In The Know: Lawmakers outline priorities in spending $1.8 B in federal relief | State COVID-19 numbers rising | Health care worker vaccine mandate on hold

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

Together Oklahoma: People Have the Power: Together Oklahoma, the grassroots outreach arm of OK Policy, held a virtual event on Nov. 30 to discuss our current voting system, the implication of our elections, and strategies for using our political power for change through the ballot box and other actions. Speakers included Families USA Executive Director Frederick Isasi, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Tamya Cox-Toure; League of Women Voters of Oklahoma Board Member Stephanie Henson; Poor People’s Campaign – Oklahoma Tri-Chair Marianne Smith; and Rank the Vote Oklahoma Vice President Mark Davies. [OK Policy / YouTube

Health News

Oklahoma AG, governor praise judge for blocking health care worker vaccine mandate: Gov. Kevin Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor praised a judge’s decision Tuesday to block the Biden administration’s vaccination requirement for health care facilities that get federal funding from Medicaid and Medicare. Oklahoma was among 14 states suing the Biden Administration over the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ rule that employees at such facilities would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Omicron ‘likely already here,’ Oklahoma doctors say as post-delta lull appears over: “It’s only a matter of time” before omicron is identified in Oklahoma and the nation, local doctors say, with the highly transmissible variant likely already here. Without data that accurately reflects how many new cases involve the heavily mutated omicron variant, experts are saying they hope a recent rise in cases is due to “the devils we know” rather than a variant we don’t yet understand. But one thing is clear: The post-delta lull in new COVID-19 cases appears to be short-lived. [Tulsa World] The Oklahoma Health Department said Monday that no cases of the omicron variant had been identified in the state. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

State lawmakers roughly outline priorities for spending $1.8B in federal virus relief funds: State lawmakers are still grappling with how best to spend Oklahoma’s $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan money, but a committee has outlined some priorities. The new virus relief dollars can be spent on a broader range of things than those from the CARES Act. Expanding rural broadband access is among the top items recommended by working groups of the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding. Rep. Logan Phillips (R-Mounds) serves on an expansion council and says they should commit funds to finishing a mapping project to show where new lines are needed. That would let the council award grants quickly, but there are a couple of obstacles. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma making strides in getting American Rescue Plan funds to small communities: Over the past month, Oklahoma has more than doubled the amount of American Rescue Plan funding it has distributed to small cities. The state is responsible for distributing $119 million from the coronavirus relief package to 579 cities with 50,000 or fewer residents. In October, 65 eligible communities had received a total of $37 million. That’s now up to 225 communities and $97 million. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Expect higher gas bills after ONG gets approval for $15.25 million rate hike: Oklahoma Natural Gas’ 875,000 customers will see their monthly bills climb after regulators granted a requested $15.25 million annual increase in rates collected by the utility to provide services. [The Oklahoman]

Turnpike officials to consider expansion, improvement plan: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is considering a long-range plan that could include widening the Turner Turnpike and improving the Will Rogers Turnpike and other facilities, transportation spokeswoman Terri Angier said Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford predicts Supreme Court will overturn Roe v Wade abortion ruling: On the eve of oral arguments in a major abortion case, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford predicted Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v Wade and allow states to set abortion policy. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

First lady Jill Biden to visit Cherokee language immersion school in Tahlequah: First lady Jill Biden plans to visit Tahlequah on Friday, the White House said Tuesday. [Tulsa World] Biden has visited several tribes this year to promote the importance of preserving Native languages, and she will be joined in Tahlequah by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the country’s first Native cabinet secretary. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Poll shows stark differences along race on how Oklahoma City police are viewed by public: A recent survey by Suffolk University and the USA TODAY network asked dozens of questions to get a better understanding of how Oklahoma City residents view the work of local police. The results showed stark differences between how white and Black residents view the Oklahoma City Police Department, whether they believe race plays a part in police conduct, and how much coverage they think local media adequately pays to problems within policing. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denies clemency for Donald Grant: An emotional clemency hearing for what was described as a “heinous” crime resulted in the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denying clemency for death-row inmate Donald Grant by a 4-1 vote. [NonDoc] The vote paves the way for the state to execute 45-year-old Donald Grant on Jan. 27 unless a court intervenes. [AP News] The board voted 3-2 Nov. 17 to recommend clemency for Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II in part because of reservations about what happened during an execution in October. [The Oklahoman

