In The Know: Medicaid expansion could curtail Hep C deaths in state | Eviction moratorium & help for renters in Okla. | 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.

New from OK Policy

The 2021 session saw passage of economic justice reforms, but Oklahoma’s prison crisis demands greater action: Criminal justice reform was a lower profile priority in Oklahoma’s 2021 legislative session compared to previous years. Despite this fact, several significant reforms aimed at increasing economic opportunity for justice-involved families were signed into law. Lawmakers also created a legal pathway for harm reduction services for the first time in the state’s history and passed modest reforms to medical parole, juvenile expungement, and community supervision. These common-sense policy changes will improve the lives of thousands of Oklahomans, allowing more people to keep their driver’s licenses for essential activities, better maintain employment, and develop a more stable home life upon release to their communities. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Health officials are hopeful Medicaid expansion and new safe syringe program will curtail Oklahoma’s Hepatitis C deaths: Oklahoma continues to rank top three in the nation for Hepatitis C deaths, but health officials are hopeful recent policy changes will help reverse the trend. Hepatitis C — a viral liver infection — is a problem nationwide. It’s the most prominent chronic blood-borne infection and leading cause of liver transplants. It can cause many complications, including cancer. Although the infection is a household name, it is significantly harder to track and study than other viral infections like HIV. Mostly because it can infect without causing symptoms. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Cherokee Nation Pre-Enrolling Citizens Into Medicaid: The Cherokee Nation is pre-enrolling its citizens, or those from other federally recognized tribes, and their famines into Medicaid, at a no cost to those who qualify, starting this month. Coverages goes into effect July 1. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Medicaid Expansion coverage can help you in many ways. [Bartlesville Radio]

With an evictions moratorium ending soon, Oklahoma officials look at possible reforms: With a federal moratorium expiring at the end of the month, Oklahoma officials are noting how other parts of the country are preparing for an expected wave of new eviction cases. Several jurisdictions nationwide have introduced a “right to counsel” for tenants, meaning they will have access to attorneys free of charge during any eviction proceedings, which was a reform that some local officials were advocating even before the COVID-19 shutdowns left millions of American struggling to pay rent. [Tulsa World] OK Policy: The CDC eviction moratorium helped, but Oklahoma’s housing crisis still looms large.

Health News

Oklahoma must do better to increase vaccination rate among young people before fall, OU COVID officer says: The state’s COVID-19 metrics are “very, very good news” these days, but Oklahomans must do a better job of encouraging young people to get vaccinated before school is back in session in the fall lest the disease ramp up, too, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s chief COVID officer. Only 13.6% of Oklahoma’s minors ages 12 to 17 have had at least one dose of vaccine, and only 6.7% are fully vaccinated, according to federal data issued Thursday. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘Not giving up’: Officials determined to reach more Oklahomans with COVID-19 shots as vaccination rates slow [The Oklahoman]
  • Vaccine update: 9 charts that show how Oklahoma is coping with COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • OU Health Marks First Day ‘In A Long Time’ Without COVID Patients In ICUs Systemwide [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Some Oklahomans experiencing “long-hauler” syndrome from COVID [The Lawton Constitution]

US vaccine surplus grows by the day as expiration dates loom: Oklahoma has not asked for new doses from the government for more than a month, spurning its 200,000-a-week allotment. Around the country, states are rushing to use up doses before they expire this summer. [AP News]

State Government News

Public bodies largely return to in-person meetings: As a law allowing for fully virtual public meetings expires, a top Senate Republican continues to press for modernization of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act. Effective immediately, public bodies and nonprofits subject to the state’s Open Meeting Act can no longer hold fully virtual meetings. The bodies had been allowed to temporarily meet remotely since February under Senate Bill 1031. That exemption ended last week following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to end Oklahoma’s COVID-19 state of emergency. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Capitol Insider: Returning To (The New) Normal: With summer approaching, Oklahoma is quickly moving toward resumption of pre-COVID life. In late May, Governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order rescinding mask mandates in state buildings. The order also prohibits state agencies from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for admission to state facilities. Previously, Stitt had ordered that schools, colleges and universities could not require vaccinations or masks. With the expiration of his state emergency order, Oklahoma is also returning to in-person meetings to comply with the Open Meeting Act. [KGOU]

