In The Know: New mask mandate laws causes concerns about virus spread in schools | Health officials asking residents to vaccinate | 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

‘Grim’ outlook: Delta variant’s surge in Oklahoma causes medical professionals to worry about children’s health, hospital capacity: Oklahoma’s outlook appears “grim” as COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocket amid a third wave of the illness fueled by the delta variant, with children at higher risk as the virus spreads among unvaccinated populations. Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, an epidemiologist and University of Oklahoma College of Public Health professor, said the state could see peaks this fall similar to what was experienced in October if the state’s trajectory remains unchanged. [Tulsa World]

  • Back to school amid a COVID surge: schools, universities contending with new limits on mask mandates [Tulsa World] | [The Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma health leaders call out Gov. Stitt’s administration, legislature as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise, say Delta variant could make school year rough [KFOR]
  • Schools confront more polarization with mask rules for fall [AP News / Enid News & Eagle]
  • Lawmakers want Stitt to ban hospitals from requiring vaccinations [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Oklahoma health officials plead for residents to vaccinate [AP News]

State Government News

Former Tax Commission Director tapped to lead driver’s license technology effort: The Oklahoma Tax Commission is searching for a new leader after Gov. Kevin Stitt assigned former Executive Director Jay Doyle to oversee technology solutions for a backlog in driver’s licenses and identification cards. Doyle, who took over at the Tax Commission in September 2019, will move to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. [Oklahoma Watch]

Opioid litigation may be settled with billions paid to plaintiffs: A years-long effort by local, tribal and state governments in Oklahoma and elsewhere to force the pharmaceutical industry to help pay to fix a nationwide opioid addiction and overdose crisis took a major step forward Tuesday. [The Journal Record]

It’s not just voting rights. Republicans are going after ballot campaigns: So far, the efforts by Republicans to raise the bar for qualifying initiatives have been incredibly successful: Red states enacted 24 laws amending the ballot process in the most recent legislative sessions. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, for example, signed a pair of laws in May that allows for recounts of certain state questions and another that requires some initiatives to include fiscal impact statements. [Politico]

Visiting politicians at ‘Madhouse’ to see ‘first domino’: Delegates from roughly a dozen states — including Oklahoma — have made the pilgrimage to Arizona in hopes of replicating the state Senate’s partisan election audit, but legal and political barriers will probably keep them from succeeding. [Arizona Capitol Time

Oklahoman earns national recognition for service during pandemic: A military veteran from Oklahoma who provided steady leadership for nursing homes during the darkest days of the pandemic last year has received national recognition and also an opportunity to provide even more invaluable service to elderly people in need. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Town hall emphasizes importance of redrawing congressional districts as census deadline nears: Several state officials and area residents gathered at Autry Technology Center on Tuesday evening to discuss redrawing congressional districts. The town hall meeting, which was free and open to the public, drew in nearly 20 people, most of them members of the Oklahoma Legislature, as Keith Beall, redistricting director for the Oklahoma Senate, and Quyen Do, redistricting coordinator for the Oklahoma House, gave a presentation about the importance of the process of redrawing congressional districts. [Enid News & Eagle]

Seemingly safe GOP incumbents under attack from right wing: Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford would seem to have all the conservative credentials he’d need to coast to reelection in deep-red Oklahoma. But like several other seemingly safe GOP incumbents, Lankford, who didn’t even draw a primary opponent in 2016, finds himself under fierce attack by a challenger in his own party. [AP News]

Tribal Nations News

In secluded meeting, Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislature extends election by one week: In a brief special session today, the Chickasaw Nation Tribal Legislature met by Zoom to consider delaying its July 27 general election by one week. All elected officials who participated did so by Zoom, but Chickasaw Nation citizens and media were told that no Zoom link was available to the public. [NonDoc]

Cherokee Nation Tribal Council candidates vie for seats in runoff: With a slate of narrow races that featured candidates separated by just nine to 20 votes in some cases during a June general election, four Cherokee Nation Tribal Council seats are headed for a runoff Saturday. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County officials to move youthful offenders from jail after inspection issues: The Oklahoma County Jail Trust and administrator are working to move the facility’s remaining youthful offenders after being told last week it no longer could house juveniles in response to an Oklahoma State Department of Health inspection. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma renters face the end of eviction moratorium: The moratorium on evictions in Oklahoma had been extended through July 31, providing residents with just a few more weeks of relief. The eviction moratorium was set in place by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Education News

Superintendent Gist to board: Tulsa Public School curriculum does not conflict with law on teaching race, gender: Administrators have reviewed Tulsa Public Schools curriculum in light of a new state law to limit certain teachings on race, gender and history, and the State Board of Education’s adoption of rules earlier this month to comply with that law. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • ‘Long deserved’: Tulsa’s new VA health clinic begins taking patients [Tulsa World]
  • Catoosa Public Schools superintendent resigns [Tulsa World]
  • OKC City Council hears positive survey results on public transit [OKC Free Press]
  • OKC Pride Alliance reschedules Pride Parade for July 31 [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“It’s unfortunate that we know what is going to happen, we know how to prevent it, and yet we don’t have the ability for people to say anything and do anything about it right now.”

-Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, speaking about restrictions from recently enacted laws that prevent schools and communities from passing local mask rules [Tulsa World

Number of the Day


The estimated living wage for a single adult in the lowest cost counties in Oklahoma. The living wage in Oklahoma’s highest cost counties is $14.30

[Source: MIT Living Wage Calculator]

Policy Note

A $15 minimum wage would help millions of struggling households in small and mid-sized cities achieve self-sufficiency: In a new report, we argue that raising the wage floor can not only help reduce poverty (a worthy goal unto itself), but it can also support individual and family self-sufficiency—the ability to cover living expenses without relying on public subsidies. [Brookings]

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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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