In The Know: Medicaid expansion question; Tulsa County COVID-19 surge continues; and 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

PAC forms to oppose Medicaid expansion question: A political action committee formed this week seeks to fight a state question to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma state director for Americans for Prosperity is serving as the chairman of the Vote No on 802 Association — a PAC that plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the state question that will be on the ballot on June 30. [The Oklahoman]

The Long Road To Oklahoma’s Medicaid Expansion Vote: Campaign signs are appearing along roadways and advertisements are popping up on screens of all kinds as voters prepare to decide on expanding Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma. The June 30th election for State Question 802 was a long time coming. [KOSU] OK Policy has provided information and resources to better understand SQ 802.

COVID-19: Tulsa County surge continues with 64 more new cases and highest four-day average yet: Tulsa County is experiencing its highest rate of transmission of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to data released Thursday. The last three days, June 7-9, have seen the highest new case numbers — 65, 47 and 64 new cases, respectively. Daily new case counts before June 7 had never been higher than 45. [Tulsa World] OSDH official: COVID-19 cases in NW Oklahoma steady despite ‘pockets’ of increases in state. [OSDH via Enid News & Eagle]

Trump rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa called ‘slap in the face’: Black community and political leaders are calling on President Donald Trump to at least change the date of an Oklahoma rally kick-starting his return to public campaigning, saying that holding the event on Juneteenth, the day that marks the end of slavery in America, is a “slap in the face.” [AP News] Oklahoma leaders lobbied for Republican National Convention, instead got Tulsa campaign stop on President Trump’s return to the trail [Tulsa World] Trump rally attendees in Tulsa cannot sue if they contract COVID-19 at the event [Tulsa World

Protest-related news in Oklahoma

  • Tulsa World Editorial: Law enforcement needs to release information about I244 incident with truck driver and protesters [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa mayor, city councilors oppose defunding police, support providing more social services [Tulsa World]
  • Majority of Comments on Proposed City of Tulsa Budget Ask Officials to Defund Police [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • ‘Stretch all the way to the sticks of Oklahoma’: 1,000-strong crowd turns out for Rally for Black Lives at Guthrie Green [Tulsa World]
  • Activists Call For Norman Public Schools To Get Rid Of Resource Officers [KOSU]
  • OKC’s Plaza District to host Black Lives Matter event highlighting local black artists [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma City suspect who died said he couldn’t breathe; police officer said ‘I don’t care’ [Reuters]
  • Lankford: Police Not ‘Systemically Racist,’ But Reforms Still Needed [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Cancellation of ‘Live PD’ deemed ‘welcome change’ as perception of policing comes under scrutiny [Tulsa World]
  • The Oklahoman Editorial: Amid racial unrest, Norman pastor offers a plan [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma initial jobless claims decline as state reopens: The number of initial jobless claims in Oklahoma has declined as the state gradually reopens businesses that were closed or curtailed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the state Employment Security Commission said Thursday. [AP News] The data also shows a week-over-week improvement. In Oklahoma, 150,084 residents are receiving continued compensation through its unemployment insurance program during the week that ended May 30. The previous week, 172,309 were being carried by the program. [The Oklahoman] WalletHub on Thursday listed Oklahoma as the state hardest hit by new claims for unemployment benefits during the first week of June. [The Journal Record]

New state parks fees said to help fill gap left by state funding shortfall: With an annual budget nearly half of what it was in 2009, plans for a fee structure were announced in 2019 and were to launch early this spring but were delayed slightly due to coronavirus interruptions, she said. Leslie Blair, public information officer with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation, said a recent analysis showed the park system has more than $1 billion in assets statewide. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Tax Commission asks judge to shut down Joe Exotic’s former zoo: A judge is being asked to shut down Joe Exotic’s former zoo because of delinquent sales taxes. The Oklahoma Tax Commission on Wednesday told the judge the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and owner Jeff Lowe owe the state $50,274 in taxes collected in 2016. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Gaming Compacts, Governor’s Race Panel, Support for Protesters & More: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the U.S. Department allowing gaming compacts between Governor Stitt and two tribes to move forward through inaction, the governor and his wife, Sarah hold a panel on race relations and a new poll shows a majority of Oklahomans support the protesters. [KOSU]

Health News

Day of reckoning could loom for some medical marijuana license holders: A day of reckoning may be coming soon for some of Oklahoma’s more than 9,000 marijuana business license holders. And federal bankruptcy laws aren’t going to protect them because while medical marijuana is legal in Oklahoma, it is still illegal on the federal level. [NonDoc]

‘It’s A Constant Discipline To Stay In The Here And Now’: Liz Fletcher’s husband has cystic fibrosis, so she was already being precautious when out in public before the COVID-19 pandemic. In her audio diary for KOSU, Fletcher, who is a psychotherapist, says she’s worried about when she may have to return to work in-person and what that could mean for the health of her husband and her patients. [KOSU]

