In The Know: Military medicals teams coming to state | Large state budget offers unique opportunities | Students share ideas to improve equity, access

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

Largest state budget since 2010 should benefit Oklahoma workers says policy group: Emma Morris, an analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said at the group’s budget summit Thursday that Oklahoma’s Legislature will have the most amount of money to appropriate since 2010. The projection for fiscal year 2023, she said, is over $10 billion. “We have the opportunity to take care of each other,” said Morris. [Public Radio Tulsa

Watch OK Policy’s 2022 State Budget Summit: Learn about the state’s current fiscal circumstances, what we might expect during this year’s legislative session, where we can improve OK’s budget and tax system, and download materials and reports referenced during the summit.

Oklahoma News

Military medical teams coming to Oklahoma to support hospitals during COVID-19 surge: Three military medical teams will be coming to Oklahoma City by early February to support hospitals struggling during the omicron COVID-19 surge, a Health Department spokeswoman confirmed Friday. One Army medical team will work with OU Medical Center, and two Air Force medical teams will work with Integris Health in Oklahoma City, spokeswoman Erica Rankin-Riley said in an email. “All three teams should be in the state by early February,” she said. Details about exactly when and how many military members will be supporting the hospitals weren’t available Friday. [The Oklahoman

  • Doctors warn against treatment misinformation, offer home guidance as COVID-19 hospitalizations crush records [Tulsa World
  • COVID-19 rises again in Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities [The Journal Record
  • ‘Coming in Waves’ COVID-19 still unfolding as 2-year anniversary draws near [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Oklahoma ranked ‘most unsafe state’ as COVID hospitalizations hit records [The Black Wall Street Times
  • Practicing Medicine in a Pandemic: St. Mary’s CEO urges Enid, area residents to keep up with their health [Enid News & Eagle]
  • State health department to distribute N95 masks to pharmacies [The Lawton Constitution]
  • Editorial: Hospital strain now at its worst as omicron peaks [Editorial / Tulsa World
  • (Audio) Headlines: COVID-19 impacts 911, school board elections & winter weather coming [KOSU

Health News

‘Risk to public safety’: OKC 911 dispatcher shortage leads to fear of life or death mistakes: A chronic worker shortage at the Oklahoma City 911 Communications Center has led to understaffed shifts, mandatory overtime for exhausted dispatchers and a fear among some that critical mistakes will be made during an emergency, according to emails obtained by The Oklahoman and interviews with employees who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation. [The Oklahoman

State Government News

ODFA director has ‘every confidence’ utility bill securitization will be approved: The director of the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority told his board Friday that he expects the state Supreme Court to validate OG&E’s proposal for up to $800 million in ratepayer-backed bonds intended to securitize and pay off massive debt accrued during the historic February 2021 winter storm. [NonDoc

Rapid revenue rebounds seen in Oklahoma, other states: State and local governments lost at least $117 billion of expected revenue early in the pandemic, according to an Associated Press analysis, but many are now awash in record amounts of money, boosted partly by federal aid. In Oklahoma, December gross receipts of $1.4 billion and 12-month receipts of $15.2 billion both marked all-time highs for state revenues, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported recently. [The Journal Record

OK Policy in the News: The state will likely have more money to spend than usual next fiscal year, and a think tank says it ought to go to working Oklahomans. [Public Radio Tulsa]

One thing both political parties can agree on: Eliminating Oklahoma’s 4.5% grocery tax: Bipartisan support is mounting for Oklahoma to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries. Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle have pre-filed bills ahead of the upcoming legislative session to undo the state’s 4.5% tax on milk, bread and other groceries. [The Oklahoman

OK Policy in the News: “(Eliminating the grocery sales tax altogether) would harm Oklahoma’s ability to provide the public services upon which we all rely, especially considering the considerable cuts in state revenue during the past two decades,” said Emma Morris, a health care and revenue analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking on efforts to eliminate the grocery sales tax [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]

Energy leaders seek incentives from lawmakers: Industry leaders discussed a few revisions and updates to state law this year, at an event hosted by the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance at the Oklahoma Capitol on Wednesday. But a spokesman for the Oklahoma attorney general at the event focused his comments on how the industry might be affected by the state’s continued battle for regulatory authority in the wake of the McGirt decision. [The Journal Record]

Hamilton: Treat’s bill would be bad for students and state: When the Senate or House leader champions an idea, its odds of becoming law skyrocket. That’s why public school supporters leaped to Defcon 1 after Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat recently introduced legislation aimed at expanding vouchers – the steering of public dollars into private education. [Column / The Journal Record

‘It takes so much effort to get a law changed’: Why the Wildlife Department wants authority over licenses, fees: Two bills proposed in the state Legislature would give the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing body of the Wildlife Department, the authority to change licenses and fees through administrative rules, just as it currently does with the agency’s hunting and fishing regulations. However, the only way to change licensing and fees is through the legislative process. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma bill would provide CPR, first aid training to new, expecting mothers: One Oklahoma lawmaker wants new and expecting mothers to be taught basic lifesaving skills. When a longtime friend lost her baby, State Senator Jessica Garvin, R- District 43, wanted to help save other families from that heartache. [KTUL

