In The Know: First look at state budget bills; 116 virus cases found in Guymon pork processing plant; and 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  Saturday, May 2| Sunday, May 3

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma Legislature releases list of FY 2021 budget bills: For FY 2021, Oklahoma state agencies will generally receive a 4 percent cut in appropriations with slight variations, most notably common education’s smaller 2.5 percent cut. NonDoc has compiled the bills, along with brief summaries. [NonDoc]

When Legislature reconvenes, Capitol will be open to public … sort of: When Oklahoma legislators return to the state Capitol on Monday, the building will be open to the public, with some conditions. Legislators will return to the building for an unspecified amount of time to pass a state budget for fiscal year 2021 and vote on a handful of legislative priorities. [The Oklahoman] Health officials will be present to implement social distancing, with folks in the gallery asked to sit six feet apart. Lobbies outside the House and Senate will be closed. [KOSU]

116 COVID-19 infections found in pork processing plant in Guymon: More than 110 coronavirus infections reported to the Oklahoma State Health Department have come from a meat processing plant in Guymon that employs thousands. Several current and former employees say workers toil in crowded conditions amid unenforced screening protocols and improper cleaning procedures at Seaboard Foods processing plant in Guymon. [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19: 121 new cases reported Sunday in state, but no new deaths: An additional 121 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Oklahoma on Sunday, but no new deaths were reported by the state Health Department. The number of cumulative deaths in the state remains at 238. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Grim milestone reached in nursing home deaths: The COVID-19 death toll associated with Oklahoma nursing homes and long-term care facilities has topped 100. The most — 15 — is at the Bartlesville Health and Rehabilitation Community, the state Health Department reported. [The Oklahoman] ‘He died alone’: Family mourns man who died of COVID-19 in Norman nursing home. [The Oklahoman]

As the rest of the state begins opening up, Oklahoma nursing homes will see little change in COVID-19 containment: As the rest of Oklahoma emerges from shelter-at-home orders, nothing will change right away for the state’s long-term care facilities, Martin said Friday. They still have to protect the most vulnerable and hardest-hit demographic. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Budget crisis creates health care funding woes: Gov. Kevin Stitt set June 30 as the date for Oklahomans to vote on State Question 802, which would change the state constitution to expand Medicaid. Meanwhile, Stitt has proposed an alternative to SQ 802 that lawmakers say will add more flexibility to the program, but critics claim will decrease the number of those covered. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma banks distribute $887 million in phase two of federal PPP program: Oklahoma banks have funded 20,919 loans worth more than $877 million in the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Those numbers were as of Tuesday, the agency said. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Investigation underway after an inmate was found dead in Haskell County: A Haskell County inmate was found dead in his cell Saturday morning, according to the Haskell County Sheriff’s Office. They say the inmate was found deceased in his cell. [KTUL]

Tulsa County Courthouse to slowly reopen in phases: The Tulsa County Courthouse is slowly reopening in phases starting on Monday amid the coronavirus crisis. The Tulsa County District Courts will remain closed through May 15, as advised by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. [KTUL]

Economy & Business News

Paycom suing think tank: In a coronavirus-related lawsuit, Paycom is accusing a conservative think tank in Oklahoma of deliberately spreading lies about the company. Paycom is seeking actual and punitive damages from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. The think tank denies the accusations. [The Oklahoman]

Long recovery expected for air travel, despite reopening: Although the state began the first stage of reopening business Friday, Oklahoma’s commercial airports will be playing the long game in recovering passenger count to numbers before the pandemic, industry leaders say. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma regulators delay decision on remote oil storage: Oklahoma regulators delayed a decision on whether to develop an emergency rule to determine where crude could be stored in off-lease sites. In a meeting on Thursday, members of the Corporation Commission heard testimony then decided to put off a decision, favoring more testimony in the matter. [OK Energy Today]

Education News

Higher education is focus of Tuesday ‘Let’s Talk’ virtual town hall: Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Oklahoma, the state’s higher education system has transitioned some 173,000 students from in-person classes to online teaching while providing the research and facilities for the state to deal with the medical crisis. [Tulsa World]

OU claims dorm owner trying to ‘weaponize’ pandemic: The leader of a nonprofit that built the Cross Village student housing development wrote administrators at the University of Oklahoma’s Norman campus a letter asking that freshmen be allowed to live there rather than dormitory towers for health and safety reasons. But even though there are more than 800 empty beds at Cross Village, the school hasn’t been receptive to the request and has claimed the nonprofit’s owner has tried to “weaponize” the health crisis to his benefit in a pending lawsuit for alleged breach of contract on the project. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa World Editorial: Local school districts need federal help to avoid ‘catastrophe’: The Tulsa and Oklahoma City school district superintendents see disaster looming and are asking the federal government to intervene. The Council of Great City Schools, which represents the nation’s largest public districts, sent a letter to Congress seeking to be included in the next coronavirus supplemental funding bill. It warned of an “educational catastrophe” that could lead to 275,000 teacher layoffs. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] The economic collapse from COVID-19 has education leaders across the country urging Congress to provide more relief. Funding, however, figures to be just one part of any recovery. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

General News

Meet the Oklahoma nurses fighting COVID-19: On the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus, these Oklahoma nurses have had to leave family, sacrifice peace of mind and put their lives on the line to help complete strangers in a fight against a virus they don’t know how to beat. [The Oklahoman]

Odds are against a May 2019 flooding repeat. But rivers always bear watching this time of year: One year ago, during the late hours of April 30 and the morning of May 1, 17 tornadoes struck Oklahoma. The storm carried with it 5 to 6 inches of rainfall that flooded homes and ripped rooftops off others across the northeast corridor of the state. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • New resource pages for Comanche, Tulsa counties [NonDoc]
  • City of Tulsa furloughs begin Friday: Here’s how services will be affected [Tulsa World]
  • Muskogee to lift moratorium on utility cutoffs [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Norman amid coronavirus: Cleveland County cases up to 432, no new deaths reported statewide [OU Daily]
  • National Guard to be brought in to help clean Grove Nursing Center [Joplin Globe]
  • Cases up 121, including 1 in Garfield County [Woodward News]
  • Enid-area businesses reopen to slow start [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“This is about money, plain and simple… There were definitely people who were sick or who lived with people who were sick that still came to work. But management told us plain out that we were not shutting down and that everybody better go back to work.”

-Former Seaboard employee speaking about working conditions at their Guymon pork processing plant [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$877 million

The amount of funds Oklahoma banks have loaned to small businesses in the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, for a total of 20,919 loans. In the first round, which opened April 3 and lasted until funds were exhausted on April 16, Oklahoma banks funded 35,557 loans worth $4.61 billion.

[Source: The Oklahoman]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Government’s role in addressing the pandemic’s grim racial reality: Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data showing that African Americans have been contracting and dying from COVID-19 in numbers far out of proportion to their share of the population. And because so little testing has been completed, experts predict that the impact might be much greater than the CDC’s numbers suggest. … For too long, government officials have known that racism and other social determinants of health have disadvantaged large numbers of American citizens but have accepted this reality as a given and done nothing about it. Now public officials must act courageously. [Governing]

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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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