In The Know: Oxygen supplies running low amid latest virus surge | OKC council votes down mask ordinance | 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

Oxygen supplies grow precarious amid COVID surge: The COVID-19 surge is stretching oxygen supplies and sending hospitals scrambling for more ventilators, even as there are signs of hope that the spread of the virus is slowing down in pockets of the U.S. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a hospital recently called 911 after coming within just a few hours of running out of oxygen because they needed an emergency transfer for a patient on high-flow oxygen. The hospital got a shipment later that day, but the experience was a warning to other hospitals, said Dr. Jeffrey Goodloe, the chief medical officer for the EMS system that serves Tulsa and Oklahoma City. [AP News]

Editorial: Mask decisions should be back in school districts’ hands: The issue of mask mandates and bans in Oklahoma has really put Oklahoma school districts between a rock and a hard place. Districts have the responsibility to abide by the law, which in this case bans them from requiring students and teachers to wear masks at school. But, they also have the responsibility to do what is necessary to keep their students safe, which the CDC says masks help do for the spread of COVID. [Editorial Board / Enid News & Eagle]

  • Deer Creek school board urging state to amend law on masks [FOX 25]

State Government News

Group of GOP lawmakers continue to decry COVID-19 vaccine mandates: Some Republican state lawmakers are continuing to push for top state officials to take action to block private businesses from requiring their employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Six GOP lawmakers, members of Oklahomans for Health and Parental Rights and other critics of vaccine mandates held a brief rally at the Oklahoma state Capitol on Tuesday to decry COVID-19 vaccine requirements at four local hospital systems and other businesses. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma NAACP sues to block law that could ‘chill’ free speech, peaceful protests: The Oklahoma chapter of the NAACP is suing two top law enforcement officials over a new state law the group says will limit protests and have a chilling effect on free speech. The nation’s oldest civil rights group and the Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection are challenging an Oklahoma law that classifies as a misdemeanor the unlawful obstruction of a road or highway and enacts fines for organizations that conspire to incite riots or unlawful assemblies. [The Oklahoman]

DOC, counties in dispute over reimbursements: The legal battle continues between the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and Oklahoma county governments that assert the DOC has been shortchanging them on reimbursements for housing state prisoners. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals last week issued a mandate dismissing part of the claim made by the counties but sending the matter back to the lower court for further proceedings. [The Journal Record]

We Have Way Too Many Counties in America. Or Do We?: The fact is that county governments have a spotty reputation just about everywhere in the country. This is partly due to the county highway departments that for the past century have wielded largely unaccountable political power. Fairly often, this power is brought to public attention by scandal, as happened in Oklahoma in the 1980s, when 120 county commissioners in the state were charged with bribery in the purchase of road-building and repair equipment. Corruption that bad doesn’t come to light very often anywhere in the country, but when it does it invariably renews the recurring question of why we need so many counties in the first place. Why would Oklahoma, which has less than 4 million people, need to have 77 of them? [Governing]

Medical marijuana’s effect on ag industry studied at Oklahoma Capitol: Oklahoma lawmakers who have fielded rising questions from farmers and ranchers about the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry held an interim study on related issues this week. “Farmers in my district and across the state have been asking for guidance as more marijuana grows have moved in next to them,” said state Rep. Dick Lowe, a Republican from Amber in rural Grady County. [The Journal Record]

DIY Redistricting Allows Public to Draw Maps in More States: At least a dozen states are giving residents access to the software and web tools needed to map out how their government should represent them. The Oklahoma State Senate officially partnered with Dave’s Redistricting App and provides instructions on how to use the software on its website. [Pew Trusts]

Oklahoma Department of Public Safety commissioner John Scully retiring Sept. 10: The top official at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety is leaving after two years to focus on a new role — grandfather. “I’ve got no regrets whatsoever,” John Scully said Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma congressman threatened embassy staff as he tried to enter Afghanistan, U.S. officials say: The call to the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan came in Monday. On the line, two U.S. officials said, was Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) with an unusual and urgent request: He needed assistance in transporting a huge amount of cash into the country, saying he was going to neighboring Afghanistan to rescue five American citizens, a woman and her four children, stuck in the country. They planned to hire a helicopter for the effort. [The Washington Post] The Post reports Mullin also traveled to Greece last week in an attempt to reach the Afghan capital of Kabul, with the Pentagon denying that request, too. [Public Radio Tulsa] Update: Rep. Markwayne Mullin’s office says he is ‘completely safe,’ won’t confirm or deny Washington Post’s story about threatening embassy staff as he tried to enter Afghanistan. [Tulsa World]

