In The Know: Judge orders extra unemployment benefits restored | Oklahoma AG ask court to overturn McGirt | Vaccine fact check

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

A judge has temporarily restored extra unemployment payments for Oklahomans: An Oklahoma County Judge has temporarily reinstated extra benefits for unemployed Oklahomans that Gov. Kevin Stitt cut off early in late June. Oklahoma is now one of three states where lawsuits have thwarted orders by governors to end the federally-increased unemployment aid early. [The Frontier] The judge barred the state from withdrawing from the program until he issues his final order in the case or until the federal program expires on Sept. 6, whichever comes first. He said he would provide a more detailed order with findings and conclusions on Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma attorney general urges Supreme Court to overturn McGirt: A year after losing the legal fight over the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation, the state of Oklahoma urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to overrule the McGirt decision and return criminal jurisdiction over Native Americans in eastern Oklahoma to state prosecutors and judges. [The Oklahoman] The AG’s petition asks the Supreme Court to narrow the application of the case to allow the state to continue to imprison violent felons who were convicted before the McGirt ruling. It also asks the court to affirm the state’s authority to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes against Native Americans in the Muscogee Nation reservation, which O’Connor’s office said was revived by the court in McGirt when it ruled 5-4 on the case in July 2020. [Tulsa World] In a statement, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said tribes have worked closely with local, state and federal agencies over the past year and that O’Connor and Stitt are “advancing an anti-Indian agenda.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

We fact checked Oklahoma elected officials and social media claims about COVID-19 vaccines: From roaming government strike forces sent door-to-door to persuade people to get their shots, to reports of thousands of deaths linked to vaccination, The Frontier fact checked claims circulating on social media and statements made by Oklahoma elected officials about COVID-19 vaccines. [The Frontier]

Health News

Opinion: State needs more aggressive political leadership in face of renewed COVID-19 threat: Between July 25 and July 31, more than 2,100 children across the state of Oklahoma tested positive for COVID-19. More than 1,000 of those children were under the age of 12 and unable to receive the vaccine. In the month of July alone, 27 children were hospitalized with the virus, 13 of whom were less than 4 years old. As we struggle with a crisis that could irrevocably alter the lives of young people across our state, our governor is once again choosing politics over health and human lives. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Opinion: A letter to the coronavirus: So, COVID-19, why are we still talking? By this point, we figured we’d be through with you. Sure, once upon a time, you were a “novel” coronavirus. But that was so 18 months ago. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Viewpoints: Improving our grade for better health outcomes: To achieve positive change — moving from the bottom 10 states to even being in the top 25 in childhood well-being — will require significant coordination of time, talent and investment across state agencies, nonprofit organizations, business leaders, policy makers and community coalitions. Indeed, to move from the state with the most traumatized children to one that focuses on the antidote of mitigation and prevention is a goal worthy of our best efforts. [Linda Manaugh & Pat Potts / The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Opinion: Why Oklahoma’s senators need to lead the way (again) in supporting Dreamers: When discussing Dreamers with the late Sen. Tom Coburn, a friend and member of my church, he said simply: “They’re our kids.” It’s true. The average DACA recipient arrived at the age of 7. The roughly 20,000 Dreamers in Oklahoma speak English, pledge allegiance to our flag and bolster our economies. They live in our neighborhoods, study in our schools, play on our ball teams, and attend and serve in our churches. If they were gone from our state, we would feel their loss, and we would grieve. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

In Oklahoma, tax exemptions can exclude tribal governments, Kiowa learn at Norman hotel: When Kiowa elders and tribal government employees met recently for a two-day meeting in Norman to discuss the tribe’s language program, they were caught by surprise when a hotel clerk insisted on adding sales and lodging taxes to their stay. Most other state or local government agencies would have been exempt. The episode underscored confusion over byzantine tax laws that have been an enduring source of tension between local, state and tribal governments. [The Oklahoman

Tribal gaming revenue up after sharp COVID-19 decline: While gaming revenue paid to the state took a sharp dip during the pandemic, it appears to be on a record rebound. For fiscal year 2020, the state collected more than $123.6 million, or a 16.6% drop over the prior fiscal year, according to the Oklahoma Gaming Compliance Unit Annual Report published by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Tulsa World

