In The Know: Disparities in housing stats | Property tax protests and school funding | Incentives for electric car startup | 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

Policy Matters: Housing stats show state disparitiesHomeownership has traditionally been a cornerstone of the American dream. For many of our friends and neighbors, though, that piece of the dream is increasingly out of reach. A growing number of Oklahomans are finding the decision between renting and buying a home has already been made for them. The odds are stacked against today’s potential homebuyers due to skyrocketing home prices, stagnant wages for low-income workers, rising costs for child care for families, student loan debt for many younger Oklahomans, and more. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

‘Instability’: Hundreds of Oklahoma property tax protests leave schools in limbo: Oklahoma’s 77 county treasurers are holding $80 million of property tax payments in escrow that they cannot immediately apportion to school districts, technology centers and county health departments owing to valuation disputes between energy companies and county assessors. The complicated and contentious situation is unsustainable, some state legislators say, with school districts unable to leverage anticipated tax revenues for bond projects and some companies complaining that their property is being assessed differently across county lines, depending upon what formula sticks them with the biggest bill and brings counties the most revenue. [NonDoc]

Land and millions of dollars for infrastructure are part of a deal to lure a startup electric car maker to Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt and Canoo Inc. CEO Tony Aquila shared slaps on the back and a hug as the crowd applauded when the electric vehicle startup announced it would build its first factory in Oklahoma. “We are committed to make you the next Henry Ford of EV vehicles,” Stitt told Aquila, an entrepreneur in stonewashed jeans and a blazer who became Canoo’s CEO in April after a series of management shake-ups at the company. [The Frontier]

Health News

COVID-19: Despite reaching weekly case plateau, Oklahoma exceeds U.S. new daily infection rate: While Oklahoma may no longer remain in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s red zone for severe levels of viral transmission as hospitalizations and deaths decline, the state is back above the U.S. rate for new infections. [Tulsa World] Coronavirus infections in Oklahoma appear to be plateauing, although new cases continue at a higher rate than six months ago, a health official said Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of cases of just more than 1,200 has remained about the same for the past week, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, who heads the University of Oklahoma’s coronavirus response. [AP News]

Abortion providers ask Oklahoma Supreme Court to put three laws on hold: Reproductive rights supporters on Wednesday asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to put three abortion laws on hold. They filed their appeal after Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong declined to put the measures on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge. The three measures are set to take effect Nov. 1. House Bill 1904 would require a doctor to have certification in obstetrics-gynecology to perform an abortion. The two other measures, Senate Bill 778 and SB 779, put would put restrictions on medication abortions. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Capitol study examines federal Impact Aid Program: State lawmakers who explored the federal Impact Aid Program during a bipartisan study session held this week at the Capitol had goals to better understand how schools in Oklahoma are affected by the presence of military installations and other federal properties in their districts. [The Journal Record]

Stitt appoints Larry Edwards Muskogee County DA: Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Larry Edwards to serve as district attorney for District 15 in Muskogee County. Edwards’ appointment fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Orvil Loge on Sept. 30. [Office of Governor Kevin Stitt via Muskogee Phoenix]

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s border trip cost state $12,199 for charter flight to, from Texas: Oklahoma taxpayers will foot the bill for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s charter flight to Texas last week to join Republican governors for a news conference to criticize President Joe Biden’s immigration and border policies. [The Oklahoman]

‘Here to provide an option’: Organizer says of Oklahoma medical, recreational marijuana petitions: Whether Oklahoma voters will support legalizing recreational marijuana is a toss up, said the leader of a grassroots cannabis group that is pushing for a statewide vote on the issue next year. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Sovereignty Symposium examines ‘our ability to work together’: The feud between state and tribal officials over the 2020 landmark Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v Oklahoma continued throughout this week’s 2021 Sovereignty Symposium, an annual event that features an array of panels and public discussions on Indigenous affairs and state relations. During Monday’s first panel on criminal law, executive leaders of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations each discussed their respective tribe’s expanding criminal justice systems. [NonDoc]

