In The Know: Historically Black neighborhoods in OKC continued to experience explosions | SB 511 helps harm reduction efforts | 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

SB 511 creates a legal path for harm reduction in Oklahoma (Guest Post): Between 1999 and 2016, more than 10,000 Oklahomans died from a drug overdose. In 2019, Oklahoma maintained the highest rate of Hepatitis C infections and deaths in the nation with an estimated 1,820 of every 100,000 Oklahomans infected. Far too many Oklahomans are dying of preventable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, and far too many Oklahomans are dying of overdoses. SB 511, authored by Rep. Carole Bush and Sen. John Montgomery, is a significant step towards reducing the criminalization of addiction and improving the well-being of families and communities. The newly enacted SB 511 allows medical practitioners, law enforcement, Tribes, and registered social service entities to administer harm reduction syringe service programs with careful oversight by the State Department of Health. SB 511 creates an opportunity for these organizations to work with the Health Department to expand access to harm reduction services in Oklahoma. [Hailey Ferguson / Guest Post for OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Historically Black neighborhood in Oklahoma City finds no relief from decades of explosions: Amid the gentle sloping hills lined with trees and a sweeping view of the downtown skyline, one of Oklahoma City’s oldest Black neighborhoods is healing and rebuilding from years of discrimination and displacement. Explosions have rocked the JFK neighborhood for 40 years. The culprit? A scrapyard built in 1968 just blocks from the historically Black neighborhood. [The Oklahoman] The Oklahoman visited with Assistant City Manager Aubrey McDermid to find out why the city has been unable to date to stop scrapyard explosions upsetting nearby residents. [The Oklahoman]

McEntire wins passage of Medicaid plan: Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, on Tuesday won passage of a measure that would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to implement internal managed care for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program instead of outsourcing it to out-of-state, private corporations. Senate Bill 131 would replace the governor’s privatized managed care plan. [The Duncan Banner] A coalition of health care organizations on Tuesday called on the Oklahoma Legislature to vote to stop a flawed plan to privatize health care for one million Medicaid recipients. [Southwest Ledger]

Arnold Hamilton column: House makes good move to sidestep managed care: The Oklahoma House’s overwhelming embrace this week of state-run Medicaid was very good news in an otherwise very bad legislative session. In its current form, Senate Bill 131 would keep the Oklahoma Health Care Authority in charge of health care for the working poor and thwart Gov. Kevin Stitt’s efforts to outsource management to private contractors. [Arnold Hamilton / The Journal Record]

COVID-19: Tulsa County continues to see slight increase in weekly case count: The state’s weekly new case count of COVID-19 patients continued to decrease this week, but Tulsa County’s numbers appear to be taking the opposite trend. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma, Florida, and New York associations seek support on legislation: The Oklahoma Medical Equipment Providers Association (OMEPA) has joined a coalition of Oklahoma healthcare providers who are asking state legislators to prevent the adoption of an MCO model for Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), the state’s Medicaid program. Without legislative input, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt contracted with insurance companies to manage patient care through Medicaid in Oklahoma. [HME Business]


‘I lost who I was’: COVID-19 survivors suffering long-term effects find hope, healing in focused recovery clinics: Sometime within the 12 hours she spent in a Tulsa emergency room waiting for a bed in the ICU to become available, Vannessa Kennison arrived at a disconcerting realization. For her to get the care she needed, “either someone had to be well enough to move out of the ICU, or someone had to die,” she remembered thinking. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

State Senate leader calls out caustic rhetoric; plays profanity-ridden voicemail: Politics can get ugly. And then there is just downright uncalled for nastiness. In an unusual move, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, used a portion of his weekly press availability to illustrate just how bad it can get. He played a profanity-ridden voice mail his office received when a caller was upset with a decision he made about a bill. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma unemployment claims a mixed bag: Unemployment claims in Oklahoma showed mixed numbers as initial claims for benefits declined while continuing claims increased, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Thursday, [AP News] There was a decrease in initial claims, an increase in continued unemployment claims, and an increase in the continued claims’ four-week moving average, the agency said. [Tulsa World]

