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.
Gov. Kevin Stitt seeks to privatize Medicaid, faces early opposition: Gov. Kevin Stitt seeks to outsource care for many of Oklahoma’s Medicaid recipients. Still in the early stages of the process, Stitt’s push to privatize Medicaid by hiring a for-profit company to manage the program’s spending is already facing pushback from some members of his own party. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reach new highs 4 of 5 nights: Record COVID-19 hospitalizations swept across Oklahoma four of the past five weeknights — the five days each week the state releases data on current inpatients. Hospitals are required to report a snapshot of COVID-19 hospitalizations at midnight, which the state publicly releases on weekdays. [Tulsa World]
- COVID-19 infections rising in rural counties [The Oklahoman]
- COVID-19: 766 more cases, 3 more deaths in state [Tulsa World]
- Seven months into pandemic, Oklahoma sets new high for COVID cases reported in a single day [Public Radio Tulsa]
- As outbreak hits new highs, Stitt continues defying guidelines he tells Oklahomans to follow [Public Radio Tulsa]
Small towns, suburbs across state lead weekly hotspots: Small towns and suburbs across the state were among the top hotspots for the coronavirus as past infections in several prisons appeared to decline. The total number of coronavirus cases surpassed 97,000 on Friday, with the state recording highs in new daily cases, active cases and hospitalizations. [Oklahoma Watch]
As evictions increase, help still available for Tulsa tenants facing difficult choices: With Tulsa’s eviction rate skyrocketing back toward pre-pandemic levels, officials seem frustrated that more tenants and landlords aren’t taking the help that is being offered to them. [Tulsa World] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
Oklahoma is finally getting a new public health lab: During a press conference about a new pandemic response initiative, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his administration’s plan to move the state’s public health lab to Stillwater. The lab has several functions, the most visible of which has been processing coronavirus tests. In normal times, it processes several kinds of specimens, including disease screenings for all of Oklahoma’s newborns. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
State Government News
Overhaul of constitutionally protected tobacco settlement on ballot: As lawmakers grapple with how to fund Medicaid expansion, voters must decide whether they want to overhaul the state’s constitutionally protected tobacco settlement. State Question 814 proposes reducing the amount of annual payment that flows into the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) by 50%. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 814 available at okpolicy.org/okvotes.
Uncontested Oklahoma: Lack of competitive races on the rise this year: There will be something missing on the ballot when thousands of Oklahomans living near the southwestern corner of the state vote this fall. Residents in a large swatch of land covering most of Tillman and Comanche counties won’t be voting for any state legislative candidates. [Oklahoma Watch]
Fugate, Townley study housing vouchers: State Reps. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, and Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, presented an interim study focused on barriers to upward economic mobility for low-income citizens. [The Journal Record]
Political notebook: House panel to examine death penalty: This week, state Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, is holding an in-depth review of Oklahoma’s death penalty process. [Tulsa World]
Federal Government News
Four takeaways from the first Horn-Bice Congressional debate: The two candidates in Oklahoma’s closely watched 5th Congressional District talked health care, foreign policy and policing during their first debate ahead of November’s election. [Oklahoma Watch] Horn battles Pelosi ads, while Bice shifts her emphasis away from Trump support [The Oklahoman]
Commission for Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty makes initial recommendations for judicial, criminal justice expansion: The Commission for the Protection of Cherokee Nation Sovereignty established by the Principal Chief after the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt ruling, has issued its first recommendations on expanding the tribe’s courts, attorneys and marshal service. [Anadisgoi]
Criminal Justice News
Pardon and Parole Board hearings trigger continuing trauma for those left behind: As a parole eligibility date nears, an investigative report is presented to the Pardon and Parole Board and a hearing is scheduled. A hearing notice is sent to the offender, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, the prosecuting district attorney, and victims of the crime who have registered with the Pardon and Parole Board victim’s coordinator. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma County commissioner asks court to weigh in on new ICE policy: Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey has asked the district court to uphold a new county policy requiring full compliance with federal immigration officials in the jail. [The Oklahoman]