Federal Government News

‘Serve our country, not turn a quick buck:’ Stock trades by members of Congress targeted: Sentiment is building in Congress to put new restrictions on stock trading by lawmakers, as potential conflicts of interest draw more scrutiny. Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would prohibit trading of individual stocks by members and spouses and require many assets to be put into blind trusts. [The Oklahoman]

Lankford returns from border trip, addresses issues facing immigration: Upon return from the Texas-Mexico border on Saturday, U.S. Sen. James Lankford expressed frustration with the Biden administration’s handling of immigration on the country’s southern border while characterizing the plight of border patrol officials on the ground. [The Oklahoman

(Audio) Capitol Insider: U.S. Supreme Court Moves Closer To Resolution Of McGirt-related Legal Matters: While rejecting 32 of the 33 petitions filed by the State of Oklahoma regarding its 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court set an April hearing date for further consideration of the effect of the decision on the federal Major Crimes Act. [KGOU

Tribal Nations News

Catholic leaders exploring history, legacy of Oklahoma Catholic Indian boarding schools: A Native American woman stood to face a group gathered after Sunday Mass at a small Pottawatomie County Catholic church recently. How would they feel if they were forbidden to pray the rosary or the Hail Mary, she asked. What if they were prohibited from making the sign of the cross? [The Oklahoman] “The congregation was not ready to hear what we have to say,” she said while standing in the church foyer. [The Oklahoman]  

Voting and Election News

Multimillion-dollar school bond packages on the ballot in Bixby, Catoosa, Jenks: Voters in Bixby, Catoosa and Jenks are all being asked to consider multimillion-dollar school bond packages on Feb. 8. Bixby Public Schools is putting forward two propositions totaling a combined $114.7 million. It would extend the district’s current millage rate through 2029. [Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

‘Almost a different person’: Post-prison program sets Resonance grad on track to turn her life around: Lewis’ transition to life after prison is about to take its next step forward. Having recently graduated from a Resonance six-month re-entry program, she’s preparing soon to move out into her own apartment. [Tulsa World

The Justice Files: Remains of 1921 Tulsa Massacre to be identified at Utah DNA lab: This summer, a commission and the city of Tulsa exhumed several bodies from a mass grave found at a local cemetery. It began the process to identify if they actually died in the race riot. Last month, the commission awarded a Utah-based forensics laboratory to use the DNA to help identify the bodies. [ABC 4

Court again rejects appeal of Oklahoman in beheading: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has again rejected claims by a death row inmate in the beheading of a co-worker. The court denied claims for post-conviction relief by Alton Alexander Nolen, 37, that included what his attorneys said was new information about his mental illness. [AP

Woman released from 107-year prison sentence now fights challenge to freedom post-McGirt: A Broken Arrow woman is fighting to remain free after her felony convictions linked to a deadly hit-and-run crash were overturned and she was released from a 107-year prison sentence. [Tulsa World

‘Tiger King’s’ Joe Exotic resentenced in murder-for-hire case: Joe Exotic was resentenced Friday to 21 years in federal prison after a judge refused to consider his complaints about his murder-for-hire conviction. The former Oklahoma zookeeper’s new punishment is only one year less than his original sentence. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

How much does it cost to evict someone? Tulsa officials want to know: Hoping to find better ways to support local landlords and avoid evictions, Tulsa officials are collecting data on how much it costs to remove a tenant. The Tulsa Authority for Economic Opportunity and Housing Solutions have launched a survey to ask landlords how much they typically spend during an eviction, from paying courts fees to preparing a unit to be leased again. [Tulsa World

Education News

Hofmeister convenes student advisory council: High school students across Oklahoma met virtually with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister on Tuesday to share concerns and offer suggestions on how to improve access, equity and outcomes in schools beyond the pandemic. This is the seventh consecutive year Hofmeister has convened her Student Advisory Council, a group of juniors and seniors to assist her and the Oklahoma State Department of Education in matters of policy. [Norman Transcript

  • Rural Students Concerned Over Resources For Virtual Learning [News 9
  • COLUMN: Oklahoma students have solid ideas about improving their schools [Column / Enid News & Eagle
  • Viewpoint: Improving Oklahoma education outcomes starts with respect toward educators [Opinion / The Oklahoman

Legislature will consider a new system for authorizing charter schools in Oklahoma: Every Oklahoma charter school could soon have a new authorizer if a bill before the Oklahoma legislature this session becomes law. A measure introduced by the chairman of Oklahoma’s Senate Education Committee would overhaul the way charter schools are overseen in the state. [KGOU

COVID variant ‘like a tornado’ in Enid schools as case numbers decline: Though the state continues to grapple with more cases each day, the worst may be over in Enid schools for the new wave of the COVID-19 variant that’s ripped through Oklahoma’s school systems, forced schools to close and worsened an existing substitute shortage. [Enid News & Eagle]

‘I’m just ready to go in’: New Western Heights superintendent eager to return: Western Heights Public Schools’ newest top official said the district’s decline has been “heartbreaking” but is eager to continue the turnaround. [The Oklahoman

Quote of the Day

“We all know a jug of milk costs a whole lot more than in 1990, but the (Sales Tax Relief Credit) to offset that price hasn’t caught up.”

– Emma Morris, Health Care and Revenue Policy Analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about the need to strengthen the state’s grocery sales tax credit [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Estimated percentage decrease in the state’s uninsured rate (as of Aug. 31, 2021) following three months of the state enrolling residents in expanded Medicaid coverage.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

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. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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