In The Know: Investing in school infrastructure | $1.3B state road improvement package | Child Tax Credit | 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

Policy Matters: 2022 legislative session approaches: Following the conclusion of the legislative session in May, staff from the Oklahoma Policy Institute and its Together Oklahoma grassroots advocacy program talked with folks statewide about their most pressing needs. Regardless of which part of the state we call home, Oklahomans want to be able to live healthy lives, raise thriving families, and live in safe communities. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record] | [OK Policy 2022 Policy Priorities]

Oklahoma News

‘It’s like WPA Money’: How federal COVID-19 relief funds are helping schools make infrastructure improvements: Federal relief money for the coronavirus has injected more than $1 billion dollars into Oklahoma’s public schools. In many places, like Ponca City, it’s giving schools a chance to catch up on much needed infrastructure improvements. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma road improvement package expected to exceed $1.3 billion: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday said a roadway improvement project under discussion will cost more than $1.3 billion and involve state and federal dollars. Terri Angier, a transportation spokeswoman, said the project will look at all infrastructure needs, not just toll roads. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma AG: Businesses should avoid vaccine mandates: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor is asking businesses to hold off on implementing vaccine mandates while his office and other attorneys general continue to litigate the issue. Though Jan. 4, 2022 was originally designated as the deadline for large companies and health care providers nationwide to require either employee vaccination or weekly testing of unvaccinated workers, O’Connor said those directives have been temporarily halted by federal courts and are not being enforced at the present time. [The Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma COVID officer talks about omicron variant [The Lawton Constitution]
  • Omicron deals setback to travel industry revival [The Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 60% of people fully vaccinated [The Oklahoman]
  • Pottawatomie County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 45% of people fully vaccinated [The Oklahoman]
  • Canadian County COVID-19 vaccine tracker: 57% of people fully vaccinated [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa City Council takes no action on proposed mask mandate that had been tabled since August [Tulsa World]
  • Wagoner County Emergency Management captain returns to Oklahoma after intense COVID-19 battle [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Oklahomans, community leaders must be vigilant against COVID with new variant, early surge: Much is unknown about the omicron variant, but researchers are concerned that it will be more infectious. Early testing indicates the omicron variant is outpacing delta in South Africa. Public health experts and scientists warned about the possibility of variants if proper prevention measures weren’t taken. Vaccines are the best tool in stopping the spread. [Editorial / Tulsa World

State Government News

Dark money group targets Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt with Fox News ads: A dark money group is spending about $160,000 to air cable television commercials in Oklahoma City and Tulsa that paint Gov. Kevin Stitt as soft on crime. [The Oklahoman]

Bill proposes to change how fatal accidents are managed: Concerns about heartbroken children and other family members left waiting potentially for hours at scenes of fatal vehicle accidents led a rural Oklahoma lawmaker to file a bill this week that would change rules addressing how bodies of accident victims must be handled. [The Journal Record]

Lawmaker wants ‘self-defenders’ to be able to sue: An Oklahoma state senator is filing legislation for the upcoming session that would require the state to reimburse people charged with murder and found not guilty, if it was determined the accused was acting in self-defense. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma history: Governor Stitt and Governor Cruce: The recent controversy over whether Gov. Kevin Stitt should approve a commutation (from death to life) for convicted murderer Julius Jones has raised awareness of the power of an Oklahoma governor in the pardon and parole process. [The Norman Transcript]

Federal Government News

Lankford front and center in abortion demonstrations as Supreme Court decision looms: In the days and hours leading up to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, few members of Congress have been more visible than U.S. Sen. James Lankford. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

U.S. Catholic bishops encourage government search for boarding school graves: In a letter sent to all U.S. bishops in November, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, who heads a church committee on domestic justice, and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, who leads a church committee on Native American affairs, asked fellow bishops to hand over records investigators may seek and allow access to property where the unmarked remains of Native American students may lie. [Reuters]

Criminal Justice News

Long Story Short: How OKC Police Could Change Their Response to Mental Health Emergencies (podcast): Oklahoma City allocated $300,000 in taxpayer funds to change the way its police department responds to mental health emergencies. Oklahoma Watch reporter Whitney Bryen shares the latest on what that change could look like and why it’s needed. [Oklahoma Watch]

