In The Know: Mask mandates expiring, but Oklahoma is not out of the woods yet | State Ed. Dept. fines Epic $10.5 million | 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

With its mask mandate expiring this month, Tulsa is inching toward normalcy. But we’re not there yet, officials say: COVID-19 case counts in Tulsa County have fallen back to levels unseen since last summer, but officials are warning that the community is not yet immune from another surge. [Tulsa World] Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday he believes allowing the city’s COVID-19 mandatory mask ordinance to expire at the end of this month, as is currently planned, is the right move. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Epic Charter Schools slapped with new $10.5 million penalty by state Education Department: Epic Charter Schools has been hit with another big financial penalty by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. For the second year in a row, education officials say Epic’s own spending reports to the state reflect administrative costs well above statutory limits for all public schools and the school remains out of compliance with mandatory school cost accounting. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma City civic group seeks answers about $4.5 billion in storm-related fuel costs: Oklahoma City religious and community leaders are raising questions about how power providers plan to recover an estimated $4.5 billion spent on fuel during February’s severe winter storm. Some legislators recently submitted plans to mitigate these costs over time, but leaders of the civic organization VOICE OKC want assurance the process won’t pass unreasonable fuel costs on to consumers. [The Oklahoman]

  • Senate signs off on plan to help gas, electric providers pay off fuel costs from winter storms [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma’s unemployment claims increase while nation’s continue decline: For the first time since the beginning months of the pandemic, initial unemployment claims in Oklahoma have increased for the third consecutive week, while claims nationwide plummeted, according to a government report. [Tulsa World]

Ida’s Law, which addresses missing and murdered Indigenous people, heads to Oklahoma governor’s desk: A bill that would allocate resources, collect better data and be a resource for Indigenous families when their loved ones go missing is headed to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk for a signature. Senate Bill 172 is also known as Ida’s Law, named after 29-year-old Cheyenne-Arapaho woman Ida Beard, who went missing in 2015. [KOSU]

Oklahoma bill granting immunity to drivers fleeing riots heads to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk: Oklahoma’s Legislature on Wednesday gave final passage to bills that seek to crack down on protests and prevent outbursts in local public meetings. Several bills, including a measure that would grant civil and criminal immunity for drivers who unintentionally injure or kill protesters while “fleeing from a riot” now head to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. [The Oklahoman]

Rep. Mauree Turner is ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable’ in Oklahoma’s Legislature: Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, may never feel totally comfortable within the Oklahoma state Capitol. As Oklahoma’s first Muslim lawmaker and the first openly nonbinary state legislator in the country, Turner, who is also Black, is perhaps the state’s most diverse elected official. No doubt Turner, 28, stands out among the majority of mostly white Republican men who control Oklahoma’s Legislature. [The Oklahoman]

As some states rush to redistrict, gerrymandering fight moves to back burner: Illinois and a handful of other states, including Oregon, Oklahoma and Idaho, are looking to jump the gun amid the wait for census data, putting efforts to change the way legislative maps get redrawn on the back foot and raising concerns about transparency. [Roll Call]

Video: Lawsuit filed over state’s medical marijuana ‘seed-to-sale’ tracking system: A Tulsa-based attorney filed suit Thursday on behalf of an Okmulgee County medical cannabis business in hopes of pausing use of the state’s “seed-to-sale” tracking system, alleging that the state’s chosen vendor charges unreasonable fees that could lead to increased prices for patients. [Tulsa World] [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Biden admin discusses tribes’ broader oversight in oil-rich Oklahoma: The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is in talks with Oklahoma tribes over whether they should have a bigger say over a range of environmental regulations in much of the eastern half of the oil-rich state that was recognized last year as reservation land by the Supreme Court, officials told Reuters. [Reuters]

Inhofe, Lankford urge Biden to keep Hinton prison open: Several members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation are urging President Joe Biden to suspend his executive order shutting down private federal prisons, saying they expect the move to mean a privately operated prison in Hinton would close. [AP News]

Oklahoma Senators Inhofe, Lankford split ahead of earmarks vote: Senate GOP lawmakers will vote Wednesday to bring back earmarks, a controversial process that allows lawmakers to request funding for local projects in Congressional budget bills. [Gaylord News / KGOU]

Bosse to stay in Oklahoma custody while McGirt ruling is appealed to Supreme Court: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed Thursday to grant a 45-day pause in overturning the murder convictions of death row inmate Shaun Michael Bosse, giving Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter time to seek U.S. Supreme Court review of key questions arising out of last year’s Indian reservation decision. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Criminal Justice Advisory Council continues effort to address Jail issues: On Thursday afternoon the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) held their monthly meeting via WebEx. Chairman Clay Bennett called the meeting to order after establishing quorum. [Free Press OKC]

  • Latest to die in Oklahoma County Jail now identified [Free Press OKC]

Economy & Business News

Local union files COVID safety complaint against Seaboard Foods in Guymon: The local United Food and Commercial Workers union filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, arguing Seaboard Foods in Guymon, Okla., has failed to establish practices to protect its employees from COVID-19. [KOSU]

Health News

Oklahoma’s hydroxychloroquine shipment took a detour to a Pryor pharmacy: The 1.2 million doses of the drug normally used to treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and prevent malaria were shipped from a California distributor to a small pharmacy in Pryor, with the state paying for the hydroxychloroquine from money borrowed from fees generated by medical marijuana licenses. [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

Promised Land: Oklahoma collaborative to cover tribal sovereignty issue: The Oklahoma Media Center recently selected the name “Promised Land: A Supreme Court decision places Oklahoma at a crossroads” for a shared topic in 2021. The collaborative will cover the affirmation of tribal sovereignty after the Supreme Court ruling last year. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Judge sides with City Of Tulsa in 2nd hearing of tourism improvement district lawsuit [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“This isn’t over. We’re trying to get back to some sense of normalcy, and we’ve been trying to let people know that being vaccinated will allow you to do that. I think if we don’t get our entire community vaccinated, unfortunately, we’ll see what we don’t want to see in terms of data trending up.”

-Bruce Dart, executive director of the Tulsa Health Department [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Effective percentage reduction of Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit when state lawmakers made it non-refundable in 2016.

[Source: Center on Budget & Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

Earned Income Tax Credits Can Improve Health for Mothers and Children: By reducing poverty and increasing income for working families, EITC has been linked to positive health outcomes, particularly for infants and mothers.5, 7-9 Studies show greater health improvements happen when larger, more generous EITC benefits are available.7, 10-11 Health systems and public health partners can reach out to eligible people to raise awareness of and accessibility to the tax credit. [CDC]

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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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