In The Know: Health commissioner resigns | Redistricting concerns for rural Oklahomans | Tulsa, Owasso ask court to overturn McGirt decision

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.

Oklahoma News

Lance Frye resigns as Oklahoma Commissioner of Health: Dr. Lance Frye resigned Friday as the Oklahoma commissioner of health, one day after Gov. Kevin Stitt criticized “rogue activists” for entering into a lawsuit settlement that caused the State Department of Health to create a process for amending birth certificates to reflect a nonbinary sex designation. [NonDoc] Frye, formerly the State Air Surgeon for the Oklahoma National Guard, took over the Oklahoma State Department of Health in May 2020, as the state’s COVID-19 outbreak became dire. The agency has been embroiled in several controversies since. [KOSU] Dr. Lance Frye said it was an honor to lead the agency during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his resignation letter, he said it was time for him to move on as the state moves into an endemic phase of the COVID-19 response and away from a pandemic response. [Oklahoma Watch] Frye said in his letter that Oklahoma is “on a path to recovery,” and the Health Department is beginning to shift from pandemic response to “endemic surveillance.” [The Oklahoman] Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed has been named interim commissioner of health, according to Kevin Corbett, state Secretary of Health and Mental Health. [AP News] At least two other high-profile Oklahoma State Department of Health employees also recently left the agency. [Tulsa World] KFOR spoke with Rachel Klein, Director of Communications for OSDH, on Friday evening. Klein said the birth certificate gender option issue was not a factor in Frye’s resignation. [KFOR]

Rural residents worried they will lose out with redistricting: Redistricting fights in Oklahoma are heating up as lawmakers begin finalizing boundaries for the state’s five congressional seats ahead of next month’s special session. Some rural lawmakers are expressing concern about an effort they say would marginalize rural Oklahomans’ voices and give the state’s growing urban corridor more influence in Congress by apportioning the state’s most populous county — Oklahoma County — into three congressional districts. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • A Closer Look at Proposals to Redistrict Oklahoma’s Congressional Districts [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma cities, others join in effort to overturn McGirt: The cities of Tulsa and Owasso, state law enforcement and business groups and the states of Texas, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska have filed briefs supporting Oklahoma’s request that the U.S. Supreme Court overturn its ruling that some tribal reservations were never disestablished. [AP News] “Because of McGirt, numerous criminals who victimize Tulsa’s and Owasso’s citizens have gone unprosecuted,” the cities told justices in a brief filed Thursday. [The Oklahoman] Both cities on Friday filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief in a case the state wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review with the goal of either overturning or modifying rulings related to the case. [Tulsa World] The two cities’ amicus briefs were among four filed in support of Oklahoma’s petition to have the McGirt ruling overturned. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Court affirms existence of Quapaw Nation Reservation: In deciding Oklahoma v. Lawhorn on Thursday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a November 2020 Ottawa County District Court ruling that the Quapaw Nation’s reservation was never disestablished. The 4-0 decision extended the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case McGirt v. Oklahoma beyond the Five Tribes, making the Quapaw reservation the sixth affirmed reservation in Oklahoma. [NonDoc] The court cited what is known as the McGirt decision, in which the Supreme Court found Congress never disestablished the Muscogee reservation. [AP News]

  • Gov. Stitt criticizes McGirt ruling again after Court of Appeals determines portions of Ottawa County don’t fall under Oklahoma jurisdiction [KFOR]

Health News

COVID-19 boosters: Who’s eligible, and what you need to know about mix-and-match doses: Thousands more Oklahomans are now eligible for a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine after federal health agencies approved the shots for people who were previously vaccinated with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. [The Oklahoman]

  • Bynum: Vaccine mandate for city workers would be ‘harmful’ amid staffing challenges in Tulsa and beyond [Tulsa World]
  • Dart says health department surviving pandemic “as well as we possibly could” [Tulsa World]
  • Virus update: 9 charts that show how COVID-19 is spreading in Tulsa and Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Am I ever going to recover?’: A look at one man’s struggle with long-haul COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma issues first nonbinary birth certificate: After settling a lawsuit, Oklahoma state officials agreed to include a nonbinary gender option on birth certificates. The change will allow nonbinary people born in Oklahoma to change their gender designation on re-issued birth certificates. [KOSU]

