In The Know: More cities add mask orders, but it remains flashpoint for state | Third state veterans center sees outbreak | 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.

Note: The daily “In The Know” news digest and “The Weekly Wonk” e-newsletter will be on hiatus this week and will resume on Monday, Nov. 30. 

New from OK Policy

Legislature should address fines and fees system that harms families (Capitol Update): The Legislature faces a troubling challenge in attempting to limit the reliance of law enforcement agencies and the courts on fines and fees owed by defendants in criminal cases. As the state faced budget gaps or added programs without funding them, it has piled on more court costs, fees, and assessments to avoid appropriating tax dollars. But 70 percent of criminal court debt goes unpaid each year. Meanwhile, thousands of Oklahomans — most of whom will never pay and likely cannot afford to — are burdened with the funding of courts and government agencies. Caught in a vicious cycle of re-arrest on “cost warrants” or inability to have their cases terminated for failure to pay, these Oklahomans are caught in a web that stands in the way of rehabilitation, reentering the work force, and moving on with their lives. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

After 1,600 deaths and counting, mask mandate remains flashpoint in Oklahoma: Nationwide, 37 states have a statewide mask mandate, with Iowa the latest state to put one into effect. In a seven-state region that includes Oklahoma, only it and Missouri are without statewide mask mandates. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Sand Springs, Muskogee pass mask mandates; Broken Arrow City Council votes 4-1 against resolution [Tulsa World] | [Tulsa World]
  • Claremore City Council passes mask mandate with 5-2 vote [Tulsa World]
  • Muskogee Councilors adopt mandatory mask measures [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Woodward resolution ‘strongly recommends’ use of masks [Woodward News]
  • Oklahoma City Council to consider extending mask mandate [AP News]
  • COVID-19: Record for new cases set in Oklahoma as 15 more deaths reported [Tulsa World]

Third Oklahoma veterans center sees COVID-19 outbreak: The veterans center in Clinton is the latest in the state to experience a COVID-19 outbreak. “They are in the midst of a significant outbreak,” said Joel Kintsel, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs executive director. The outbreak comes after similar situations in veterans facilities in Claremore and Norman. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Quarantine fails: 14 days means 14 days, even with a negative test result: Public health officials say one of the biggest misconceptions is the difference between quarantine and isolation. Quarantine is necessary for those exposed to someone infected with COVID-19 — staying home for the full amount of time it can take to develop actual illness. [Tulsa World]

Mental health experts raise concerns over increased video game, online gambling addiction during pandemic: As the pandemic and social distancing drag on, mental health experts are warning that excessive online gambling and video game usage could lead to addiction and negative social outcomes for some people. [Enid News & Eagle]

State & Local Government News

Special election set for Oklahoma Senate seat held by Stephanie Bice: Gov. Kevin Stitt has set dates for special elections to fill the Oklahoma Senate seat that will be vacated by U.S. Rep.-elect Stephanie Bice. Due to her 5th Congressional District victory over one-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, Bice will vacate the state Senate seat she has occupied since she was first elected in 2014. [The Oklahoman]

  • Special election will be held to fill Tulsa County Treasurer vacancy [Tulsa World]

Gov. Kevin Stitt appoints new Cleveland County judge: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday appointed Bethany Stanley as an associate district judge for Cleveland County. Stanley’s career began in 1998 when she worked as a deputy U.S. Marshal assigned to the Western District of Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Pandemic has challenged Oklahoma’s child welfare system: DHS is still trying to sort out how to maximize services while minimizing contact. The agency has seen a slight increase in foster home vacancy rates — the number of certified foster homes without any children placed there. An official said she thinks that’s because of people needing to be in quarantine, but she’s seen foster parents act heroically as a result. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Millions in CARES Act funds still in hand; Tulsa County expects payouts by Dec. 30: Time is running out for Tulsa County to distribute the $113.7 million in CARES Act funding it received in the spring. The money is running short, too. [Tulsa World]

Payne County waiting for federal disaster declaration: Oklahoma is still waiting for the federal government to approve disaster aid that would reimburse local governments and public utilities for at least some of their expenses from an early season ice storm that struck the state beginning on Oct. 26. [Stillwater News Press]

Editorial: With tweaks, state electronic meetings can make open meetings more open: An emergency state law giving city, county and state decision-making groups broad permission to meet electronically expired Sunday. Some groups, including the Tulsa City Council, have called on the Oklahoma Legislature to extend the authorization quickly because the pandemic it was designed to address continues to spread without control. With the so-called Zoom exception gone, some members of boards, commissions and councils can still attend meetings electronically, but the quorum of members must be in the announced meeting place. Electronic meetings make state and local government more accessible and transparent to more of the public in a safe fashion. That’s critical in a pandemic, but good any time. [Editorial / Tulsa World] OK Policy: Transparency is a necessary ingredient for democracy, because it allows citizens to hold their representatives accountable, shifts power to citizens, and protects against corruption.

