In The Know: Pardon and parole board director resigns | $10 million CARES Act for school PPE | Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma

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

Gov. Stitt’s GEER plan widens the gap in access to technology and online learning for low-income students and students of color: Rather than optimize federal relief dollars to reach as many school aged children as possible, the Governor’s plan directs almost half of all GEER funding ($18 million) to less than 1 percent of all students in the state. This includes one quarter of the total funding package dedicated to just 1,500 students — 0.2% of all school children in Oklahoma — who attend private schools. This means that public GEER funding disproportionately serves the state’s approximately 65,000 private school students rather than Oklahoma’s 700,000 children who attend public schools. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]

Using the Census to amplify the voice of the people: Every 10 years, the United States conducts a census of all citizens and noncitizens living in the country. America’s founders included Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution to ensure each state’s representation would be based on population rather than wealth or land ownership. [The Ardmoreite]

Oklahoma News

‘I cannot tolerate my current work environment’: Pardon and parole board director resigns: Steven Bickley, the executive director of the state Pardon and Parole Board, resigned Wednesday, saying he was being “threatened for doing my job.” In June, board member Allen McCall told Bickley he would make accusations of unspecified criminal activity against him if he did not ask the state attorney general to weigh in on whether a death row inmate could request a commutation hearing, according to emails compiled in an internal memo that was obtained by The Frontier. [The Frontier]

Stitt announces $10 million CARES Act commitment to personal protective equipment for schools; teachers to be tested monthly: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday said he is committing $10 million for personal protection equipment in schools and plans to test teachers for COVID-19 on a monthly basis. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma will use millions in federal funding to purchase two reusable face masks for every student and teacher in the state to help ensure they’re protected from COVID-19 when they return to school, the governor announced Thursday. [CNHI via The Ada News] In addition to PPE purchases, Stitt said he is issuing a new executive order directing the State Department of Health and State Department of Education to prepare a plan by Aug. 21 to test all state teachers for COVID-19 on a monthly basis. [NonDoc] Stitt said his intent is to have the PPE dispersed across the state by Aug. 15. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt: Criticism of coronavirus response a ‘political statement’: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday dismissed as politically motivated a letter that says Oklahoma is not in compliance with federal recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19: 1,117 new cases, 13 more deaths reported in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 1,117 more COVID-19 cases Thursday, with 13 additional deaths. None of the deaths, including four in Tulsa County, was identified in the past 24 hours. [Tulsa World]

  • Health Dept. COVID-19 Alert System Focuses On Hospitalizations For Risk Level [News9]
  • Mayor Bynum on COVID-19 situation: ‘Historically high levels of hospitalizations in Tulsa’ [Tulsa World]
  • ‘We cannot get lax’: Officials say COVID-19 measures are ‘starting to make a difference,’ but caution that hospitalizations remain historically high [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19 test results taking longer as state sees ‘fairly dramatic increase’ in demand in recent weeks [Tulsa World]
  • Ten things to keep in mind about the Oklahoma COVID-19 numbers [Free Press OKC]

Management of Oklahoma’s Expanded Medicaid Program Could Turn into a Sticking Point: Administration may be the big fight over Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. Lawmakers leading the discussion are confident they can use a plan vetoed by Gov. Kevin Stitt as a funding fallback. It used an increased assessment on hospital revenue to come up with around $130 million, most if not all of Oklahoma’s share of around $1 billion in expansion costs. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Officials investigating claims of mistreatment at Oklahoma veterans center: The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating allegations that veterans at the Lawton-Fort Sill Veterans Center were mistreated. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Unemployment numbers not budging as pandemic continues: The number of Oklahomans receiving unemployment assistance during the third week of July remained near 120,000, data released Thursday by state and federal officials showed. It reported the number of idled workers in the state who were receiving continued assistance for the week ending July 18 was 118,809. That number was lower by 8,325, week-over-week, but only because the previous week’s data on continuing claims had been revised to a higher amount. [The Oklahoman]

Lawmakers renew look at retirement savings: Lawmakers concerned that more than half of Oklahomans don’t have access to employee-sponsored retirement savings plans will take a new look at a proposal to initiate a state-sponsored program to help people save. [The Journal Record]

