In The Know: More money for fight against federal vaccine mandate | Cases and hospitalizations in state rise | Holiday giving | 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

Policy Matters: Giving during the holidays: The poet Robert Browning reminds us that our “reach should exceed our grasp,” which to me serves as a call to strive towards a brighter future for ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. I am especially reminded of this call to seek out greater possibilities during the end of each year as nonprofits seek support to create change. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

State senate chair ready to appropriate more money to fight federal vaccine mandates: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson is ready to give additional money to Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor to fight federal vaccine mandates, he said Wednesday. Thompson’s comments were made during a legislative panel at the State Chamber’s Public Affairs Forum at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. [Tulsa World]

  • Lankford claims US is ‘at a very high rate of immunity’ ahead of Senate vote to repeal Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for private companies [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • ‘A gross misrepresentation’: doctors push back on attorney general’s questioning of vaccine science [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OU, OSU pause COVID-19 vaccine mandates [The Oklahoman]

As Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise again, officials urge vaccinations: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on an upswing again in Oklahoma, and health officials and experts are urging people to get vaccinated to protect themselves. The state’s 3-day average for COVID-19 hospitalizations was 558 on Wednesday, including 174 people in intensive-care unit beds, a significant increase from a post-surge low of about 400 hospitalizations in early November. [The Oklahoman] The state’s seven-day average in new coronavirus cases increased to 1,340 per day. [KOSU]

State Government News

How Relocation, Privatization Compromised the Oklahoma Public Health Lab Mission: More than a year after Oklahoma officials announced the privatization and relocation of the state’s public health lab from Oklahoma City to Stillwater, the transition has been anything but smooth. For this account, Oklahoma Watch interviewed former lab and health department employees and reviewed documents obtained under the Open Records Act. [Oklahoma Watch]

Legislative committee over virus relief funds recommends $7.5M for Oklahoma Children’s Hospital project: The state legislative committee providing oversight of Oklahoma’s American Rescue Plan funds recommends giving $7.5 million toward a renovation and expansion of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital emergency department. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill would affect state park status decisions: State Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, has filed a bill to require legislative approval on decisions made by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission affecting the property status of any state park. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Nursing homes fear unfunded mandates would force closures: Unfunded staffing mandates in the Build Back Better Act could force thousands of U.S. nursing homes to close or at least reduce the number of residents they serve. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living vigorously opposes two provisions in the act that would have a devastating impact on the industry, President and CEO Mark Parkinson said. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Supreme Court may decide soon whether to reconsider McGirt: The U.S. Supreme Court could decide by early January whether to consider major questions about its 2020 ruling that the Muscogee (Creek) reservation was never disestablished, including whether to overturn the decision. [The Oklahoman]

‘For generations to come’: Cherokee Nation opens state-of-the-art storage for thousands of historic artifacts: The Cherokee Nation opened a new National Research Center on Wednesday to house more than 11,000 historic documents and artifacts dating back to the 1700s. [Tulsa World]

Election News

Oklahoma PAC says it will drop $500K on commercials, digital ads against Gov. Kevin Stitt: A local political action committee says it plans to spend $500,000 on television, radio and digital ads critical of Gov. Kevin Stitt. The Oklahoma Project, a year-old PAC that has predominantly criticized Stitt’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in social media ads, is making its first foray into television commercials. [The Oklahoman]

Incumbent mayors face challengers in OKC, Norman and Midwest City: Municipal primary elections are set for Tuesday, Feb. 8, and general elections — if no single candidate earns more than 50 percent of the primary vote — are scheduled for Tuesday, April 5. [NonDoc]

Candidates file for school board seats in Oklahoma, Cleveland counties: Public school boards in Oklahoma are elected by voters and are tasked with creating school district policy, approving budgets and providing checks and balances for their district’s superintendent. [NonDoc]

