In The Know: Gov. delivers State of the State address | OK Policy response | Virus deaths in January shattered record

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’s Response to 2021 State of the State Address: In pointing Oklahomans towards his vision of Oklahoma as a Top 10 state, Gov. Stitt during his State of the State address shared a quote he attributed to Will Rogers: “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” However, if Gov. Stitt and our elected officials focus too intently on a far off horizon without recognizing the path that got us here, they are destined to repeat past mistakes. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Kevin Stitt praises his COVID-19 response, outlines priorities in State of the State: In his third annual State of the State speech, Gov. Kevin Stitt praised his pro-business approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, lashed out at the Biden administration and called for kids to return to in-person learning despite the ongoing health crisis. Stitt used his address to outline his policy priorities and reflect on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has consumed much of his past year. [The Oklahoman] Speaking in a House of Representatives chamber less packed than usual because of COVID-19, Stitt also painted a grim picture of rampant crime, unpaid taxes and society run amok unless questions arising from last year’s McGirt decision are settled soon. [Tulsa World] Overall, Stitt again focused on optimism even as he called for changes to the state employee classification system, critiqued Tulsa Public Schools’ lack of in-person instruction options and acknowledged that more than 3,000 Oklahomans have died from COVID-19. [NonDoc] While acknowledging more than 3,000 Oklahomans have died from COVID-19 in 11 months, Stitt said Oklahoma has thrived economically under his plan to fully reopen for business starting last June 1 — much earlier than most other parts of the country. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press] When House Democrats responded to Stitt’s speech later Monday afternoon, Minority Leader Emily Virgin said the governor’s version of events was, quote, “revisionist history.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Vaccination sites conduct complex dance: The line to the door of the First Baptist Church was already 100 deep as the sun began to peek over the horizon. Though the temperature was just above freezing and many needed wheelchairs, gripped canes or leaned heavily on walkers, they waited without complaint. They were among the lucky ones who secured an appointment at Canadian County’s COVID-19 vaccination pod using the state’s online scheduling portal. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

  • Oklahoma nears 400,000 virus cases since pandemic’s start [AP News]
  • COVID-19: 17 more deaths reported in Oklahoma, nearly 30,000 infections still active [Tulsa World]
  • COVID Update: January deaths shattered December record [Public Radio Tulsa]

Hospital fees floated to pay for expanding Oklahoma Medicaid: Hospital fees are being eyed as a potential source for the millions of dollars Oklahoma will need to pay its share of health-care costs for about 178,000 adults who’ll soon become eligible for Medicaid. [Bloomberg Law] OK Policy: Oklahoma lawmakers have nearly $600 million of available options that can fund Medicaid expansion

State Government News

What are the biggest issues facing the Oklahoma Legislature this year?: Oklahoma lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday with a sizeable to-do list and the uncertainty that comes with legislating during a pandemic. After the COVID-19 pandemic complicated the 2020 legislative session, state lawmakers are poised to kickoff the four-month 2021 session with renewed energy. [The Oklahoman]

New NonDoc page chronicles Oklahoma Legislature history: In 2020, NonDoc started to build a new web page chronicling past sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature. Today, that page is live on the NonDoc site. While only the past four years — meaning the past two Legislatures — are summarized currently, it is their hope to find the time and resources to add more entries on a somewhat regular basis. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa County has $13 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds left to distribute: Tulsa County officials charged with distributing $113.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds are down to the last $13 million. County Commissioner Ron Peters said the county likely will retain about half of the remaining funds for county expenses and distribute the rest to Tulsa Emergency Management Agency, Tulsa Health Department, Expo Square and Tulsa Economic Development Corp. to cover COVID-19 relief efforts. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Tulsa Superintendent: In-person return for all Tulsa Public Schools students possible by end of month: After nearly a year of pandemic disruption, Tulsa Public Schools students at all grade levels could return to in-person instruction by the end of February according to the district’s superintendent. [Public Radio Tulsa] The Tulsa school board will have a special meeting Feb. 16 to discuss and determine whether, when and how the district will start in-person classes. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa schools superintendent calls governor a ‘bully’ over distance-learning dispute [KTUL] [KOTV]
  • Opinion: We agree with Dr. Deborah Gist; Governor Kevin Stitt is a bully! [Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma seniors slow to apply for college in wake of pandemic: Many Oklahoma seniors have yet to take an admissions test or apply for college as they begin their final semester in high school. COVID-19 put students out of the classroom and parents out of work. It severely limited access to the ACT college admissions test and gutted the traditional college campus experience. [Oklahoma Watch]

Students urge focus on mental health, teacher resources: As public school districts navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is reaching out to students to gain insight into how their learning experiences have changed because of it. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Tribal Nations News

Chief Chat: Protecting Cherokee rights while moving forward with Oklahoma Legislature: Like most of the world, Oklahoma has struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the state has not been alone in taking on this public health and economic crisis. Cherokee Nation and the other Native nations in Oklahoma have been crucial partners during these hard times, whether by adopting strong public health policies, distributing PPE and vaccines, or sharing emergency economic relief. [Chuck Hoskin Jr. / Muskogee Phoenix]

Quapaw Citizens demand transparency, honesty with new and past administration: After more than 20 years at the helm of the Quapaw Nation, former Chairman John Berrey was soundly defeated in July by Joseph Tali Byrd. Now, following an internal audit and growing questions from tribal citizens, the new tribal administration is alleging Berrey and the tribe’s former secretary treasurer illegally doled out more than $34 million worth of pay raises, bonuses, severance pay and donations, including more than $4 million dollars to former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer. [KOSU]

Cherokee Nation dispersing heirloom seeds to tribal citizens: Starting Monday, the Cherokee Nation will begin giving away a limited supply of their heirloom seeds to tribal citizens. [KOSU]

General News

International law firm joins Tulsa Race Massacre reparations lawsuit: A New York-based international law firm has joined the legal team representing 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and their descendants in their lawsuit for reparations from the city of Tulsa and other parties. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Credit union makes big donation to Black-owned bookstore facing eviction in NE OKC [KOCO] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Cheat Sheet: Two challenge Alison Petrone in Norman Ward 3 [NonDoc]
  • ‘Your vote matters’: Municipal elections have history of low turnout in Norman [The Norman Transcript]
  • No rehearing filed to reconsider recall decision; election won’t occur next week [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“Getting the pandemic under control is critical to efforts to safely reopen our public schools. We all agree students learn best in the classroom, but we need to make sure our school districts have the funding necessary to protect students, teachers, support staff and their families.”

-Sen. Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, responding to Gov. Stitt’s State of the State address [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Number of the Day


The number of historic all-black towns still incorporated in Oklahoma. Between 1856 and 1920, more than 50 all-black towns were establised in Oklahoma.

[Source: Oklahoma Historical Society]

Policy Note

Being Antiracist: While individual choices are damaging, racist ideas in policy have a wide-spread impact by threatening the equity of our systems and the fairness of our institutions. To create an equal society, we must commit to making unbiased choices and being antiracist in all aspects of our lives. [National Muesuem of African American History & Culture]

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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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