In The Know: Masks in schools, an inside look | Okla. is reaping benefits of Medicaid expansion | Bipartisan justice reform

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

Thanks to Oklahoma voters, the state is already reaping the benefits of Medicaid expansion: When voters approved State Question 802 in June 2020, they knew the benefits that Medicaid expansion would bring to Oklahoma. They understood that it would bring a $1.3 billion dollar federal investment, generate $15.6 billion in economic activity and $489 million in tax revenue, and create more than 27,000 new jobs. They recognized that healthier Oklahomans are better parents, workers, and community members. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Justice reform issues showcase bipartisanship: Lawmakers this summer participated in interim studies highlighting bipartisan support for solutions that help justice-involved Oklahomans and strengthen our economy. Representatives from across the political spectrum showed how the opportunity for automatic expungement and reducing courts’ reliance on fines and fees can strengthen our communities and help more Oklahomans lead productive lives. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Santa Fe South was the first district to implement a mask mandate in Oklahoma this fall. Here’s how it’s going: It’s passing period at Santa Fe South High School in Oklahoma City. Every student’s face is covered with a mask. A StateImpact database shows a growing number of schools around Oklahoma are starting to mandate masks in their hallways, with opt out provisions. At least two dozen traditional public school districts, eight charters and 25 private schools have instituted mask mandates. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Rally Urges University Of Oklahoma Leaders To Mandate Masks And Vaccines, Push Against Gov. Stitt [KOSU]

Area child nutrition programs seeing demand increase due to universal free meals: Marcy Rutland and her staff at Owasso Public Schools’ Child Nutrition Office are doing their best to keep the chicken nuggets, pizza and flatbread sandwiches coming. In April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced the extension of multiple COVID-19 related waivers for school districts’ child nutrition programs through the 2021-2022 school year. Among those waivers was one providing free school meals for all children, regardless of their income level. [Tulsa World]

As feds limit orders of monoclonal antibody treatments, Oklahoma officials are confident they’ll get needed supply: Oklahoma could see smaller shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 now that the federal government has clamped down on distribution of the therapeutics in an effort to distribute them equitably. In some states, the distribution changes have prompted fears of shortages. But Oklahoma officials said the changes are meant to help stave off shortages — and that they’re confident Oklahomans who need the potentially life-saving therapeutics will be able to access them. [The Oklahoman]

  • COVID-19: Death rate still a concern as case counts dip; nearly 1 in 400 Oklahomans have died due to virus [Tulsa World
  • COVID Deaths Peak As Cases Decline [Public Radio Tulsa] | [AP News]
  • Nearly 47% of Oklahomans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 [The Frontier]
  • Oklahomans We’ve Lost: A doting father who made everyone laugh [The Frontier]
  • Thunder COVID policy draws threat from lawmaker [The Journal Record]
  • Unapproved iodine treatments for COVID-19 not the new craze in Oklahoma … yet [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Study done on the impacts of the state grocery tax: House Minority Leader Emily Virgin led a study on the negative impacts of Oklahoma’s grocery tax on needy families. “I feel confident leaving the study that there are people on all sides of this conversation who want to see the tax end,” said Minority Leader Virgin in a press release. Currently, Oklahomans pay 4.5% at grocery stores, tied for the fourth-highest grocery tax in the country. During the study, Oklahoma Policy Institute budget and tax analyst Paul Shinn said because of the grocery tax, “Oklahomans making the least money pay significantly more in taxes as a percentage of their income than those making the most.” [KTUL]

Minimum wage, effects of COVID on workforce participation discussed in state Senate study: State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-OKC, requested an interim study on why Oklahomans are not returning to work. The Sept. 21 meeting of the Oklahoma Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee was a chance to “dig deeper into the roadblocks Oklahoma families are facing in participating in the labor market and therefore our economy,” Hicks said on social media. Oklahoma Policy Institute analysts presented theories and research, noting that minimum wage — controlled legislatively — has been stagnant since 2009 and has since lost one-fifth of its value. [Tulsa World]

  • Analysts: Early End To Enhanced Federal Unemployment Benefits Was Likely Ineffectual In Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]

