In The Know: OK among highest rates in vaccine-preventable deaths | Breaking down the budget | Eliminating barriers for people with records | 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

‘Deal yet?’: Development efforts, pay raises and DHS money lead state budget: An hour before the House and Senate convened their Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget (JCAB) to hear more than 30 bills, one of the committee chairmen passed by one of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s designated negotiators in the State Capitol rotunda. The budget negotiator called out, “Hey, you guys got a deal yet?” [NonDoc

  • State budget includes one-time payment to help Oklahomans with inflation, no grocery tax relief [Oklahoma Watch]  [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Oklahoma legislature budget proposal includes significant increase for higher education [KOSU
  • Oklahoma budget proposal calls for millions toward public transportation [KOCO]

A new study finds Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of vaccine-preventable COVID deaths in the country: A new analysis of COVID-19 trends shows Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of vaccine-preventable coronavirus deaths in the U.S. “The findings were stark,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, chief COVID officer for the University of Oklahoma. [Public Radio Tulsa] If Oklahoma had reached 100% vaccination of its adult population, more than 5,800 deaths could’ve been avoided.  As the nation reached the staggering 1 million mark for the COVID-19 death toll this week, Oklahoma’s toll climbed over 16,000. [The Oklahoman

  • Oklahoma is the #7 state with the lowest child vaccination rates for COVID-19 [KFOR]

Gov. Stitt passes bill eliminating licensing barriers for people with criminal records: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law on Monday that will make it easier for people with criminal records to become licensed in their chosen field. Senate Bill (SB) 1691 was signed into law by Stitt on Monday, and aims to make it easier for people with criminal history to get licensed in a field of their choice. [FOX25]

State Government News

Gov. Kevin Stitt supports abortion restrictions on rape victims. Critics say he doesn’t understand the trauma those victims will face: After Gov. Kevin Stitt endorsed the state’s abortion restrictions on rape victims, critics have said he and other supporters have downplayed the trauma and harm the laws cause — all for political gain. During the Fox News Sunday segment, the interviewer listed some statistics to Stitt — that more than one in five children live under the poverty line, and that the state ranks 42nd for overall child well-being. [State Impact Oklahoma]

Previously from OK Policy: Oklahoma ranks 42nd in child well-being according to the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Smart policy decisions can help improve Oklahoma’s dismal child well-being outcomes.

Oklahoma Legislature cuts unemployment benefits payout period from 26 weeks to 16 weeks: Oklahomans in the job market will have 10 fewer weeks to search for work while receiving unemployment benefits after a House measure advanced to the governor’s desk on Monday. House Bill 1933 is set to shorten the current benefits timeframe from 26 weeks to 16 weeks starting Jan. 1 of next year. [The Oklahoman]

Recently from OK Policy: House Bill 1933 would weaken our economy, threaten families’ financial security, and fail to get more Oklahomans back to work. The legislature should reject HB 1933 and any other bills that would inhibit the ability of the unemployment insurance program to provide the support our workers and our economy need.

Did a state official’s Lake Murray land deal violate ethics rules?: A state official who played a key role in negotiating questionable government contracts for pandemic supplies and a failed restaurant venture at state parks claims his private land deal near Lake Murray was all above board. But emails show Gino DeMarco, then deputy director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation, had access to information about a new marina development at Lake Murray State Park that wasn’t yet public. [The Frontier

Out of state influences making their way into Oklahoma legislation: While thousands of bills make their way through the state chamber, many of them aren’t originally written in Oklahoma. “Oklahomans need to ask the question of every single bill that is passed and signed by this governor, where did it come from? Who’s really pushing this narrative?” said Rep. Andy Fugate. [Fox 25]

Legislation ensures firefighters can provide emergency medical transport: Legislation giving firefighters statutory authority to transport patients to the hospital in emergency situations has been signed into law. [The Lawton Constitution]

Stitt signs pension improvement for injured law enforcement: Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed into law a bill that will restore injured law enforcement officers to half-pay status in the pension system and will increase future benefits for survivors. [The Lawton Constitution]

Tribal Nations News

What we know about the investigation into Native American boarding schools: A landmark federal report published earlier this month offers the first extensive review of the government-operated boarding schools for Native American children. The schools operated for more than 150 years and imparted a traumatic legacy. The boarding schools report was the result of an 11-month investigation launched by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. [The Oklahoman

Choctaw Nation responds to Gov. Stitt abortion comments: The Choctaw Nation is responding after Oklahoma Governor Stitt claimed the tribes might not comply with the state’s new abortion laws. Choctaw Nation Chief Medical Officer Jason Hill said the medical services provided by the tribe are not affected by Oklahoma’s new abortion law because the tribes are federally funded, which means they are prohibited from performing abortions. [KXII]

