In The Know: New law gives Legislature role in stimulus spending | State not accepting full vaccine allocation | A look at teacher pay

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

New law gives Oklahoma’s Legislature a role in federal stimulus spending: A new law gives the Oklahoma Legislature some say in how state agencies, boards and commissions spend federal stimulus funds. The law that had bipartisan support among legislative leaders prohibits state entities and offices within the executive branch from spending federal stimulus funds on long-term or recurring costs without legislative approval. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy has published a webinar exploring what the American Rescue Plan Act means for Oklahoma.  

Oklahoma no longer accepting full federal vaccine allocation: Oklahoma health officials are no longer accepting the state’s full allocation of coronavirus vaccines as demand has dropped, Deputy Commissioner of Health Keith Reed said Tuesday. “The allocation would exceed 200,000 a week … I don’t have the exact numbers that we are accepting into the system right now, but it’s more in the tens of thousands versus the hundreds of thousands,” Reed said. [AP News] The White House announced Tuesday that it would reallocate states’ unordered vaccine supplies to states with greater demand, rather than leaving doses earmarked for each state. [The Oklahoman]

What Stitt lifting his COVID-19 state of emergency means in Oklahoma: With Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt lifting his COVID-19 state of emergency declaration today after more than 13 months, questions about the major impacts of his decision abound. In a press release sent Monday, May 3, the Stitt administration said the Oklahoma State Department of Health will continue to collect data from hospitals and testing labs even without the mandate that they comply. [NonDoc] Derek Pate, Chief Integrity Officer for the State Department of Health, announced a number of changes to its COVID-19 website, including a delay in reporting of positive cases. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Oklahoma health officials plan to go small to increase COVID vaccine accessibility [KOSU]
  • Half of Oklahoma adults have received at least 1 dose of the coronavirus vaccine [The Frontier]
  • Oklahomans we’ve lost: A kind grandmother who hosted bingo games [The Frontier]

Analysis: Oklahoma teacher pay has improved compared to neighboring states: Oklahoma isn’t in last place. In fact, teacher pay raises during the 2017 and 2018 sessions mean that over the last five years Oklahoma has actually seen the largest percent increase in average teacher pay. That’s according to a new analysis by the Oklahoma State School Board’s Association of national state teacher pay rankings from the National Education Association. The average teacher makes $54,256 annually in pay and benefits in Oklahoma, a 20% increase from $45,292 in the 2016-17 school year. [KOSU]

Editorial: Lawmakers ignore their own rules to impose laws without proper debate and consideration: Another controversial bill emerging without notice demonstrates rules don’t matter to the top legislative leaders determined to have their way. Lawmakers wanting to govern in secret are finding ways to do so legally. It’s an undemocratic process fomenting distrust and growing discontent in the legislative process. This time, House Republicans pushed through House Bill 1775 to keep discussions of race, particularly criticisms of white men, out of public schools and universities. It would also ban any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. [Editorial / Tulsa World] Advocacy Alert: Anyone wishing to speak out against HB 1775 can use this form from Together Oklahoma

State Government News

Lawmakers advance redistricting plans: The Oklahoma Legislature on Tuesday advanced redistricting plans that will determine legislative boundaries. The House passed House Bill 1198, which deals with House districts, by a vote of 89-2. A few hours later, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1066, which deals with Senate districts, by a vote of 46-1. Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, said the U.S. Census Bureau has not provided the most recent figures for redistricting yet and missed its deadline to do so. [Tulsa World] OK Policy: A new OK Policy report on the 2020 census highlights missed opportunities in getting a complete count in Oklahoma.

