In 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.
DOC staff called on to help following outbreak at Comanche County jail: The state Department of Corrections is helping stabilize the Comanche County Detention Center in Lawton after an outbreak of coronavirus cases among inmates and staff. Nearly a dozen DOC security staff reported to the jail Sunday to increase sanitizing efforts and oversee inmates after more than 100 inmates and jail staff tested positive, authorities said Tuesday. [The Oklahoman] Two state agencies are taking steps to remove as many inmates as possible from the Comanche County Detention Center until the coronavirus that has ravaged the jail is brought under control. [Southwest Ledger] The jail at ground zero of one of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma has been cited numerous times for overcrowding and was found not to be in substantial compliance with established state health standards any of the three times it was inspected last year, documents obtained by the Southwest Ledger show. [Southwest Ledger] More than 100 inmates and 16 staff members at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. [AP News via US News] OK Policy joined groups from around the state to call for actions needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, which poses a threat to communities both inside and outside of prisons and jails.
Texas County at 784 COVID-19 cases, into 3rd week as ‘hot spot’ in Oklahoma: Officials are reporting 32 additional cases of COVID-19 in Texas County on Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 784 cases. According to Texas County Emergency Management, county officials are waiting on results from 180 tests taken at the hospital and from the Texas County Health Department drive-thru testing from Saturday. This data does not include pending tests from local clinics or testing at Seaboard Foods. [ABC7]
COVID-19: Six more deaths reported as 91 new cases confirmed in Oklahoma: State health officials reported six more COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma on Tuesday. The six people who died were all older than 65. Since late March, 294 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the state. Officials also announced 91 newly confirmed cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to 5,489 infections since early March. [Tulsa World] Visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office to start enforcing evictions May 26: The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office announces they will begin serving judicial eviction orders this week, and enforcing evictions on May 26. Once the order is served tenants have 48-hours to leave the premises of the residence they are renting/leasing. [FOX25] OK Policy: Evictions could pose a potential public health disaster.
State Government News
Hold up: Stitt stops bonds and tax changes with veto pen: Gov. Kevin Stitt struck down four bills related to state finances late Monday, derailing efforts by the Oklahoma Legislature to grant a sales tax exemption at a teaching hospital, bond more than $160 million for endowed professorships and cut in half the cap on a tax credit for apartment builders. [NonDoc] One of the measures, House Bill 2760, proposed reducing the value of tax credits that have been offered for several years to developers of affordable housing in the state. [The Journal Record]
Lawmaker says Stitt vetoed a bill requested by his administration: Oklahoma’s governor called for comprehensive tax reform as he vetoed lawmakers’ plan to slash a controversial affordable housing tax credit. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said he’s advocating for tax reform, but he wants leaders to take a broader look at overhauling Oklahoma’s tax policy to increase diversification and long-term sustainability. [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital]
New Oklahoma law will require mental health parity in health insurance: Health insurance companies will be required to cover mental health and substance use disorders the same way they cover physical ailments under a new state law. Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed legislation to require companies that offer health coverage and are regulated by the state insurance department to follow federal laws on parity in the health care industry. [The Oklahoman]
Teacher certification bill signed into law: Credentials of teachers certified in other states will be honored in Oklahoma under a new law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Senate Bill 1125, signed by the governor late Monday, was designed to make it easier for qualified teachers from other states to begin working in Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]
Stitt signs ‘anti-red flag’ gun bill: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed legislation Tuesday to preempt Oklahoma localities from implementing so-called “red flag” policies. Previously, the Oklahoman incorrectly reported Stitt had signed the bill over the weekend. The bill from Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, and Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, was one of the last measures Oklahoma’s Legislature advanced Friday before adjourning. [The Oklahoman]
Domestic abuse reclassified as a violent crime in Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Monday reclassifying several domestic abuse charges as violent crimes. This includes domestic abuse by strangulation, domestic assault with a dangerous weapon, domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and domestic assault and battery with a deadly weapon, according to the legislation. [The Oklahoman]
Legislation to address workplace violence in hospitals/health care facilities signed into law: Legislation strengthening laws dealing with violence against people who work in hospitals and health care facilities has been signed into law. Senate Bill 1290, the Medical Care Provider Protection Act, by Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, and Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, was approved by the governor on Tuesday. [Sandite Pride News]
Rights of nursing mothers protected under signed legislation: Governor Stitt signed two bills Tuesday to protect state employees who are nursing. Sen. Kim David authored the measures to ensure mothers are allowed daily break time and privacy to breastfeed or express milk. [FOX25]
Federal Government News
Mullin unloads on Agriculture Secretary Perdue and USDA, says he’s ‘fed up’ with handling of pandemic-induced cattle crisis: Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin publicly letting loose on any aspect of the Trump administration is not exactly man-bites-dog, but it does get attention. Few members of Congress have been more loyal to Trump than Mullin. So when Mullin called for Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s resignation on Friday, it caused some heads to swivel in surprise. [Tulsa World]
FTC warns some facilities forcing Medicaid recipients to sign over checks: A warning from the government about nursing homes and assisted living facilities taking stimulus checks from some patients. The Federal Trade Commission says it is issuing this warning after getting several reports that nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country were having Medicaid patients sign their stimulus checks over to them. [FOX25]
Opinion: SNAP is key to fighting hunger and boosting the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Oklahoma food banks, along with the more than 600 community-based partner agencies, are hard at work providing assistance to the increasing numbers. However, we cannot do this work alone. The only way to ensure Oklahomans have the food assistance they need both during and after the economic crisis is through a strong charitable sector and deep government investment in our federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. [Opinion / Tulsa World] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: SNAP matters, now more than ever: SNAP as stimulus (video)
Task force looks to tackle Tulsa’s ‘significant disparities’ in internet access: The COVID-19 pandemic has not only made internet access more important than ever, it has focused a spotlight on those who don’t have it. It’s called the digital divide, and it’s alive and well in Tulsa. Approximately 57,000 households in the city can’t access the internet, according to 2018 U.S. census data.[Tulsa World] OK Policy: Broadband is more important than ever.
