In The Know: Gov. removes two OHCA board members | Health care staff: Please get vaccinated | Women’s impact on pandemic recovery

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

Columnist: American economy could jump by $13 trillion if recovery efforts focused on women: Although women have historically been at a disadvantage in the workplace, women are suffering the effects of the pandemic in shocking ways. Prior to COVID-19, our economy was already doing a disservice to millions of working women. Nearly half of all working women work in jobs paying low wages, with median earnings of only $10.93 per hour. [Ahnwiake Rose / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma News

State medical association concerned over governor’s removal of OHCA board members: Gov. Kevin Stitt removed two members from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board of Directors over the weekend. The Oklahoma State Medical Association said Jean Hausheer, M.D., and Laura Shamblin, M.D., were removed Saturday afternoon. [KTUL] | [FOX 25] [News On 6]

Overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, Oklahoma nurses plead for people to get vaccinated: There is nothing that scares Cacy Wyatt more than the idea of coming down with COVID-19 and having to be put on a ventilator. “Because ultimately, I know the outcome,” he said. Wyatt is an intensive-care unit nurse at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City, where he cares for the sickest of the sick. A wave of predominantly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients has overwhelmed hospitals across the state. [The Oklahoman]

  • Researchers see huge increase in virus that causes COVID-19 in Oklahoma’s wastewater, no slowing down yet [The Oklahoman]
  • State Health Commissioner, Oklahoma Hospitals At Odds Over Capacity Providers Say Doesn’t Exist [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Owasso police officer who died from COVID remembered as friend, mentor: ‘We were thankful for each and every day he was here’ [Tulsa World]
  • Veteran with son fighting COVID wants Oklahomans on same side in battle [Tulsa World]
  • ‘If I Can Save One Person’s Life, I’ve Done It In Honor Of My Mom’ [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Almost 9,300 Oklahomans have died of COVID-19 [The Frontier]

Children with special needs face life-long pandemic impact. Their families feel left behind: It was exactly what she feared. Stephanie Coles’ 9-year-old son, Max, tested positive for COVID-19 after three weeks of face-to-face classes in Edmond Public Schools. Coles had dreaded this for months, ever since her younger son, Alex, 3, was diagnosed with autism in June. In the weeks leading up to the new school year, the risks and what-ifs circled in Coles’ mind. Alex is facing greater risk of serious COVID-19 illness as a child with autism, Coles said. But, he desperately needs to be in a special education classroom. [The Oklahoman]

  • COVID exposure counts climb in Tulsa Public Schools [Tulsa World]

Coalition Pushes Oklahoma Lawmakers To Support Automatic Expungement System: Groups across the political spectrum are urging state lawmakers to let them establish a system to automatically seal Oklahomans’ court and arrest records once they’ve completed their sentences. Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Right on Crime, Prosper OK and Clean Slate want to integrate a program from the nonprofit Code for America into a new information clearinghouse the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is building. The program would automatically flag records eligible for expungement, and the groups said 100,000 Oklahomans could benefit right away. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Editorial: Medicaid expansion working as expected: Fears that Medicaid expansion would overwhelm Oklahoma haven’t panned out; the system is working so far. Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett told lawmakers last week that estimates of 200,000 additional enrollments appear on track and that the agency hasn’t needed to add staff or had many problems finding providers for the new patients. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

COVID-19 limits access to mental health care: Morgan is among millions of Americans with mental illnesses such as substance use, depression and anxiety, for whom the government and community resources grew more scarce during the pandemic. Poor people, those living in rural areas and those belonging to racial and gender minorities had even worse outcomes. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Clinic Says Providers Can’t Help Everyone Seeking Care After Texas Abortion Ban: On Sep. 1, Texas banned abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. Oklahoma is already seeing an uptick in women seeking care. Kailey Voellinger is the clinic director at Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. She said her facility typically helps a variety of patients. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Editorial: Not much in Oklahoma is back to normal: Oklahoma appears to be trapped a dizzying spiral around the pandemic, overwhelming the health care system and frustrating residents. The state has the fifth highest COVID-19 death rate, ranks in the top five for test positivity and is No. 4 in hospitalizations. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Kindness, empathy is doing our part during COVID: We need more kindness in today’s world. The pandemic has been scary and frustrating, causing arguments and divides among family and friends. There have been beautiful moments of unity, and unbelievable moments of division, but I believe there’s more that unites us, than divides us. [Sen. Carri Kicks / The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Political notebook: Assessments begin for 6,000 Oklahomans on developmental disabilities wait list: A private contractor, Liberty Healthcare of Oklahoma, began last week assessing the needs of all 6,000 Oklahomans on a waiting list for developmental disability home and community-based services. The list has shrunk in recent years, although there is some debate about whether it’s through attrition or increased access to services. Some families have been waiting for more than a decade for help. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma governor announces another resignation: David Ostrowe is resigning as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Digital Transformation and Administration secretary, Stitt’s office announced late Friday. Stitt said in a statement that he had accepted the resignation of Ostrowe, who “will focus on his successful restaurant management business and pursue other personal interests.” [AP News] Cabinet Secretary David Ostrowe, who was charged with attempted bribery of an official last year, a charge that was later dropped, will resign Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

