In The Know: Oklahoma opens next groups for vaccine | Power grid issues could have been far worse | 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

As vaccine supplies increase, Oklahoma opens next groups for COVID-19 shots: Oklahoma next week will open more groups to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as the state now has more than one-third of its adult population with at least one dose. The move, announced Friday, comes as a downward trend continues for new cases and hospitalizations after pandemic highs were reached in mid-January. But the state health department made a significant admission this week that it got behind on reporting deaths from COVID-19. [Oklahoma Watch] “Starting Monday … Oklahomans in congregate care or work locations; city, county and state leaders or elected officials; and public health staff supporting” front-line health workers will be eligible for the vaccinations, Reed said. [AP News] Roughly 40,000 more Oklahomans will be eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. [The Oklahoman] Reed said there’s been a slight decrease in demand for vaccination appointments, possibly because newly eligible Oklahomans are waiting to give those they think need a vaccine more time to get one. Reed said when it’s your turn, make an appointment. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • State vaccine distribution difficult balance of logistics and human behavior, deputy health commissioner says [Tulsa World]
  • Herd immunity on the horizon in Oklahoma, but many unknowns of living with COVID-19 for the long term [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma reports 461 new cases of COVID-19, no new deaths [AP News] | [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma sown to 1 in 3 counties at highest level of COVID infection risk [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma virus vaccinations top 1.2 million [AP News]
  • At COVID one-year mark, concerns persist about long-term mental health impact [Tulsa World]
  • Local healthcare officials say it’s too soon to lift Tulsa’s mask mandate, Bynum says [Tulsa World]
  • Public health experts advise against travel, including during spring break [Public Radio Tulsa]

Being out of power even once in February was unacceptable. But it could have been far, far worse: Grid problems that briefly put hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans in the dark and spurred a humanitarian crisis in Texas during last month’s brutal deep freeze are putting new scrutiny on systems that bring power to homes, businesses and industries across the country. [The Oklahoman]

  • Podcast: David Walters has opinions on the power grid [NonDoc]

WHO recommends against hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19, Oklahoma is stuck with piles of it: The BMJ has published a “living WHO guideline on drugs to prevent COVID-19,” and on it is the statement, “We recommend against administering hydroxychloroquine to prevent Covid-19.” This is based on a review of available evidence, mainly six randomized controlled trials involving over 6,000 participants, by the WHO Guideline Development Group (GDG) panel of international experts. That means people and states like Oklahoma that purchased hydroxychloroquine after then-U.S. President and now Mara-A-Lago resident Donald Trump touted the medication are now stuck with stockpiles of this stuff. [Forbes]

State Government News

Editorial: Legislators try to undermine voters’ will: Oklahoma voters should make sure legislators don’t chisel away progress made since 2016, when voters approved criminal justice reforms included in State Question 780. The measure reclassified some nonviolent felonies, making them punishable only as misdemeanors. SQ 780 accomplished much of what proponents — along with a sizable majority of Oklahoma voters — hoped it would. [Editorial Board / Muskogee Phoenix]

Opinion: Tougher petition drive laws would constrict key citizen right: Last year, after a decade of legislative inaction, the people of Oklahoma had had enough. With the state’s uninsured rate being the second-highest in the country, rural hospitals closing by the dozen, and residents experiencing poor health outcomes across the board, a group of citizens proposed an initiative petition to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma. And at a special election in the middle of a global pandemic, citizens turned out in droves to vote in favor of Medicaid expansion. [Law 360] This year in Oklahoma, for example, legislators have introduced no fewer than 27 measures that are “aimed at squashing Oklahomans’ right of initiative,” said Melanie Wilson Rughani. [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma House approves bills to give lawmakers more power over relief funding use: The Oklahoma House on Wednesday approved two bills that could give lawmakers more power over the use of COVID-19 relief funding. The pieces of legislation come after a report questioned how Gov. Kevin Stitt’s team spent relief money from the federal government. [KOCO]