Stitt vetoes rural broadband bill: On Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill that would have created a Rural Broadband Expansion Council and given the Legislature more say in efforts to expand internet access in rural areas. This is the same bill sources previously told The Oklahoman was at the heart of budget feuding between lawmakers and Stitt earlier this year. [The Oklahoman]
Economy & Business News
The way forward: ‘Good banking conditions’ expected to help Oklahoma’s recovery: Oklahoma’s economy before the pandemic struck is guiding how the state is responding to the economic hardship imposed by COVID-19 and the state’s way forward to recovery. Declines evident in the oil and gas sector in late 2019 continue to worsen in light of COVID-19, but the fact that Oklahoma faced the start of the pandemic with low unemployment and a high percentage of profitable banks will aid the state’s recovery. [The Journal Record]
At least one in four Epic students transfer out: Epic virtual charter school has grown into one of the largest school systems in the state but it has also become one of the largest producers of transfers, sending thousands of students in and out of schools across Oklahoma throughout the academic year. With an enrollment of 21,305 last school year, Epic had nearly 9,000 transfers, according to data obtained from the state Department of Education. That’s a mobility rate of 42 percent, which is twice the rate in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa public school districts. [The Frontier]
Gov. Stitt signs law to prevent virtual charter school ‘ghost students’: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law Monday that reforms virtual charter school rules. House Bill 2905, authored by Tulsa Republican Sheila Dills, will increase virtual charter school transparency and tweak policies lawmakers found problematic. [KOSU]
Webinar series aims to help teachers shape curricula around ‘hard history’ of Tulsa Race Massacre: A free webinar series beginning Wednesday aims to help Oklahoma teachers craft curricula and lesson plans for effectively teaching the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Public Radio Tulsa]
OSSAA announces special board meeting to discuss resuming high school sports: The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association sent a letter to member school administrators on Tuesday, announcing a special board meeting will be held Friday at 9 a.m to discuss resuming sports. [The Norman Transcript] The plans will be announced immediately after the meeting. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoma Local News
- Oklahoma City offices remain mostly closed to public [The Oklahoman]
- This Oklahoma City company got $10 million from the government, but gave it back [The Oklahoman]
- Norman police reviewing officer’s actions [The Oklahoman]
- Bixby moving forward with in-person, traditional graduation ceremony [KTUL]
- Oklahoma Turnpike Authority closes on federal loan for Gilcrease Expressway [Public Radio Tulsa]
- Enid City commission wants pool, both splash pads open [Enid News & Eagle]
- Enid School board approves contract extension for Floyd [Enid News & Eagle]
- Court protocols established for Comanche County Courthouse June 1 opening [Lawton Constitution]
- Lawton to end local emergency order, state rules still apply [Lawton Constitution]
Quote of the Day
“We were not equipped to deal with this pandemic.”
-Comanche County Facilities Authority Chairman Johnny Owens, speaking about the virus outbreak in the county detention center in Lawton. [AP News]
Number of the Day
The increase nationally in enrollment in two-year colleges during the Great Recession
[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]
No home Wi-Fi, no virtual classroom: How low-income students lose out during a pandemic: The Federal Communications Commission recently asked internet providers to continue providing access to customers through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, regardless of ability to pay, and more than 700 have pledged to do so. But there have been plenty of hitches. In Oakland, for instance, Comcast initially denied free access to customers with over a year of outstanding debt, but has since waived that restriction through mid-May. [KQED]
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.