In The Know: Racial disparities in vaccine distribution | Social insurance programs can encourage work, support families | 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

This year we can improve our social insurance programs to encourage work and support working families: In December 2020, OK Policy released its report Plateaus and Cliff Effects in Oklahoma, which shows how essential our social insurance programs like direct assistance and tax credits are to low- and middle-income Oklahoma families. It also shows that some families receiving assistance may see a resources “plateau” (where declining assistance leaves the family little better off when they earn more money) or a “cliff” (where they’re no longer eligible for a program and end up with less to spend, even after earning more). The report also includes recommendations to help those families who can earn more. We should act on some of these recommendations immediately given the economic impacts of COVID-19. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

A fair shot: Oklahoma County gets demographic data on vaccines: The Oklahoma City-County Health Department got its first batch of county-level data last week showing a demographic breakdown for those who have received COVID-19 vaccines. Local health officials have recognized the need for equity and community outreach in the vaccine distribution process, but until now, didn’t have the data to determine whether their efforts were working. [The Oklahoman]

  • Local churches boosting access to COVID vaccines [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma to receive 31,500 doses of new one-shot vaccine [AP News] | [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa] | [KOSU]
  • Oklahoma health officials caution against vaccine shopping in wake of J&J approval [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: 50 more deaths reported in Oklahoma; daily case average stays below 1,000 [Tulsa World]
  • Reported COVID deaths down 17% in February, new cases and testing down dramatically [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 a challenge to non-medical workers in Oklahoma hospitals [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘A moment of sadness and gratitude’: Minute of silence marks first anniversary of Tulsa’s first case of COVID-19 [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

There’s a 2,492-death discrepancy between the state’s and the CDC’s counts of COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma. Here’s why: The state’s investigations of COVID-19 deaths have fallen significantly behind, so the state soon will publish a death count using a different methodology to more accurately depict the fatal toll in Oklahoma as the state catches up. [Tulsa World] The late-2020 surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths left many of the state’s tracking systems behind as providers responsible for updating reports concentrated on providing patient care ahead of filling out reports. [Oklahoma Watch] State Epidemiologist Dr. Jared Taylor said the CDC’s tally is probably close to the real total. [Public Radio Tulsa] But Frye said there will be some differences because the state is looking at things differently than the CDC. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Health News

OKC officials object to measure weakening local health department: Having a mayor with state legislative experience has its advantages. Mayor David Holt, a former state senator, said last week that he reached out to the author when he first saw House Bill 2504 several weeks ago. Holt said the bill as originally written would have ended local health departments, bringing them under state control. [The Oklahoman]

Nursing home COVID-19 cases decline; restrictions reviewed: Cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes in Oklahoma have declined to the point that strict visitation policies implemented to slow infections are being reviewed, Care Providers Oklahoma President Steven Buck said. [Journal Record]

State Government News

Criminal justice reform advocates push back against bill intended to roll back parts of SQ 780: An effort to roll back certain parts of State Question 780 is getting pushback from criminal justice reform advocates. State Question 780, which Oklahomans voted in favor of in 2016, made certain low-level drug and property crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. [KOCO]

Oklahoma House speaker wants ‘In God We Trust’ displayed in state buildings: Oklahoma’s House speaker once again is pushing for the national motto, “In God We Trust” to be displayed prominently in state buildings. The Oklahoma House on Monday passed Speaker Charles McCall’s House Bill 2085 to add the phrase in 342 state buildings at an estimated cost of $85,000. [The Oklahoman] Carried by Rep. Jay Steagall, HB 2085 would require the words be displayed in every state building “in keeping with the placement and size of the display of the national motto in the United States Capitol Visitor Center.” [Tulsa World]

Bill to reduce prescription drug costs advances: A measure intended to ensure that Oklahomans don’t have to pay more than people do in Canada for many prescriptions has advanced through committee at the Oklahoma Legislature. Senate Bill 734, authored by state Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, would set limits on prices of the top 250 drugs covered by Health Choice, an insurance plan covering state and local employees in Oklahoma. [Journal Record]

Bill would allow Oklahomans to buy alcohol via drive-through windows: Oklahomans may soon be able to purchase alcohol through liquor store drive-through windows, under bipartisan legislation that passed the House Appropriations & Budget Committee last week. [Lawton Constitution]