Federal Reserve governor engages Oklahoma tribal leaders on challenges of pandemic: Higher education barriers, the lack of broadband and career readiness outside college were among the themes discussed Wednesday at a roundtable of Oklahoma tribal leaders. Lael Brainard, governor of the Federal Reserve, was the featured speaker at the virtual event, which was held at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City and titled “Engaging Tribal Leaders on Financial Inclusion and the Economic Challenges of the Pandemic.” [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Design of Wilma Mankiller’s coin depicts strength, recognizes tribal nations: The late Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller’s depiction on the quarter shows an inner strength, Cherokee seal and symbolic placement for Indigenous nations. The design was revealed last week by the U.S. Mint. Mankiller joins four others in becoming among the first women with images on circulating American money. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Man sues Oklahoma for records as state resumes executions: A retired New York attorney is suing the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, saying its claim to have no records pertaining to the drugs it plans to use in upcoming executions “defies belief.” Fred Hodara, who filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court, is asking the court to compel the corrections department to comply with his open records requests for documentation of its execution plans. [AP News]

It’s been over a year since a trust took over the troubled Oklahoma County Jail. What’s changed?: In the 15 months since control of the Oklahoma County jail was turned over to the jail trust, there have been a dozen deaths, including at least four as a result of COVID-19. A state health department inspection in June found more than 30 deficiencies and led to the relocation of all juvenile offenders to Pawnee County. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma County jail inmate escapes after stealing officer’s car [The Oklahoman]

Convicted Oklahoma murderer seeks new trial because of courthouse sex scandal: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered an evidentiary hearing after a convicted murderer complained his trial judge secretly “engaged in a sexual relationship” with a prosecutor in his case. Robert Leon Hashagen III is seeking a new trial. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Investment reflects automotive sector’s rising potential in state: The recent announcement that a company that provides metal stamping, coating and other services for the automotive industry has leased a 238,000-square-foot facility at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa reflects rising potential for automotive sector investment in the state, officials said. [The Journal Record]

A giant industrial park is being built in OKC thanks to continued booms in e-commerce: The largest ever speculative industrial park is being built in Oklahoma City, fueled in large part by the continued rise of online shopping and home delivery that has only accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma School for the Deaf welcomes new, more inclusive Bison mascot: The Indians mascot was officially retired this year and replaced with the Bison at a ceremony the same day as the school’s homecoming football game (Oklahoma School for the Deaf lost a nailbiter to New Mexico School for the Deaf 59-55). Superintendent Chris Dvorak says last year as conversations about mascots swirled nationally, folks at the school wanted to get serious. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tornadoes leave damage in OKC metro, western Oklahoma on Tuesday, Wednesday [The Oklahoman] | [AP News] | [The Journal Record]
  • Damage from 5 tornadoes surveyed across northeast Oklahoma after Sunday storms [Tulsa World]
  • In Edmond, a resounding ‘no’ to new development [The Journal Record
  • Tulsa public invited to give input on proposed City Council redistricting plans starting tonight [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“COVID is not gone away from Oklahoma at this point even though I see a lot of things that are suggesting we’ve improved a lot. We are still at a tenfold higher rate of new cases per day right now than we were the first week of June when cases got so low. So again, this isn’t over yet.”

—Dr. Dale Bratzler, who heads the University of Oklahoma’s coronavirus response [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Black Oklahomans represent 26% of the state’s prison population, but only 7% of the state’s population

[Source: The Sentencing Project]

Policy Note

The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State PrisonsThis report details our observations of staggering disparities among Black and Latinx people imprisoned in the United States given their overall representation in the general population. The latest available data regarding people sentenced to state prison reveal that Black Americans are imprisoned at a rate that is roughly five times the rate of white Americans. During the present era of criminal justice reform, not enough emphasis has been focused on ending racial and ethnic disparities systemwide. [The Sentencing Project]

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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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