmates from prison, about a quarter of whom were released directly to the street with no federal or tribal charges filed, according to state records. [Tulsa World]

Tribal communities welcome federal relief funds to help ease housing issues: Affordable housing is in short supply on this country’s Indian reservations, just as it is just about everywhere else. There’s a big federal block grant for tribal housing, but it’s never been enough to meet the need. Funding has been essentially flat for decades until now. It’s growing because of federal pandemic relief dollars. [KOSU]

Reggie Wassana: ‘Times are changing’ on blood quantum: Reggie Wassana, governor of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, was recently reelected to his second term in November. During that same election cycle, the Cheyenne-Arapaho citizenry voted to amend the tribal nation’s constitution to decrease the blood quantum requirement for citizenship from one-fourth to one-eighth. [NonDoc]

Voting & Election News

Inside A Potentially One-Sided Race for State Superintendent: Erika Wright has been a Democrat and a Republican, and, until recently, was registered Independent. “I tend to vote for people versus party,” she said. She made another switch last week — back to Republican — specifically to vote for state superintendent of public instruction in the primary. [Oklahoma Watch]

Criminal Justice News

Law enforcement in Oklahoma’s marijuana industry could change drastically in 2022. Here’s why: One of the biggest challenges Oklahoma faced in 2021 with its nascent medical marijuana industry was enforcement. It was a both a law problem and a human problem. The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority had limits in how it could enforce the rules. And even if they had that power, the agency didn’t have enough inspectors to visit every cannabis business. OMMA is closer to realizing its staffing goals in 2022, however. [The Oklahoman]

2021’s homicides lesser in number but greater in complexity, detectives say: The Tulsa Police Department ended 2021 with more open homicide cases than is typical, but detectives say that’s due to the cases being anything but typical. [Tulsa World]

Three Oklahoma County detention officers publicly fired at end of 2021: In what may be a sign of tightening standards at the Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC) or Jail, three detention officers were fired, all in the last week of 2021. The news media were made aware of the firings at the time. [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

‘People are starting to get back up on their feet’: Eviction trend seems promising for Tulsa: After an initial surge in the weeks after a federal moratorium ended, eviction cases seem to be trending downward in Tulsa, where more than 6,700 families have received rental assistance in the past year, local officials said. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City apartment residents say they have lived without heat since September: Wearing gloves and a winter jacket, Cathy Chatmon tries to warm up her unit at Oklahoma City’s Foxcroft Apartments using her oven and a space heater. [The Oklahoman]

Red Cross already on pace to exceed 2021 home fire response numbers in Oklahoma: Just a week into the new year, the American Red Cross of Oklahoma has responded to more than 50 fires at single family and multifamily residences combined, the agency said. That number includes a Thursday fire at a Tulsa County home where a man died. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Housing wholesalers now facing scrutiny: No-fuss offers to buy your house that arrive in the mail and are posted along busy streets have become common in the current sellers’ market. These enticements come from real estate wholesalers who want to sign a purchase contract and then sell it to a third party for a profit. Until recently, the practice was unregulated in Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Several area schools to be in distance learning Monday: Officials with Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Union public schools announced Sunday that several of their campuses will be at least partially in distance learning Monday. [Tulsa World]

  • Staff sickness causes OKCPS to add two more schools to all-virtual list [OKC Free Press]

Western Heights superintendent Monty Guthrie resigns, former teacher Brayden Savage appointed: Still in the midst of a turnaround, Western Heights Public Schools faces a leadership turnover with its top administrator announcing Friday his departure from the troubled school system. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Over 100 City of OKC employees quarantined with COVID, 40 in OKCPD [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“It would be like going from the Stone Age to the 21st Century.”

-Clifton Peters, who works at the Okemah library, about the impacts widespread broadband would have in the community. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of LGBTQ2S+ Oklahomans [Movement Advancement Project]

Policy Note

State and Federal Officials Failing LGBTQ Community in Data Collection: Failure to include sexual orientation and gender identity in demographic surveys brings about real and dire consequences for LGBTQ Americans. It is long past time that officials in every level of government include all marginalized communities, including LGBTQ Americans, in all relevant data collection efforts. [Human Rights Campaign]

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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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