Brian Thomas Palmer elected new Seminole Nation assistant chief: Brian Thomas Palmer will be the new Seminole Nation of Oklahoma assistant chief, according to the official results certified by the tribe’s election board. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma trooper spins out car at 109 mph that kills driver. His superiors: ‘Try not to talk about it’: The Tulsa World reviewed OHP’s pursuit of Casey Don Bailey, 58, as part of an analysis series of trooper-related fatalities. Agency records indicate the chase was unnecessary — not just especially hazardous — because the driver had been positively identified during a traffic stop for a toll violation. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Viewpoints: Oklahoma family caregivers need financial support, and they can’t wait any longer: More than 530,000 Oklahomans provide 440 million hours of unpaid care to loved ones, valued at $5.8 billion annually. These caregivers are overwhelmed, exhausted and depleting their own funds to care for their loved ones. Family caregivers do everything from helping prepare meals and paying bills to assisting with medication and daily living activities — most often so that parents, spouses and loved ones can continue to live independently. And a majority of caregivers do all of this while maintaining a job. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Viewpoints: It’s time to support child care in Oklahoma: For years, I was lucky to hold a wonderful job helping families get the support they needed to make ends meet. The families I worked with were hard-working, dedicated caregivers who just needed a little assistance through SNAP or SoonerCare. Many families weren’t able to work because they lacked access to high-quality, affordable child care. They often didn’t qualify for child care assistance, and even when they did, there were no openings for them at local programs. When my own daughter was born last winter, I found myself joining the ranks of families looking for care. We applied to wait list after wait list, with spaces never becoming available. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Economic impacts of COVID-19 didn’t hinder continued growth in Tulsa County property values: Preliminary figures show property values in Tulsa County are up 3.5% from last year, despite worries about the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Langston University erases $4.65 million in student debt: Langston University, Oklahoma’s only historically Black college, has forgiven $4.65 million in student debt accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Kent J. Smith Jr. announced Friday the university has cleared account balances for students enrolled in any “pandemic semester” from spring 2020 through summer 2021, using federal coronavirus relief funds to cover the cost. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Viewpoints: Words matter, and Holocaust analogies are never appropriate: Many of us grew up learning the adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We now know that saying is not true. For many of us, the most hurt we have experienced in our lives has been related to what someone has said to us, about us or about a loved one. Whether out of ignorance or with intent, unkind words and phrases can and do have a profound negative impact in our lives. Holocaust analogies fall into this category of having a hurtful and hateful impact. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

  • Viewpoints: GOP anti-vaxxers should keep the Holocaust out of their mouths: Countless people of conscience have called out GOP Chair John Bennett for his incessant hatred of Muslims when he served in the state Legislature. We were warned that if people in leadership do not speak out against his fanaticism, it would only worsen. Those who propagate hatred against one group of people rarely stop at that single group, and now we’re bearing the cultural and political burden. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Holocaust comparison from GOP chairman John Bennett deepens divisions among Oklahoma Republicans: After a failed vote to censure Oklahoma’s U.S. senators, senior Sen. Jim Inhofe called for Republicans to work together and put their focus on defeating President Joe Biden’s political agenda and unseating Democrats in the 2022 elections. Party unity, however, appears unlikely under state GOP Chairman John Bennett’s leadership. [The Oklahoman]

Plans advancing for a proposed passenger rail to link OKC with surrounding towns and cities: Within a couple of years, voters may get the chance to vote for an alternative means of transportation; a rail-based regional transit system that might also run east to Tinker Air Force Base, north to Edmond, west to Yukon and also to Will Rogers World Airport. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa’s Hispanic Leadership Institute works toward equitable, thriving community: Hispanic Leadership Institute is a seven-month program aimed at developing community-oriented leaders, allowing participants to engage with policy authorities, businesses and the civic sector. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“As we’ve heard from the health professionals, we know that’s one of the primary ways that we can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. So, it truly handcuffs us in our ability to make local decisions on what’s best for our kids in our district.”

– OKC Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Jason Brown speaking about SB 658, which keeps public schools and universities from requiring masks [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Decrease in Oklahoma rural vaccinations completed in the week ending July 29 compared to previous week [Daily Yonder]

Policy Note

COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools: As the next school year begins, there needs to be a continued focus on keeping students safe, since not all students will have the opportunity or be eligible to be vaccinated before the start of the next school year. Schools must continue to take a multi-pronged, layered approach to protect students, teachers, and staff (ie, vaccination, universal mask use, ventilation, testing, quarantining, and cleaning and disinfecting). Combining these layers of protection will make in-person learning safe and possible. [American Academy of Pediatrics]

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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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