Project to ease traffic near Chickasaw casino opposed by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt: A road project to remedy choke points on State Highway 9 near I-35 and the Riverwind Casino has become embroiled in tensions between Gov. Kevin Stitt and Native American tribes and may be delayed, despite years of planning and an apparent agreement between the transportation department and the Chickasaw Nation. [The Oklahoman]

  • Transportation secretary says deficiencies, not governor’s office, led to I-35 project delay [Public Radio Tulsa]

State agencies in former Sandridge building face complaints about ADA compliance: When several state agencies moved from their more antiquated office buildings to the former Sandridge Energy complex, at 123 Robert S. Kerr Ave., in Oklahoma City, last year, the relocation was meant to provide the agencies’ employees with an improved workspace. Some state employees with disabilities, however, say they have faced problems with accessibility at their new offices in the downtown-OKC building, particularly when it comes to parking, and that the agencies they work for have been reluctant to make changes. [NonDoc]

Gov. Stitt signs transparency in health care prices act: A bill requiring health care providers, groups and facilities to make cash prices for their most commonly provided services available to consumers was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Under the measure, health care prices means the cash price a provider, group or facility will charge a patient for a standard service. [The Lawton Constitution]

Bill to attract retired teachers back to Oklahoma classrooms by eliminating pay cap signed into law: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that removes the earnings cap for retired educators who return to teaching in Oklahoma. Senate Bill 267 was written by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, who serves as Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chair and Education Committee Vice Chair, and signed by Stitt on Monday. [KFOR]

Bill that would ban honking at bicyclists, animal-drawn vehicles goes to governor: Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry, and your neighbors better lay off their car horns when you go out in your surrey, should Gov. Kevin Stitt sign House Bill 1770. HB 1770, by Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene, would make it a misdemeanor to honk at an animal-drawn vehicle — or a bicycle — and also would clarify bicycle traffic law. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Two more serving life sentences indicted in federal court due to McGirt: Two former Tulsa County residents now serving life sentences in state prison for murder have been indicted for related crimes in federal court due to a court ruling involving tribal jurisdictions. [Tulsa World]

Inhofe: Another term ‘highly unlikely’ at 86, but doesn’t rule out 2024 race: Despite having said he wouldn’t run for office again upon his November reelection, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now seems to be softening his stance. Inhofe said during a stop in Enid on Friday it’d be “highly unlikely” due to his age that he’d pursue a sixth full term in the Senate. [Enid News & Eagle]

Tribal Nation News

Muscogee Nation drops ‘Creek’ from its name in rebrand: The Muscogee Nation announced a new brand identity on Tuesday that drops the ‘Creek’ reference from its name that the tribe says can confuse the public. Muscogee Nation creative manager Brian OnTheHill also created a new logo for the tribe that took inspiration from Mississippian design on pottery and shell carvings. [AP News] “The British coined the misnomer ‘Creek,'” explains OnTheHill. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Citizen Potawatomi Nation acquires oldest bank in Oklahoma: The bank owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation has acquired Oklahoma’s oldest continually operating state-chartered bank, allowing the tribe to expand its financial services footprint deeper into the Oklahoma City metro area. [The Oklahoman]

Comanches circulate constitutional petition: Comanche tribal members are asked to sign a petition for proposed amendments to the tribe’s constitution. Tribal elder Eleanor McDaniel said all tribal members interested in helping to circulate the petition are invited to stop at Tu Familia Restaurant, Southwest 2nd Street and W. Lee, at 1 p.m. today to sign or ask questions. [The Lawton Constitution]

Health News

Local Ardmore health care professionals push back on managed care for Medicaid: With Medicaid expansion set to begin later this year, Oklahoma’s path to join other states that use managed care for Medicaid patients has encountered a new hurdle. Southern Oklahoma health care providers are speaking out against the measure and warn that a plan to outsource the state’s Medicaid management won’t  address Oklahoma’s current needs. [Daily Ardmoreite]

