In The Know: Early look at legislation filed for 2022 | Report: More children missing measles vaccination | Explaining COVID-19 boosters

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

OK Policy announces new hires in outreach, communication/operations: The Oklahoma Policy Institute is expanding its community outreach efforts across the state with three new staff members, and boosting its communications and operations teams through the hiring of a new fellow. The staffing additions are part of OK Policy’s ongoing efforts to encourage Oklahomans to empower themselves to advocate for policies that help ensure a more equitable state for everyone, said OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose. [Kristin Wells / OK Policy]

State & Local Government News

Early filings provide peek at 2022 legislation for Oklahoma: The deluge of proposed legislation ahead of the annual legislative session is, as yet, only a trickle. But there are some items of interest among the 50 or so bills and resolutions already in the hopper. Also, scores of bills filed last session and still in various stages of the legislative process will be eligible when the second session of the 58th Legislature gavels on Feb. 7. [Tulsa World]

Complaint sparks federal investigation into Oklahoma’s Public Health Lab, health commissioner says: A complaint has prompted a federal investigation of Oklahoma’s Public Health Lab in Stillwater, health officials said Wednesday. Interim Health Commissioner Keith Reed said he did not have details about what the complaint entailed, saying those complaints are considered confidential and are often made anonymously. The investigation of the lab was first reported Nov. 19 by The Frontier. [The Oklahoman]

First-time jobless claims increase 62% in state, but numbers still declining overall: First-time unemployment claims in the state rose 62% during the week ending Saturday after hitting a pandemic-era low the prior week, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Wednesday that 2,967 initial claims for unemployment benefits were filed the week ending Saturday — 1,139 more than the upwardly-revised total of 1,828 that were filed in the state the week ending Nov. 13. Still, the four-week moving average of initial claims has declined three consecutive weeks and is now at 2,352 filings. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa County’s ARPA funds going to projects that provide long-term benefits, officials say: Tulsa County has until the end of 2024 to allocate the $126.6 million it will receive in American Rescue Plan Act funding. That works out just fine for County Commission Chairman Stan Sallee, who says the county has been cautious and methodical in handing out the money. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund surplus means rebate checks for taxpayers on this day in 2005: The Rainy Day Fund was created in 1985 to protect the state during economic downturns. It was previously called the Constitutional Reserve Fund. On Nov. 28 in 2005, taxpayers even got a rebate from the fund. [Tulsa World]

ONG wants to charge customers more to recover winter storm costs. How much will you pay?: A judge has signaled he will recommend a plan to help Oklahoma Natural Gas pay over $1.3 billion in fuel costs it incurred during February’s brutal winter storms. The cost recovery case is making its way to a final decision by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The administrative law judge overseeing the case heard testimony and comments Monday from the OCC’s Public Utilities Division, ONG, the attorney general’s office and the public. [The Oklahoman]

New legislative map calls for major changes to Senate District 30 in OKC: After the finalization of the newly drawn legislative and congressional district boundaries, many Oklahomans and legislative leaders will be placed in new districts. One Oklahoma City Senate district, in particular, SD-30, has changed significantly. With redistricting, it has gone from being the most gerrymandered district in the metro to what will be a geographically compact district. [OKC Free Press]

  • Shrunken area House district leads to more representation for Enid [Enid News & Eagle]

Federal Government News

For Afghan Refugees, a Choice Between Community and Opportunity: Initial agreements between the State Department and the resettlement agencies involved sending 5,255 to California, 4,481 to Texas, 1,800 to Oklahoma, 1,679 to Washington, 1,610 to Arizona, and hundreds more to almost every state. North Dakota will get at least 49 refugees. Mississippi and Alabama will get at least 10. [New York Times]

Tribal Nations News

‘A way of life’: Oklahoma tribes celebrate Thanksgiving despite holiday’s false narrative: Every year, on the last Thursday of November, Alvin Deer’s family members would fill his home while traditional Creek foods like the sour corn drink osafke and blue corn bread were prepared to go along with their Thanksgiving meal. [The Oklahoman]

Kill the Indian, save the man: The horrors of the Indian Boarding School system — of which there were 83 in the state of Oklahoma — are only now finally beginning to be fully understood. In May 2021 Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations announced they had used ground penetrating radar to confirm unmarked graves of 215 children, later revised to 200, at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. [Oklahoma Gazette]

Joe Chitwood talks K-9 training, ‘small-town policing’ in Indian Country: Even though he is the only salaried law enforcement officer employed by the southeast Oklahoma town of Calvin, Chief of Police Joe Chitwood does respond to many calls with backup: the K-9 officers he trains and cares for at his home south of Wetumka. [NonDoc]

Health News

More children missing measles vaccinations: ‘The last thing we need are preventable diseases returning’: A new report highlights the largest increase in children not vaccinated for measles in two decades happened in 2020, and an Oklahoma pediatrician noted particular concern as the risk for outbreaks of the devastating disease grows. Major measles outbreaks occurred in 26 countries and accounted for 84% of cases reported in 2020, according to a World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this month. [Tulsa World]

Surprised by need for COVID-19 boosters? Don’t be. OU Health expert uses five-shot tetanus series to explain why: Dr. Dale Bratzler uses the five-shot series of the tetanus vaccine as an example for why people shouldn’t be surprised that science supports a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for adults six months after initial doses. [Tulsa World]

