In The Know: Online voter registration still in progress | COVID surging again | 988 a positive step but room for 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

Policy Matters: 988 a positive step, but more must be done: When it comes to leveraging resources to create positive impacts in our communities, investments in mental health and well-being – especially among our children – will stand as some of the most important uses of our public dollars. For helping residents experiencing a crisis, the 988 rollout is a good next step for proactively investing in our state’s well-being. But we must not rest on our laurels and think this is the endpoint of investing in mental well-being.  [Shiloh Kantz / The Journal Record

Join our team as a Communications Associate: OK Policy is currently hiring for a Communications Associate. This role supports OK Policy and its programs by planning, delivering, and measuring communications tactics and strategies that advance the organization. [Learn more and apply

Oklahoma News

Seven Years in the Making, Oklahoma Online Voter Registration Remains a Work in Progress: When Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill in 2015 authorizing online voter registration, most viewed the measure as a modern solution to boost the state’s persistently low voter participation rate. Nearly seven years later, the state’s online registration platform remains a work in progress. [Oklahoma Watch

COVID is surging again in Oklahoma. Here’s what to know if you test positive: COVID-19 is still on the rise in Oklahoma, fueled mostly by BA.4 and BA.5, two highly transmissible variants that have quickly spread across the country. Hospitalizations have more than doubled statewide since June, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health warned Oklahomans this week to take precautions against the spread of the virus. [The Oklahoman

State Government News

Federal officials slam Stitt management of federal education COVID-19 relief grants: Federal auditors have recommended clawing back hundreds of thousands of dollars disbursed by Gov. Kevin Stitt as part of federally funded coronavirus relief money grants. [KGOU

  • As elections loom, federal audit slams Oklahoma Gov. Stitt’s administration [The Oklahoman
  • New federal report highly critical of Oklahoma’s use of pandemic relief money for education [Tulsa World

Debate heats up over deregulation of electricity: Right on the heels of back-to-back increases for some Oklahoma utility companies, a group advocating for altering the state’s utility structure announced it is stepping up its efforts. Legislation is coming in 2023 that would allow businesses the opportunity to choose their electric utility provider. [The Journal Record

Sustaining sustainability: The waste problem in Oklahoma’s cannabis industry and the innovators at the helm of change: With Oklahoma’s medical marijuana scene growing rapidly, industry professionals and cannabis patients are feeling the weight of packaging waste. But a lack of recycling infrastructure and an unwillingness to raise prices for sustainable packaging have left Oklahoma unprepared to handle the growing mountains of plastic packing the state’s landfills. [State Impact Oklahoma

Federal Government News

Major Oklahoma projects included in spending bill cleared by House: The U.S. House passed a massive spending bill on Wednesday that includes at least $300 million for Oklahoma road, water, military construction and other projects requested by lawmakers. [The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

In its latest term, Supreme Court reversed almost 200 years of US law and tradition upholding tribal sovereignty: Congress has passed significant legislation that expands tribal governments’ sovereignty and control over their land, while the Supreme Court has ignored and reversed long-standing principles of federal Indian law that protected tribal sovereignty and prevented the states from exercising authority in Indian country. This trend at the court was seen most recently in a ruling from late June, which, as one longtime court observer put it, wiped away “centuries of tradition and practice.” [The Conversation

Criminal Justice News

Inmate files civil rights complaint against Oklahoma County Detention Center over bed bugs: An inmate who has filed a civil rights complaint against the Oklahoma County Detention Center due to an alleged bed bug infestation is asking for $5 million to build a shelter, drug treatment center and a program to help kids. [KFOR

Education News

Board chairman who oversaw overhaul of Epic Charter School leaving: The chairman who led the Epic Charter School board during 19 months of sweeping changes to the school’s governance structure and through the recent conclusions of multiple state compliance inquiries and a yearslong law enforcement investigation is stepping down this week. [Tulsa World] Paul Campbell said he is stepping down from the volunteer position on Friday to dedicate more time to family, his business and another charter school he leads, The Academy of Seminole. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma school districts working to fill open positions: With a new school year just a couple weeks away, many districts around the Oklahoma City metropolitan area are still trying to fill positions. “It’s really critical we fill those positions, and give our kids the best experience and best education possible,” Mustang Public Schools executive director of human resources Chris Tobler said. [Fox 25

Quote of the Day

“If we want to maintain a good, strong democracy, we need to make it easier for people to get registered and get to the polls. In Oklahoma, we have said we want online registration, so this is just a matter of following through and getting it done.”

-Stephanie Henson, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma. [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day

1 in 12 

Rate of immigrant workers in Oklahoma’s labor force [American Immigration Council]

Policy Note

States Are Making Progress on Expanding Access to Driver’s Licenses: The benefits of expanding access to driver’s licenses are broad. When all residents have access to a license, public safety improves for the entire community. This includes safer roads, proper police records, a higher number of insured drivers, and reduced fear of interaction with law enforcement officials. Moreover, recent studies find that providing all individuals with access to driver’s licenses decreases the amount of hit-and-run accidents. [Center for American Progress

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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