State budget expert Shelly Paulk appointed to Oklahoma Tax Commission: Though he has a reputation of selecting outsiders for state government positions, Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed state budget director Shelly Paulk to the Oklahoma Tax Commission this morning. Paulk has worked for the state since 2006, climbing the ranks within the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to become state budget director in 2019. [NonDoc]

Report ranks Oklahoma 5th-worst state for women to live in, 48th in gender pay gap: On the first day of Women’s History Month — which has been around since 1987 and as Women’s History Week since 1982 — personal finance website WalletHub released its report, “2021’s Best & Worst States for Women,” showing that Oklahoma is the fifth worst state for women to live in. [Enid News & Eagle]

Federal Government News

Stitt, governors say stimulus unfair to their states: The ink barely had time to dry on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal the U.S. House of Representatives sent over to the U.S. Senate on Saturday before a group of state governors – Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt included – pointed out a problem on Page 287 of the 592-page bill. The wording would give their states less money than other states headed by Democrat governors, the governors contend, and punish states that kept more of their workers working during the pandemic. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma elections threatened by U.S. House bill, state’s top election official warns: A U.S. House bill to make voting easier would amount to a federal takeover of state elections and deprive Oklahoma of ways to detect fraud, according to Oklahoma’s top election official. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Julius Jones’ co-defendant admitted in prison to Paul Howell slaying, inmate says: Christopher Jordan, Julius Jones’ co-defendant in the 1999 slaying of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, admitted in prison to killing Howell and letting Jones take the fall for crime, according to an inmate who served time in an Arkansas prison with Jordan. [The Frontier]

Economic Opportunity

(Audio) The streets are my home: Evictions, homelessness and COVID: “The Streets Are My Home: Evictions, Homelessness and COVID,” the third episode of the Focus: Black Oklahoma’s special presentation “Black Plague: COVID In North Tulsa” is available now. [KOSU

Homeless outreach workers honored; plan to find permanent housing for hundreds advances: Tyler Parette couldn’t tell you her name, but he remembers the day he met her and what she told him. “We got in the car, and without even missing a beat, she just turned and looked at me and she said, ‘You just saved my life,’” said Parette, outreach and engagement manager for Housing Solutions. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma City’s Devon Energy to absorb 150 of WPX Energy’s employees in Tulsa: A total of 150 WPX Energy employees in Tulsa have accepted offers to work at Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy as part of the companies’ recently completed merger, a spokesman said. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Tulsa schools partner with nonprofit for rapid COVID-19 test results: At a special board meeting Monday afternoon, the board voted 5-2 to enter into an agreement with Project Beacon to provide a HIPAA-compliant data platform for the district’s rapid COVID-19 test results. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Public Schools to launch new 1921 Race Massacre curriculum: Tulsa Public Schools will soon be incorporating different topics connected to the Tulsa Race Massacre into its curriculum calendar across all grades. [Tulsa World]

General News

Oklahoma hip-hop artists unite for historic project on centennial of Tulsa Race Massacre: Fire has a voice. You’ll soon be able to hear it. Oklahoma hip-hop artists are uniting to commemorate the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre with a multimedia project titled Fire in Little Africa. [Tulsa World]

Cherokee Nation strikes phrase “by blood” from its Constitution: Last week, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled unanimously to remove the phrase “by blood” from the tribe’s constitution and laws. The decision is particularly meaningful to descendants of Black people who were once enslaved by the tribe, known as Cherokee Freedmen. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council candidates praise police in OKC FOP forum [NonDoc] | [The Oklahoman]
  • In Putnam City Schools, Steve Burger challenges incumbent Cindy Gibbs [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma County Commissioners approve Sheriff – OKCPD MOU, road upgrades [Free Press OKC]
  • Former Oklahoma City Thunder worker charged in US Capitol breach [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Generally, we’re behind: only 3% of individuals who have been vaccinated are African American, so I don’t think we’re at a point to say things are working, but we have an opportunity for it to work.”

-State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC, speaking about addressing racial disparities in vaccine distribution [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s ranking of highest corporate income tax rate

[Source: Tax Foundation]

Policy Note

50 years of tax cuts for the rich failed to trickle down, economics study says: Tax cuts for the wealthy have long drawn support from conservative lawmakers and economists who argue that such measures will “trickle down” and eventually boost jobs and incomes for everyone else. But a new study from the London School of Economics says 50 years of such tax cuts have only helped one group — the rich. [CBS News]

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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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