‘More of a human skills type of operation’: Police, social service agencies partner to assist homeless: The program — and the partnership — is designed to gather information about the city’s homeless population and to inform those without shelter of the services available to them. Officers also use the opportunity to share information about city ordinances and to check on outstanding warrants. [Tulsa World]
Economy & Business News
Business support programs need to evolve with changing landscape, experts say: Programs established to encourage entrepreneurs in Oklahoma and to support business and industry need to evolve with more financing as the landscape for commerce changes. [The Journal Record]
After another chaotic year, some say it’s time to change the beef industry: So far, 2020 has not been kind to beef producers. Farmers and economists say the food system fielded a one-two punch that triggered huge market disruptions and losses. [KOSU]
The week in coveducation: State board to discuss Epic audit, OKCPS discusses in-person learning: The Oklahoma State Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 12 to discuss findings in the state’s forensic audit of Epic Charter Schools. Oklahoma City Public Schools discussed bringing back pre-K and kindergarten students to in-person learning during a board meeting this past week. [NonDoc]
- OKC students’ return to school all but confirmed with new COVID-19 data [The Oklahoman]
- OKC teacher dies after contracting COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
- COVID-19 risk up in Garfield County, but under threshold to keep in-person classes at Enid schools [Enid News & Eagle]
‘Let’s do it well while we can:’ School music programs adjust to COVID-19: School districts throughout the state have made an array of adjustments to their regular operations owing to COVID-19, and music programs throughout Oklahoma haven’t been an exception. [NonDoc]
Data shows mailed ballots benefit both parties in battleground states: All but a handful of states now allow widespread access to mail-in — or absentee — balloting, but voters nationwide find themselves navigating a complex patchwork of regulations that vary from state to state — everything from voter ID requirements to strict ballot deadlines. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]
- Voters can still register to vote absentee; poll workers needed [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]
- Cleveland County has sent out a record number of mail-in ballots [The Norman Transcript]
Indigenous Peoples Day celebration set for Monday: Native Americans will share their traditions and lore Monday during the Indigenous People’s Day Celebration. The celebration, beginning 11 a.m. Monday outside Muskogee Civic Center, is hosted by Muskogee Oklahoma Native American Association (MONAA). [Muskogee Phoenix] In 2019, Oklahoma voted to move Native American Day to the same day as Columbus Day so the two could be celebrated concurrently. [CNN]
Coming out and coming home: How Oklahoma City helped a gay couple settle down and find ‘home’: Contrary to popular assumption, and despite myriad adventures and epic memories, living in an RV full-time while traveling the country hasn’t been easy. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma Local News
- Demonstrators paint ‘BLM’ in front of City Hall to protest systemic racism, removal of Greenwood street mural [Tulsa World]
- Sac and Fox Nation now based in Stroud [Gaylord News via The Ponca City News]
Quote of the Day
“People are forced to choose whether to go to court to save their home, or stay at work to save their jobs.”
-Eric Hallett, an attorney with Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, which provides pro bono counsel to tenants. [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahoma residents who identify as American Indians and Alaska Natives. Oklahoma has the second highest percentage behind Alaska at 27.9%.
Political Participation Among Indigenous People: In cities across the nation, the increased visibility of tribal members in electoral politics and through government to government relationships has led to many productive city-tribal partnerships. Increasingly, tribal members are running to serve as municipal officials. There is no one reason why tribal members run for office, but most members say that a reason they ran was to ensure that the Native voice would be represented on their city council. From Oklahoma City to Everson, Washington and from Madison, Wisconsin to Soap Lake, California, more and more enrolled tribal members are running for and winning municipal office. [National League of Cities]
Note: Monday, Oct. 12, is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday that celebrates the history and contributions of American Americans and Alaska Natives.
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