In The Know: Hospitals feeling strain from respiratory viruses | Record revenue, but oil and gas declines noted | OKC evictions trending upward

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

As flu surges in Oklahoma, hospitals are feeling strain from respiratory viruses: Flu-related hospitalizations rose sharply again in Oklahoma last week, as this year’s influenza season is hitting hard across the country. The state added more than 500 flu-related hospitalizations to its count in this week’s update, bringing the total for this season to 988. Fourteen Oklahomans have died, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [The Oklahoman]

State’s record revenues continue; declines noted in oil, gas prices: Oklahoma continued to benefit from record-high tax revenues through the fall, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported Friday. Revenues for the 12-month period recorded through November amounted to $17.36 billion, up by $2.44 billion, or 16.3%, from the prior 12 months. McDaniel said growth may be slowing, however, because of falling energy prices. Latest monthly tax collections on oil and gas production fell below $160 million for the first time since April, he noted. [Journal Record]

  • Gas prices drop below same time last year, while diesel still higher [The Oklahoman]

OKC facing historic numbers for eviction filings as protections end: Oklahoma is facing an unprecedented wave of evictions statewide, with Oklahoma County leading in historically high numbers. The state saw more than 65,000 eviction notices filed in court from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 through April 2022, with 37% of those – roughly 24,000 filings – in Oklahoma County alone according to Open Justice Oklahoma’s Court Tracker tool, examining statewide court filings. [Oklahoma City Free Press]

State Government News

Oklahoma receives funds to update water infrastructure in disadvantaged areas: President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law just over a year ago, allocating over $50 billion to improve drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure across the country. Some of those funds arrived in Oklahoma at the end of November, when the Environmental Protection Agency presented a $105 million check to the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Rep. talks impacts of banning TikTok for government employees: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt banned state agencies from using TikTok Thursday, and the City of Tulsa followed suit the next day. Gov. Stitt claimed it’s the right move to protect the state government’s cybersecurity, it comes at the cost of significant exposure to a hard-to-reach audience. [FOX25]

ARPA grant funding available for nonprofits: Grant funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is available for nonprofits through a relief program. According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, $25 million was allotted for the program from the Oklahoma Legislature from the state’s ARPA allocation to help “provide financial relief to nonprofit organizations in the state.” [Duncan Banner]

Federal Government News

Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Controversial Election Law Case: A pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court could give state legislatures largely unchecked power to draw congressional district boundaries and regulate federal elections. On Dec. 7, justices heard arguments in Moore v. Harper, a case out of North Carolina where Republican lawmakers are looking to reverse a state Supreme Court’s ruling that the legislature violated the state constitution by engaging in partisan gerrymandering. [Oklahoma Watch]

Voting and Election News

Weird local rules mean extra Edmond elections: They say Edmond is a great place to grow, and as someone who spent his formative years in the community, I can say the sentiment seems true for young people. But we can also take it to mean that residents face a growing number of elections for city offices in Edmond. With candidate filing concluding last week, a healthy number of candidates chose to toss their hats into the ring for the February primary election and the April general election. [NonDoc]

OKC Ward 2 councilmember is challenging opponent’s candidacy over charter rules: A current Oklahoma City councilmember is challenging the candidacy of an opponent who filed to run against him in February’s municipal election. Ward 2 Councilmember James Cooper, who drew three challengers during the filing period earlier this week, is petitioning the Oklahoma County Election Board to remove Chris Cowden as a candidate on February’s ballot. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Next scheduled Oklahoma execution won’t happen this week because of Biden administration: Oklahoma will not carry out an execution scheduled for Thursday morning because convicted murderer John Fitzgerald Hanson remains in a federal prison in Louisiana. The state is now suing in federal court in Texas for his return. [The Oklahoman]

Back the Blue laws gain popularity, expand qualified immunity and other rights for police: Since cries for police reform roiled the U.S. in 2020, 16 state legislatures have enacted so-called “Back the Blue” laws to bolster law enforcement, according to data collected by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the previous four years, five states had enacted such legislation. [News 21 via NonDoc]

Norman ‘Cookie Queen’ dies Thursday in Cleveland County jail, police say: Authorities are investigating after a local bakery owner and longtime mental health advocate died at the Cleveland County jail early Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

Fentanyl overdoses, deaths surge in Bartlesville, police say: Drug overdose is now one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the state, said Chief Agent Beau Ratke of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. According to local paramedic Christopher Wells, Bartlesville Emergency Medical Services administered the largest amount of opioid treatment drugs ever in October 2022. [Examiner Enterprise]

Economy & Business News

Oil Spill In Kansas Affects Oklahoma Storage Hub: An oil spill in a creek in northeastern Kansas shut down a major pipeline that carries oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, briefly causing oil prices to rise Thursday. Canada-based TC Energy said it shut down its Keystone system Wednesday night following a drop in pipeline pressure. It said oil spilled into a creek in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Kansas City. [News On 6]

Column: Economic conditions can help heal Oklahoma’s rural, urban divide: When we bring these two together — the rural area’s physical and technical infrastructure, and the urban area’s knowledge and technology — we’ll have a real partnership that creates not only economic growth but also real, meaningful relationships between people who otherwise might have been prone to see the other merely as an abstraction. [Nicholas Lalla Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity News

Column: Addressing poverty: Our values are reflected in the systems we build: The complexity of addressing poverty requires that we make a real attempt to align the interests of a vast majority of our citizens who live as politically moderate, empathetic to the needs of others and pragmatic in their approach to finding solutions to help their neighbors. [Justin Brown Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Governor appoints Western Heights father to vacant school board seat: An appointment from the governor put the Western Heights Board of Education back in business this week with enough members to function. Jerome M. Johnson, 41, was Gov. Kevin Stitt’s choice for the District 5 position former board President Robert Everman left vacant, as first reported by NonDoc. [The Oklahoman]

Column: We all must play a part in building educational equity: We have certainly (and thankfully) made changes since those early days of public education, but continuing to have the sometimes difficult discussions about the realities for many of our students is imperative. [Mary Mélon-Tully Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

General News

In 2 U.S. cities haunted by race massacres, facing the past is painful and divisive: Historian Richard Warner had co-authored the final report of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission, created by the Oklahoma Legislature to present a historical accounting of the infamous massacre that left upward of 300 African Americans dead and resulted in the destruction of “Black Wall Street,” in the city’s prosperous Greenwood enclave. The box contained all of the research the commission had collected. [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“We already have 19,400 Oklahoma City residents in need of housing. Today’s evicted person is tomorrow’s contribution to our homelessness crisis.”

– Ward 2 City Councilperson James Cooper, speaking on the eviction crisis in Oklahoma [Oklahoma City Free Press]

Number of the Day

Policy Note

The pandemic has exacerbated a long-standing national shortage of teachers: What this report finds: The pandemic exacerbated a preexisting and long-standing shortage of teachers. The shortage is particularly acute for certain subject areas and in some geographic locations. It is especially severe in schools with high shares of students of color or students from low-income families. The shortage is not a function of an inadequate number of qualified teachers in the U.S. economy. Simply, there are too few qualified teachers willing to work at current compensation levels given the increasingly stressful environment facing teachers. [Economic Policy Institute]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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