In The Know: Oklahoma should invest in programs that help children | The need to remain vigilant as virus numbers decline | 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.

New from OK Policy

Oklahoma’s children need funding to recover from the COVID-19 crisis: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, Oklahoma’s Legislature will be facing some tough budgetary challenges in the coming fiscal years. While temporary measures have likely buoyed next year’s state budget, lawmakers in the coming years will, short of a miracle economic recovery, face revenue shortfalls requiring either revenue increases or spending cuts. If we want Oklahoma’s children to recover quickly from the COVID-19 crisis and grow up to be healthy, thriving adults, then now is the time to increase our investment in the programs that provide the stability that our children need. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]

Together OK Virtual Day of Action: Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy arm, held its Virtual Day of Action on March 4 to help connect Oklahomans with their legislators. A video of the session is available along with the recorded messages that were provided by legislators and advocates. View the playlist of all videos on the Together OK YouTube channel.

Oklahoma News

What is the impact of Oklahoma’s COVID-19 deaths reporting change?: The State Department of Health will begin using U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 death reports, which show about 2,500 more deaths in Oklahoma due to the coronavirus than the department has reported. Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, talked more about the decision on Thursday. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19: Fewer than 1,000 new infections reported daily for past 7 days in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19 may keep killing Oklahomans even after the pandemic ends, experts say [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa officials express thanks for health care workers, warn residents not to relax virus precautions: ‘We’ve come too far’ [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa Health Department’s Dr. Bruce Dart on what he wished he knew one year ago about COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa mayor reflects on past year dealing with COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine may poses moral dilemma for Catholic community [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma introduces bill to roll back criminal justice reforms: A bill that would modify State Question 780, a 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative that reclassified several drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and has helped reduce Oklahoma’s prison population, has advanced past committee and is eligible for a Senate vote, reports Oklahoma Watch. [The Crime Report]

Oklahoma House approves bill allowing police to use telemedicine in the field: The Oklahoma State House approved a bill Wednesday that attempts to phase police out of some mental health crisis transports and allow officers to use telemedicine in the field. House Bill 2877 was requested by police and mental health professionals. The bill says police may use telemedicine to support people struggling with mental illness. [KGOU]

Oklahoma House passes data privacy bill: Data privacy legislation passed Thursday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives includes an “opt-in” provision that would require social media and telecommunications companies to obtain explicit agreement from individuals before harvesting their information. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers renew push to restrict abortion in Oklahoma, as political environment changes: Optimistic in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s political shift, conservative Oklahoma lawmakers are pushing for laws to further restrict abortion access. [The Frontier] [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma jobless payments top past decade pay combined: Unemployment payments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago in Oklahoma have surpassed by nearly $1.5 billion the payments made during the past 10 years combined, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Thursday. [AP News] First-time jobless claims in Oklahoma declined 2% last week compared to revised figures from the week prior, according to a government report. [Tulsa World]

Texas’s power disaster is a warning sign for the US: Many Texans went without power or water in subzero temperatures for nearly five days. Americans in neighboring states like Oklahoma had minor disruptions like rolling blackouts, but nothing like what Texans experienced. That’s because Texas is on its own electrical grid, separate from the rest of the country, so it can’t easily get power from other states in an emergency. [Vox]

Federal Government News

Panel advances Haaland’s nomination to full Senate: New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland has cleared one of the final hurdles in the confirmation process for Secretary of the Interior. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-9 on Thursday to advance Haaland’s nomination onto the Senate where she is expected to be confirmed and become the first Indigenous person appointed to a cabinet position. [KOSU]

Comanche Nation asks to join potentially historic case: The Comanche Nation is asking the court to allow its participation and perspective in a potentially historic case relating to jurisdiction of tribal reservation lands. Seeking standing as amicus curiae in the hearing, the tribe is asking to allow its perspective about how the July 2020 McGirt vs. U.S. Supreme Court ruling will be interpreted with the former Kiowa, Comanche Apache reservation of Southwest Oklahoma. [The Lawton Constitution]

Criminal Justice News

DA asks Pardon and Parole Board member to recuse from Julius Jones’ case over 2019 retweet of Kim Kardashian: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater on Thursday requested a member of the state Pardon and Parole Board recuse from hearing Julius Jones’ commutation case this month because the member retweeted Kim Kardashian in 2019 while explaining the commutation process on Twitter. [The Frontier] The retweet was a request by celebrity Kim Kardashian to “please help” Jones by asking the Pardon and Parole Board to give careful and thoughtful consideration to his request for clemency. [The Oklahoman] If the Pardon and Parole Board grants the hearing, Jones and his attorneys hope it will decide to recommend for Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence to time served. [KOSU]

Jury finds man guilty of accessory after shooting of two Tulsa police officers: In a Tulsa County courtroom on Thursday, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler told a jury that “there really is no number” of years a person could spend in prison that would bring Sgt. Craig Johnson back to life or Officer Aurash Zarkeshan to his physical state before he was shot. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Building more than ‘just houses,’ Habitat for Humanity plans $35 million initiative in north Tulsa: The year Cameron Walker joined Habitat for Humanity, 2015, the organization finished one house in Tulsa. This year it plans to build 55 homes. And even that is going to be just the beginning of a larger initiative to invest $35 million in north Tulsa over the next several years, the organization told the Tulsa World on Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Retail sector making steady comeback: The retail sector is bouncing back from the pandemic with new businesses opening and increased sales forecast. “Retail in 2020 was certainly a mixed bag. Many retailers suffered from slower sales, but at the same time other categories really thrived,” Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, reported this week. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Tulsa Public Schools to launch credit recovery, summer programs: With an eye toward life after COVID-19, Tulsa Public Schools will be using federal stimulus funds to expand its academic and extracurricular programming over the next 18 months. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: TPS creates a rich curriculum to take a deep dive in race massacre: Tulsa Public Schools is creating an innovative and in-depth curriculum around the 1921 race massacre, enhancing student education. The state mandates the race massacre be part of high school history courses. TPS is expanding on that, incorporating lessons into each level starting in third grade. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Norman educator wins Oklahoma Teacher of the Year: A Norman North High School educator described as a “leader of teachers” has been named the 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. Jessica Eschbach, an innovative learning coach, won the award in a virtual ceremony Thursday morning. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Air quality advisory issued for Northeast Oklahoma: Northeast Oklahoma has been hazy lately and now, state environmental officials have issued an air quality advisory. [KOSU]

Dr. Natalie Richardson tackles mental health challenges presented during COVID-19 pandemic: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to afflict the globe, a Chickasaw Nation Department of Health specialist is looking at a postpandemic world and its impact. [Red Lake Nation News]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKCPS board District 1 candidates want to mitigate pandemic’s student impact [NonDoc]
  • As search for new housing director begins, city finds itself better positioned to meet challenges, mayor says [Tulsa World]
  • Two Fort Gibson men arrested in connection with U.S. Capitol riot [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The new virus variants are worrisome. We’ve come too far; we’ve lost too much to regress now.”

-Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

4th lowest

Oklahoma’s rank in state and local taxes, both per person and as a share of income, in 2017. Oklahoma’s taxes are the lowest in our region.

[Source: Tax Policy Center]

Policy Note

The Relationship Between Taxes and Growth at the State Level: New Evidence: “While the rate of firm formation is negatively affected by top income tax rates, the effects are small in economic terms. Our results are inconsistent with the view that cuts in top state income tax rates
will automatically or necessarily generate growth.” [Brookings]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.