In The Know: Gov. appoints doctor to OHCA board | Urban-rural divide on ballot initiatives | Black history is Oklahoma history

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: Black History is Oklahoma history: As we enter the last full week of Black History Month, I encourage each of us to more deeply explore the richness and complexity of Black history in Oklahoma. A good place to start might be the Oklahoma Historical Society’s online collection, “Black History is Oklahoma History.” There you can learn more about the major milestones in state history, as well as the significant contributions Black Oklahomans have made to literature, music, sports, and especially civil rights. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Kevin Stitt appoints OKC doctor to Health Care Authority Board: Governor Stitt on Wednesday announced his appointment of Dr. Corey Finch to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board. Finch, 44, is the only doctor on the nine-member board. Stitt stirred controversy in the fall when he replaced the only two doctors serving on the board. State law does not require the governor or legislative leaders to appoint people with medical experience to the governing body. [The Oklahoman

Urban-rural divide at heart of bills to change ballot initiatives: Fearful that rural votes are being diluted at the ballot box, several Oklahoma lawmakers say it’s time to overhaul rules governing citizen-led ballot initiatives and the state questions to increase rural influence. Some urban and suburban lawmakers, though, are pushing back, arguing that no one voter should have more influence than another in determining the fate of statewide ballot measures and any efforts to strengthen rural voters risk diluting others. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma death row inmate Gilbert Postelle to be executed Thursday: Oklahoma’s second execution of the year is scheduled to take place on Thursday. Death row inmate Gilbert Ray Postelle’s request for clemency was denied by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in a 4-1 vote in December 2021. [KOSU] The execution of Gilbert Ray Postelle, 35, will be the fourth lethal injection in Oklahoma since October, when the state resumed lethal injections following a nearly seven-year hiatus. [AP

  • Two Oklahoma death row prisoners had fluid in their lungs when they died [The Frontier
  • Doctor running for Oklahoma governor has become ‘persuasive’ expert for state on executions [The Oklahoman

State Government News

(Audio) Long Story Short: Where legislative interests are conflicted: In Episode 7 of Season 2, Whitney Bryen reports on a nonprofit coalition that a federal audit claims misspent nearly $900,000 of taxpayer funds; Lionel Ramos reports on the changes to immigration policing in Oklahoma; and Jennifer Palmer reveals that a state legislator was also working for a grassroots lobbying organization. Ted Streuli hosts. [Oklahoma Watch

New from OK Policy: Given the tremendous contributions immigrants have made throughout our nation’s history, bringing immigrants into the fold does not have to be a divisive issue in Oklahoma; instead, it can become a way to strengthen our state, our communities, and our economy.

Editorial: Oklahoma auditor showing political independence as a true public servant: Residents of Tryon didn’t know its police chief was using taxpayer dollars to buy personal guns and hunting equipment, or that he withdrew town funds from casino ATMs. This is the latest in a string of complicated audits completed by State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd and her staff. [Editorial / Tulsa World

Oklahomans show support for anti-abortion legislation, while providers worry: Before the anti-abortion rally in the House Chambers, hundreds of Oklahomans converged on the Capitol on Wednesday to talk to their elected leaders and show their support for anti-abortion legislation. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma has more than 17,000 unplugged wells. This legislative bill could help change that: Efforts by Oklahoma’s Legislature to plug a financial liability related to oil and gas wells orphaned by their operators is halfway home. [The Oklahoman

Bill would give county voters say over marijuana grow operations: Countywide votes might determine who would get to grow marijuana in the future in Oklahoma under a bill to be considered during the upcoming session of the Legislature. [The Journal Record

Proposal to reduce penalties for cockfighting sparks outcry: State Rep. Justin Humphrey said he knew he was going to “catch some problems” for authoring House Bill 3283, which reduces penalties for cockfighting. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Guard members named in Oklahoma’s new version of lawsuit opposing vaccine mandate: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor named 10 members of the Oklahoma Air National Guard refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as he filed an amended lawsuit Tuesday challenging federal vaccine mandates. [The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

COVID-19 deaths top 10,000 for Native people: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday the total deaths for American Indian and Alaska Natives has topped 10,000. Epidemiologist Dean Seneca joins the ICT Newscast to help us break down COVID-19 efforts in Indian Country. [Indian Country Today]

Tribe amends criminal statute of limitations: The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma continues to amend its criminal codes following an increase of criminal prosecutions brought on by the McGirt decision. [The Norman Transcript]

Hoskin: Cherokee Nation has many friends in Legislature: Cherokee Nation citizens can be found all over the world, but the largest Cherokee communities are in our reservation in northeastern Oklahoma. Our tribal government and businesses are headquartered here. We know that over the long term a prosperous Cherokee Nation and a prosperous Oklahoma go hand in hand. [Column / The Journal Record]

Osage citizens protest Fairfax bank’s Reign of Terror memorabilia: Kelly Bland, the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Director, has been searching for ways to promote the sleepy town of Fairfax. On Feb. 8, she thought it would be a good idea to show some of the history in Fairfax, including a photo of some spurs that belonged to William “Bill” Hale hanging on a plaque in the Security State Bank. [Osage News]