New Oklahoma AG John O’Connor talks McGirt, ABA rating and state’s top legal issues: In the weeks since Tulsa attorney John O’Connor was named Oklahoma’s chief law enforcement officer, he has defended a state law that largely prohibits school mask mandates and asked the nation’s high court to reverse landmark decisions on tribal sovereignty and abortion rights. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma treasury collections surge compared to August 2020: Overall Oklahoma treasury collections last month exceeded August 2020 by nearly 20%, fueled largely by increased oil and gas production tax receipts, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported Friday. Total monthly receipts in August were $1.17 billion, an increase of $191 million from August 2020, or 19.5%, McDaniel reported. [AP News]

Podcast: Food for thought after 6 years of NonDoc: Wednesday, Sept. 1, marked the long-awaited opening of a new Homeland grocery story in northeast Oklahoma City. But it also marked the end of NonDoc’s sixth year — and the start of our seventh year — producing independent journalism. [NonDoc]

Viewpoint: We must remain steadfast in learning to avoid past indiscretions: We have a duty to educate, and with this duty, comes great responsibility. It is extremely troublesome that lawmakers could thwart meaningful historical markers. It brings to mind a well-known quote by George Santanya: “Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it.” [Tanisha Woods / The Oklahoman]

Ginnie Graham: Most pressing issues in Tulsa are growing divides: In the past month, five people have asked about what I thought were the most pressing problems Tulsans face. It’s a big question that has my mind spinning with answers. After 27 years of writing about Tulsa and Oklahoma issues, there isn’t a single or easy response. Everything is connected. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Two anchors of COVID safety net ending, affecting millions: Two primary anchors of the government’s COVID protection package are ending or have recently ended. Starting Monday, an estimated 8.9 million people will lose all unemployment benefits. A federal eviction moratorium already has expired. [AP News / Tulsa World]

Congress moves closer to requiring women to register for the draft: An effort to require women to register for the draft gained steam last week, as the House Armed Services Committee voted to include the proposal in the annual defense bill. Now, both the House and Senate defense bills include bipartisan provisions requiring women to register with the Selective Service System, meaning those provisions are likely to appear in the final version of the bill. [The Oklahoman]

Rep. Stephanie Bice’s provisions included in the national defense bill: The House Armed Services Committee this week adopted provisions authored by Rep. Stephanie Bice in the annual defense bill, including one to add money for border security and another to help military families with a disabled member. [The Oklahoman]

Mullin says U.S. government sabotaged his freelance rescue mission: Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin on Friday accused the Biden administration of sabotaging his unauthorized rescue mission to Afghanistan earlier in the week, although he acknowledged that he has no firm evidence of that. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

For Tribal Members in Oklahoma, Medicaid Expansion Improves Access to Specialty Care: Medicaid expansion is expected to improve not just access to care for low-income Native Americans who had previously been shut out of health insurance, but the finances of the Indian Health Service. [New York Times]

Chickasaw woman, Oklahoma native named to key USDA post: It makes sense that Janie Simms Hipp, a Chickasaw woman from Idabel, was tapped earlier this year to become chief law officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After all, Native Americans comprise more than 79,000 of the country’s 3.4 million producers, with the majority in the Plains and western states. [Gaylord News / The Norman Transcript] She is the first Indigenous woman to oversee agriculture law in the United States. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor withdraws main challenge to McGirt decision: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor on Friday withdrew the state’s main challenge to the Supreme Court ruling recognizing the Muscogee (Creek) reservation, as the stack of complex legal cases stemming from the 2020 decision headed for a reshuffling. [The Oklahoman] O’Connor said he made the decision after a state appellate court ruled the high court’s decision in a landmark tribal sovereignty case — dubbed the McGirt decision — does not apply retroactively. [AP News]

