In The Know: Oklahomans approve SQ 802 | Hospitalization levels remain ‘manageable’ | Gov. encourages masks, but no mandate

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

Statement Re: Passage of State Question 802: Oklahomans made the right choice Tuesday by passing SQ 802, which will provide life-changing health care coverage for more than 200,000 Oklahomans and create a significant economic stimulus when implemented. OK Policy is grateful for Oklahoma voters who did the right thing both for Oklahoma and our neighbors who otherwise would go without health insurance. [Read full statement]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion, join majority of states: Oklahoma voters narrowly approved an expansion of Medicaid on Tuesday after years of local political opposition and the governor’s own claim that it would result in budget cuts to core services next year. Passage of State Question 802, which received just under 51 percent of the vote, will allow more than 200,000 Oklahomans to qualify for the federal/state plan that provides health coverage for low-income Americans. [The Frontier

  • After years of legislative inaction, voters say yes to Medicaid expansion [Oklahoma Watch
  • SQ 802 narrowly passes; Medicaid expansion comes down to rural vs. urban votes [Tulsa World]
  • Medicaid expanded: State Question 802 passes by a hair [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma voters narrowly approve Medicaid expansion [AP News]
  • Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion as coronavirus cases climb [Politico]

As Oklahoma coronavirus cases surge, officials tout state’s ‘manageable’ hospitalization levels: As the number of new coronavirus cases has reached record highs in recent weeks, Gov. Kevin Stitt and health officials have continued to stress that hospitalization levels remain “manageable.” [The Frontier] The recent spike in COVID-19 cases seen in Oklahoma does not warrant a return to the restrictions of earlier phases in the state’s reopening plan, said Stitt, but signals that new tactics are needed going forward. [The Journal Record] More than 300 COVID-19 patients remain hospitalized [OSDH / Muskogee Phoenix] Opinion: Words worth heeding from Fauci [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Stitt encourages Oklahomans to wear masks to reduce COVID-19 spread but will not mandate face coverings: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday strongly urged Oklahomans to wear a mask when they can’t social distance to slow coronavirus spread, but said he would not mandate it for the state. [Tulsa World] In a news conference, the governor wore an Oklahoma-branded neck gaiter he briefly pulled up to cover his nose and mouth, saying, “It’s this easy.” This marked the first time Stitt wore a mask to any one of more than a dozen COVID-19 news conferences he’s led since the pandemic started. [The Oklahoman] The first-term governor’s demonstration of masking-up came on another day of Oklahoma’s COVID-19 positive cases going up, this time by 585, a single-day reporting record. [NonDoc]

In another new high, Oklahoma reports 585 new coronavirus cases: Oklahoma health officials report 585 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Tuesday, representing another new high in single-day infections. Two additional Oklahomans have died due to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 387. [KOSU] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma. 

Election News

  • Complete results and interactive dashboard [Oklahoma State Election Board]
  • Primary election results: More votes cast than presidential primary in March [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma election coverage: Voters decide on Medicaid expansion, more key races [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion, decide legislative races [KOSU]
  • Voters say Black Lives Matter, health care are important [The Oklahoman]
  • Election results from Tuesday’s primary and special elections [The Ardmoreite]
  • Election Day during a pandemic? It was like a lot of other Election Days in Tulsa County [Tulsa World]
  • Voting polls busy despite increasing COVID rates [Southwest Ledger]
  • Three GOP senators head to runoff, Wayne Shaw loses [NonDoc]
  • Dossett, Rogers win state Senate primaries; four legislative incumbents beaten [Tulsa World]
  • Mauree Turner takes HD 88, Ajay Pittman retains HD 99 [NonDoc]
  • Pae wins Republican primary for House District 62 seat [Lawton Constitution]
  • Caldwell retains seat over challenge from Venus [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Pederson wins second term in Senate District 19 [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Senate District 15 primary: Scott will face Standridge in general election [The Oklahoman]
  • Council member Alex Scott wins Democratic nomination for District 15 state Senate seat [Norman Transcript]
  • Sneed headed back for second term in District 14 [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • SW Oklahoma voters elect new legislator, force another into a runoff; elect sheriffs; reject SQ 802; approve 22 of 23 Altus charter changes [Southwest Ledger]
  • Oklahoma legislator catches COVID, halts campaigning amid primary challenge [The Oklahoman]
  • Terry Neese, Stephanie Bice move on to CD 5 runoff [NonDoc]
  • Bice, Neese in runoff to take on Horn in CD5 race [The Frontier]
  • Inhofe, other congressional incumbents glide to primary victories [Tulsa World]
  • Sheriff races: Runoffs for Oklahoma, Cleveland counties. [NonDoc]
  • Masks a sign of politics at Oklahoma precincts Tuesday [KOSU]

Health News

She needed lifesaving medication, but the only hospital in her Oklahoma town did not have it: Surrounded by 2,000 square miles of prairie and dotted with small farming communities, Memorial Hospital is among at least 13 facilities in the state that hired private management companies based on promises of financial turnarounds but were instead left scrambling after sinking deeper into debt, an investigation by The Frontier and ProPublica found. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance requests represent large part of pending claims: Agency officials said a majority of the remaining PUA claims have not had any weekly assistance claims submitted, making up at least half of an additional 45,000 claims that exist in the system where an applicant either failed to finish the filing process or never initiated a weekly benefits claim once they had completed the initial filing process. [The Oklahoman]