Oklahoma scores a ‘D’ on Oral Health Report Card; Inaugural report card reveals oral health improvement needed in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Oral Health Coalition (OOHC) revealed that, when compared to the nation’s performance on 13 key oral health indicators, Oklahoma scores a “D” on its oral health report card. The report card provides a framework for discussion on the challenges various Oklahoma populations face in accessing dental care. [The Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma allotting more time to focus on players’ mental health: College athletes are sometimes hidden inside the conversation of sports’ restart, without consideration to how they’re handling the instability that has gripped America the past three months. That includes the pandemic and instances of police brutality against African Americans, the latter which has sparked a swelling anti-racism movement. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Federal Government News

Tribes say Stitt’s most recent gaming request has not be properly placed before federal court: Gaming tribes in a dispute with Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday asked a federal judge to reject his request that he be granted power that is not approved under state law. [Tulsa World] Tribes urged Oklahoma City federal judge Timothy DeGiusti to disregard the governor’s request for him to clarify the extent of the governor’s authority and instead rule on the issue they raised in their lawsuit. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

State Question 805 petitions, signatures await validation: Supporters of State Question 805 hope to address the state’s high incarceration rates by eliminating sentence enhancements for offenders who commit nonviolent crimes. These enhancements, which can attach as a result of prior convictions, may be considered now when repeat offenders are sentenced. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa Council Passes Resolution Asking Stitt for Eviction Moratorium: The City of Tulsa is asking Gov. Kevin Stitt for a moratorium on evictions through July 25. The request is being made through a joint resolution with Oklahoma City and Norman, and it also asks for a ban on penalties and fees for people who can’t pay rent. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

ONG gets rate hike; average customer to see reduction: Under the agreement, ONG gets a $9.65 million increase in the base rate it is allowed to charge customers, but due in large part to a tax break credited the utility, the end result will reduce the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $4.72 over the next year. [The Journal Record]

Wheat harvest adapts to COVID-19 precautions: The COVID-19 pandemic has not kept combines out of wheat fields for Oklahoma’s annual harvest. “With all the pandemic-related challenges going on this year, implementing safeguards through harvest season has been relatively straightforward and doable,” said Gary Strickland, Oklahoma State University Extension agricultural educator. [Woodward News]

Education News

Epic surpasses 32,000 students, is 3rd largest school system in state: Already the third largest school system in Oklahoma, Epic Charter Schools has enrolled 32,202 students and could add to its massive growth next year, a co-founder of the school said. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma School District To File Lawsuit Against Vaping Company JUUL Labs: A growing number of school districts across the country are joining a federal lawsuit against vaping company JUUL Labs. The lawsuit claims the company marketed to youth which has led to a problem of students vaping in the classroom. In a unanimous vote Monday night, Shawnee Public School leaders became the first district in Oklahoma to vote in favor of filing a lawsuit against JUUL Labs. [NewsOn6]

General News

Senate District 28: Zack Taylor leaves House, seeks Senate: Rep. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) hopes 28 is his lucky number. Taylor is running to represent Senate District 28, primarily on his experience from representing the House district of the same number. He will compete for the seat alongside electrician Christian Ford and pastor Mike Haines. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC task force to study human rights commission [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC Human Rights Commission dissolved over LGBT issues [The Oklahoman]
  • No public comments at $105.7M budget hearing for Oklahoma County [Free Press OKC]
  • Local Tulsa organizations announce plan to give out free personal protection equipment to qualified applicants [Tulsa World]
  • Number of changed polling places reduced to 30 in Tulsa County [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Elections: Bynum Draws 7 Challengers for Mayor, 2 Councilors Unopposed [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Luther Candidate Forum, Voter Information [Luther Register News]
  • Stillwater City Council talks plans for COVID-19, contact tracing amid new infections [Stillwater News Press]
  • OSDH official: COVID-19 cases in NW Oklahoma steady despite ‘pockets’ of increases in state [OSDH via Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“And so, when we’re talking about relaunching our economy and we’re talking about workforce and we’re talking about bouncing back, I think we need to be mindful that we are an ecosystem. And when you’re worried about keeping a roof over your head or food on the table, it’s very hard to be a productive worker.”

–Tulsa City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, speaking on a joint resolution with Oklahoma City and Norman asking Gov. Kevin Stitt for a moratorium on evictions through July 25. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Total number of LGBTQ+ adult Oklahomans — 3.8% of the adult population of the state.

[Source: Movement Advancement Project]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A Snapshot of How COVID-19 Is Impacting the LGBTQ Community: It is clear that COVID is a great threat to the LGBT community, given the documented high prevalence among LGBT individuals of conditions, such as cancer, that are risks of more severe COVID disease and higher mortality. As with cancer, the LGBT community is not counted in the tallies of COVID cases and mortality. This will likely hide the disproportionate effect COVID has on the LGBT community. [Boston University Today]

Note: June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month, which is celebrated each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. 

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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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