Redbud School Funding Act unanimously passes Oklahoma House: A bill that would nullify a controversial settlement announced by Oklahoma’s State Board of Education and fix funding disparities between charter and traditional public schools with medical marijuana money, passed through the Oklahoma House of Representatives Thursday. [KOSU]

Bill addressing missing and murdered Indigenous people signed into law in Oklahoma: On Tuesday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a piece of legislation called Ida’s Law. The bill is designed to help solve cases of missing and murdered Indigenous citizens in Oklahoma. Senate Bill 172 is named after Ida Beard, a 29 year-old Cheyenne Arapaho citizen who went missing from El Reno in 2015. She has never been found. [KOSU]

Oklahoma law grants immunity to drivers who unintentionally harm protesters: A new law in Oklahoma increases penalties for demonstrators who block public roadways and grants immunity to motorists who unintentionally kill or injure protesters while attempting to flee. Critics of the bill say it is intended to limit demonstrations and puts the people involved in them at risk. [KOSU]

Some say anti-doxing bill could violate free speech, lawmaker says that’s not the intent: Activists are expressing concern after the governor signed HB 1643, an anti-doxing bill. One attorney say the bill’s broad language could include filming police, and he says criminalizing that would be a violation of the First Amendment. [KFOR]

Bill that taxes energy use for electric vehicles signed into law: A bill that adds a tax on the energy used to charge electric vehicles has been signed by the governor. House Bill 2234, written by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, creates the Driving on Road Infrastructure with Vehicles of Electricity (DRIVE) Act of 2021. [KFOR]

Bill proposes to identify foreign interests in marijuana industry: Legislation meant to curb what one state lawmaker described as a “thriving” black market for marijuana in Oklahoma gained traction in the Oklahoma Senate on Thursday. Among other things, passage of House Bill 2272 would help Oklahoma better monitor and control any intervention in the state’s medical marijuana industry by foreign individuals or interests. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Legislature OKs bill banning abortion if Roe falls: The Oklahoma House passed a bill late Wednesday that would immediately bar access to abortion in the state if the precedent set in Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the legislation (Senate Bill 918), all but one regulation allowing abortions would be repealed. If signed into law, a regulation criminalizing the use of medication to induce a miscarriage is guilty of a felony unless taken to preserve the life of the mother, according to a bill summary. The bill now heads to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R) desk. [Bloomberg Law]

GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma want to name a panhandle highway after former President Trump: Oklahoma’s GOP-led Legislature is pushing to name a stretch of highway in the Panhandle after former President Donald Trump. The Oklahoma House on Thursday approved legislation to name a roughly 20-mile stretch of U.S. 287 the “President Donald J. Trump Highway.” [The Oklahoman] The designation for a stretch of U.S. 287 from Boise City in the western end of the Panhandle southeast to the Texas line was included in the annual road-and-bridge-naming bill passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House passes ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act’: A bill creating the “Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act” passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday. [The Lawton Constitution]

Federal Government News

Lankford questions items in Biden’s $2T infrastructure plan: Senate Republicans unveiled their own $568 billion infrastructure plan Thursday, about one-fourth of the amount President Biden proposed spending earlier this month. That announcement came the day after several GOP senators took to the floor to say they have questions about Biden’s plan, including Oklahoma’s James Lankford. [Public Radio Tulsa]

States wary of privacy-protected census data: Just as 16 states have signed on to a suit filed by Alabama calling for the Census Bureau to stop applying differential privacy to the population numbers that will be used to determine legislative seats, statistical benchmarks and infrastructure and school funding, the Census Bureau is releasing new demonstration data. Oklahoma is among the state supporting Alabama’s challenge. [GCN]

  • OKC metro to gain House, Senate seats under new redistricting plan [OKC Free Press]

Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals could be restored with the help of Oklahoma lawmakers: Oklahoma’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Thursday urging the International Olympic Committee to set the record straight on Jim Thorpe’s achievements and restore his 1912 Olympic records. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Consultant hired as criticism intensifies against troubled Oklahoma County Jail: The trust that oversees the troubled Oklahoma County jail is turning to the former administrator of Tulsa County’s jail for help. Trustees voted 8-1 Wednesday to hire David B. Parker as a consultant. His pay was capped at $20,000. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa police staffing ‘flat’ in proposed FY22 budget, but mayor says city needs more officers: At a virtual press briefing following his presentation of a proposed fiscal year 2022 budget to the Tulsa City Council, Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday that while Tulsa Police Department staffing is not being targeted for an increase this year, he plans to pursue adding more than 100 patrol officers as part of next year’s budget proposal. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Indigent Defense System seeks funding for office in Lawton: The Oklahoma Indigent Defense System plans to open a satellite office in Lawton if the Legislature appropriates sufficient funding, OIDS Executive Director Tim Laughlin confirmed Tuesday. [Southwest Ledger]

Economy & Business News

Help wanted: Hoteliers, restaurateurs among local employers affected by labor shortage: A year ago when Tulsa and the nation were in a COVID-19 quagmire, jobs were scarce. Today, with coronavirus vaccinations trending upward, the situation, in many instances, has flipped. Employers, particularly in the food service and hospitality sectors, are struggling to find help. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Settlement gives Epic Charter Schools fresh start on shrouded learning fund: A compromise between Epic Charter Schools and one of its authorizers is likely to be finalized next week, avoiding closure of the state’s largest online school system. [Oklahoma Watch] The governing board of Epic One-on-One Charter School agreed to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s proposed settlement terms Wednesday night, one day after the SVCSB rejected Epic’s initial proposal. [NonDoc]

Education funding bill addresses disparities, charter school issues: A bill intended to correct funding disparities for brick-and-mortar public schools in low-property-value areas passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday. If passed into law, Senate Bill 229, referred to as the Redbud School Funding Act, also would address funding of charter schools in the state. [The Journal Record]

Western Heights sues over Board of Education probation: After saying Western Heights Schools Superintendent Mannix Barnes was appearing before the State Board of Education this morning in a spirit of “full and complete cooperation,” attorney Jerry Colclazier said Barnes would not be answering questions regarding the board’s reasons for putting the district on probation earlier this month because the matter is the subject of a newly filed lawsuit. [NonDoc]

General News

‘There’s not an offseason’: Native Americans lead efforts to get Oklahoma voters registered: Months after the 2020 presidential election came to an end, Native American organizers have continued their efforts to get Oklahomans registered to vote. Rock The Native Vote, an initiative organized to get Indigenous people in Oklahoma politically engaged, has registered about 700 people through voter drives and events. [The Oklahoman]

Local churches played vital role in Greenwood before and after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, experts say: Local churches formed the “soul of Greenwood” as the Black neighborhood flourished in the years leading up to its destruction in 1921, scholars said Thursday during one of the many commemorative events ahead of the Tulsa Race Massacre’s 100th anniversary at the end of next month. [Tulsa World]

Fire in Little Africa explores Tulsa Race Massacre through hip-hop at Oklahoma Contemporary: On May 30, 1921, a 19-year-old Black shoe shiner named Dick Rowland reportedly tripped accidentally in an elevator operated by 17-year-old Sarah Page in Tulsa’s Drexel Building. According to anecdotal reporting of the incident, he reflexively grabbed Page’s arm to break his fall, prompting a scream from the White teenage girl. [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Protesters interrupt Oklahoma House proceedings over a number of this session’s bills [KFOR]
  • OSBI completes investigation into Norman FOIA violation [AP News]
  • TPS board expands legal options [Tulsa World]
  • Long-planned, downtown Santa Fe Square project takes big step forward [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I feel a heavy responsibility to my tribe to be involved civically. All the policies that go into effect –– all the way from the federal level to the local level –– affect my people.”

-Taylor Broadbent, a Cherokee citizen and coalition chair of Oklahoma Votes, speaking about the need for voter registration drives focused on American Indians [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day

-26.9 grams

Estimated change in birth weight for infants born to mothers who have an eviction filed against them during pregnancy

[Source: Eviction Lab]

Policy Note

Federal Funding Charts The Path For Local Eviction Right-To-Counsel Efforts: Tenants facing eviction stand to lose virtually everything that matters. Evicted tenants who become homeless often find themselves arrested or in an emergency room. There is a solution: the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that legal representation for tenants addresses this crisis by significantly improving eviction outcomes even where the majority of cases involve nonpayment of rent. [The Appeal]

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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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