In The Know: Governor commutes Jones’ sentence to life without parole | Senate passes redistricting map | 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. 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

Nov. 30 event seeks to empower Oklahomans to preserve democracy, create change: Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy program, will host a virtual and in-person event on Nov. 30 designed to support and empower advocates statewide. People Have the Power: Preserving Democracy Through Participation will be livestreamed starting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 30, via the Together Oklahoma website, the OK Policy website, and the organizations’ social media channels. TOK will host in-person watch parties that are free and open to the public. The events are currently planned in Ada, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Claremore, Guthrie, Lawton, McAlester, Muskogee, Sapulpa, and Tahlequah. Other watch parties may be added. For a complete list of locations and more details, visit [Miguel Rios / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma governor grants Julius Jones clemency after two-decade fight to get off death row: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted the death sentence of Julius Jones on Thursday about four hours before Jones was scheduled to be executed. Stitt, in a statement released Thursday at noon, said that “After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.” [The Frontier] He also ordered that Jones never be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life. [McAlester News-Capital]

Oklahoma Senate passes redistricting map: Senate leaders praised the near-unanimous passage Wednesday of new Senate district maps. Senate Bill 1x passed on a 46-1 vote and advanced to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for consideration. By law, the Legislature must redraw legislative district boundaries to reflect changes in population every 10 years following the decennial census. [The Journal Record]

  • Redistricting: Weighing the Impact of Splitting Oklahoma’s Largest Hispanic Community [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Long Story Short: A Better Way To Redistrict? [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Oklahoma County commissioners approve controversial redistricting map [NonDoc] | [OKC Free Press]

State Government News

Initial unemployment claims decline by 24% in Oklahoma, continued claims by 14.5%: Initial unemployment claims in Oklahoma hit another low last week, according to a government report. The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday that 1,533 filings for initial unemployment claims were logged the week ending Friday, a 24% decline from the prior week, when a revised total of 2,020 claims were filed. [Tulsa World] Numbers of both initial claims and continued claims for benefits reached their lowest levels since the onset of the pandemic, the OESC said in a release. [The Journal Record]

Study: State workplace injury cases level with national rate: Oklahoma’s workplace injury and illness rate is on par with the rest of the country, according to a private industry sampling conducted in 2020 by the state Labor Department. [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma building commission pulls plug on proposed energy conservation code: Oklahoma’s building code commission undermined the efforts of its own committee tasked with reviewing energy conservation standards this week by shooting down proposed changes and completing a takeover of the committee itself. [The Oklahoman]

Epic Virtual Charter School cuts, congressional redistricting, National Guard vaccine mandates and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the announcement from Epic Virtual Charter School of cuts to its workforce as the district has lost nearly three-fifths of its student population, the Republican plan for redistricting is moving through the state capitol and Julius Jones facing execution. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Guard troops who refuse to get vaccinated could jeopardize careers: Oklahoma National Guard members could find their careers in jeopardy if they refuse to comply with the Pentagon’s deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a Department of Defense official said Wednesday. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Editorial: Infrastructure bill doing what government ought to be doing – building the country’s foundation: The $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan passed by Congress and approved by President Joe Biden this week didn’t give everyone what they wanted, meaning that it’s likely a good deal. Oklahoma is expected to receive more than $5 billion for projects. Details about how and when funding will be rolled out haven’t been determined. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Tenants in rent trouble helped to avoid ‘scarlet E’: Community Cares Partners has awarded $19 million in housing stability grants to more than 30 organizations across Oklahoma to provide services that help keep renters in their homes. CCP’s main mission is preventing eviction through the payment of rent and utilities for qualifying Oklahomans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 10% of the federal Emergency Rental Assistance, or ERA, funds can be used for wrap-around services such as housing counseling, landlord-tenant mediation and eviction-related legal services. [The Journal Record]

Restore Hope grants to widen fight against homelessness during COVID-19: Widening the nonprofit’s efforts to prevent homelessness during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Restore Hope Ministries will distribute more than $750,000 to six other organizations across northeastern Oklahoma, officials announced this week. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Epic Charter Schools begin cuts, layoffs as enrollment drops by nearly 23,000 students: With the loss of about 23,000 students, staff layoffs and budget cuts have begun at Epic Charter Schools. Three out of five students who enrolled in Epic during the pandemic have departed for other school districts, the public virtual charter school system announced Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Progress has been made to bring our city together. These congressional maps, however, tear us apart. The people that drew these maps behind closed doors looked at Oklahoma City and asked ‘what community lacks the political power and acumen to oppose such an egregious move?’ And they chose mine.”

-Rep. Jose Cruz, D-Oklahoma City, speaking about current redistricting proposals that critics say will dilute political capital of Latinx residents [Oklahoma Watch]  

Number of the Day


Number of federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma. Additionally, the State of Oklahoma recognizes the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe, which is not federally recognized. [U.S. Department of Justice]

Policy Note

Census Prompts Push for More Indigenous School Lessons: Many American Indians and Alaska Natives say the dramatic increase in their numbers recorded in last year’s census supports their longstanding argument that Indigenous history should get more attention in public school classrooms. Even before the latest tally, there was a growing movement to infuse more Indigenous material into school curriculums—not only to connect students to their roots, but also to ensure that all students know about the contributions of Indigenous peoples and to encourage respect for the sovereign rights of tribes. [Pew Trusts]

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people.

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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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