In The Know: Legislature adjourns with Republicans touting wins | Managed care ‘guardrail’ bill becomes law | Tulsa Race Massacre coverage

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

Governor lets Medicaid bill become law without signature: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday he has let a bill putting some restrictions on his plan to privatize Medicaid become law without his signature. Stitt has pushed forward with a plan to outsource management of the state’s Medicaid system to for-profit insurance companies, maintaining that that approach will maximize health care quality while cutting costs. [AP News]

Oklahoma Legislature adjourns 2021 legislative session with Republicans touting wins: The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday concluded its regular 2021 legislative session after lawmakers passed a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year and sent a record number of bills to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. But like so many items voted on by the legislature, opinions about the session were divided on party lines. Republican legislative leaders praised the accomplishments of their supermajorities in both chambers. Democrats, on the other hand, were critical of many policy priorities pursued by their colleagues across the aisle. [The Oklahoman] Republican leaders called it the most productive session in recent history. “I think this is the most comprehensive session that I have seen in the nine years of my service I have experienced here in the House of Representatives,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. [Tulsa World] Lawmakers tout their $9 billion budget, which included personal and corporate income tax cuts, and significant changes to education policies this session, but they also did things like pass a flurry of new abortion restrictions, change state law to name a stretch of panhandle highway after former President Donald Trump, make Oklahoma a Second Amendment sanctuary state and suspend rules to get bills heard after deadlines. [Public Radio Tulsa] Lawmakers are expected to return for a special session in the fall to approve a redistricting plan for the state’s five U.S. House seats. [AP News

Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial News

Unearthing history: Tulsa massacre victims search resumes: As the U.S. marks 100 years since one of its most shameful historical chapters, researchers, including descendants of Black victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre, are preparing to resume a search for remains believed to have been hastily buried in mass graves. [AP News]

  • Cornel West calls for peace, truth in addressing ‘vicious contempt’ of Race Massacre [Tulsa World]
  • As Tulsa commemorates massacre, African Americans hope for justice amid shifting tide [Reuters]
  • Calls for reparations as Tulsa anniversary looms [Reuters]
  • Last Tulsa Race Massacre survivors push for reparations [CNHI via Ada News]
  • Greenwood Conversations: Tulsa City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper [Tulsa People]
  • ‘A hot-button issue’: Not all Black Tulsans are happy about Greenwood Rising [Tulsa World]

President Joe Biden to mark Tulsa Race Massacre centennial by meeting survivors: President Joe Biden will visit Tulsa on Tuesday to mark the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, according to the White House. Biden’s visit will cap off a long weekend full of events, speakers and concerts to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy that marks one of the lowest points in Oklahoma history. [The Oklahoman]

  • City, economic groups plan to pour $4 million into new Greenwood entrepreneurial services [Tulsa World]
  • Visits with centenarian Tulsa Race Massacre survivors will stay possible through interactive exhibit unveiled at Gilcrease Museum [Tulsa World]

How did 1921 Black Wall Street residents defy America’s ‘caste’ system? Author Isabel Wilkerson gives talk at reconciliation symposium: A Pulitzer Prize-winning author made the connection between the Tulsa Race Massacre and ideology that America was founded with a built-in caste or hierarchy system with Black people at the bottom. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Remember and Rise’ is canceled but here’s how to watch other Tulsa Race Massacre centennial events [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Art speaks’: Greenwood Art Project unveils wide-ranging commemoration of Tulsa Race Massacre [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

How high levels of COVID found in OKC sewage led to vaccine pop-up clinic: Fifty-two people got a COVID-19 shot Wednesday outside the Feria Latina Supermarket on Southwest 47th Street — a location selected by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department for a pop-up clinic by monitoring several data trends. The store’s zip code lagged behind others in vaccination rates, and sewage surveillance showed COVID-19 was present at higher levels in the area compared with other parts of Oklahoma County. Those reasons, coupled with lower vaccine uptake among Hispanic residents, led health officials to land on the grocery store for a pop-up site. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Everyone needs to be vaccinated,’ even teens, an Oklahoma doctor says [Tulsa World]

‘Deep need’: OU-Tulsa dental care expansion approved: While also discussing other developments in the health care arena, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved an OU-Tulsa dental care program expansion during its meeting today. The effort to improve oral health care access and expand College of Dentistry capacity will feature the construction of a 5,800-square-foot dental clinic on the third floor of the OU Health Physicians Schusterman Center Clinic building in Tulsa. [NonDoc]

State & Local Government News

New unemployment claims in Oklahoma spike in final weeks of extra benefits: The number of new unemployment claims spiked nearly 80% as Oklahoma enters the final month of offering pandemic-related benefits. Oklahoma’s jump comes while the number of new claims across the United States has fallen by more than half since January. [The Oklahoman] The 80% increase in weekly claims is also the largest rate of increase in weekly claims in the state since the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. State officials blamed the large increase in initial jobless claims on fraudsters trying to scoop up federal benefits before they disappear. [Tulsa World]