  • Dozens of candidates file for area school boards; TPS’ Suzanne Schreiber won’t seek another term [Tulsa World]
  • No candidates file for Wagoner school board seat [Muskogee Phoenix]

Criminal Justice News

Less than 24 hours away from execution, Bigler Stouffer says he’s ‘at peace’ and is thankful he didn’t receive clemency: One day before his scheduled execution, Oklahoma death row prisoner Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II said he would rather die than spend life in prison and that he is at peace with death. After more than three decades on death row, Stouffer still claims he is innocent of the 1985 murder of Linda Reaves. [The Frontier]

  • (Audio) Listen Frontier: Bigler Stouffer talks to The Frontier about his execution [The Frontier]
  • Activists oppose Bigler Stouffer execution set for Thursday morning [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma prepares to execute man for 1985 slaying of teacher [AP News] | [KOSU]

Oklahoma parole board wraps December meeting: After three days, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole board finished its December meeting Wednesday. The board heard from people seeking pardons, including Tulsa social worker Heather Sisson. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economic Opportunity

City performance saw decline in 2021 Equality Indicators Report; minorities faced inequities during pandemic: The city released its annual Equality Indicators Report on Wednesday, with Tulsa’s overall score declining since 2020. The report, first issued in 2018, examines dozens of indicators, such as education, income, housing and public health as they relate to what groups are likely to experience inequities. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma City’s arts scene is growing, but rising rents and COVID fallout are squeezing its artists: The city’s low cost of living has been a selling point for years. But even before COVID, rent was getting more expensive in Oklahoma City, where the population increased by more than 100,000 in the past decade. New housing hasn’t kept up. And critically, neither have wages. And existing housing continues to degrade. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Economy & Business News

Survey shows continued solid manufacturing growth across region that includes Oklahoma: A leading survey still indicates healthy manufacturing growth for a nine-state region that includes Oklahoma for the next three to six months, but supply chain issues are expected to continue. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Business leaders: Workforce development is biggest challenge: More than any other issue – even COVID-19, vaccines or taxes – workforce development is the issue now causing Oklahoma business leaders the most concern. [The Journal Record]

Officials laud new Greenwood Women’s Business Center: A total of 80% of the businesses in two Greenwood Chamber of Commerce buildings are led by women, with close to 30 companies generating more than $5 million annually for Tulsa’s economy, Greenwood Chamber President and CEO Freeman Culver III said. [Tulsa World]

‘Kiss of death’: Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses face rezoning pressure: Jacqui and Stan Mills put over a million dollars into a cannabis grow and processing business on the outskirts of their hometown of Goldsby. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Founders of Epic Charter Schools sue school that severed ties with them: Epic Charter Schools’ divorce from the management company that made its two co-founders millionaires just landed the two sides in court over claims the founders are owed another $7 million. [Tulsa World]

  • Resigned Epic board member answers questions about new ‘whistleblower’ allegations against school [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Coalition that pressed Tulsa city councilors for transparency in American Rescue Plan awards presents its vision for the process [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“For far too long, our history and culture have been misrepresented, inaccurately shared or watered down outside of the tribe.”

—Travis Owens, vice president of cultural tourism for the Cherokee Nation, speaking about the tribe’s new National Research Center which houses more than 11,000 historic documents and artifacts dating back to the 1700s [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Nonprofit employment as a percentage of private employment in Oklahoma. [National Council on Nonprofits]

Policy Note

Nonprofit Trends and Impacts 2021: Nonprofit organizations in the United States play a vital role delivering services, strengthening communities, and facilitating civic engagement. They are diverse in size and type, ranging from all-volunteer organizations with no revenue to multibillion-dollar institutions managed by highly professionalized staff. They have diverse revenue sources, including individual donors, fees for service, and public and private institutions. Though research has illuminated much about these organizations in recent years, we lack a nationally representative portrait of the nonprofit sector detailing donation trends and who is served, where, and by whom. Our nationally representative study fills these gaps. [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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