In The Know: Long-term services waitlist | Rural broadband expansion | State Ed. Dept. uncovers fraud at child-feeding sites | More

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

DHS working to eliminate waiver waitlist; advocates express concerns: Oklahoma health services officials are making an effort to eliminate the waiting list for services for people with certain types of developmental disabilities, according to Samantha Galloway, Department of Health Services chief of staff. Right now, that waiting list is 13 years long. But family advocates want to make sure the effort to eliminate the waiting list doesn’t shortchange families who need lifelong services that this waiver provides. [News 9

State lawmakers earmark $42 million for rural broadband expansion: State lawmakers are prioritizing expanding broadband in rural parts of Oklahoma. As part of a larger push to increase broadband access, the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $42 million in tax rebates for companies to expand broadband in unserved or underserved rural areas. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma education officials say they uncovered $1.6 million in fraud at child-feeding sites during COVID-19 pandemic: Over $1.6 million in federal funds were improperly claimed for reimbursement since April 2020, according to state education officials. The majority of improper claims were reported at child care sites. [KOCO] Now the state is working to uncover additional schemes, by using regulations and accountability measures introduced during Hofmeister’s time in August. [KFOR]

From Vermont to Kentucky, some Republicans expand voting access in 2021: Some Republicans lawmakers and election officials in states that are less competitive in national elections, such as Vermont, Kentucky and Oklahoma, say their party should be making it easier to vote, not harder – and support legislation to do just that. [Reuters]

Health News

Oklahoma resists incentives to boost vaccination rate: Bolstered by catchy slogans like “Your Shot to Summer,” “Vax-a-Million” and “Vax 2 the Max,” nearly 20 states are going all out to woo vaccine-hesitant residents in a bid to boost vaccination rates. Leaders in those states said they’re finding “vaccine lotteries” and incentive programs, which leverage millions in federal coronavirus aid, are boosting faltering COVID-19 vaccination rates. But even as Oklahoma’s per capita COVID-19 vaccination rates have dropped to 11th worst in the nation, state leaders are reluctant to launch their own incentive program. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

7-Day average of new COVID-19 cases falls below 100 for 1st time in a year: Oklahoma’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections fell below 100 on Monday for the first time since June 10, 2020. The seven-day average is 99 right now. It peaked at more than 4,200 in January. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State & Local Government News

Commissioners hand off redistricting to partisan staff at Oklahoma Legislature: The Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) voted Monday to hand over responsibility for redistricting the county to the staff of the Republican-held Oklahoma Legislature. [Free Press OKC]

Public pays $5,000 per game so Thunder fans can park for free: The public will pick up the parking tab again this year for the Thunder’s most-favored fans, paying at least $220,375 for spaces adjacent to the basketball arena. Spaces are reserved for fans who buy premium ticket packages. Amenities include suite attendants, food and non-alcoholic beverages, and VIP parking. [The Oklahoman]

Commission approves $1.8B work program budget for Oklahoma Department of Transportation: The state transportation commission on Monday signed off on a nearly $1.8 billion work program budget for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for the fiscal year starting July 1. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation names Adam Cohen as interim president: The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation named its longtime chief legal officer as interim president, the foundation announced Monday. Adam Cohen, an attorney who joined OMRF in 2002, was appointed to the interim role at a Friday meeting of the executive committee of the Oklahoma City nonprofit’s board of directors. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Federal notice on surface coal mining a ‘significant loss of power by Oklahoma’: The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement added a notice to the Federal Registry on May 18 that prevents the state of Oklahoma from exercising regulatory jurisdiction under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 on lands of the Muscogee Nation, which recently had its reservation affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. [NonDoc]

Tribal Nations News

State prosecutors still fighting McGirt cases as jurisdiction questions remain: State prosecutors have won a few victories recently in their efforts to blunt the impact of court decisions reaffirming Indian reservations in eastern Oklahoma, though their successes may be short-lived. [The Oklahoman]