‘Megacenters’ coming to OKC, Tulsa for Real ID delays: Oklahoma residents who face monthslong delays in getting driver’s license renewals or Real IDs will be able to visit “megacenters” this summer in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to help clear a backlog that has been building since the coronavirus pandemic started. [Oklahoma Watch] State lawmakers appropriated $6.6 million for the temporary centers that will be located in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. [The Oklahoman] A spokeswoman for DPS said Wednesday that the agency is now two months behind in processing online driver’s license renewals. [CNHI via Ada News]

Civil rights lawyers’ claim for fees in panhandling case should be cut by nearly half, city says: City of Oklahoma City attorneys say their lead opponent in a battle over a panhandling ordinance is only entitled to be paid at 80% of his hourly rate. The team led by University of Oklahoma College of Law Professor Joseph Thai won a ruling last summer that the 2015 panhandling ordinance violated the First Amendment. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Federal highway bill promises $4.4 billion for Oklahoma roads and bridges: Oklahoma would receive nearly $4.4 billion for roads and bridges over the next five years, under a bipartisan highway bill approved this week by a U.S. Senate committee. First-year funding of $840 million would represent a 21% increase over the current federal allocation to Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Farm Bureau members encouraged to participate in congressional redistricting town halls: Oklahoma Farm Bureau encourages its members to attend congressional redistricting town hall meetings to represent the voices and perspectives of rural Oklahoma. Five in-person town halls will be hosted in each congressional district, along with two virtual town halls. The meetings provide Oklahomans an opportunity to offer input as House and Senate redistricting committees prepare to draw new congressional district lines. [OK Farm Bureau

Federal authorities seek to protect lesser prairie chicken in Oklahoma, surrounding states: A long-running effort to list the lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act has taken flight once again. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the species under the act, reversing course from a decision agency officials made several years ago that left the bird’s fate in the hands of conservation programs adopted by nonprofits and businesses. [The Oklahoman] See redistricting meeting schedule from the Oklahoma House of Representatives

Lankford says he opposes independent, bipartisan Jan. 6 commission proposal passed by House: Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said Wednesday evening that he will vote against the House-backed formation of an independent, bipartisan commission to examine the Jan. 6 pro-Trump insurrection. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Hoskin testifies before Senate committee in support of Native languages bill: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Wednesday to express support for a piece of language preservation legislation named for the late Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Cherokee Nation approves $2,000 in direct payments to all of its citizens: The Cherokee Nation will use part of its pandemic relief money to provide direct aid to its citizens. The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved legislation Thursday evening laying out a framework for how the tribe will spend $1.8 billion in COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma death row inmate dies after contracting COVID-19: An Oklahoma death row inmate awaiting execution for a 2004 slaying in Oklahoma City died of COVID-19, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Thursday. Nicholas Davis, 46, died on April 7 at a prison hospital in Lindsay after contracting the coronavirus, according to a medical examiner’s report. [AP News]

Education News

State Department, Board of Education will have separate legal counsel: During a special meeting Thursday, the State Board of Education received the resignation of its general counsel, Brad Clark. The board also heard an update from Oologah-Talala Public Schools regarding accreditation probation and entered into executive session to discuss a lawsuit filed by Western Heights Public Schools. [NonDoc]

Epic Charter Schools cuts ties with Epic Youth Services, co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney: The Epic Charter Schools board, Community Strategies, voted Wednesday night to terminate their contract with the private educational management company Epic Youth Services as of July 1. Epic Youth Services is owned by the schools’ co-founders, Ben Harris and David Chaney. [NonDoc] State and federal officials have been investigating since last year for allegedly embezzling millions in state funds by illegally inflating student enrollment counts. Among the biggest concerns of state investigators and a grand jury is Epic Youth Services, which has received a 10% management fee paid for by public funds. [AP News]

Quote of the Day

“I am 107 years old and I have never seen justice. I pray that one day I will.”

-Viola Fletcher, a Tulsa Race Massacre survivor who testified before Congress earlier this month [Reuters]

Number of the Day

86 of 1,000

In Oklahoma, 86 of 1,000 employees is likely affected by depression. Employees with untreated depression lose an average of 45 work days annually to absenteeism and presenteeism. #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth

[Source: Healthy Minds Initiative]

Policy Note

Oklahoma’s Untapped Workforce: The economic case for addressing mental health: Healthy Minds has released a new report on the relationship between mental health and Oklahoma’s workforce. By addressing mental health and embracing practices proven to strengthen and grow the workforce, Oklahoma and its business community can benefit from increased workforce productivity and participation leading to economic gains. [Healthy Minds Initiative]

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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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