Pardon and Parole Board denies clemency for death-row inmate Gilbert Postelle: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 this morning to deny clemency for death-row inmate Gilbert Postelle, who was convicted of murdering four people in Del City in 2005. [NonDoc] The board’s denial of a clemency recommendation for 35-year-old Gilbert Postelle paves the way for him to receive a lethal injection on Feb. 17 unless a court intervenes. [AP News]

Death row inmate Bigler Stouffer’s supporters submit signatures for clemency to Gov. Stitt: Supporters of Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II, the 79-year-old death row inmate who faces execution Dec. 9, delivered thousands of signatures to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office Wednesday, asking Stitt to grant clemency in the case. [The Oklahoman]

The Frontier fact-checked claims in the Julius Jones case: Supporters of Julius Jones say they will continue to fight to exonerate him even after Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted his death sentence to life without parole. Questions persist about Jones’ guilt or innocence in the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell and whether he received a fair trial. Stitt’s executive order prohibits Jones from seeking further clemency, pardon, or parole, but some observers have said that a future governor could reverse the order or Jones could seek relief in court. [The Frontier]

DA candidates reveal significant, shocking differences in police union forum: Four declared candidates for the open Oklahoma County District Attorney seat had their first outing together Wednesday night in a forum primarily for union members but open to the public by live stream. The race is providing a broad spectrum of candidates to Oklahoma County voters as was revealed in the event. [OKC Free Press]

Delaware County sheriff resigns, sixth sheriff appointed in 15 months: Delaware County Sheriff Mark Berry resigned from his position, making room for the sixth sheriff in the past 15 months. Brian Berry, attorney for the former sheriff, did not return an email seeking comment. [Tulsa World]

Conviction, sentencing announced in two Oklahoma white-collar crime cases: In November, acting U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester announced updates in a pair of white-collar crime convictions in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. On Friday, Nov. 19, a federal jury convicted three co-owners of the Big Red Dealerships on numerous counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, forgery and identity theft. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Rental assistance available for people affected by COVID-19: Community Cares Partners (CCP), a program of Communities Foundation of Oklahoma, is providing assistance to individuals and families facing housing crisis and eviction as a result of lost wages or hardship from COVID-19. [Enid News & Eagle]

Economy & Business News

Regional economic outlook slips; confidence still tepid: A recent survey of business leaders in Oklahoma and eight other Midwest and Plains states revealed overall confidence in the region’s economy and in prospects for improvement in coming months. However, about half of supply managers surveyed expect supply chain disruptions to get worse or at least to remain as a significant challenge in the next half-year. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Chisholm faces kindergarten teacher shortage after 2 resign the same day: Nearly 100 people were left standing against walls and sitting on the floor as they filled the conference room for Chisholm Public Schools’ board meeting Wednesday, seemingly many in support of teachers who quit their jobs earlier this week. [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“We’re in a unique position that we can do some one time generational projects for kids that not only our kids but their grandkids can utilize. I mean, it’s like WPA Money in the Great Depression.”

-Ponca City Superintendent Shelly Arrott speaking about investing CARES Act in school infrastructure [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of Oklahoma children at risk of slipping back below the poverty line or deeper into poverty if the federal Child Tax Credit expansion is not extended [CBPP

Policy Note

If Congress Fails to Act Before Year-End, Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments Will Stop, Child Poverty Reductions Will Be Lost: The American Rescue Plan, enacted in March 2021, increased the Child Tax Credit for more than 65 million U.S. children — roughly 90 percent of children — and established advance monthly payments. The enhanced tax credit has enabled parents across the country to pay for food, clothing, housing, and other basic necessities and is expected to lower the number of children experiencing poverty by more than 40 percent as compared to child poverty levels in the absence of the expansion. But Congress must pass the Build Back Better bill before the end of 2021 to maintain this progress. If Congress fails to act by the end of the year, monthly Child Tax Credit deposits will not be made on January 15, and many families will struggle to make ends meet. Moreover, failing to pass Build Back Better would take away the entire credit from many children who would no longer qualify at all and would cut the amount of the credit for millions more. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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