Oklahoma has the second most cases of confirmed salmonella infections in outbreak linked to onions: A salmonella outbreak tied to onions has sickened more than 650 people in 37 states, U.S. health officials said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 129 people have been hospitalized. No one has died. Nearly all of the illnesses were reported in August and September, and the largest numbers of cases were in Texas and Oklahoma. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Long Story Short: Three Stories Of Visions For A Different Oklahoma: In Episode 8 of Long Story Short (listen below), Oklahoma Watch journalists share findings and insights from their latest stories with executive editor Mike Sherman. [Oklahoma Watch]

New DPS commissioner talks trooper shortage, body cameras and pursuits: Trooper retention is the biggest issue facing the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said Tim Tipton, as he takes over the role of Department of Public Safety commissioner. [Tulsa World]

OMMA clarifies medical marijuana rules: The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority spent three and a half hours on Wednesday going through a 129-page document, approving emergency rules that go into effect Nov. 1. Industry leaders included on OMMA’s advisory board took the time to clarify several points for the sake of business owners struggling to comply with the changes. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Inhofe champions bill supporting, managing bison: The American buffalo might become more plentiful in Oklahoma as the result of bipartisan legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and others. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Probation officer-turned-lawmaker tries to wrangle criminal justice reform: Five years ago, Oklahoma voters approved two state questions — 780 and 781 — that promised to reform the criminal justice system by putting people with mental health and substance abuse problems in treatment instead of jail. Opinions vary on the effectiveness of those measures, but across the board is agreement on at least one thing — the promised community treatment and supervision has never materialized. [Tulsa World]

Firm recommends constructing new Oklahoma County jail for approximately $300 million: An architectural firm hired by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council to study options for the county’s troubled jail recommended on Thursday construction of an entirely new facility, which would cost as much as $300 million and would house approximately 1,800 inmates, with the possibility to be scaled up to house 2,800. [NonDoc]

Ogden approves amended petition for grand jury to remove David Prater: Oklahoma County District Court Judge Richard Ogden today approved an amended application authorizing a citizen petition to impanel a grand jury for the removal of District Attorney David Prater. [NonDoc] Proponents have 45 days from Friday to gather 5,000 signatures or the petition becomes “null and void” according to the order. [OKC Free Press]

Julius Jones’ clemency hearing: What you need to know: Julius Jones, who is on death row for the 1999 murder of Edmond resident Paul Howell, will appear in front of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for a clemency hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 26. The hearing marks his final chance to be taken off death row. [NonDoc]

  • Parole board told death row inmate Julius Jones doing business deals [The Oklahoman]

Education News

‘The passion’s gone’: Oklahoma teachers struggle with burnout: Sewing and teaching used to be a source of joy for Midwest City High School educator Micheal Rowley. Now, when he sits down with a piece of fabric, Rowley, a family and consumer science teacher, says he can’t unwind. His mind drifts to the daily online lessons he ought to create for his fashion and interior design classes at Midwest City. He can’t help but think of the growing pile of work waiting for him at his classroom desk, how he might chip away at it in his free time. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Oklahoma’s Black towns responding to tourism interest after withstanding pandemic: When Michael Boyles was elected mayor of Langston in April, he knew it was not going to be a flashy job. “Being a mayor in Langston is more a labor of love than anything else,” Boyles said. “You get a small stipend, but it’s not much. My day job is what really pays my bills. But I say it’s a labor of love because, if you don’t love your own community, who will? I didn’t get elected as a politician; I’m an activist. I want to get something done. ” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Chickasaw Nation’s new $300 million resort can shape OKC into a true tourist spot [The Oklahoman]
  • OG&E customers could bear high costs to avoid February power outages. How much can you expect to pay? [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I think the concern is that their interests will be marginalized. The folks in rural areas don’t want to be represented by someone who lives in the city and doesn’t ever take the time to come out and meet them and be genuinely representative (and) be concerned with the issues that matter most to rural Oklahomans.”

-Andy Moore, head of People Not Politicians, speaking about rural Oklahomans’ concerns about redistricting [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day

$435 million

The accumulated state budget savings since 2001 due to a 64 percent decline in youth detention costs, according to a 2019 Open Justice Oklahoma report.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

Policy Note

Studies Show Dramatic Racial Disparities in Front End of Juvenile Justice System: Two peer-reviewed studies document an alarmingly unequal juvenile justice system, particularly for Black youth. The studies point to systemic responses that result in harsher treatment for youth of color — especially Black youth — than non-Hispanic white youth at the front end of juvenile justice, starting with police encounters before young people even reach high school. Glaring disparities by race and ethnicity persist, according to the studies, and differences in behavior cannot account for the overrepresentation of youth of color in the justice system. [Annie E. Casey Foundation]

Note: October Is National Youth Justice Action Month

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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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