In The Know: Lawmakers add new restrictions on absentee voting; state budget still under review; and more Oklahoma news

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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

‘Three-bill Monte’: Lawmakers fail transparency test, advance absentee voter barriers: The Oklahoma House on Wednesday played ‘three-bill monte’ with legislation that would keep many Oklahomans from voting safely. The legislative changes, made just minutes before floor debate began, appeared to be an attempt to ram through legislation that places unneeded barriers for our neighbors who want to vote via absentee ballot. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

House votes to impose new restrictions on absentee voting: Just days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled absentee ballots in Oklahoma don’t need to be notarized, the House on Wednesday passed a bill imposing new restrictions on voters who cast ballots by mail. [AP News] The legislation, which wound up in Senate Bill 210 after bouncing from one shucked bill to another in the space of several hours, seeks to restore the notarization requirement ruled out by the court, while also allowing for exceptions during the current COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World] Senate Bill 210, which passed the House on a near-party-line vote, would require absentee ballots to be notarized, which was the procedure in place until the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered otherwise on Monday. [The Oklahoman] The Oklahoma Policy Institute also opposes the legislation, arguing it “opens up Oklahoma to additional potential lawsuits challenging the notarization requirement” the high court rejected. [Courthouse News Service] OK Policy: Lawmakers fail transparency test, advance absentee voter barriers. Read our full statement.

Gov. Kevin Stitt says he’s still reviewing state budget proposal: More than 48 hours after state lawmakers unveiled their proposed state budget for fiscal year 2021, Gov. Kevin Stitt said he is still reviewing the details. Pressed by reporters at a news conference Wednesday, Stitt declined to comment on the specifics of the $7.7 billion budget proposal that includes cuts to most state agencies. Stitt said he didn’t see details of the budget until leaders of Oklahoma’s House and Senate publicly unveiled the budget deal Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Kevin Stitt presses ahead with plans for Oklahoma’s May 15 ‘Phase II’ reopening: Phase II of Oklahoma’s rollback of coronavirus restrictions remains on schedule to start May 15, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Wednesday during his regular daily briefing on the epidemic. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19: Six more deaths reported with 4,201 cases confirmed in Oklahoma: Six more Oklahomans have died after contracting the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Across the state, 4,201 cases have been confirmed with 253 fatalities reported. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

More swabs for tests, masks for hospitals coming to Oklahoma, Gov. Stitt says Wednesday: More swabs for testing and a quarter-million N95 masks are on their way to Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a news conference Wednesday. The governor said the state’s phased reopening is based on data reported by Oklahoma health officials. [Tulsa World]

Recoveries at Norman nursing home top 40: More than 40 residents have fully recovered from COVID-19 at the first nursing home in the state to have a known outbreak of the respiratory disease. Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman made the announcement Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Reopening nursing homes now is ‘madness,’ advocate says: An advocate said it would be “madness” to even consider reopening nursing homes to visitors as the number of resident deaths continues to mount and the state struggles to test residents and staff. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Contact tracing used to reduce spread of virus: One way to control a disease and pinpoint its localized origins is by implementing contact tracing. It’s been used for decades by health department personnel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states contact tracing is “a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.” [Tahlequah Daily Press]

State Government News

State Responding to COVID-19 Outbreak at Guymon Pork Processing Facility: The number of workers workers at a pork processing plant in Guymon testing positive for the coronavirus is up to at least 151, according to state officials on Wednesday. Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state is helping the situation at the Seaboard Foods plant by sending health department contact tracers and offering housing at a public college about 20 minutes away in Goodwell. [Public Radio Tulsa] Texas County identified as COVID-19 “hot spot” with 274 confirmed cases [ABC7]

Senate sends Stitt bill to protect health care providers, facilities from suits during COVID-19: The Senate on Wednesday sent Gov. Kevin Stitt a bill that would give medical providers and facilities civil immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, said the immunity would be in place until the health care emergency ended or Oct. 31, whichever comes later. [Tulsa World] The immunity would continue through the end of October if the bill is signed by Stitt. If Stitt were to extend the state’s health emergency beyond that, the immunity would extend, as well. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt defends “PPE Czar” after sidelining experienced Health Dept group: Wednesday Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt defended his appointment of a “PPE Czar” to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma Legislature Gets Pay Raise Amid Budget Cuts: Last October, the Legislative Compensation Board; a five-member board appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, approved the raise increasing pay for legislators from $35,000 a year to $47,500 in November. It’s the first pay raise for the legislature in 20-years. [News9]