Voting and Election News

Ukraine aid package divides Oklahoma’s GOP candidates for US Senate seats: Republicans running to succeed U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe are divided over a $40 billion Ukraine package expected to clear the Senate this week, with some questioning the price tag and others stressing the need to help the European country defend itself. [The Oklahoman

Health News

Oklahoma State Department of Health sharing FAQ on infant formula shortage: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is working to help illuminate community members on the current infant formula shortage, and give guidance toward resources amid the shortage. [KFOR] Local health officials are encouraging parents and caregivers to not panic but stay informed on the situation regarding the national shortage of infant formula. [Enid News & Eagle]

Criminal Justice News

Former Oklahoma County detention officer charged with felony over jail suicide: A fired Oklahoma County detention officer was accused in a criminal charge Tuesday of falsifying log books after an inmate suicide to try to cover up his failure to do welfare checks. [The Oklahoman

Mount St. Mary, OKC Archdiocese, others accused of fostering ‘rape culture’ in lawsuit: The suit, filed Monday in Oklahoma County District Court, claims dozens of women and girls within the school community “reported assault, rape, and harassment, by boys and men at Mount St. Mary (including MSM teachers and coaches), but were ignored, shamed, disbelieved, and gaslit.” [The Oklahoman

Lawsuit Challenging Oklahoma’s Lethal Injection Protocol Inches Closer to Resolution: Seven months after Oklahoma ended its nearly seven-year execution moratorium, capital punishment in the state is once again on hold. The pause, prompted by a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, appears likely to continue for at least the next few months. [Oklahoma Watch

Economic Opportunity

Report: Inflation hurting big segment of Oklahomans: Two-thirds of Oklahomans report they have some degree of difficulty meeting their usual household expenses, with 17% saying it’s “very difficult.” The number of people having a “very difficult time” has increased by 88% in the past year, according to a new report by QuoteWizard that looks at the effects of inflation state-by-state. [The Journal Record]

SWOK housing market stressed: Southwest Oklahoma’s current availability of affordable homes for rent and purchase is stressed. The housing shortfall is based on what’s available for rent and sale as compared to the area’s overall housing demand. [Southwest Ledger]

Economy & Business News

Report: Inflation hurting big segment of Oklahomans: Two-thirds of Oklahomans report they have some degree of difficulty meeting their usual household expenses, with 17% saying it’s “very difficult.” The number of people having a “very difficult time” has increased by 88% in the past year, according to a new report by QuoteWizard that looks at the effects of inflation state-by-state. [The Journal Record

General News

New York couple to donate $1 Million to Tulsa Massacre survivors: Ed and Lisa Mitzen with their New York-based nonprofit Business for Good Foundation™ and several staff members, will present a $1 million shared gift to the three known living 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors of the 1921, 108-year-old Mrs. Viola Ford Fletcher, 107-year-old Mrs. Lessie Benningfield Randle and 101-year-old Mr. Hughes Van Ellis. [The Black Wall Street Times

Oklahoma Local News

Police chief says he ‘can always use help,’ but independent monitor is not the answer: Police Chief Wendell Franklin’s not sure what Tulsa would gain by establishing an Office of the Independent Monitor to oversee the Police Department. But he acknowledges that he could use a little help from time to time. [Tulsa World

Council hears budget proposals — Parks, Dev Services, Planning, Transit: On Tuesday morning the City Council of Oklahoma City held their second special meeting of the month for budget hearings. Presenting budgets at Tuesday’s meeting were the Parks and Recreation Department, Development Services, Planning, and Public Transit and Parking. [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“Hey, you guys got a deal yet?”

– One of the governor’s designated negotiators calling out to lawmakers across the rotunda an hour before the House and Senate convened their Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget to hear more than 30 bills [NonDoc]

Report from OK Policy: A February 2021 report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute shows that Oklahoma is among the nation’s least transparent states when engaging its residents during the development of the annual state budget.

Number of the Day


Amount of dollars the state has allocated to the County Community Safety Fund (SQ 781) since 2016

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

Follow through on SQ 781 by funding treatment and rehabilitation services: The Legislature’s failure to follow SQ 781’s requirements, which were approved by voters with a large statewide majority, has hampered Oklahoma’s justice reform process. The idea behind SQ 780 and SQ 781 was to save money by reducing the incarceration rate and to invest those savings into front-end services that address the root causes of crime. [NonDoc]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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