In The Know: Omicron infecting significant number of Tulsans | State denied surface mining injunction | Of pigskins and tax policy

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.

NOTE: Our “In The Know” newsletter will be on hiatus starting Dec. 24 and will resume Tuesday, Jan. 4.   

New from OK Policy

Of Pigskins and Tax Policy: As word spread about OU football coach Lincoln Riley’s departure, a former state finance official noted Sooner fans could take comfort that Riley would pay significantly higher income taxes in California (about 12%) than he would in Oklahoma (about 5%). Sure, that’s attention-grabbing, but let’s unpack that and take a wider view. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Reminder: We’re Hiring! Join the team as a Data Analyst: OK Policy is currently hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Applications for this position close on January 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM (CST). [OK Policy]

Health News

‘Significant number of Tulsans’ infected by omicron, according to sewage monitoring effort: A “significant number of Tulsans” are infected with the omicron variant, which was detected in Tulsa’s sewage by sampling representative of more than 30% of the state’s population, OU Health announced Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • OSDH offers holiday guidance as active COVID-19 cases increase, omicron detected [Enid News & Eagle]

Opinion: Missouri should copy Oklahoma on Medicaid expansion: I am among the majority of Missourians who voted in favor of expanding Medicaid in 2020. I am also among the majority of Missourians astounded by the legislative maneuvers and litigation saga that followed, even after the people had spoken on the issue. Now, putting Medicaid expansion into effect has become its own saga. Enrollment is slow, state staff capacity is limited, and backlogs of applicants are massive. More concerning is how successfully other states have implemented expansion, including our neighbor, Oklahoma, whose voters passed expansion just before we did. [Opinion / St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Record Number of Americans Sign Up for ACA Health Insurance: A record 13.6 million Americans have signed up for health coverage for 2022 on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, with nearly a month remaining to enroll in most states, the Biden administration announced Wednesday. [Kaiser Health News]

State Government News

Questions raised about conflicts of interest involving Oklahoma Corporation Commission: The three elected members of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities and numerous other industries, have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those they’re tasked with regulating during their most recent election cycle, a CNHI Oklahoma investigation has found. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Hidden fees: What goes into your electric bill from OG&E may surprise you: On every monthly electric bill from OG&E, there’s a familiar total for what a consumer owes the utility provider. But what may not be familiar to many is the numerous fees, and a few rebates, that are included in that amount because they aren’t listed out by line item on a monthly statement. These hidden fees are tacked on in addition to the amount you owe based on the electricity you used and can sometimes double a customer’s bill. [The Oklahoman]

Bill gives parents right to force library book removal: An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to give parents the right to compel public school libraries to remove books that contains objectionable content of a sexual nature or addresses sexual preferences or sexual and gender identity. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

How a New Consulate Will Relieve Risk, Stress and Cost for Mexican Oklahomans: After years of advocacy from Hispanic Oklahomans Mexican consulate is on track to open in Oklahoma City next year. That means the end of long drives, long lines and high risk for more than 110,000 Mexican nationals living in Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Watch]

Nativity scene may make room for Hindu deity display at Oklahoma state Capitol: A Nevada-based Hindu organization is planning to place a display of Hindu deities at the state Capitol after a Christian group recently was allowed to put a Nativity scene in the government building. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma cites wrong COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Guard lawsuit, Biden administration says: The Biden administration urged a federal judge on Wednesday to reject Oklahoma’s challenge to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for National Guard members, saying the state didn’t even challenge the correct mandate. [The Oklahoman]

Food insecurity reaches five month high as child tax credit payments end: Hunger is rising this holiday season with the U.S. Census Bureau estimating more than 21 million Americans didn’t have enough to eat in early December as pandemic relief payments run out and grocery prices rise. [Bloomberg / The Norman Transcript]

Inside the nonstop pressure campaign by Trump allies to get election officials to revisit the 2020 vote: The fallout has spread from the six states where Trump sought to overturn the outcome in 2020 to deep-red places such as Idaho, where officials recently hand-recounted ballots in three counties to refute claims of vote-flipping, and Oklahoma, where state officials commissioned an investigation to counter allegations that voting machines were hacked. [Washington Post]