Federal Government News

Lankford questions Oklahoma tax policy, while Cole laments Fauci absence: Oklahoma should reevaluate its prohibition on cities and towns raising money from property taxes to fund municipal services, U.S. Sen. James Lankford said this week. Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said the White House should have allowed Dr. Anthony Fauci to testify about COVID-19 before a House subcommittee on Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Tribes urge DOI to reject gaming compacts: Letters sent to the U.S. Department of Interior by the Chickasaw Nation and Wichita Affiliated Tribes urge DOI Secretary David Bernhardt to reject the compacts as invalid. The tribes particularly object to provisions in the compacts that would allow for the Comanches and Otoe-Missouria to acquire land within the jurisdictions of other tribes to place in trust and develop for new casino operations. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Covid-19 testing in question as positive cases spike in other states’ prisons: One week in April saw over 6,000 new coronavirus infections in U.S. prisons. Wolf, prisoner advocates and public health experts are questioning whether Oklahoma’s Covid-19 testing policies are capturing the true number of prisoners who have the disease. [StateImpact Oklahoma] Our analysis has shown medical parole is necessary to help protect Oklahoma prisons and hospitals from COVID-19.

Sheriff: COVID-19 Testing to Start at Tulsa County Jail Next Week: While COVID-19 is spreading in jails, Sheriff Vic Regalado said Wednesday the Tulsa County Jail remains without a confirmed case. Regalado said his office will start testing all existing and incoming inmates next week. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Death penalty training protocol at heart of current execution delay: Oklahoma has about a month to turn over its death penalty training protocol to attorneys representing inmates on death row as the state continues to work toward a resumption of lethal injections. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

In the Midst of a Pandemic, Meals on Wheels Are Turning Faster Than Ever: Meals on Wheels is an essential service for many seniors, and it has become even more so during this pandemic. The number of people receiving food from Meals on Wheels Oklahoma City has risen by a third in less than two months, growing from a little over 600 clients to 845. [Oklahoma Watch] Our analysis shows SNAP is one of the most effective ways to reach low-income families, and Congress should increase SNAP benefits to help families meet basic needs.

Economy & Business News

During Pandemic, Rural Oklahomans And Electric Cooperatives May Both Struggle To Keep The Lights On: According to a trade association, rural electric cooperatives provide power to 1 in every 8 Americans, and the industry faces dire numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated loss of $7.4 billion in revenue. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Manufacturers line up for state ‘Reboot’ funds: Some Oklahoma manufacturers are getting a taxpayer-funded boost to help expand and retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting last week, the governor and Department of Commerce began awarding up to $150,000 each to manufacturers in industries like aerospace, energy, traffic hardware and food. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s annual wheat harvest on par for an average year, if weather cooperates: The predicted amount of 96.5 million bushels put together by Oklahoma State University agricultural specialists, agronomists and crop consultants falls in line with average harvest numbers state farmers have seen the past decade, the executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission said Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Lawsuits Likely As Businesses Reopen (Audio): As Oklahoma and other states begin to reopen slowly, attorneys say businesses will likely face liability lawsuits related to COVID-19. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how litigation costs could devastate small businesses. [KGOU]

Education News

‘What are we supposed to do now?’: High school graduates end anticlimactic senior year: Norman North senior Ryan Sutherlin, like millions of graduating seniors across the country, could not have imagined what his last few months of high school would look like in 2020. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • How many confirmed cases are in your town? [The Okahoman]
  • Tulsa city, county officials report COVID-19 cases trending upward while hospitalizations decrease (Video) [Tulsa World]
  • City of Tulsa, longtime local bus maker lock horns over lease renewal [Tulsa World]
  • Texas County identified as COVID-19 “hot spot” with 274 confirmed cases [ABC7]
  • As regional center, AllianceHealth Woodward taking care of several COVID-19 patients from Guymon [Woodward News]
  • Stillwater mayor says mask requirement couldn’t ‘practically’ be enforced; city officials wanted to protect store employees from future threats [Tulsa World]
  • City of Norman taking hair salon case to federal court [The Oklahoman]
  • Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office names new undersheriff, chief deputy [The Norman Transcript]
  • Claremore city budget breakdown [The Claremore Daily Progress]
  • Ada extends emergency declaration, drops mask requirement [The Ada News]
  • McAlester city leaders ponder reopening sites [McAlester News-Capital]
  • COVID-19 antibody testing available in Duncan [The Duncan Banner]
  • Fort Sill Commander: ‘I’m In No Rush’ To Ease COVID Restrictions On Army Post [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

In the face of an unprecedented national health emergency, our legislators pledged that the remainder of this session would focus only on bills that directly impacted the state’s health, safety, and economic security. Placing restrictions on absentee voting achieves none of those objectives. In fact, the new voting requirements — and the eventual return of notarization requirements — is voter suppression.

–OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose in a statement released after the House voted to impose new restrictions on absentee voting [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Instances of Oklahoma absentee ballot fraud in almost four decades, according to a database from The Heritage Foundation

[Source: The Heritage Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Straggling in a Good Economy, and Now Struggling in a Crisis: Certainly, the outbreak and attempts to curb it have created new hardships. But perhaps more significantly, the crisis has revealed profound, longstanding vulnerabilities in the economic system. Well before the coronavirus established a foothold, the American economy had been playing out on a split screen. 

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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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