In The Know: Prosecutors as lobbyists | Child care support for low-income working families | OESC freezes some unemployment benefits

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

Quartz Mountain renovation brings back memories: There is a nice article by Jennie Melendez in eCapitol News, reporting a grand reopening and ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the newly renovated Quartz Mountain State Park Lodge at Lone Wolf near Altus. Reading the article brought back warm memories of my days serving in the legislature. Legislative service is a privilege and learning opportunity that anyone who gets the chance will cherish the rest of their life. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Study: Oklahoma prosecutors are strong lobbyists: When Oklahoma prosecutors back a criminal justice bill, chances are it will become law. Oklahoma district attorneys lobbied for or against 47 bills from 2015 to 2018, according to a study published June 3 by the University of North Carolina School of Law’s Prosecutor and Politics Project. The state’s 27 prosecutors were most likely to support bills that proposed expanding criminal law or increasing punishments for certain offenses, but did lobby for nine more lenient bills, researchers noted. [Oklahoma Watch]

Plan for child care and development fund released: A state agency is seeking comment on how to support working families with child care. Oklahoma Department of Human Services has completed a draft of its Child Care and Development Fund program plan. CCDF is federal funding given to states to support low-income working families with child care. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State employment agency freezes some payment cards over fraud concerns: People lined up outside unemployment offices across the state Monday to reprove their identity after thousands of benefit payment cards were frozen because of “suspicious activity” linked to “fraudulent actors.” The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said it froze thousands of accounts over the weekend out of concern that fraudsters were trying to access unemployment benefits illegally. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Ag, health and business groups team up to improve rural vaccination rates: In Oklahoma, just 28 percent of the rural population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s seven percentage points lower than the state’s urban population. Agriculture, business and health care groups addressed the topic of improving rural vaccination rates during a virtual National Rural Business Summit earlier this month to share ideas and strategies to change that. [KOSU]

As US COVID-19 death toll nears 600,000, racial gaps persist: Jerry Ramos spent his final days in a California hospital, hooked to an oxygen machine with blood clots in his lungs from COVID-19, his 3-year-old daughter in his thoughts. “I have to be here to watch my princess grow up,” the Mexican American restaurant worker wrote on Facebook. “My heart feels broken into pieces.” [AP News / Muskogee Phoenix]

State Government News

New Oklahoma law protects student borrowers: A new measure prohibits student loan services from defrauding or misleading borrowers, engaging in deceptive practices, misrepresenting the amount of the loan or the fees, incorrectly applying a student’s loan payment, providing inaccurate information to a credit bureau and failing to inform borrowers about repayment options. Lenders must also tell borrowers if their loan qualifies for a forgiveness program. [CNHI / The Norman Transcript]

Impacts of climate change poised to hit GRDA finances: The Grand River Dam Authority is grappling with climate change in its role as an electric utility. GRDA was recently informed by its excess liability insurance provider, AEGIS, rates are going up 15% with a $150,000 surcharge. The increases are in order to cover increased costs from claims resulting from wildfires that ravaged western states and were sparked by electric utilities. [Public Radio Tulsa]

First Ozone Alert of year issued; heat to continue, but humidity levels ease: Hot and sunny conditions are expected to continue throughout the week, with a slight chance of rain and slightly cooler temperatures Sunday, forecasters said. However, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality issued its first Ozone Alert of the year for Tuesday. The alert is in effect for Tulsa, Creek, Osage, Rogers and Wagoner counties. An Ozone Alert was also in effect Tuesday for the Oklahoma City metro. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

End of eviction moratorium brings out scammers: As the eviction moratorium part of federal COVID-19 relief is scheduled to end this month, scammers are pouncing. Some renters hit hard financially by the pandemic are scared. They’re frantically searching for the money to pay their current rent or even months of back rent before the federal eviction moratorium ends in a couple of weeks. That fear is making some renters prime targets for scammers. [KJRH]

Economy & Business News

Economy’s rebound shows resilience, sales tax nearly matches last month’s record: Oklahoma City shoppers continued to come out in full force in April and May. Last week’s $44.4 million sales tax check is the second-largest the city has ever received, coming in just under May’s record-setting $47.1 million. This month’s check was an increase of 36.8% compared to last June and 12.6% compared to June 2019. Oklahoma City Budget Director Doug Dowler attributes the gains to federal stimulus money and pent-up demand from the public. [The Oklahoman]

Experts: Inclusion vital to cannabis business: Despite the rapid expansion of the medical marijuana business in Oklahoma, there are more Black and brown people imprisoned for selling cannabis on the street than there are heading the businesses now making huge sums from selling it in the current legalized environment. [The Journal Record]

Education News

As Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust folds, districts on hook for obligations: The Oklahoma Schools Risk Management Trust, a self-insurance pool that has provided property and casualty insurance for Oklahoma public school districts since 2009, will be going out of business July 1 owing to financial difficulties and a lack of membership school districts. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma City Public Schools seeks teachers fluent in Spanish, Vietnamese or Burmese: Oklahoma City Public Schools is offering a $3,000 stipend for teachers who speak the most common second languages in its classrooms. The one-time stipend is for candidates who are licensed to teach and can pass a fluency exam in Spanish, Vietnamese or Burmese. [KGOU]

OU: Releasing reports on sexual misconduct, donor data ‘serve the public’s curiosity – not its interest’: The morning after NonDoc filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the University of Oklahoma to release a pair of reports regarding alleged sexual and financial misconduct by past university leadership, OU associate general counsel Heidi Long sent an additional letter reiterating OU’s denial of the request for records under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. [NonDoc]

General News

Oaklawn exhumations raise some new questions: Researchers believe the current exhumations at Oaklawn Cemetery will provide some answers about what happened to at least a portion of those killed in Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre, but they are also raising one or two new questions. Between last fall and the past two weeks, the researchers have uncovered 28 coffins in what is described as one geological feature — that is, burials in an area with no evidence of individual grave shafts. [Tulsa World]

A barber and his place in Greenwood: An inherited barbershop and 57 years later, Willie Sells finds himself caring for his community almost every day. Sells, 77, owns Tee’s Barber Shop in Tulsa’s Greenwood district, and his shop has flourished as a Black-owned business since 1985. The years leading up to this successful barbershop is what makes its existence important. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“It’s been a mess.”

-Tulsa resident Amanda Hymer, who was trying to unfreeze her unemployment benefit payments after the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission froze thousands of accounts over the weekend due to concerns about fraudulent access to benefits. Hymer had to borrow gas money from her daughter to drive to Sapulpa to visit the OESC site there because the Tulsa office is being relocated. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of LGBTQ+ Oklahomans who are raising children

[Source: Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law]

Policy Note

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBT People: There has been little data on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals (LGBT) in the U.S. Drawing on previous research indicating that LGBT individuals are at greater risk of both COVID-19 health and economic outcomes, this analysis examines the reported experiences from self-identified LGBT individuals from two months of the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor and finds that LGBT people have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic differently than non-LGBT people, including being harder hit in some areas. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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