In The Know: Lawmakers eye petition process change | Caution urged even with declining virus rate | Corporation Commission OKs deferred gas costs

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

House Republicans push to alter petition process after passage of SQ 802: Legislative Republicans are looking to change Oklahoma’s initiative petition process that allows citizens to push for a statewide vote on an issue. Attempts to tweak initiative petition requirements come after Oklahomans have increasingly used the process to circumvent the GOP-led state Legislature to push more progressive policies at the ballot box. [The Oklahoman]

Health official: Model predicts herd immunity likely with mask ordinance extension in Oklahoma City: A public health official said predictive modeling shows local herd immunity to COVID-19 could be achieved in June. The announcement came Tuesday as the Oklahoma City Council passed a mask ordinance extension. Phil Maytubby, the Oklahoma City-County Health Department chief operating officer, said the model shows the new case rate falling to five per 100,000 population in May, a milestone critical to bringing the pandemic under control. [The Oklahoman

  • Masks, testing key to keep COVID-19 infections trending down; ‘war’s not over yet,’ experts in Oklahoma say [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa, unlike Texas, has no imminent plan to lift mask mandate, officials say [Tulsa World]
  • OKC Council extends mask ordinance [Journal Record]
  • COVID-19: 56 more deaths in Oklahoma bring rolling average to new high; 111 new cases reported [Tulsa World]
  • No regions at elevated hospital tier as COVID hospitalizations continue falling [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma epidemiologist: State to use CDC COVID death report [AP News]
  • Why are COVID death tolls from Oklahoma health department, CDC so different? [The Oklahoman]
  • Indian Health Service marks 500,000 COVID dose milestone [The Oklahoman]
  • Arrival of Johnson & Johnson vaccines give Indian Health Services additional option to protect Indigenous citizens [Tulsa World]

Corporation Commission OK’s mechanism to defer some natural gas utility costs: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to allow one of the state’s largest natural gas utilities to begin preparations it says will keep customers from paying large gas bills in the coming months and suspend gas cut-offs for nonpayment until mid-April. [The Frontier] Because of an extended cold spell that led to a surge in demand for natural gas, ONG estimates it incurred $1.6 billion in fuel costs during February, according to an affidavit. That compares to the $306 million the utility spent on fuel the entire year in 2019, documents show. [Tulsa World] ONG now estimates its price tag for natural gas during the storms, which lasted roughly a week, at $1.9 billion. [Journal Record]

State Government News

Oklahoma Senate passes its school open transfer bill: Senate Bill 783 allows students up to two transfers per year outside of the district they live in, though district boards of education can deny their application for disciplinary problems or attendance issues. The legislation requires regular reports on denied transfers. [Public Radio Tulsa] The measure has support from Gov. Kevin Stitt and a similar bill was passed in the House last week. [KOSU]

Teachers with advanced degrees may be exempted from testing: Teaching candidates in kindergarten through grade 12 with advanced degrees could be exempt from subject area testing, under legislation passed this week by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. [Lawton Constitution]

Domestic violence bill Passes Oklahoma house: The Oklahoma State Senate approved a bill Monday that allows domestic violence survivors to end a lease early without penalty. Under Senate Bill 200, tenants could terminate the lease by giving the landlord a written notice and either a protective order or police report within 30 days of the violent incident. [KOSU]

Bill would help homeless youth gain services: A bill designed to help homeless youth gain access to housing, medical care, education and other services passed the House with a vote of 82-6, sending it to the Senate. [The Lawton Constitution]

House passes bill to restrict abortions by limiting doctors who can perform procedure: Oklahoma House Republicans passed a bill on Tuesday to add another layer of abortion restrictions in the state. House Bill 1904 would add a requirement that providers be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. State law currently requires providers be licensed physicians. [Public Radio Tulsa] House Bill 1904, by Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, ostensibly would protect women undergoing the procedure, but Roe readily admitted that her bill’s primary objective is to make abortions harder to get. [Tulsa World]

Need a driver’s license or REAL ID? Prepare to wait months: A major backlog has triggered months-long delays to renew an Oklahoma driver’s license and obtain a REAL ID card. The backlog can be blamed on several causes, including the pandemic, new software to process IDs and, in general, Oklahoma’s self-imposed delay with even allowing the REAL ID-compliant licenses that will be required to board aircraft and visit federal buildings after Oct. 1. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Jim Inhofe breaks with Trump, GOP over election fraud: Oklahoma’s senior senator broke ranks with the Republican Party today, saying there was no evidence of election fraud despite months of unsubstantiated allegations and claims at this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference convention. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Triple murder case leads to investigation of Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board: State agents have begun an investigation into the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board and whether any wrongdoing there resulted in the release of two inmates from prison by mistake. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board will finally consider Julius Jones case: After maintaining his innocence for more than twenty years while on Oklahoma’s death row, Julius Jones will finally receive his first commutation hearing with the Pardon and Parole Board in March. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Economic Opportunity

With millions of families behind on rent, legal aid attorneys face sustained demand: Since last year, more Americans have become vulnerable to job loss, poverty and eviction due to the pandemic. More than 11 million families are behind on their rent or mortgage payments, according to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. [Big If True]

Tulsa homelessness nonprofit sees opportunity for big change following winter outreach efforts: Becky Gligo, executive director of homelessness nonprofit organization Housing Solutions Tulsa, said responding to last week’s stretch of life-threatening cold was an all hands on deck situation. [Public Radio Tulsa]

How an OKC trust officer stole client money and paid for cars, vacations and a mortgage: Jordan Glen Young was about a decade into his work helping clients manage their investments and estates when easy access to other people’s money proved too much of a temptation to overcome. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Watch Frontier: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister talks COVID-19, and what the future holds for Oklahoma schools: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister talks with The Frontier’s Ben Felder about how schools continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and also what the state Department of Education’s focus will be as schools hopefully begin to return to normal later this year. [The Frontier]

  • Edmond, Putnam City restore classes to four days a week [The Oklahoman]

‘Vile racist’ taunts incite fight at Oklahoma high school basketball game: After racial abuse of African American student-athletes by the Newcastle High School student section sparked a brawl at a basketball game last week, the Oklahoma City Public School System is asking for official action to be taken against Newcastle. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Tulsa Race Massacre event touts urgency of reparations: The University of Oklahoma’s College of Law hosted a virtual event today where panelists presented on the need for more education about the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the importance of immediate reparations. [NonDoc]

  • Tulsa reparations efforts part of global movement to address deep-rooted oppression faced by Black citizens [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City Council renews mask mandate, approves rental assistance [Free Press OKC]
  • All OKC City Council runoff candidates against defunding police [Free Press OKC]
  • Tuesday protest in Lawton retains peace despite volatility [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“There’s going to be a temptation to relax our mitigation strategies, maybe not mask as much. Just remember: If we do relax our mitigation strategies, we probably will not continue to see these downward trends that I think all of us are really enjoying experiencing.”

-Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, University of Oklahoma professor and former Oklahoma state epidemiologist [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


How much money Oklahoma’s corporate income tax generated in Fiscal Year 2018-2019

[Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission]

Policy Note

Column: A devastating analysis of the tax cut shows it’s done virtually no economic good: The CRS finds that the cuts have had virtually no effect on wages, haven’t contributed to a surge in investment, and haven’t come close to paying for themselves. Nor have they delivered a cut to the average taxpayer. [LA Times]

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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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