Coalition urges more transparency, public engagement in city distribution of COVID-19 relief funds: A coalition of 40 local organizations urged the city on Wednesday to engage the public and be transparent as it distributes millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds. The city will receive $87.8 million from the American Rescue Plan Act over the next two years. The funds are intended to be used to mitigate economic harm, including the loss of revenue, caused by the pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Ag groups, sheriffs call for moratorium on new Oklahoma marijuana grower license as numbers explode: Groups representing Oklahoma’s agriculture industry and county sheriffs have asked for a moratorium on new medical marijuana grower licenses. The number of license holders has exploded since Oklahoma’s legal medical cannabis industry formed in 2018. As of this month, there were 8,630 licensed growers registered with the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. [The Oklahoman]

Interim study sheds light on impacts to rural water supplies amid ‘green rush’ of cannabis grows: An Oklahoma Water Resources Board official told lawmakers this week that one in three complaints the agency received this year is related to the rapid growth of the state’s medical cannabis industry and a resulting proliferation of grow operations of questionable legitimacy in rural areas. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma ranks among bottom three unhealthiest states in the U.S.: It comes as no surprise to many who live in the state that Oklahoma ranks in the bottom three in the nation on determinants of health, according to a study done by the Community Service Council. Using metrics of social and economic factors, physical environment, clinical care, and behaviors, Oklahoma ranked 48 in the health determinant rankings. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, business group back infrastructure bill, but lawmakers may not: As the deadline nears for a U.S. House vote on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and state business leaders have been urging passage and emphasizing the benefits of increased road and transit funding. [The Oklahoman]

‘Part of the Oklahoma standard’: Muslim advocacy group prepares to welcome Afghan refugees: Afghan refugees will receive a guide book informing them of their civil rights when they settle in Oklahoma, as part of a welcome kit courtesy of a Muslim advocacy group. Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Rights-Oklahoma chapter, said his organization plans to present the “Know Your Rights” guides to Afghan refugees when they arrive. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma officer to face trial for fatal shooting: An Oklahoma district judge has ruled a suburban Oklahoma City police officer will face trial for the fatal shooting of a man who refused to drop a baseball bat as he approached the officer. [AP News] Saying Oklahoma County Special Judge Lisa K. Hammond erred in dismissing the case against Chance Avery, Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong told attorneys that excessive force arguments “are questions of fact for the jury to decide.” [The Oklahoman]

More Than 35 Lawmakers Urge Governor To Review Richard Glossip’s Death Row Case: Dozens of Oklahoma state lawmakers are calling on Governor Kevin Stitt to order an independent investigation into the case of a death row prisoner. The lawmakers are even taking Richard Glossip’s case to national TV. [News On 6]

Economic Opportunity

Column: Cash is disappearing, stranding the unbanked: The unbanked aren’t axiomatically the homeless, the undocumented immigrants or those who have fallen through the cracks. They are also people with jobs who pay their taxes, and many of whom live exemplary lives but don’t have bank accounts. [Column / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Skilled workers in high demand, getting multiple offers: Companies trying to get back to business as it once was or even to expand beyond pre-pandemic levels are competing to hire the best workers and keep the good employees they have. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Education Watch: Behind Gov. Stitt’s Request to Audit the Education Department: The fallout from the Epic Charter Schools saga continues. Gov. Kevin Stitt made a new audit request last week, this one focused on the state Department of Education. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister called the move “another attack on Oklahoma’s public education system.” [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Editorial: Education audit weaponizes state audits for political chess before an election year [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Latino Community Development Agency celebrates 30 years of service [OKC Free Press]
  • Consideration of Tulsa City Council redistricting options to begin [Tulsa World]
  • City To Spend Additional Virus Relief Funds In Support Of Hotel For Tulsans Experiencing Homelessnes [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Former Luther police chief Tony Walker sentenced for embezzlement [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Ending the unemployment benefits was giving us small potatoes — if any potatoes at all.”

-Josie Phillips, Policy Fellow for OK Policy, discussing the state’s decision to cut short extra federal unemployment benefits [Public Radio Tulsa

Number of the Day

1 in 400

1 in every 400 Oklahomans have died of COVID-19, which is higher than the national average of 1 in 500 [Tulsa World]

Policy Note

Building a Lasting Solution to the Nation’s Homeless Crisis: Demand for homeless services is increasing. Scores of communities are finding that when providers work in teams and use better data and systems, they can solve the problem person by person. [Governing]

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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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