In The Know: New law requires fiscal impact statements for initiative petitions | New state epidemiologist named | 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

Stitt signs bill requiring fiscal impact statements on initiative petitions: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a bill that puts additional requirements on initiative petitions. Senate Bill 947, by Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, requires those submitting an initiative petition to indicate if the measure will have a fiscal impact. Initiative petitions are used to change or create state law or amend the Oklahoma Constitution. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma names 3 new Health Department hires, including state epidemiologist: Oklahoma has a new state epidemiologist — the fourth person to hold the role since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Monday, along with two other new hires for positions within the agency. [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa] Deputy state epidemiologist Jolianna Stone will become become state epidemiologist, Dr. Jared Taylor moves from state epidemiologist to chief science officer and Dr. Gitanjali Pai has been appointed chief medical officer. [AP News

Persistent health disparities coming from obstacles outside the doctor’s office: Registered nurse Darlene Reynolds was reminding one of her homebound patients to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to get control of a diabetes diagnosis. The patient lived in a north Tulsa ZIP code with one of the lowest life expectancies in the county. There are no grocery stores or walking trails near the home, and transportation is difficult due to other disabilities. [Tulsa World]

‘There will be consequences’ for Sen. Nathan Dahm: Days after Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) insinuated in a press release and a TV interview that Vice President Kamala Harris achieved her political career through the performance of sex acts, leaders of the Oklahoma State Senate are privately considering what consequences may be appropriate. [NonDoc]

Health News

Proof of vaccination: State vax records could aid traveling Oklahomans: With COVID-19 vaccination rates on the rise and a change in the CDC’s recommendations on some forms of travel, Americans are starting to shake off their year-long pandemic staycation and take trips again. But even for the fully vaccinated, the globe isn’t open quite yet. [NonDoc]

  • Tulsa Health Dept. and FEMA community vaccination center so far giving COVID shots at ‘very, very’ low rate [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘He led us to another level.’ Prescott to retire as Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation chief: Dr. Stephen Prescott will retire from his role as president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation after 15 years at the helm. Prescott, 73, announced his retirement at a meeting of OMRF’s board of directors Tuesday and said he was stepping down for health reasons. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

‘A major milestone’: Stitt ushers in sweeping civil service reforms for state employees: Calling it “a major milestone,” Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday signed sweeping legislation to overhaul the state’s human resources system to make it easier for agency heads to hire and fire state employees. Flanked by state lawmakers, state agency heads and leaders of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association and State Chamber at a signing ceremony, Stitt said House Bill 1146 will give state agencies more flexibility to reward and retain hard workers. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma adds to census count; other states win, lose House seats: he latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau released Monday shows Oklahoma has gained nearly 200,0T00 residents over the last 10 years, but not enough to gain another U.S. House seat. The data shows Oklahoma’s total population in 2020, including U.S. military and civilian employees and their families living overseas, is 3,963,516. The state’s population after the 2010 census was 3,764,882. [The Journal Record] OK Policy: A new OK Policy report on the 2020 census highlights missed opportunities in getting a complete count in Oklahoma.

Activist wants statewide vote on law cracking down on protesters, protecting drivers who hit rioters: An Oklahoma Democratic leader wants to overturn a new law to crack down on protesters. Under a bill signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt last week, there will be increased penalties for protesters blocking roadways starting Nov. 1. The law also gives criminal and civil immunity to drivers who hit people considered rioters, even if someone dies. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Medical providers would have to post cash prices under bill headed to governor: Medical providers would have to publicly post cash prices for common procedures under legislation sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 1006, by Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, seems simple enough. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a physician and advocate for pricing transparency in health care, would have probably liked it. But, for various reasons, the idea has taken years to work its way through the Oklahoma Legislature. [Tulsa World]

Gov. Stitt signs Grego gaming bill: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday signed into a law a measure that will allow peace officers greater discretion when determining if arrests are warranted for gaming or gambling violations. House Bill 1684 will shift some responsibility to district attorneys on whether gambling charges will be filed in certain instances. [The Lawton Constitution]