Cole said U.S. should have left military presence in Afghanistan: U.S. Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole said Tuesday the U.S. made a mistake in withdrawing all military personnel from Afghanistan. U.S. troops completed their withdrawal Monday, a day ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden to leave the country where U.S. military personnel had been present for 20 years. [The Lawton Constitution]

Black US farmers awaiting billions in promised debt relief: There was a time when Black farms prospered. Just two generations out of slavery, by 1910 Black farmers had amassed more than 16 million acres of land and made up about 14 percent of farmers. The fruit of their labors fed much of America. Now, they have fewer than 4.7 million acres. [AP News / Muskogee Phoenix]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma court reverses McGirt rulings in 4 death cases: An Oklahoma appeals court on Tuesday reversed four previous rulings that overturned death penalty cases based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited state jurisdiction for crimes committed on tribal reservations. [AP News] The gist of the Aug. 12 appellate decision was that the McGirt ruling, which determined that state prosecutors did not have the jurisdiction to try crimes involving tribal citizens in much of the eastern half of Oklahoma, was not retroactive, meaning those convicted of crimes prior to the McGirt ruling were not eligible to have their cases reviewed on those grounds. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Expungement reform touted as way to reduce crime: If the Oklahoma government allows automatic expungement of certain lower-level criminal convictions, it will help people who have served their sentences to again become productive members of society and make them less likely to reoffend, a panel of experts told state lawmakers during an interim study. [OCPA]

Long called ‘deplorable,’ the Oklahoma County Jail reaches a crossroads: The Oklahoma County Jail has been a source of endless headaches for county officials and residents alike even before the current 13-story tower in downtown OKC existed. A headline in the August 1965 edition of The Daily Oklahoman featured the headline, “Turner denies his jail’s ‘deplorable’” after the Oklahoma County Jail population, then housed in the top three floors of the County Courthouse, swelled to more than 350 in a space designed for 100 and concerns were raised about sanitation and overcrowding. Decades later, the conversation is much the same. [NonDoc]

Pardon and Parole Board sets clemency hearing dates for Julius Jones, more death row inmates: The state Pardon and Parole Board on Tuesday set tentative dates for clemency hearings in the cases of several death row inmates who face execution while the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals weighs whether the capital punishments may move forward. [The Oklahoman] Tuesday’s action comes after Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor last week asked the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to set execution dates. [Tulsa World]

  • Death Row Prisoners With Tentative Execution Dates Challenge State’s ‘Medical Experimentation’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

Farmers In The Great Plains Try To Balance Saving Water With Saving The Soil: For years, conservationists and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have urged farmers to plant other crops in between harvests, saying it can prevent erosion and enrich the soil. But some farmers and scientists say it isn’t worth the water it uses in dry regions like Oklahoma and Kansas. [KCUR]

General News

‘They are not alone’ Hispanic domestic abuse survivors speak out to help other victims: Each year, an unspecified number of Hispanic women in Oklahoma and across the country face a crippling scenario — how to leave the clutches of a violent intimate partner without becoming entangled in a legal system that, depending on who is in the Oval Office, may force her or her loved ones to leave the United States with little hope of legal return. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘We are survivors’ Domestic abuse was part of the story, but not the final chapter for these women [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Ellas no estan solas’ Los sobrevivientes hispanos de abuso doméstico se manifiestan para ayudar a otras víctimas [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Nosotras somos sobrevivientes’ El abuso doméstico fue parte de la historia, pero no el capítulo final para estas mujeres [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa State Fair a go this year: Officials working to offer COVID-19 vaccinations on site [Tulsa World]
  • Staff absences prompt shift to distance learning for second TPS site [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahomans sent to help hurricane-battered Louisiana [The Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“The science is still true, whether you believe in it or not. I just have to ask everybody a question in the room and everybody who’s watching. How much longer are we going to allow our children to be collateral damage to the actions and inactions of adults?”

-Deer Creek School Board Member Danny Barnes, who is a doctor, speaking before the board unanimously approved a resolution urging Gov. Stitt and the state legislature to amend a law that bans districts from requiring masks [Fox 25]

Number of the Day

$85.7 million

Amount the Oklahoma Department of Corrections spent on health services in FY 2021 [Oklahoma Executive Budget]

Policy Note

Medicaid Enrollment Programs Offer Hope To Formerly Incarcerated Individuals And Savings For States: Upon release from prison, health care often disappears. About 80 percent of formerly incarcerated people are uninsured and are often unable to continue medical treatments they received while incarcerated. This can be dangerous in a population that has such high rates of chronic disease and infectious disease that requires regular care, such as HIV. In the years since the passage of the ACA, dozens of programs have popped up across the US to increase inmate participation in Medicaid post-release. [Health Affairs]

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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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