Capitol Insider: Decision time at Capitol as deadlines near: Oklahoma legislators have a busy week ahead with each house needing to address approximately 300 bills by the Thursday, March 11 deadline. Expect some late nights at the Capitol over the next few days. [KGOU]

Oklahoma Transportation Secretary wants action soon on additional fees for electric, hybrid vehicles: Oklahoma’s top transportation official is hoping lawmakers make progress soon on policies to generate highway funding from hybrid and electric vehicles. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘A voice that is often left aside’; New PAC seeks to boost Republican women: Following a 2020 election cycle when a record number of Republican women were elected to Congress, a class that included U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma’s 5th District, a new political action committee in Oklahoma hopes to build similar momentum at the state level. [The Frontier]

Editorial: Oklahoma legislative plan to cut taxes will be politically popular but fiscally foolish: Only a few years after a bloody fight to raise state taxes, House Speaker Charles McCall wants to cut them. That idea is likely to be politically popular, but it’s fiscally foolish. Tax cuts got the state in a horrible mess throughout the last decade, and one good year of state revenue isn’t the cue for more. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Inhofe, Lankford explain ‘no’ votes on relief bill: Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, both Republicans, voted against the coronavirus relief bill Saturday. Last week, all five U.S. House members from Oklahoma, all Republicans, opposed the House version of the bill. [The Oklahoman]

Inhofe ‘outraged’ over request to keep National Guard at Capitol: Oklahoma U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a late Thursday statement expressing strong disapproval of a request from the U.S. Capitol Police to keep thousands of National Guard troops stationed there to continue defending the building after January’s deadly insurrection. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Former principal chief isn’t happy as McGirt decision hits home: A former principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation said he is feeling the effects of the Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt decision, and he’s not liking it. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Will Julius Jones move closer to getting off death row?: A death row inmate who says he was framed for murder has formally asked the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to consider new information supporting his claim. The parole board is expected to hear Julius Jones’ highly publicized commutation request Monday morning at a meeting in Oklahoma City accessible to the public only via Zoom. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Women workers, entrepreneurs suffered most in pandemic: More than a century after the first Women’s Day was observed in America, the inequities between the sexes that the day highlights have been brought into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have suffered greater unemployment and women business owners have seen slower recovery, recent nationwide studies show. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry boomed in 2020 despite COVID-19 pandemic: Many industries in Oklahoma faced unprecedented challenges in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state’s medical marijauna industry was an outlier, experiencing increased sales and job growth. [KGOU]

Education News

Oklahoma grand jury now involved in Epic Charter Schools investigation: The state’s multicounty grand jury has begun hearing testimony about Epic Charter Schools. The grand jury’s involvement was expected but still represents a significant step forward in the investigation into whether millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have been misused. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa-area school districts to receive portion of $49 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds: Almost 90 public school districts and charter schools across the state will be receiving additional federal relief funds to help offset costs incurred due to COVID-19. [Tulsa World]

Student housing plan and a major merger: ‘Big deals’ discussed by OU Board of Regents: As it attempts to achieve the goals listed in its new strategic plan, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved a pair of momentous actions today and previewed other dynamic initiatives in the works. [NonDoc]

Opinion: Abysmal voter turnout for school board elections a problem for OKC: Voter turnout in Oklahoma is lower than the national average, even in general elections. Voter turnout for school board elections is lower still. The primary election for Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education chairperson held on Feb. 9 had a 40% decrease in voters from the election four years ago. [Mary Melon / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC council candidates oppose cuts to police funding [The Oklahoman]
  • As search for new housing director begins, city finds itself better positioned to meet challenges, mayor says [Tulsa World]
  • Dog the Bounty Hunter thought he’d seen it all until this Oklahoma politician got charged [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Now that there are three vaccines available and our overall supply is steadily increasing, we are ready to open up vaccine appointments for the remaining priority groups outlined in phase two of our state’s vaccination plan.”

-Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed [Public Radio Tulsa

Number of the Day


70% of criminal court fines and fees assessed to Oklahomans each year are never paid. This funding model leaves essential court services like public defenders and drug courts chronically underfunded.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

Prison fines and fees are used to pay for basic government functions: 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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