Criminal Justice News

Proposed OKC fiscal 2022 budget includes funding to begin police reform: Oklahoma City’s proposed 2021-22 budget includes $300,000 for mental health crisis response, a step toward relieving police of some responsibilities and reducing chances that encounters between police and residents end in violence. City Manager Craig Freeman’s budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is his first since two high-profile fatal shootings by Oklahoma City police, one of a 15-year-old boy and the other of a mentally ill man. Six officers face criminal charges in those incidents. [The Oklahoman] At $1.6 billion, the city’s proposed budget is 2.4 percent smaller than the current one, owing to declining balances in the MAPS 3 and Better Streets, Safer City temporary sales tax funds as those programs end. [NonDoc]

  • OKC City Council hears budget proposals from fire, courts, and police [OKC Free Press]

Tulsa Tech and Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office partner on detention officer program: More than a dozen Tulsa Tech students were sworn in Tuesday as detention officers for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) as part of a training effort between the two groups. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission to present Economic Empowerment Day: Economic Empowerment Day, one of the key events during the 10-day 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commemoration, will focus on closing the wealth gap between Black and other Americans. The goal of Economic Empowerment Day is to create a collective focal point for the national conversation on the Racial Wealth Gap and the inequality in access to capital. The event will include interactive sessions to drive change and catalyze the national dialogue for economic justice. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

$8.3 million rehab center will help homeless Tulsans not ‘boomerang back onto the streets’: The Old Testament book of Joshua describes six “cities of refuge” in ancient Israel where people would be safe from those who sought revenge again them. The concept inspired the Mission’s $8.3 million expansion west of downtown, where a crowd gathered on a rain-soaked field Tuesday afternoon to break ground on a new rehabilitation center, which will be called The Refuge. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Cautiously, big institutions begin to open up: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Executive Order 2021-11 on Monday, officially ending the COVID-19 state of emergency in Oklahoma effective Tuesday, May 4. But the pandemic is not quite over for many businesses and government entities grappling with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and consumer confidence. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma City echoes spike in air travel trends as U.S. sets another record since pandemic: The United States set another record for the number of air travelers since the pandemic set in, although passenger numbers remain far below 2019 levels. Air travel also is on the rebound in Oklahoma City, where more than 118,000 travelers boarded planes at Will Rogers World Airport last month. That’s the highest monthly total since February 2020. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Stranded students get lifeline back to school with new state program: With the arrival of May, the first full pandemic school year is drawing to a close. And, in the wake of a second school year disrupted by isolation, students will have the opportunity to hone their social and academic skills starting this summer. The Oklahoma State Department of Education will distribute $14 million in federal funds for summer programs across the state starting this summer. [OKC Free Press] OK Policy has published a webinar exploring what the American Rescue Plan Act means for Oklahoma.  

New citizenship testing requirement has Lawton Public School administrator asking questions: Lawton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Hime disagrees with the state’s citizenship test requirement for high school students recently signed into law. Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law Wednesday by House Speaker Pro Tempore Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, intended to help students become more informed and engaged citizens. [The Lawton Constitution]

UCSO merger bill approved by House, criticized for rushed legislative process: The effort to transform Ardmore’s campus for higher education into an extension of Murray State College received its first legislative approval on Monday and is now in the state senate. While the emergency bill faced little opposition from representatives, an Ardmore native serving in the chamber voted against it for two major reasons. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City moving into hiring mode [The Journal Record]
  • Tulsa area population tops 1 million for first time, Census Bureau data says [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa area school districts still requiring masks [Tulsa World]
  • City of Lawton, county to review mask requirements after Stitt’s decision [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“(HB 1775 is) a social war tactic that creates problems rather than solve. It damages Oklahoma’s image and economic viability.”

-Tulsa World editorial against HB 1775, which would ban teaching critical race theory in public schools and universities, as well as ban mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

$27 million

The amount that total court fine and fee assessments grew between 2012 and 2018 [Oklahoma Policy Institute

Policy Note

NPR’s Planet Money: Fine and Punishment: Oklahoma’s justice system is funded through an intricate web of fines and fees, which can trap residents with five-figure court debt after being released from prison. OK Policy’s Ryan Gentzler spoke with NPR’s Planet Money about the issue. [NPR]

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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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