In The Know: Hospitals still facing capacity limits | Court fines and fees | Demographic, diversity changes

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 still face care limitations amid capacity crunch despite decline in COVID-19 admissions: Oklahoma’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a downward trajectory for about a month now but not enough to lift some limitations on levels of care available — especially in intensive-care units. Statewide, the number of COVID inpatients has dropped 35% since the delta variant surge’s peak average of 1,607 in late August to 1,040 reported Tuesday. COVID patients in ICUs have gone from 448 to 324 — a decrease of 28%. [Tulsa World] Despite the hopeful trends, hospitals and health care workers are still under strain, leaders of the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition said Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Group of state lawmakers discuss changing court’s fines and fees structure: Four Oklahoma state representatives are examining the way court costs are levied across the state, with hopes to improve the system. The Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Damion Shade spoke to the committee about Oklahoma’s fee and fine structure at the district court level, noting that people who are forced to pay large court fees and fines are negatively impacted by the process, as well as their families and communities. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Mapping rural America’s diversity and demographic change: Indigenous groups are the largest population of color in rural areas in eastern Oklahoma, the Four Corners area, much of the northern tier of the Great Plains, and in most of Alaska and have been found to have lower educational attainment, higher poverty rates, lower household incomes, and lower occupational attainment compared to Indigenous groups who live in metropolitan areas. [Brookings Institute]

Oklahoma’s rural turnpikes need modernized, more interchanges, officials say: Under pressure from local and tribal leaders to modernize Oklahoma’s rural turnpikes, transportation officials said they’re examining the entire turnpike network to consider where to add interchanges so motorists can better access underserved locations and increase use of toll roads. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Federal Government News

Inhofe fires first shots on Biden administration in Afghanistan hearing: As the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking Republican, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe set the tone Tuesday for his party’s questioning of top military officials during a hearing on the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. [Tulsa World]

Fact checking revived concerns on methane fees: Is cattle industry being taxed?: In voicing opposition to Democrat-led efforts regarding federal infrastructure legislation moving through Congress, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin has revived a concern long-held by those in the agriculture industry: a tax on methane. [Tulsa World]

State senator Nathan Dahm joins race against incumbent Sen. James Lankford: State Sen. Nathan Dahm, of Broken Arrow, announced on Tuesday that he will run for the U.S. Senate, giving incumbent Sen. James Lankford a third opponent in the 2022 Republican primary. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

U.S. judiciary seeks more Oklahoma judges after Supreme Court ruling: The federal judiciary is asking Congress for five more judges in Oklahoma following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that recognized parts of Oklahoma as Native American reservation land and barred state prosecutions of crimes in those areas. [Reuters] The conference, the policy-making arm of the federal court system, said Congress should create three new judgeships in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, based in Muskogee, and two new judgeships in the Northern District, based in Tulsa. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation reaches $75M settlement with drug companies: The Cherokee Nation and three opioid distributors reached a $75 million settlement to resolve opioid-related claims against the companies, the tribe and the companies announced Tuesday. [AP News] The settlement, announced Tuesday, is the largest ever received by the Cherokee Nation, which in 2017 became the first tribe to sue pharmacies and distributors for supplying the opioid epidemic. [The Oklahoman] In a statement, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the opioid crisis had disproportionately affected people in his community. [KOSU]

Joy Harjo rings in third term as U.S. poet laureate: Tulsa native and Muscogee Nation citizen Joy Harjo, the first Native American woman to serve as the nation’s poet laureate, began her third term in September, an honor previously bestowed only once. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Gov. Stitt won’t consider Julius Jones’ commutation, will leave matter for clemency hearing: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday declined to take up the matter of commutation for death-row inmate Julius Jones, saying a clemency hearing is more appropriate. [Tulsa World] In a letter sent to Pardon and Parole Board director Tom Bates, Stitt said he is “not accepting the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of Julius Jones because a clemency hearing, not a commutation hearing, is the appropriate venue for our state to consider death row cases.” [NonDoc] Stitt said he will not make a final decision until after the Oct. 5 clemency hearing before the board. [The Oklahoman] State law requires clemency hearings at least 21 days before a scheduled execution date. Jones is scheduled to die on Nov. 18. [AP News]

Economy & Business News

As Marijuana Industry In Oklahoma Booms, Rural Utilities Feel Growing Pains: The medical marijuana industry in Oklahoma is booming, but some utility providers struggle to keep up with the growing need for water and electricity. Since Oklahomans legalized medical marijuana in 2018, nearly 10% of the population has obtained cards to buy cannabis. Meanwhile, 8,630 growers have opened shop in the state. [KOSU]

Education News

Keith Ballard, ‘a powerful force in Oklahoma education,’ dies nine months after diagnosis with ALS, Lou’s Gehrig’s disease: Keith Ballard, former superintendent of the Tulsa, Claremore and Oologah school districts who went on to become a professor at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, died Tuesday. He was 72. [Tulsa World]

General News

1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors See Long-Awaited Day In Court: A motion to dismiss a case against Tulsa Regional Chamber and other entities brought by the three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was heard at Tulsa County Courthouse on Tuesday. There were so many people in attendance – many in purple Justice for Greenwood shirts – the hearing was delayed as a bigger courtroom was found. Once everyone was settled, Judge Caroline Wall said she knew the case was emotional and if spectators had to react they should step outside. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC redistricting criteria approved by City Council [NonDoc]
  • OKC Council hears strategies on homelessness, renews CJAC agreement [OKC Free Press]
  • Masks not required at this year’s Tulsa State Fair, but they are recommended [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We still are very much struggling in the state in terms of ICU beds.”

-Dr. Jean Hausheer of the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percent of children in Oklahoma who are Hispanic of any race (2019) [KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

Key facts about U.S. Latinos for National Hispanic Heritage Month: As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Pew Research published some key facts about the nation’s Latino population by geography and characteristics like language use and origin groups. [Pew Research]

NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Each week, OK Policy will share policy notes and numbers to recognize this commemoration.

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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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