  • Parole board members walk back criticisms of lethal injection, vote to deny Donald Grant clemency [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma County Jail Trust says yes to idea of new jail, citizens less sure: Recommendations to pursue building a new jail were unanimously approved by the seven members of the Oklahoma County Jail Trust present at Monday’s special meeting. The board voted to advance the recommendations and they will now head to the Oklahoma County Commissioners. Absent from the meeting were trustees Sue Ann Arnall and Joe Allbaugh. [The Oklahoman]

During forum, DA candidates differ on charges for OKCPD officers: The primary disagreement at the FOP Lodge No. 123 in southwest Oklahoma City dealt with whether it is appropriate for a district attorney candidate to pledge the dismissal of charges in a controversial police shooting case without even reviewing the evidence. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Little-known program helps families reach self-sufficiency: ‘We all just need a little push’: The Family Self-Sufficiency program helps THA residents and those with housing vouchers set and reach goals toward self-sufficiency. Throughout the process, five years at most, participants are assigned a coordinator who acts as a guide through their goals and connects them directly to any resource they might need to meet those goals. [Tulsa World]

Changing the Narrative to ‘Us and We’ in North Tulsa: In an Oklahoma Watch feature “A Mile In Another’s Shoes,” an initiative to amplify voices we aren’t always hearing or call attention to the plight of those affected by public policy, Abode talks about her advocacy work on behalf of her children, two of whom have developmental disabilities. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economy & Business News

Demand for homes persists heading into holidays, even as sales drop: ‘Tis not quite the season — the usual subdued holiday home-buying season — because the racing housing market is barely letting up. If anything, the rate of sales growth has slowed. Across the country, that’s what happened in October, according to the National Association of Realtors: Sales crept up 0.8% compared with the month before, well off the gain of 7% in September. [The Oklahoman]

AARP is lone opposition to OG&E financial deal: All parties who participated in the process that produced an agreement allowing OG&E to recoup $739.1 million in costs incurred by February’s winter weather event have expressed their support of the plan – except for AARP. [The Journal Record]

General News

Greenwood Rising nominated for USA Today’s ‘Best New Attraction’ in the country: Greenwood Rising has been selected among just 20 nominees for the best new attractions in the country. Online voting is currently open for the 2021 Readers’ Choice awards sponsored by USA Today’s travel guide website,, and ends at 10:59 a.m. local time on Dec. 20. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Owasso school board appoints Margaret Coates as interim superintendent for district [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The short story is, numbers are going up again, unfortunately. Whether there is omicron involved is difficult to say until we get the right screening in place.”

-Dr. David Kendrick speaking about rising COVID-19 numbers. As of Tuesday, active COVID-19 cases across Oklahoma were up about 67% since the start of November. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Total number of Oklahomans approved for health care benefits through Medicaid expansion since June 1, 2021 (as of 12/1/21) [Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

Policy Note

A Tale of Two Medicaid Expansions: Missouri v. Oklahoma: The latest example of the importance of a successful follow through in the health policy world concerns the recent decisions of voters in Oklahoma and Missouri to expand Medicaid in their states. In Oklahoma, political leaders accepted the decision of their voters to expand coverage and worked hard to implement more affordable health plans. In Missouri, a lawsuit, legislative delays, and lack of enthusiasm to implement the new coverage has meant only a fraction of people eligible so far have signed up for the coverage voters approved. The differences are stark. [Georgetown University Center for Children and Families]

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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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