In The Know: Oklahoma executes second man since injunction | Health officials assure Oklahomans on vaccines | Redistricting director hired as lobbyist | 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

Bigler Jobe Stouffer II becomes second man executed in Oklahoma this year: Bigler Jobe Stouffer II was put to death by lethal injection at 10:16 a.m. today at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. At a press conference afterward, Scott Crow, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, said the execution had proceeded without complication. [NonDoc] Stouffer’s execution differed greatly from that of John Marion Grant, who was put to death in October. Crow also told reporters Grant’s execution had been done without complication, though media witnesses reported the condemned man had convulsed and vomited on himself during the process. [The Frontier] In a policy change, Stouffer was allowed to have his personal spiritual advisor, Baptist minister Howard Potts, in the execution chamber with him. [The Oklahoman] The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to stop the execution of convicted murderer Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II. He had sought a stay until after a legal challenge to the lethal injection procedure is resolved. [The Oklahoman] A group of 15 demonstrators gathered outside Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Thursday to offer support to condemned inmate Bigler Stouffer, 79, who was pronounced dead by lethal injection 10:16 a.m. [CNHI via The Ada News] At 79, Stouffer is the oldest prisoner executed in Oklahoma history. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press] It was just the second time in nearly seven years that Oklahoma executed a death row inmate. [KOSU]

Health commissioner assures Oklahomans that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective after attorney general expresses doubt about the science: Interim Health Commissioner Keith Reed emphasized Thursday that the COVID-19 vaccination is safe and the “best tool we have to prevent and respond to the various stages of this virus” only two days after other state leaders openly expressed doubt about the vaccines. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19 hospitalizations up 48% statewide as Oklahoma Hospital Association expects ‘increase during holidays’ [Tulsa World]
  • Big spike in COVID cases seen here since holiday [The Journal Record]

Senate redistricting director hired as oil lobbyist: Less than a month after finishing his work spearheading the state Senate’s redistricting effort, Keith Beall, a former chief of staff for former Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, was hired as a lobbyist for a pro-oil and gas organization. Beall registered this month as a lobbyist for the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, a firm with membership made up of some of the state’s largest energy companies. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Video: Watch our panel discussion on ‘Racism and Reproductive health’: Black Oklahomans are 50% more likely than white Oklahomans to die from maternity-related complications. Black babies in Oklahoma are almost 2.5 times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthday. [The Frontier]

State Government News

One worker called a move to Stillwater ‘a hurried, thoughtless decision’ before inspectors found violations at Oklahoma’s Public Health Lab: Lab workers and other observers sounded the alarm long before federal regulators found that Oklahoma’s Public Health Lab had mishandled COVID-19 samples and had critical staffing shortages. [The Frontier]

(Audio) Long Story Short: Teenage Corrections Officers? Epic Shakeup, Public Health Lab Woes: Education reporter Jennifer Palmer details the latest shakeup within Epic Charter Schools and the allegations of its former board vice chair. Criminal justice reporter Keaton Ross shares the story behind a state corrections department proposal to hire teenagers as correction officers. Paul Monies, who covers state agencies for Oklahoma Watch, takes a big picture look at how privatization and relocation compromised the mission of the state public health lab. [Oklahoma Watch]

(Audio) Vaccine mandate lawsuits, Oklahoma health lab investigation, Epic Charter School allegations and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the state of Oklahoma announcing its taking part in at least five lawsuits against the Biden Administration over vaccine mandates, the state’s new public health lab in Stillwater comes under federal scrutiny and the Department of Education is starting an investigation of Epic Charter Schools after allegations from a resigning member of its governing board. [KOSU]

Rural broadband expansion a legislative priority for 2022: More than 340,000 Oklahoma public school students have no broadband access when they go home for the day, a state lawmaker said. Rep. Logan Phillips (R-Mounds) intends to file several bills that will “shrink the digital divide” between rural and urban areas. Oklahoma ranks 47th in the country in broadband connection with 80% of the state unserved, the lawmaker said. [Southwest Ledger]

Weekly unemployment claims increase 7% in state, but other data continue to show decline: First-time unemployment claims in Oklahoma increased 7% the week ending Saturday compared to the prior week, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits in the state increased from a revised total of 1,716 the week ending Nov. 27 to 1,839 claims the following week. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. [Tulsa World]

Medical marijuana tax receipts decline for fifth month: Collections from the 7% tax on medical marijuana sales in Oklahoma declined in November for the fifth consecutive month, to their lowest level in more than a year. [Southwest Ledger]

Investigations into storm costs come up empty: Months of investigation have failed to reveal that any price gouging or other illegal activity occurred in relation to the event. Explaining to customers that the fuel charges are legitimate – and that the utilities billing them for the fuel are not making a profit on the charges – has proven to be quite the challenge for state regulators. [The Journal Record]

Former Gov. Stitt Cabinet member files $60M tort claim against Mike Hunter, AG’s office: A former Cabinet secretary for Gov. Kevin Stitt is pursuing a legal claim against former Attorney General Mike Hunter and the attorney general’s office, alleging Hunter misused the state’s multicounty grand jury to seek a politically motivated indictment against him. [The Oklahoman] “I was falsely charged with outrageous accusations purely to settle political scores,” said David Ostrowe, former Oklahoma secretary of digital transformation and administration. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Feds reverse UKB land-in-trust decision: After the U.S. Department of Interior recently withdrew its approval of placing 2.03 acres of land into trust for United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians gaming operations, Chief Joe Bunch said the tribe is looking at all available avenues. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Criminal Justice News

Corrections Department Seeks to Hire Teenagers as Detention Officers: The Department of Corrections is asking the legislature to lower its minimum hiring age from 20 to 18. The agency filed a similar legislative request in 2019, when no lawmaker agreed to sponsor the bill. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa Development Authority facilitates new housing development at former Laura Dester site: A former Laura Dester site project more than 2½ years in the making cleared a hurdle Thursday with the Tulsa Development Authority. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Epic Charter School leaders welcome investigation as new allegations surface: Months of negotiations and overhaul at Epic Charter Schools pulled the virtual charter school system from the brink of potential closure, but a fresh set of allegations has again put Epic in the crosshairs of state officials. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“We are ready to serve new COVID patients coupled with how busy we are with the non-COVID things. There’s definitely trepidation about the effect of the increase of another wave on the families in our community and our employees.”

—Quote of the day from Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City’s Chief Administrative Officer David Argueta [The Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Households with children in Oklahoma where there was little or no confidence in ability to pay the next rent or mortgage payment on time in Oklahoma, as of October 11, 2021.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

Policy Note

Vouchers Can Help Families Afford Homes, With Little Impact on Market Rents: The Housing Choice Voucher program is highly effective at helping people with low incomes afford rent, but it only reaches about 1 in 4 eligible households due to funding limitations. The Build Back Better (BBB) legislation that passed the House would add about 300,000 new vouchers, which is an important step to reduce homelessness, overcrowding, housing instability, and racial disparities in housing opportunities. Some have suggested that providing rental assistance to more families will drive up rents by increasing demand for housing or enabling landlords to overcharge, offsetting a large part of the benefit. Research on previous voucher expansions has found that vouchers have little overall impact on market rents, however, and the voucher program has safeguards that limit the amount landlords can charge. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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