In The Know: McGirt decision expanded to Choctaw, Seminole reservations | Looking at school funding impacts | Maintaining virus vigilance

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

Well-designed paid family and medical leave programs assist working families: Paid family and medical leave is a policy that provides employees who have paid a set amount into the system with a certain amount of paid time off from work to attend to their family, whether it’s caring for a newborn, bonding with a newly adopted child or foster child, or tending to the employee’s or a family member’s severe health condition. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Choctaw, Seminole reservations recognized by Oklahoma appeals court: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Thursday that the Choctaw Nation and Seminole Nation reservations were never disestablished, completing the process of shifting criminal jurisdiction in most of eastern Oklahoma to the federal government and the Five Tribes in cases involving Indians. [The Oklahoman] With the rulings Thursday, the original McGirt decision that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation had never been disestablished now applies to any case involving an American Indian when the crime occurred within any of the five tribes’ boundaries that collectively cover all or parts of 52 of the state’s 77 counties. [Tulsa World]

A closer look at Oklahoma’s move to alter education funding and make student transfers easier: Two education measures finalized this week mark a win for those who subscribe to the philosophy that public tax dollars should follow students to the school of their choice. Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday signed into law bills to alter the school funding formula and expand students’ ability to transfer between schools. [Oklahoma Watch]

COVID-19 metrics much better in Oklahoma, but rises in other states signal warning to maintain vigilance: Metrics gauging COVID-19’s effects in Oklahoma are looking good, but Dr. Dale Bratzler warned the worst reaction would be for people to become too complacent and not adhere to proper pandemic precautions. Bratzler, OU’s chief COVID officer, on Thursday offered a much rosier portrait of the state’s status as cases are down tremendously from the peak and still slightly decreasing. Among the caveats? Cases are rising — dramatically in some instances — in other states as variants spread. [Tulsa World]

  • Health officials say there are now 5 known coronavirus variants in Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Editorial: It is too early to relax personal and public precautions against the pandemic. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

State Government News

Special session ‘the only option we have’ on redistricting: The Oklahoma Legislature will return for a fall special session to complete the congressional redistricting process and possibly tweak the legislative redistricting maps that they are constitutionally required to pass before the end of the 2021 regular legislative session. [NonDoc]

Failed mask purchase by state draws another lawsuit: More than 1 million N95 masks sold to the state of Oklahoma at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic ended up in Mongolia, according to a breach of contract lawsuit filed in Tulsa federal court. Tulsa business PPE Supplies LLC claims in a lawsuit it filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma that it was told more than a million of the protective masks it purchased as part of a contract with the state of Oklahoma were instead sold to Mongolia. [Tulsa World]

House Republicans revive bill to ban mandatory gender, sexual diversity training or counseling: A Republican state lawmaker amended a bill in committee this week to bring back a plan to prohibit mandatory training or counseling on gender or sexual diversity. Senate Bill 627 dealt with the Red River Boundary Commission until Rep. Danny Williams (R-Seminole) replaced its language with that of House Bill 1888, which was laid over last month and missed the deadline to pass its chamber of origin amid a flood of objections from Oklahomans. [Public Radio Tulsa] OK Policy: Setting aside the policy implications, the legislative maneuvering we’re witnessing is just plain bad governance

Criminal Justice News

Jail trust brings in DOC officers to ease staffing woes: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, otherwise known as the jail trust, approved an agreement today with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections that would bring in officers from that agency to supplement jail staff because the trust says it currently lacks the staff to safely operate the jail. [NonDoc

  • Oklahoma County jail trust faces fierce public criticism over detention center deaths, conditions [The Oklahoman]
  • Jail Trust focuses on Health Dept. criticism, staffing, medical contractor [OKC Free Press]

Attorney to face jury trial on racketeering, witness tampering; judge tosses murder solicitation charge: A Tulsa County judge dismissed a murder solicitation charge against a Delaware County attorney after finding insufficient evidence in his contact with one of his incarcerated clients, but the judge left intact counts of witness tampering and racketeering. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

USDA spending billions for farmers missed in previous coronavirus aid programs: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending $6 billion on new programs to help farmers, ranchers and producers who were left out of previous pandemic aid. Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary of Agriculture, said in a statement that there were gaps in the past two iterations of the Coronavirus Assistance Program. The creation of the Pandemic Assistance for Producers program is an effort to mend those gaps. [KOSU]

Education News

COVID-19 expected to have lasting impact on colleges and universities, report says: A report released Thursday gives higher education good marks on spending COVID-19 relief dollars but says institutions could suffer financially if out-of-state students don’t return. The Oklahoma Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency said higher education in the state got $180 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, of which $114 million had been spent through February. [Tulsa World]

General News

Lawsuit filed against city of Tulsa for denying access to Tulsa Race Massacre public records: A Tulsa attorney filed a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa, The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and the Tulsa Development Authority for allegedly violating the Oklahoma Open Records Act and denying access to public records related to the Tulsa Race Massacre. [Tulsa World]

Officials taking different approach to homeless encampment cleanups: The people who spent hours in homeless encampments along Riverside Drive south of the River Spirit Casino on Thursday were there to clean up, not clean out. There is a big difference between the two. [Tulsa World]

Wayne Greene: Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado says he wants a state law with “bite” to let him protect Second Amendment rights: Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado strongly endorsed three Second Amendment bills pending in the Oklahoma Legislature in a March 25 speech to the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association and called for even more “bite” in state law to prevent federal gun laws from infringing on state citizens’ gun rights. [Wayne Green Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Whoever has the most power on their end of the rope wins. And that’s what we’re seeing today. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always lead to the best policy. When you have winners and losers, the losers are often left exploited, they are often left demoralized, disenfranchised, marginalized. And that’s why it’s not a good way to make decisions.” 

-Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, describing recent legislation that changes the state’s education funding model [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Of the 193 countries in the world, only 8 countries do not offer any form of paid maternal leave. The U.S. is the only wealthy country to not guarantee paid family leave. [Source: NPR]

Policy Note

Paid Family Leave Policies And Population Health: Studies on PFL in the US and other developed countries indicate short- and long-term health benefits of leave taking for children and mothers, such as a decreased incidence of low birthweight and preterm births, increased breast-feeding, reduced rates of hospitalizations among infants, and improved maternal health. [Health Affairs]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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