Opinion: Fear-mongering by AG, governor does not work: The law of the land — as affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the “McGirt” case — is working. The Aug. 25th federal sentencing of Jimcy McGirt to three life sentences — and the U.S. attorneys’ actions last year to ensure this man’s uninterrupted imprisonment — is a prime example of an orderly process that preserves public safety and delivers justice in the lawful, appropriate venue. [Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief David Hill / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa Police to stand-up internal Use of Force Review Board: In a move Mayor G.T. Bynum has cited as one reason he no longer plans to pursue an office of the independent monitor, the Tulsa Police Department will soon implement its first internal Use of Force Review Board — once the city’s recovery from the ransomware attack lets loose some key software. [Tulsa World]

‘A tragedy from Day One’: Former Oklahoma death row inmate to get $2 million settlement: Oklahoma City is paying $2 million to settle a former death row inmate’s federal lawsuit over his 1988 conviction for two murders. Robert Lee Miller Jr. was set free in 1998 after DNA tests implicated a convicted rapist in the deaths. [The Oklahoman]

Witness to Innocence exonerees share their stories in support of Julius Jones: Several former death row inmates visited Oklahoma recently to share their personal stories as a way to raise awareness and support for Julius Jones. The exonerees with Witness to Innocence were among the latest in a lengthy list of people supporting Oklahoma death row inmate Jones and his quest for clemency. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma prisons locked down after inmate attacks at 6 sites: The head of Oklahoma’s prison system ordered a statewide lockdown Friday after several inmates were injured in what authorities say were gang-related attacks. Corrections Director Scott Crow ordered the lockdown and canceled all visitation through the weekend. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

Many Seeking Emergency Rental Assistance Left Waiting: Of the nearly $310 million in federal emergency funds Oklahoma received to help those at risk of eviction or having their electricity cut off, only 17.4% has been distributed, according to the U.S. Treasury. A non-profit the state contracted to distribute the majority of the funds says it has a backlog of 13,000 requests, prompting it to close applications for the next six weeks in hopes of catching up. [Oklahoma Watch]

Affordable housing disappearing in OKC: A new study reveals affordable decent housing is a growing problem for a large percentage of Oklahoma City residents. From 2000 to 2019, home prices and rental rates rose faster than income, increasing the affordability gap, according to the 2021 Housing Affordability Study prepared by Economic & Planning Systems Inc. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Grading Oklahoma: Amid COVID, Oklahoma has maintained better rates of unemployment than US: Grading Oklahoma is a weekly look at how we stack up on a national scale. Each week The Oklahoman features a different subject area to illustrate and examine on a closer level. This week The Oklahoman take a look at Oklahoma’s rates of unemployment. [The Oklahoman]

Causes of OKC’s labor shortage go beyond the pandemic: A year after economists predicted the pandemic would send unemployment skyrocketing up to 25%, a short spike was followed by unemployment Oklahoma City dropping to 2.9% in July, the second-lowest in the country and matching what it was in January, 2020. [The Oklahoman]

  • Retail wreckage; retail rising: Pandemic winners & losers in OKC [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Teacher exodus: Summer retirements up 38% year-over-year in Oklahoma: A Tulsa World analysis found summertime teacher retirements are up nearly 38% year-over-year, in yet another sign that Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is worsening. Many newly retired educators from area school districts say the pandemic pushed them past the brink for one reason or another, and in a lot of cases, years sooner than they might have left the classroom otherwise. [Tulsa World]

School official says student’s hair-cut allegation untrue: School officials in Clinton say a fifth grader’s claim that he was forcibly held down in a school bathroom by two students who cut his hair have been shown by video evidence to be untrue. [AP News]

  • Tribes, School District Say Reported Incident Involving Cheyenne & Arapaho Youth Was “Inaccurate and Did Not Occur” [Native News Online] | [News 9]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Internet sleuths led to arrest of Oklahoma man in US Capitol assault, FBI says [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I want them to consider what they would be leaving behind if there were to get sick and they were to pass. Would they be leaving behind a newborn child? Would they be leaving behind their spouse? Would they be leaving behind their parents who may depend on them to care for them?”

-Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City ICU Nurse Cacy Wyatt, speaking about a question he hopes unvaccinated people would ask themselves when deciding about getting vaccinated [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The percentage of criminal court fines and fees that remain unpaid each year.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

Policy Note

The Cost Trap: How Excessive Fees Lock Oklahomans Into the Criminal Justice System without Boosting State Revenue: Tens of thousands of Oklahomans enter the justice system each year and come out with thousands of dollars in legal financial obligations. For poor Oklahomans, this debt can amount to most of their family’s income, and it often leads to a cycle of incarceration and poverty. The system does nothing to improve public safety but incurs high costs to law enforcement, jails, and the courts. Lawmakers should reduce the financial burdens of the criminal justice system for poor defendants, and they can do that without jeopardizing critical sources of revenue for state agencies. [OK Policy]

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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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