Health News

‘There’s going to be a real blip:’ Medical professionals are concerned about delayed routine screenings and their long-term effects: Oklahoma medical professionals are raising concerns that simple appointments like this are going unscheduled. OU Health’s Dr. Dale Bratzler says those delays make sense, but they’re a threat to patient health. Some of the problem is that the system itself has been over-extended. [State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Medical Association to recruit ‘pro-science’ legislative candidates: On Wednesday, the association announced an unprecedented three-year “public relations, social media and advertising campaign focused on getting physicians and pro-science advocates elected to the legislature.” [Tulsa World

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma GOP grapples with federal fines: The Oklahoma Republican Party paid thousands of dollars in fines to the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service in 2021 and could be on the hook for even more pending the outcome of an audit, the party’s director of finance said in a report sent to state OKGOP members Tuesday. [NonDoc

Criminal Justice News

DA: Oklahoma County jailer ‘unjustifiably’ used pepper spray on two inmates: A fired Oklahoma County detention officer has been charged with a misdemeanor after an internal investigation concluded he mistreated inmates. [The Oklahoman

Criminal court backlogs delay trials while defendants spend longer in jail: In many federal and state criminal courts, pandemic delays have created or worsened case backlogs, some of which could take years to address. Before trial, defendants are spending more time in jail, a setting where covid-19 remains contagious. [Big If True

Economic Opportunity

(Audio) The need for affordable housing in Tulsa with Becky Gligo and Tyler Parette, Housing Solutions Tulsa: This time last year it was an arctic tundra outside for weeks. The weather was so bad for so long, there was the implantation of an overflow shelter for those experiencing homelessness. That wasn’t enough. People experiencing homelessness were moved into any hotel that rooms available. That still wasn’t enough.  [Tulsa People

Economy & Business News

Investments in multifamily properties booming: The newly released 2021 Apartment Report shows the pandemic turned out to be a great time to invest in multifamily properties in Oklahoma. In the Oklahoma City metro, there were 78 sales of properties that exceed 25 units for a total sales volume of $961.8 million, far surpassing the previous record of $541.3 million in 2019, according to the annual report by Commercial Realty Resources Co. [The Journal Record

Education News

Where do virtual charter school reforms stand in the Oklahoma legislature?: As Epic Charter Schools continues to consider major reforms in the wake of scandal, Oklahoma lawmakers considered a trio of measures to hold schools like the charter behemoth accountable. [KGOU

Education Watch: Lawmaker’s job calls into question whose interests are being represented: Shortly after Oklahoma Watch posted the latest financial disclosures for state officeholders, I heard from a reader who wanted to know why State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck’s work with ChoiceMatters wasn’t listed in the data. [Oklahoma Watch

With eye toward school materials, House committee advances bill broadening definition of obscenity: An Oklahoma House of Representatives committee voted Wednesday to broaden the definition of pornography with the intention of incorporating it into standards for common school classroom and library materials. [Tulsa World

After community challenge, Bixby Public Schools will keep pair of books in libraries: The Bixby Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to keep the book “Thirteen Reasons Why” and a margin of 3-2 to keep the book “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” in the wake of the challenge. [State Impact Oklahoma

General News

‘We’ve accomplished the impossible’: Tulsa’s final Afghan refugees to arrive Thursday, as next chapter begins: With the last of its 850-plus Afghan refugees due to arrive on Thursday, Tulsa’s part in a massive nationwide resettlement effort will officially wrap up its first phase. [Tulsa World

  • Oklahoma City welcomes 1,000th Afghan refugee [The Oklahoman

‘The power that coming together can bring’: OKC post office a reminder of civil rights leader: The U.S. Postal Service building at 305 NW 5 in Oklahoma City was, for two decades, a largely unassuming hallmark of the metro area, servicing the downtown business district and surrounding areas. But that changed in 2021, when an act of Congress redesignated the post office in honor of a civil rights icon. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

Council starts talks on possible redress for harm caused by 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Community organizer and former mayoral candidate Greg Robinson walked city councilors through a proposed process for exploring ways the city might make amends for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on Wednesday. [Tulsa World

OKC residents must bring dogs inside during freezing weather, according to new ordinance: Oklahoma City now can take action when residents leave their dog outdoors in freezing temperatures after the city council approved emergency adoption of a new ordinance Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“We’ve got to come up with policies that work in all of Oklahoma because while the urban areas are going to be the economic drivers for the state — and they will be in every state — urban Oklahoma can’t succeed and rural Oklahoma fail. And frankly, rural Oklahoma can’t succeed and urban Oklahoma fail.”

– Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day


Number of states that offer driving privileges to undocumented immigrants, in addition to Washington DC. Oklahoma is not among those states.

[Source: National Conference of State Legislatures]

New from OK Policy: Given the tremendous contributions immigrants have made throughout our nation’s history, bringing immigrants into the fold does not have to be a divisive issue in Oklahoma; instead, it can become a way to strengthen our state, our communities, and our economy.

Policy Note

States Offering Driver’s Licenses to Immigrants: Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. These states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington—issue a license if an applicant provides certain documentation, such as a foreign birth certificate, foreign passport, or consular card and evidence of current residency in the state. [National Conference of State Legislatures]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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