HB 2335 passes the House, but not scheduled for a hearing in the Senate: A state House bill that would have prohibited government entities from requiring vaccines is considered dead after Senate leaders refused to schedule a hearing for the measure. [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma governor signs 3 anti-abortion bills into law: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed three anti-abortion bills into law on Monday, including ones to criminalize the procedure in certain cases and cost providers their medical licenses for performing them. [ABC News] Oklahoma became the second state this year to enact a so-called heartbeat ban — a law barring most abortions at the onset of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and before many people know they are pregnant. [CNN]

Election Board purges inactive, duplicate voter registrations: A little more than 115,000 inactive and duplicate voter registrations were removed recently from Oklahoma’s voter rolls, State Election board Secretary Paul Ziriax announced. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

U.S. Interior Dept. moves to restore Native American land: The Interior Department on Tuesday said it is taking several steps to make it easier for Native American tribes to take land back into trust and simplify a process that was slowed by the Trump administration. [Reuters]

Feds extend REAL ID enforcement deadline again: If you’re worried about getting a REAL ID before the October deadline, the federal government has some good news. The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday it will delay full enforcement for another 19 months. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Investigators show November 2020 Lawton police shooting justified: The fatal police shooting of a man last year has been ruled justified, following the release of the State Medical Examiner’s report. The State Medical Examiner released the autopsy report Monday on Duane Scott Murray II, 30, of Lawton, who died from a gunshot wound to the head in November 2020. [The Lawton Constitution]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa Regional Chamber and Kaiser Foundation set in motion Campus Tulsa: The Tulsa Regional Chamber, the city of Tulsa and the George Kaiser Family Foundation have launched Campus Tulsa, an initiative to encourage college graduates to begin their careers in the Tulsa region. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Distribution center planned on land near Tulsa International Airport: A roughly 270,000-square-foot distribution center has been proposed on land just east of Tulsa International Airport, according to city planning and building records. [Tulsa World]

Chesapeake CEO Lawler to step down months after bankruptcy exit: Chesapeake Energy Corp said on Tuesday that Chief Executive Officer Doug Lawler would leave this week, months after the company emerged from a contentious bankruptcy reorganization. [Reuters]

Education News

Oklahoma receiving $10M in federal COVID relief funding for students experiencing homelessness: The White House announced Friday that Oklahoma will receive just under $10 million in funding under President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package meant to support students experiencing homelessness. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Epic’s ‘turbulent chapter’ ends with settlement: A settlement resolving a termination threat against Epic Charter Schools has been finalized with a “clarion call” for more transparency at virtual charter schools. The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved the agreement on Monday with Epic One-on-One, an online learning platform that makes up 60% of Epic’s 55,000-student enrollment. The board also struck a May 12-13 termination hearing off of its schedule. [The Oklahoman]

Spring benchmark scores in Comanche County schools show students exceeding expectations despite COVID-19: Flower Mound and Bishop school districts in Comanche County scored above state averages in fall and spring. Analysis of spring benchmark data aligned to the Oklahoma Academic Standards (OAS) found students in schools using OAS-aligned curriculum and assessments are performing better than expected this year despite the pandemic. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC City Council tackles litigation, union contracts in protracted executive session [OKC Free Press]
  • OKC City Council passes resolution condemning Tulsa Race Massacre [OKC Free Press]
  • Lawton City Council adds almost $200,000 to budget [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma’s laws governing the initiative petition process are already some of the most cumbersome in the entire country. It’s why in the history of our state, only 25 initiative petitions have ever made it all the way through the lengthy process required to become law.”

-Amber England, owner of STRATEGY 77, who served as campaign manager for the initiative petition-driven SQ 802, which led to Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion after lawmakers declined to take action for a decade [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of American Indian children in Oklahoma without health insurance, compared to 6% for white children.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

Policy Note

Childhood in the Time of COVID: As we approach the one-year mark of nationwide school closures and stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, Save the Children examined how the unprecedented events of 2020 impacted families with children. [Save The Children]

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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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