Federal Government News

Projects to focus on missing, murdered Indigenous peoples: Oklahoma and five other states will participate in pilot projects to better coordinate investigative efforts surrounding cases of missing or murdered Indigenous peoples, U.S. Attorneys Trent Shores and Brian Kuester announced Tuesday. [AP News] The goal for the Tribal Community Response Plan pilot project is to establish a collaborative response from tribal governments, law enforcement agencies and other partners by implementing “culturally appropriate guidelines when investigating emergent cases of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s House Republicans mum on Trump’s legal chances to overturn election results: Oklahoma’s four Republican U.S. House members late last week defended President Donald Trump’s right to contest the Nov. 3 election in court, but declined comment on whether they think he’ll win or the elaborate conspiracy theories being thrown up by his legal team. [Tulsa World]

End of term draws near as relief remains uncertain and government divided: Oklahoma’s House members are working during Congress’ lame duck session to help constituents with two federal programs that could release billions of dollars in aid. The four Republican members of the delegation are calling for the release of $138 billion appropriated for the Paycheck Protection Program that brought millions back to work after they were laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Gaylord News via KGOU]

Education News

Parents demand open schools, greater voice during COVID-19 pandemic: Frustrated with their options for in-person learning, some Oklahoma parents say they want fully open schools and a seat at the table in their districts’ decision making. Two dozen parents rallied outside the state Capitol on Monday, holding signs that read “Open our schools.” [The Oklahoman] Parents in the Stillwater, Owasso and Deer Creek school districts, meanwhile, announced they were forming a new group — Parent Voice Oklahoma — to pressure school boards and administrators to listen to parents instead of unions, politicians and the media when deciding whether their children should be allowed to attend school in person. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Criminal Justice News

Kim Kardashian West visits Oklahoma State Penitentiary death row inmate Julius Jones: Global celebrity and activist Kim Kardashian West travelled to Oklahoma today to visit with Julius Jones, a man on death row being held in Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Jones, who is Black, was convicted in 1999 of shooting a white businessman in Edmond but has maintained that he is innocent and was never even at the scene of the crime. [CNHI via McAlester News Capital]

Jail Trust moves forward on improved detainee phone system replacement: For detainees in the Oklahoma County Jail, there is reason to hope that a new phone system for them will mean less cost and better service. [OKC Free Press]

Economy & Business News

Farm-to-front-door options grow as Local Farm OK dials in 405 service: The impact of COVID-19 has been overwhelmingly negative, but delivery options for farm-fresh food is among the few net-positives. [The Oklahoman]

Realtors push back against racial slurs: In the days and weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, millions of Americans took to social media to express their personal views on the racial issues facing the country. Some of the comments posted were blatantly, offensively racist, and some of the individuals posting those comments made their living as real estate professionals, entrusted with upholding the Fair Housing Act. [The Journal Record]

General News

Oklahoma Democrats face uphill battle to be competitive in state politics again: Republicans strengthened their hold on the state’s politics this election cycle, flipping the only Democratic-held seat in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation back to red and making gains in the state House. But for Democrats to be competitive in Oklahoma again, they will have to fight a steep, uphill battle. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“There are also people who are very healthy people who get really sick — we just don’t know why yet — until we find out those answers we should all have the compassion for one another to do what’s right.”

-Dr. Jonathan Baldwin, a Muskogee physician speaking about mask mandates [Muskogee Phoenix]

Number of the Day


Number of states that have imposed new COVID-19-related restrictions since the beginning of November

[Source: KFF]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As Thanksgiving Approaches, Fewer Than Half of Households With Kids Very Confident About Affording Needed Food: As Thanksgiving approaches amidst a pandemic-driven economic crisis, just 44 percent of households with children are “very confident” that they can afford needed food over the next four weeks, according to new Census survey data — and about 10 percent, or 3.5 million households, are “not at all confident.” That uncertainty reflects widespread food hardship across the country, with 5.6 million households with children struggling to put enough food on the table in the past seven days. Other data show that hardship has significantly worsened since the pandemic started and remains high, underscoring the need for policymakers to agree on a robust, bipartisan economic relief package. In Oklahoma, 58% of households with children are not “very confident” they will be able to afford needed foods for next four weeks. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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