Commission tackles safety protocols: About 200 oil and gas-related applications are pending at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission because one or more of the parties involved has objected to holding proceedings remotely. On Thursday, the commissioners examined ways to accommodate those objections while observing safety protocols in place due to COVID-19. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma lawmakers still mulling coronavirus relief needs, including unemployment: As congressional leaders struggle to find common ground on the next coronavirus aid package, Oklahoma lawmakers also seem conflicted about what type of assistance is necessary and how best to target the money. [The Oklahoman] Lankford: Percentage-based payments ‘worst-case scenario’ for federal unemployment benefit [Public Radio Tulsa]

Inhofe cancels hearing for nominee that called Obama a terrorist leader: Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe on Thursday called off a hearing on the nomination of retired Army general and Fox News commentator Anthony Tata amid complaints regarding controversial comments made about former President Barack Obama and Muslims. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Supreme Court chief justice blocks contempt hearing for OKC police chief: The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday blocked judges in two counties from telling Oklahoma City police where to take suspects after arrest. The emergency order comes as the feud between Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley and the judges intensifies. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma activists discuss criminal justice reform to appear on November ballot, impact of incarceration on families: On July 29, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that the Yes on 805 campaign’s 248,521 counted signatures was sufficient to place the state question on the November 3 ballot. SQ 805 would prohibit a person’s former felony convictions from being used to make a person’s sentence longer or harsher. The measure would not apply to those who have been convicted of a violent felony.  [The Ardmoreite]

Mother first in five years to be charged in county under statute: In July, Rebecca Hogue was arrested and indicted by a multi-county grand jury on charges of first-degree murder under the state’s “Failure to Protect” law, which allows a parent, guardian or caregiver to face the same punishment as the abuser. An analysis of court records shows Hogue is the first person in five years to be charged in Cleveland County using that statute. [The Norman Transcript]

Economy & Business News

Concert business “at risk of total collapse” without help: Across the country, the pandemic is casting a pall over the live music industry that local venue operators fear will kill their businesses without help from Congress. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Doctors concerned about Okla. schools starting in August: Two groups of physicians recently announced that under current conditions they cannot support a statewide return to in-person learning next month at Oklahoma’s K-12 schools. [Southwest Ledger]

As Some Schools Prepare To Open Doors, Tulsa County Health Director Recommends Against In-Person Classes: With new coronavirus infections increasing more rapidly among younger people than other demographics, Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department said that the return to school for districts in Tulsa County should be all-virtual for now due to the severity of the local outbreak. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Green Party presidential nominee sues for access to the ballot in Oklahoma: Green Party Presidential Nominee Howie Hawkins is suing Oklahoma election officials over what he claims are unreasonable deadlines and filing fees in the state that have blocked him and other alternative candidates from securing their names on the November ballot. [The Frontier]

Most of the rejected absentee ballots for June 30 election arrived late, Tulsa County Election Board says: More than 5% of the absentee ballots returned to the Tulsa County Election Board for the June 30 election were rejected, a higher percentage than normal, officials said. [Tulsa World]

Political campaigns calling your personal phone? Election Board officials say they didn’t give out your number: A wave of angry callers prompted Tulsa County Election Board officials to make an announcement to the public Thursday afternoon: They do not keep, nor do they share, voters’ phone numbers. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Chickasaw Nation Head Start, Preschool Delays Start Of In-Person Instruction [KOSU]
  • Kiowa Chairman’s Impeachment Gearing Delayed [KGOU]
  • COVID-19 outbreak shuts down Garvin County Courthouse [The Oklahoman]
  • City of Norman considers auditor department, charter amendment [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“Our justice system is intended to provide restoration and that’s not what’s happening. We’re keeping people in and we’re not restoring lives.”

–Susan Esco, who serves on the board for Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and volunteers in prison ministries, speaking at a virtual town hall meeting led by the Yes on 805 campaign. [The Ardmoreite]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for premature deaths in the United States. On average, Oklahomans lose about 9.9 years of potential life lost before age 75. The state’s premature death rates are highest among Oklahomans of color, especially Blacks and American Indians.

[Source: America’s Health Rankings]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid to Play Key Role in Response to Coronavirus: Anticipating a surge in Medicaid costs for states at a time when they can least afford it, Congress chose the program as one of the earliest targets for relief dollars in its multi-bill stimulus package to resuscitate the ailing U.S. economy. Lawmakers’ decision to single out Medicaid isn’t surprising. They used the program to funnel money to states in each of the past two recessions; Medicaid is uniquely positioned to assist states with the pandemic’s threats to both public health and government budgets. [Pew Trusts]

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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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