In The Know: Hospital admissions decreasing, but health care system still strained | State hires consultants for spending federal funds | 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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma hospitals aren’t feeling relief yet as COVID-19 admissions start to fall — for now: There might be a reprieve approaching for Oklahoma hospitals as COVID-19 hospitalizations stall and even fall somewhat, but health care workers sure aren’t feeling relief yet. For the first time in about three weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations are starting to show a significant decline rather than peaking or plateauing, according to the latest data released Tuesday by the state. [Tulsa World] | [AP News]

  • Nearly 1,000 deaths added to Oklahoma’s COVID-19 toll since July [The Oklahoman]
  • Hospitals ‘light up the sky’ to honor frontline workers [Tulsa World]

State hires consultants to help allocate $3.2B in COVID stimulus funds for Oklahoma: State leaders have enlisted the help of two consulting firms to assist with doling out $3.2 billion in federal pandemic aid coming to Oklahoma. The local and national consulting firms will help state lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office solicit proposals for the stimulus funds designed to help Oklahoma recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, vet and rank the projects and ensure spending follows federal rules. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

For many Oklahomans in crisis, help now comes from an iPad: Oklahoma is spending millions to expand its mental health crisis response system. The money will provide iPads for law enforcement across the state, build new mental health centers and expand mobile crisis services. [The Frontier]

It’s Not Just Hospitals. COVID Is Straining Local Mental Health Providers: Local mental health professionals are seeing the same problem as hospitals at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic: too many patients. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Tulsa lawmaker plans bill in response to physicians’ dismissal from Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board: A Tulsa lawmaker on Tuesday said he wants to take the politics out of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said he has introduced legislation, House Bill 2971, to alter how members of the board that governs the Oklahoma Health Care Authority are appointed, reducing the power of Gov. Kevin Stitt. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority administers the state’s Medicaid program. [Tulsa World] | [News9] | [Fox25]

  • Stitt Still Refusing To Explain Removal Of Only Doctors From State Health Care Authority Board [Public Radio Tulsa]

August general revenue exceeds expectations by 20% in Oklahoma: August’s deposits to the state’s main operating fund exceeded projections by more than 20%, officials said Tuesday. General revenue fund collections in August totaled $541.6 million, which is $91.2 million, or 20.3%, above the estimate upon which the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget is based. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Supreme Court throws out lawsuit seeking Corporation Commissioner’s ouster: Members of Oklahoma’s Supreme Court unanimously agreed Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to remove Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett from office. Hiett is one of three elected members to the regulatory agency that oversees oil and gas activities in Oklahoma, among other things. [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World] | [AP News]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation’s budget will hit a record $3 billion as the tribe responds to COVID and McGirt: Nearly tripling the budget from just two years ago, the Cherokee Nation will use federal stimulus money to reach record spending levels in fiscal 2022 and potentially “change the face” of the tribe forever, officials said Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma attorneys, advocates interested in Native American Voting Rights Act: A proposed voting rights bill aims to address voting problems on reservations and tribal service areas. Another obstacle to Indigenous voters is that some states, such as Montana, require a physical address to register to vote. Many tribal citizens who live on tribal land have a P.O. Box. [NonDoc]

U.S. officials, Native American leaders to meet on returning lands: Federal officials will meet with Native American tribes next month to gather recommendations as the federal government seeks to move ahead with efforts to protect and restore tribal homelands, the U.S. Department of the Interior said on Tuesday. [Reuters]

Objects from Oklahoma tribes return in exhibit: The “WINIKO: Life of an Object” exhibit at the First Americans Museum explores the life within these cultural materials, as well as the historically troubled relationship between Native people and museums. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Even With New Evidence, Oklahoma Prisoners’ Quest For Justice Is Arduous: In places like North Carolina or Dallas County, newly discovered evidence in criminal cases case could be reviewed by an independent conviction integrity unit equipped with the resources to investigate and remedy wrongful convictions. No such body exists in Oklahoma, where state prisoners must seek relief through the Court of Criminal Appeals. [Oklahoma Watch]

New police oversight programs create confusion, questions for some Tulsa city councilors: City councilors are generally supportive of two new Police Department oversight initiatives while acknowledging that they don’t necessarily know much about either one of them. The Tulsa World earlier this month reported that Chief Wendell Franklin had established a revamped version of the Police Department’s Community Advisory Boards and created a new internal Use-of-Force Review Board. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma regulators question utilities about preparations for possible ‘season of shivers’: Amid fears that Oklahomans could be facing a severe winter, regulators called together some of the state’s top utility officials Tuesday to discuss whether the state will have adequate access to natural gas supplies. [CNHI via Ada News]

Biden Defense Production Act authorization bolsters Oklahoma City nonprofit: An Oklahoma City nonprofit will continue to play a major role in stifling wildfires raging across the country after President Joe Biden authorized the Defense Production Act to help areas in crisis. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Competing agendas cause chaos at Western Heights board meeting: Monday’s meeting of the Western Heights Board of Education was the first since Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Timmons granted the State Board of Education’s writ of mandamus in August requiring the district to acknowledge the authority of the state board in day-to-day operations. The state board had voted in July to take over governance of the troubled district for a year. However, at the meeting, board Chairman Robert Everman continued to show resistance to the state’s control. [NonDoc]

General News

Editorial: Ignore hateful rhetoric; Welcome fleeing Afghans into Oklahoma and Tulsa: With open arms, Oklahomans ought to welcome the nearly 2,000 Afghan refugees expected in the next few months. Ignore the hate and xenophobia coming from Republican Party Chairman John Bennett and some lawmakers. That’s not the Oklahoma Standard. These immigrants are American allies. Many aided and worked with our troops, putting themselves and their families in danger. Others may be escaping persecution for their Christian faith or for their advocacy for equality and democracy. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

  • Reaction from Oklahoma political leaders on Afghanistan refugees’ relocation [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma GOP Continues Anti-Refugee Messaging Ahead Of Afghans’ Arrival [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Council approves use of American Rescue Plan funds [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma City Council approves MAPS 4 implementation plan [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC City Council accepts plan for MAPS 4 implementation, relief funds [Oklahoma City Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. In other words, this should not have happened. It was preventable. The next surge is preventable, too — I hope we don’t forget that.”

-Jay Johnson, president and CEO at Duncan Regional Hospital [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

11.9%

Percentage of Oklahomans who identified as Hispanic during the 2020 Census. [U.S. Census Bureau]

Policy Note

Origins of National Hispanic Heritage Month: The National Archives has published a number of source documents from its archives about the origin of Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States, which started today (Sept. 15). [U.S. National Archives]  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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