Tribal Nations News

State denied request for preliminary injunction on surface mining jurisdiction: Despite saying the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma has caused “havoc,” U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot issued an order Wednesday denying the state’s request for a preliminary injunction that would block the federal government’s usurpation of regulatory authority over surface mining and reclamation operations on tribal reservation land in eastern Oklahoma. [NonDoc] | [The Oklahoman]

As Gov. Kevin Stitt fights with Oklahoma tribes over the McGirt decision, his brother is using the ruling to try to get out of a speeding ticket: While Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he intends to continue fighting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the McGirt case, his brother has been fighting a different battle. Marvin Keith Stitt, 51, who goes by Keith, asked the Tulsa Municipal Court on Wednesday to dismiss a speeding ticket he received in February because he is a member of the Cherokee Nation. [The Frontier]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma County jail detainee dies during hospitalization: Another Oklahoma County jail inmate died Wednesday, according to a news release from jail administration. 50-year-old Jimmy Dewayne Lube died at the hospital Wednesday after being hospitalized for about two weeks for pre-existing health-related issues, according to the release. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Shelter director says homeless deaths this year highest in memory: Tulsa Day Center remembers 55 homeless or previously homeless people who died in the city in 2021. The evening of the winter solstice on Tuesday was chosen for the symbolism of a long night. 55 candles were lit at the center as Executive Director Mack Haltom read the names of the departed. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Viewpoint: Accepting housing vouchers is crucial to overcoming homelessness in OKC: We have families who are literally homeless, living in vehicles or motels that we pay for. They’re fleeing domestic violence or lost work due to COVID. These are not lazy people. These are moms and dads who want to keep their children safe. There are many more than you think. Oklahoma City Public Schools and Putnam City Public Schools together counted nearly 6,000 homeless children last year. [Susan Agel, Positive Tomorrows Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Consumer confidence rises despite omicron, higher prices: U.S. consumer confidence rose this month as Americans shrugged off concerns about rising prices and COVID-19’s highly contagious omicron variant. [The Journal Record]

COVID-19 made camping big business in Oklahoma: Emily Brashier is one of thousands of Oklahomans who escaped to the great outdoors this past year, and she’s one of many who found themselves camping more this year than ever before. [The Journal Record]

Education News

The Education Stories that Shaped 2021: From debates over masks in schools, to coronavirus surges that threatened in-person schooling, to ongoing investigations at Epic Charter Schools, it was a turbulent year. Oklahoma Watch’s most important education stories focused on how schools and policymakers are addressing the pandemic’s effect, how political fights over coronavirus precautions have stretched an already strained school system, and the ongoing fallout from a lack of oversight of the state’s online charter school behemoth. [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

State climatologist links holiday wildfire risk to climate change: Oklahoma’s climatologist says there will be significant fire risk in the state on Christmas Eve and climate change is a reason. With a hot, dry, windy day forecasted Friday and lots of dead vegetation around, Gary McManus said conditions are great for wildfire. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“(The Capitol) should be welcoming to all and no symbols inside it should feel exclusionary, such that if one didn’t ascribe to those believes they would feel less welcome. So if there’s any religious display, I strongly believe there should be place and permission for all — and that is a fully inclusive ‘all.'”

-Dr. Noel Jacobs, a metro-area psychologist and president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, speaking about a Hindu organization’s plans to place a display of Hindu deities at the state Capitol after a Christian group recently was allowed to put a Nativity scene in the government building [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The number of days for early voting (absentee in-person) for Oklahoma general elections following passage of HB 2663, which added an additional day (Wednesday). The bill also added one extra hour of early voting on Saturdays for all state and federal elections. The national average for early in-person voting is 23 days. [National Conference of State Legislatures

Policy Note

Voting Laws Roundup: December 2021: Between January 1 and December 7, at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting. More than 440 bills with provisions that restrict voting access have been introduced in 49 states in the 2021 legislative sessions. These numbers are extraordinary: state legislatures enacted far more restrictive voting laws in 2021 than in any year since the Brennan Center began tracking voting legislation in 2011. More than a third of all restrictive voting laws enacted since then were passed this year. And in a new trend this year, legislators introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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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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