Unemployment expo gathering amid COVID-19 surge: A state agency’s plan to hold a large in-person gathering inside a Midwest City convention center should not amount to a public health threat, Oklahoma leaders said Tuesday. [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]

Federal Government News

Inhofe echoes White House message on Russian bounties: Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe took the side of President Donald Trump on Tuesday and said he was convinced the president had not been briefed on intelligence reports that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma tribal pacts including sports betting become effective, but battle is on: On Monday, controversial new tribal compacts executed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and a pair of federally-recognized tribes became effective immediately after they were recorded in the Federal Register. However, the compacts are facing a legal challenge pending in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. [Sports Handle]

Criminal Justice News

Attorney General says Jones and other death row inmates can apply for commutation: Oklahoma’s attorney general believes death row inmates are eligible to receive a commutation hearing, according to a letter his office issued Tuesday that refers to a previous attorney general opinion on the matter. [The Frontier] In Tuesday’s letter, Hunter advised the board that it doesn’t need a new opinion because a previous one affirmed the board’s power to recommend commutations and the governor’s authority to grant them. [Tulsa World]

Parole board member threatens director in effort to stop Julius Jones commutation hearing: The executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board requested a leave of absence last week after a board member threatened him with a grand jury investigation unless he made efforts to keep death row inmates from seeking commutation hearings. [The Frontier]

1 of 2 Oklahoma officers shot during traffic stop dies: One of the two Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officers who were shot during a traffic stop has died, authorities said Tuesday. [AP News] Sgt. Craig Johnson, a 15-year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department, succumbed Tuesday to gunshot wounds he suffered in the line of duty. [Tulsa World] David Anthony Ware was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sgt. Craig Johnson, the authorities said. [New York Times] TPD Officer Popsey Floyd described Sgt. Johnson as a true community servant that served all Tulsans, recalling a time when Johnson used his connections to get bikes purchased and delivered to underserved children in north Tulsa. [Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma County district judge seeks delay in disciplinary proceedings: Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman is asking a special court to put off disciplinary proceedings against her while her criminal case is pending. [The Oklahoman]

“True change”: Oklahoma County Jail Trust officially takes over county jail: After months of planning, the Oklahoma County Jail Trust officially takes over management of the county jail Wednesday, removing the sheriff’s office from operations and instead bringing in a small team of administrators, most with experience from the state’s corrections system. [The Oklahoman]

More OKC protesters charged with rioting: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed two more rioting cases Tuesday, despite complaints he has excessively charged protesters to stifle the exercise of free speech at future demonstrations. [The Oklahoman]

Point of View: Data show SQ 805 is smart policy for Oklahoma: Oklahoma sends people to prison for much longer than almost every other state — nearly 70% longer, on average, for property crimes and 79% longer for drug crimes. Do these long prison terms for nonviolent offenders make us safer? No. Our state’s crime rates and other research suggest that excessive prison sentences do not produce safer communities. [Trent England & Mike O’Neal Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Op-Ed: Tulsa, Tulsa County need to get COVID-19 eviction relief right: Tulsa’s eviction rate was too high before COVID-19. We rank 11th in the nation. But now the consequences of eviction for families are even higher. Eviction puts families out on the street during a pandemic — along with their belongings and pets — with too few options for rehousing and with the new record of eviction. [Teresa Meinders Burkett Op-Ed / Tulsa World] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that reopening Oklahoma’s courts must be done thoughtfully to avoid a public health disaster.

Education News

High court ruling protects Oklahoma scholarship program aiding religious schools: The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a Montana case on Tuesday effectively protected a scholarship program in Oklahoma that benefits religious schools. In a 5-4 decision, justices ruled that the Montana Supreme Court erred in applying a state constitutional ban on aid to religious schools to a scholarship program funded by tax credits. [The Oklahoman]

Hofmeister, Student Advisory Council voice classroom concerns: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, along with her Student Advisory Council, voiced their concerns about learning amid the pandemic and how racism impacts the classroom. [FOX25]

Opinion: Back-to-school planning a major challenge: The COVID-19 pandemic made Oklahoma’s 2019-20 school year unlike any other, although the coming school year could rival it. Plans presented Monday by Oklahoma City Public Schools include the option of in-person or virtual learning, with every child in the district — roughly 35,000 students — receiving a mobile device. Oklahoma City will be one of just a handful of large districts statewide to outfit every child in that way. [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC firefighters return from quarantine as one goes to hospital for COVID [Free Press OKC]
  • Oklahoma City lays off eight employees [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa school board District 6 representative Ruth Ann Fate defeated by Jerry Griffin; former Edison teacher John Croisant elected to District 5 [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa County results: Court clerk wins four more years; Josh Turley advances to face Karen Keith [Tulsa World]
  • Norman City manager gets raise, council to consider mandatory mask ordinance [Norman Transcript]
  • Muskogee voters turn down ballot proposition for strong mayor form of government [Muskogee Phoenix]

Quote of the Day

“(It) really made me feel for folks who are in a difficult financial situation.”

-Kevin Penry, a Republican and retired pastor from Edmond, who voted for SQ 802 citing a recent experience having to purchase expensive health insurance on the federal marketplace. [AP News]

Number of the Day


The number of evictions granted in Oklahoma as of July 1, 2020 since a state of emergency was declared on March 15. 

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Millions of Americans Skip Payments as Tidal Wave of Defaults and Evictions Looms: Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people’s credit getting destroyed. But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long. [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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