As GOP Majority Grows, Fewer Democratic-Led Bills Make it Through Oklahoma’s Legislature: Armed with its largest supermajority in the state’s history, Republican lawmakers found increased legislative success this year as the number of successful bills written by Democrats fell. An Oklahoma Watch review found that of the nearly 600 bills that made it through the legislative process, only 28 had Democrats as the bill’s original lead sponsor. That total is the lowest number of Democratic-originated bills to be signed by the governor during the opening year of a new Legislature since at least 2013. [Oklahoma Watch]

From pre-rolls to more enforcement, here are medical marijuana changes coming to Oklahoma: Three years after Oklahoma voters approved legalizing medical marijuana, the state will beef up enforcement of its cannabis laws. State lawmakers this year approved a slate of legislation that allows state agencies to ensure medical marijuana businesses are complying with licensing, testing, operation and tax requirements. [The Oklahoman]

Securing an exam appointment can be the real test in obtaining a learner’s permit for some young drivers: The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has been the subject of months of complaints from residents who report struggling to get appointments for services such as learner’s permits, name changes and REAL ID applications. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in closures or reduced service offerings at DPS offices statewide, meaning there’s a shortage of DPS employees who are on hand to process learner’s permit requests. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma delegation’s earmarks seek millions for community projects: Following the reinstatement of Directed Congressional Spending, or earmarks, a once-controversial process that allows lawmakers to request funding for local projects in congressional budget bills, the Oklahoma delegation has submitted requests to the House Appropriations Committee for specific projects in their districts. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

Political notebook: American Rescue Plan includes $590 million for child care in Oklahoma: Oklahoma is eligible for almost $590 million from two federal child care programs that were part of this spring’s American Rescue Plan, according to figures released Friday by the Biden administration. That figure does not include Oklahoma tribes’ share of the $1.2 billion earmarked for native governments nationwide. [Tulsa World]

Plan would restore rail service to big swath of the Midwest: Proponents of expanding passenger rail service through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas hope an anticipated influx of federal infrastructure funding will get the the long-discussed route off the ground. [AP News]

Oklahoma Asks Congress To Invest In State Science Initiatives: Elizabeth Pollard, Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Innovation, testified before a Congress subcommittee on June 9th. Pollard spoke to the Subcommittee on Research and Technology about the benefits of federal investment in Oklahoma. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Portion of Greenwood added to the National Register of Historic Places: On Thursday the Oklahoma Historical Society announced that the 100 Block of Greenwood Avenue has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places is the United State’s official list of properties significant in its historic past. [The Black Wall Street Times] The National Register of Historic Places listing covers only the 100 block of North Greenwood for its significance as an “economic, cultural and professional center for Tulsa’s African American community.” [Tulsa World] Placement on the National Register of Historic Places opens possibilities for businesses and property owners to seek historic preservation tax credits for business development and property improvement. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Biden administration seeking $82 million for McGirt-related costs in Oklahoma: The Biden administration is seeking $82 million in additional funding for U.S. attorneys, FBI agents, marshals and other federal staff to handle the spike in caseloads resulting from the change in criminal jurisdiction on the newly affirmed Indian reservations in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation ‘working together’ to help elders apply online for $2,000 COVID-19 assistance payments: About 38% of Cherokee Nation citizens have applied for pandemic assistance since late May, and the tribe will soon host drive-through community events focused on assisting elders with more applications. [Tulsa World]

Cherokee Nation Council Election Results: The Cherokee Nation held tribal council elections on June 5th, which drew 38 candidates for 8 districts and one at-large seat. According to the official results, four incumbents were re-elected and four are headed for a runoff including one at-large seat. The runoff will take place on July 24. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

In Bryn Carter affidavit falsehood, OKCPD cleared its own detective: Shared with a handful of criminal defense attorneys in late May, a notice of potential exculpatory evidence revealed that Oklahoma City Police Department detective Bryn Carter admitted March 2 to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater that he had perjured himself one week earlier in signing a criminal affidavit. [NonDoc]