Muscogee Nation Health Department to partner with 3 districts to offer students shots: The Muscogee Nation Department of Health is partnering with three more Tulsa-area school districts to offer COVID-19 vaccination events. The Bristow, Glenpool and Sand Springs districts will be hosting drive-through vaccination clinics this month open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people age 12 and older. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Jails emptied in the pandemic. Should they stay that way?: By the middle of last year, the number of people in jails nationwide was at its lowest point in more than two decades, according to a new report published Monday by the Vera Institute of Justice, whose researchers collected population numbers from about half of the nation’s 3,300 jails to make national estimates. [The Marshall Project / Enid News & Eagle]  | [Vera Institute of Justice Report

Economy & Business News

Study: Oklahoma’s beer industry brought in nearly $3B to state’s economy in 2020 despite pandemic: Despite the challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study from Beer Serves America showed that Oklahoma’s beer industry still supported more than 8,000 jobs, provided $270 million in wages and circulated $2.9 billion into the state’s economy. Oklahoma brewing jobs also increased by nearly 7%, according to the study. [KOCO]

Guilty plea in Oklahoma federal court related to Continental Resources’ civil case: A guilty plea in federal court submitted by a former Continental Resources employee is related to a civil suit filed in Oklahoma County District Court by the oil and gas company against Oklahoma City attorney Blaine Dyer and numerous other defendants. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s wheat harvest delayed due to wet weather: Rain and abnormal cloud coverage leading to unfavorable drying conditions is delaying the wheat harvest in some parts of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of the largest wheat producers in the nation. But the recent rain and colder weather is keeping soil wet longer, which slows down producer harvesting. [KGOU]

Education News

Virtual charter schools offer a different education model: When the COVID pandemic prompted Oklahoma school districts to develop virtual learning options for their students for the 2020-2021 school year, full-time virtual schools, such as the Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, had an advantage. [NonDoc]

Epic’s new board chair founded a charter school. Its start has been rocky: To improve its board oversight, the state’s largest online school has turned to a businessman who founded the state’s first rural charter school. Paul Campbell was named chairman of Community Strategies, Epic Charter Schools’ governing board, on May 26, part of the school’s response to a critical investigative audit and a report from the multicounty grand jury urging the public to demand more accountability. [Oklahoma Watch]

Column: Federal funds to help TPS serve students: This past year has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for the Tahlequah school district. School leaders from the local level, through the state level, and across the country have been charged with an unprecedented surge of federal pandemic financial aid. [

Tulsa Public Schools drops mask requirement: Citing declining COVID-19 cases in the area, the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to drop the district’s mask requirement. [Tulsa World]

5-Year, $414M Tulsa Public Schools Bond package on the ballot Tuesday: Voters within the Tulsa Public Schools district boundaries go to the polls Tuesday to consider a $414 million bond package. The five-year bond package is split among four propositions for building improvements, technology, transportation and learning materials. A full project breakdown is available on the TPS website. [Public Radio Tulsa]

McDaniel gets max bonus for leadership of OKCPS during COVID year: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel will receive the maximum bonus for leadership performance during the 2020-2021 pandemic school year. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma Local News

  • First National developers seeking $11M federal loan for hotel in downtown Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • World’s largest collector-car auction company to debut event in Tulsa this weekend with 600 vehicles [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Families that have children on the waiting list are living day by day, minute by minute. So, their need today is what they are focusing on, and maybe not focusing on when (the child) graduates from high school, or if (the parents’) health fails and they can no longer care for their child.” 

-Lisa Turner, Executive Director of the Arc of Oklahoma and mother of a waiting list applicant, speaking about the 13-year-long waiting list for home and community based services for residents who have developmental disabilities. [News 9]   

Number of the Day

47th

Oklahoma’s national rank for broadband connectivity [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]  

Policy Note

Disconnected: Seven Lessons on Fixing the Digital Divide: This report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City focuses on broadband access, economic impact and solutions for communities to narrow the digital divide. The digital divide refers to the gap between those with and without access to affordable, reliable broadband and the skills and equipment to utilize it. Today, many parts of the U.S. are left without broadband. Just 53 percent of adults with incomes less than $30,000 have broadband at home. Nearly 68 percent of people without broadband at home live in rural communities. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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