  • The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 545 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state [The Oklahoman]
  • Virus by the numbers: 9 charts that show how COVID-19 is spreading in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma caps insulin prices, makes it more affordable: After years of diabetics having no choice but to pay hundreds of dollars for insulin, Oklahoma has now capped the price people are allowed to be charged, making the life-saving medication more affordable. House Bill 1019, authored by Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, and co-authored by Rep. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman, caps the price of insulin at $30 for a 30-day supply and $90 for a 90-day supply. [The Norman Transcript]

Criminal Justice News

New jail to be recommended to Oklahoma County officials: The Oklahoma County Commissioners and the county’s jail trust soon will receive an official recommendation to build a new jail. The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council facility subcommittee issued five recommendations, including one for a new jail that would meet American Correctional Association standards. [The Oklahoman] The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority or Jail Trust will meet Monday, November 29 to receive a detailed set of recommendations to build a new jail on a new site within ten minutes of downtown. [OKC Free Press]

  • Water main blowout cuts off water to County Jail in early morning hours Friday [OKC Free Press]

Eyewitnesses to John Grant’s execution give conflicting accounts: Across the country, Grant’s execution is widely seen as Oklahoma’s latest death penalty failure because of the media reports. That public perception persisted even after Corrections Department Director Scott Crow called the media accounts embellished and insisted the execution was without complication. New eyewitness accounts have emerged in court as four other death row inmates seek stays of their upcoming executions. They say Grant’s flawed execution proves Oklahoma’s procedure is in violation of the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. [The Oklahoman]

Ousted Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman gets public reprimand: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has disciplined an ousted Oklahoma County district judge for a “criminal act” that justices found demonstrates her unfitness to practice law. The discipline — a public reprimand — is the latest blow to Kendra Coleman’s efforts to get her judicial office back. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Local, state truckers caught in national supply chain woes: ‘You’re just at the mercy of the problem’: Supply chain bottlenecks that have retailers fearing empty shelves this holiday season are also leaving in limbo much of the state and local trucking industry — already struggling with its own driver shortage. [Tulsa World]

Medical marijuana industry growing in Oklahoma, ‘changing lives’: Medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma after the passage of State Question 788 in June 2018. Adria Berry, executive director of Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, said the Oklahoma State Department of Health was given 60 days to begin issuing medical marijuana licenses, which created a “chaotic situation.” [Enid News & Eagle]

More agricultural guest workers came to the Midwest, Great Plains this year than ever before: The Midwest saw a record rise in the number of agricultural guest workers this year helping out on farms, in meatpacking plants and with landscaping companies. That jump fits with a national trend. The Department of Labor says the U.S. let in a record number of H-2A visa workers this year. [KOSU]

Much of state experiencing drought conditions: Much of Oklahoma is suffering from some level of drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report. The only portions of the state not in drought are in the east and southeast. Locally, much of the western half of Garfield County is listed in moderate drought — the lowest level of drought — while the eastern part is listed as abnormally dry. [Enid News & Eagle]

Deaths lead to more scrutiny of tank cleaning: In August 2020, two workers entered a natural gas tanker on a railcar in Hugo and fell victim to vapors. Their deaths, among those of 36 workers in the transportation and tank cleaning industry reported across the extended region since 2016, have been investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Education department says permanent rules coming ‘soon’ on teaching race, gender in OK public schools: The Oklahoma State Department of Education says it is not dragging its feet when it comes to adopting permanent rules for public schools based on a controversial new law intended to limit instruction on race, gender and history. Nineteen Republican state House members and nine Republican state senators wrote State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and issued a press release earlier this month saying that it was “past time” the state agency she runs begins the rulemaking process to replace emergency rules put in place in July. [Tulsa World]

Students at regional university in Oklahoma say administration ignoring sexual assault reports, poor housing conditions, lack of handicap access: A group of Northeastern State University students staged a protest Friday afternoon, saying the school is not investigating sexual assault allegations, addressing poor housing conditions, or providing adequate access to facilities for handicapped individuals. [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Bricktown skyline to grow with $275 million hotel, condo development set to start in 2022 [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa Remote alumni explain why they stayed: ‘We can grow with Tulsa’ [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Remote turns 3: ‘What’s it going to take to get people to look at Tulsa?’ [Tulsa World]
  • Commission to look at data for new council ward maps [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“The last thing we need are preventable diseases returning.”

-Dr. Eve Switzer, a pediatrician in Enid and immediate past president of the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in response to a new report that showed the largest increase in children not vaccinated for measles in two decades happened in 2020. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


More than half of respondents (57%) in a recently released Federal Reserve survey said COVID-19 was causing a significant disruption to services for children, with 77% noting that conditions were still worse than they were pre-pandemic. [Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

Policy Note

Perspectives from Main Street: The impact of COVID-19 on communities and the entities serving them: The spread of COVID-19 and the many efforts to slow it are impacting communities throughout the nation. To best respond to this crisis, information is needed about the scope and scale of challenges in various communities. This report offers findings of a survey designed to collect information on the effects of COVID-19 on low- to moderate-income people and communities and the entities serving them. [Federal Reserve Community Development]

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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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