OSBI investigating death of man held in Lawton city jail: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said Friday investigators are looking into the death of a 30-year-old man at the Lawton City Jail. The man was booked into the jail early Wednesday and found unresponsive the following day, the OSBI said in a press release. The release says jail staff attempted life-saving measures, but that they were unsuccessful. [AP News]

Inmate asks for new trial amid Oklahoma County judge’s sexual misconduct scandal: A convicted heroin dealer is complaining in an appeal that his judge was clearly not impartial “because he was sexually assaulting or having an affair with the prosecuting attorney in this case.” [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

6 charts that show how the economy is performing in Tulsa and Oklahoma: Is unemployment going down? How many small businesses are still open? Find out with these charts and maps, updated weekly. [Tulsa World]

Education News

After year of uncertainty, what do Oklahoma schools have planned for next year?: Oklahoma public schools are preparing for a 2021-22 school year that many hope will closely resemble pre-pandemic life. Most school districts, excluding those that had four-day schedules before the pandemic, are planning to return to in-person schooling five days a week in the fall, barring an unexpected rise in COVID-19 cases. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Descendants of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors remove remains of bodies from mass grave: As the traumatic work to uncover and properly exhume the bodies of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims in mass graves at Oaklawn Cemetery continues, with at least one new body being discovered as of Friday, descendants of the original Black Wall Street say they feel obligated to honor the spirits of these unknown victims, along with continuing calls for reparative justice and accountability. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion: As the nation marks Juneteenth, here’s how Oklahomans celebrated the proclamation in 1865: On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, a proclamation that finally spread the word to the enslaved people of Texas that they were free. In the years following, June 19 became known as Juneteenth, a day to celebrate emancipation with family gatherings, music and traditional foods. [Trait Thompson and Elizabeth M. B. Bass / The Oklahoman]

  • The Greenwood Joy Experience Art Exhibition Goes Up This Juneteenth [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Fort Sill power plant plan in jeopardy after cost recovery amount slashed by regulators [The Oklahoman]
  • OSBI investigating Lawton councilman [The Southwest Ledger]
  • A Norman developer proves it: You can fight City Hall — and win [The Oklahoman]
  • County budget hearing slated for Monday [The Norman Transcript]
  • Explainer: See what each of the 14 budget amendments council considered Tuesday does [The Norman Transcript]
  • Tulsa County to auction off hundreds of properties with unpaid taxes [Tulsa World]
  • Party-starved Tulsans show out to release ‘pent up energy’ after iconic race’s one-year hiatus [Tulsa World]
  • EMSA issues medical heat alert as Tulsa temperatures nearly touch 100 degrees [Tulsa World]
  • EMSA issues medical heat alert with 90+ degree temps in OKC [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“In general, if someone is uninsured, they’re less likely to visit a health care facility. You know, to get screened for anything. Of some people who know they’ve had Hepatitis C for years, but they can’t treat it, so they just live one day at a time, hoping something will happen.”

–Antonbara Sowemimo, Prevention Programs Manager and viral Hepatitis prevention coordinator with the state health department, explaining how IV drug use and lack of insurance fuel Oklahoma’s long struggle with Hepatitis C and the deaths resulting from it. Health officials are hopeful Medicaid expansion and a new safe syringe program will help curtail Oklahoma’s Hepatitis C deaths. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Number of the Day

10 times

People who are formerly incarcerated are 10 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population, and housing security is the number one factor in determining the likelihood of reoffense.

[Source: Prison Policy Institute]

Policy Note

Five Charts That Explain the Homelessness-Jail Cycle—and How to Break It: Homelessness and the criminal justice system are deeply intertwined. People experiencing homelessness are more likely to interact with the justice system because being forced to live outside can lead to citations or arrests for low-level offenses like loitering or sleeping in parks. And people currently or previously involved in the justice system, who are often disconnected from supports and face housing and job discrimination, are more likely to experience homelessness. Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people are also overrepresented among both groups because of systemic and structural racism in housing, criminal justice, employment, and other systems. [The Urban Institute]

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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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