In The Know: Defense Sec: National Guard must get vaccinated | Capitol Update | People Have the Power event tonight

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

Together Oklahoma hosts People Have the Power watch party: Katie Powers, with Together Oklahoma, the outreach and advocacy arm of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, gives details about an upcoming an upcoming watch party. People Have the Power watch party will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, both online and in-person. Those interested can join the virtual party by going to the Together Oklahoma website, the OK Policy website or any of their social media channels. [KSWO]

  • Together Oklahoma and OK Policy will be hosting the “People Have the Power” live virtual event tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.) along with in-person watch parties throughout the state. For more information, visit the Together Oklahoma events page.

Updating state’s drug court statute could reduce overdose deaths (Capitol Update): The Center for Disease Control released figures recently showing that 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose between April 2020 and April 2021, nearly 30 percent more than the previous year. Of those, 798 people died in Oklahoma, a 20 percent increase. According to published reports in the Tulsa World, Dr. Jason Beaman, director of training and education at OSU’s National Center for Wellness and Recovery, said heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are the big drivers of overdose deaths now.  [Capitol Update / Steve Lewis]

#GivingTuesday: During the great uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahomans turned to OK Policy in record numbers to get vital, non-partisan information that helped them better understand how state policies were impacting their lives. This Giving Tuesday, we ask you to consider supporting our work so that we can continue to provide information to everyday Oklahomans, as well as our elected officials and decision makers. Visit

Oklahoma News

Defense secretary Lloyd Austin says Oklahoma National Guard members must get vaccinated: Members of the Oklahoma National Guard must get vaccinated against COVID-19 regardless of their duty status or personal beliefs, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday. [The Oklahoman] The letter, which was widely expected, sets the stage for Guard members in the state to lose their jobs should they refuse. [New York Times] Stitt had requested the exemption in a Nov. 2 letter to Austin, saying the “mandate violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans.” [Tulsa World]

Health News

Local officials respond to latest COVID variant with calls for Oklahomans to get vaccinated: Although there is still much to learn about the omicron variant of the coronavirus, state and local health officials said Monday there are steps the public can take to help mitigate its impact. That starts with getting vaccinated. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma ranks 1st in medical negligence lawsuits per capita: Oklahoma ranks first nationwide in the number of medical negligence lawsuits per capita, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources data. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Questions abound on earthquake insurance for energy firms: The Oklahoma Supreme Court stepped in last week to determine if the insurer for an oil and gas company should have to pay out on claims stemming from earthquakes caused by wastewater disposal wells. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

‘It’s ghoulish’: Oklahoma tribes fight University of Alabama over Moundville gravesite remains: At the turn of the 19th century, a new trend had taken hold for archeologists and others across the country: digging up Native American grave sites and collecting as much as they could of the human remains and funerary objects — from the sacred to the deeply personal — buried with them. [The Oklahoman] The Muscogee Nation is celebrating the decision by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee that the remains and funerary objects held by the university are culturally affiliated and should be returned. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

New jail recommendations head to Oklahoma County commissioners: In a 54-minute special meeting Monday afternoon, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, otherwise known as the jail trust, approved recommendations by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) to construct a new county jail. [NonDoc] A new jail would cost around $300 million dollars. The funding options include using the county’s $150 million in American Rescue Plan Act, ARPA, funds, along with expiring bond money. [KFOR] Most public comments were aligned against building a new jail and especially using the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) to fund construction. Still, other members of the public shared their support for the recommendations. [OKC Free Press] The current Oklahoma County jail has been plagued with problems since its construction. Inmate deaths, overpopulation, escapes, staffing and policy concerns, along with bad living conditions within the jail, continue to draw criticism from both the public and consultants. [The Oklahoman]

OK-CADP seeks to spare mentally ill death row prisoner Donald Anthony Grant from execution: The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (OK-CADP) is pleading for mercy for death row inmate, Donald Anthony Grant, who is brain-damaged and suffers from schizophrenia. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Education News

As kid COVID vaccines ramp up, schools are ‘cornerstone’ of youth vaccinations: With elementary-age students now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, hundreds have scheduled vaccination appointments in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Dozens of families registered within days for the school district’s first nine vaccine clinics since eligibility opened this month for children age 5-11, said Brad Herzer, assistant superintendent of human resources, safety and security. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Effective ways to reach school board members with concerns: Raise your hand if you have been frustrated with your school board in the past 18 months. If you are a parent or caregiver of a school-age child, I am picturing your hand in the air. Without a doubt, it’s been rough. Adjusting work schedules, disruptions in children’s school experience and wanting kids to safely attend school in-person have been top on parents’ minds. Concerns over learning loss and what resources are being provided to help students are now the priority. As a school board member, I hear from parents about these issues, and as a parent, I share their concerns. [Jenks School Board Vice President Melissa Abdo / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Council updates EMSA rules, appoints MAPS 4 subcommittee members [The Oklahoman]
  • Moore roadway and infrastructure projects begin design phase [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“We are the only political group in this nation who are regularly asked to prove who we are, what we believe in and who we come from.”

-Tina Osceola, the tribal historic preservation officer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, speaking about tribal efforts to repatriate their ancestors’ remains from a central Alabama site where the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole nations, as well as others, trace their heritage. If remains aren’t connected to a particular culture, museums and universities can more easily retain the objects buried with each person under the repatriation law. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$10.6 million

Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) — working with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and OK Policy — last year calculated annual savings of $10.6 million from decreased incarceration resulting from State Question 780. State Question 781 requires the Legislature to deposit those savings into the County Community Safety Investment Fund to help fund local substance abuse and mental health treatment. However, in the four state budgets passed since SQ 780 was enacted, the Legislature has failed to make any deposit at all to that fund. [OMES] | [Additional Analysis from OK Policy’s Ryan Gentzler via NonDoc] | [About SQ 780 & SQ 781]

Policy Note

Adult Drug Court Best Practice Standards: This set of evidence-based standards is a blueprint to dramatically improve outcomes for individuals involved in the justice system due to substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Representing 25 years of empirical study on addiction, pharmacology, behavioral health, and criminal justice, these Standards are the foundation upon which all adult drug courts should operate. They hold the keys to transform how the justice system responds to people in crisis. [National Association of Drug Court Professionals] | [Full Reports]

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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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