In The Know: Redistricting proposals | Active COVID cases fall | Medicaid expansion making a difference in Oklahoma | 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: Medicaid expansion already making a difference: Supporters of Medicaid expansion knew passing State Question 802 would make a real difference in the state, especially for Oklahomans who have long gone without health insurance. In just a few short months since enrollment opened for the newly eligible, the value of expanded Medicaid coverage is already starting to make good on its promise. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Redistricting proposals that could overhaul Oklahoma politics: Oklahoma’s only competitive congressional district over the past decade could return to firm Republican control — or it could be changed to give Democrats the best chance they’ve seen in years. State lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Nov. 15 for a special session to complete their once-every-decade redistricting work. In addition to rewriting the boundaries for legislative districts, the Legislature is also tasked with creating a new map for the state’s five congressional seats. [Oklahoma Watch] The Oklahoma House and Senate redistricting committee heard several public map presentations by Oklahomans who took part in the congressional redistricting process Tuesday morning at the State Capital. [OKC Free Press]

COVID-19: Active cases continue to fall as state death total nears federal reporting: Active cases of COVID-19 are down more than 52% from about a month ago, while the death toll reported by Oklahoma health authorities has jumped week-over-week due to a federal reporting change. According to a report Wednesday from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 10,540 Oklahomans have died of COVID-19. The change in reporting brings the state’s COVID casualty count closer to that listed by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics: 11,010. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Oklahoma City police recruits scrapped [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma officials preparing to give COVID-19 shots to kids ages 5-11, pending approval [The Oklahoman]
  • OSDH: COVID vaccines more effective than natural immunity [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Nursing staff leaving as Oklahoma sees downward trend in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations: Although COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are trending down in Oklahoma, health leaders say their nursing staff is walking out the door. “The nationwide nursing shortage is a problem at every hospital, and there are not enough students in the nursing programs to stop the bleeding,” Dr. Woody Jenkins said. [KOCO]

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority warns patients after harmful substance found in quality testing: A potentially harmful substance that compounds the intoxicating properties of THC has been found by Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority quality testing, the agency warned patients this week. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

ACLU lawyer discusses challenge to Oklahoma’s critical race theory ban: Earlier this week, the ACLU announced it would lead a coalition of civil rights and educational groups suing Oklahoma over its controversial critical race theory ban in federal court. Attorneys argue the so-called critical race theory ban prevents students from receiving an inclusive and accurate education. [StateImpact Oklahoma] The Oklahoma law bans teaching that anyone is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” or that they should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or sex. Under rules imposed by the state, teachers or administrators found in violation of the law can lose their licenses, and schools can lose accreditation. [NBC News]

Lawmakers’ salaries to remain unchanged: Oklahoma lawmaker pay will remain the 15th highest in the nation, an eight-member legislative compensation board decided Tuesday. Saying lawmakers are being paid appropriately for the work they do, the all-male, citizen-led Legislative Compensation Board voted to keep legislators’ annual pay at $47,500. Factor in an $11,055 total for per diem allowance, a $7,919 benefits allowance, and a $3,325 state retirement contribution, and legislators’ annual compensation is $69,799 for an estimated 67 days of session. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

‘Huge step forward’: Oklahoma establishes nonbinary birth certificate process: In settling a federal lawsuit by Oregon resident Kit Lorelied against the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma has formalized a process for designating someone’s sex as nonbinary on birth certificates. [NonDoc]

Senator still trying to make Daylight Saving Time permanent: Sen. Blake Stephens, R-Tahlequah, presented an interim study Tuesday, analyzing the benefits of establishing Daylight Saving Time as the official time year-round in Oklahoma. [Tahlequah Daily Press] | [KFOR]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford effort to rescind vaccine mandates blocked: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, arguing that thousands of workers might soon lose their jobs, made a failed attempt on Wednesday to force a vote on rescinding President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates that cover the federal workforce and government contractors. [The Oklahoman]

17 state AGs, including Oklahoma’s, oppose DOJ’s focus on violence, threats against school boards: Oklahoma’s John O’Connor was one of 17 state attorneys general to sign a Monday letter accusing President Joe Biden and his Department of Justice of “suppression of free speech rights of parents” by way of the department’s recent directive addressing threats, harassment and violence against school officials across the country. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Biden wants more wind energy. Those projects should help local politicians, our research finds: Findings suggest that, at least in Minnesota, developing wind farms helps politicians win reelection. During the past decade of rapidly expanding wind farms, most have been built not in blue, coastal states, but in very red parts of the middle of the United States, where it is easiest to reap energy from wind. According to the Energy Information Agency, the top four states for wind energy production are Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Kansas. Red states are adding capacity as fast or faster than blue states. [New York Times]

‘A great American’: Colin Powell’s Oklahoma visits highlighted community service, leadership: Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, died Monday from complications of COVID-19, according to his family. He was 84. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell saw combat in Vietnam and worked his way up the ranks of the Army, becoming the first Black national security advisor during Ronald Reagan’s second term and the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation announces $40 million Head Start investment: The Cherokee Nation is putting additional funds toward its early childhood programs. First announced in September and approved unanimously Oct. 12 by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. formally signed legislation Tuesday to invest $40 million in federal and general funds toward replacing eight existing Cherokee Nation Head Start centers with new facilities and upgrade others within the tribe’s reservation. [Tulsa World]

OKANA resort to continue OKC, Chickasaw partnership along Oklahoma River: Oklahoma City, already partnered with the Chickasaw Nation in finishing and opening the First Americans Museum, is also tying in upcoming improvements to the Oklahoma River with the upcoming $300 million OKANA development. [The Oklahoman]

New Native American genealogy center planned for First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City: Dr. Charles Knife Chief remembers searching for information about his Native American ancestry. The medical doctor from Tahlequah said he hit a roadblock in his search because many Native Americans were displaced from their original lands and sent to what is now Oklahoma. Also, Knife Chief said so much of Native American history is often passed down through oral history and genealogy documentation is not always available. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

OK state representative says criminal justice reform needs more than SQ780 gives: A Southeastern Oklahoma state representative announced he wants to amend state question 780 in order to improve criminal justice reform. The measure was passed five years ago. The hope was that by making crimes like drug possession and low-level property crimes misdemeanors, prison populations would decrease. [KXII]

Oklahoma AG accuses two parole board members of bias, wants them off Julius Jones’ clemency hearing: Oklahoma’s new attorney general wants the chairman and another member of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board banned from two upcoming clemency hearings on bias grounds. Attorney General John O’Connor is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to order the two to disqualify themselves. [The Oklahoman] O’Connor, who also raised issues of financial motivations that he alleges make Doyle and Luck unable to be impartial, filed with the court the same day it ruled 7-0 to reject Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater’s request for the same disqualification of Doyle and Luck in the Jones clemency hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Murder trial: Mother of slain man uncertain during cross-examination: A Creek County murder trial in which the defendant claims he killed his step-daughter’s boyfriend in self defense began Tuesday. The first witness to take the stand Wednesday — the mother of the deceased — deviated from her testimony at a preliminary hearing, where she had claimed the defendant fired several shots at her son, before approaching and shooting him a final time. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

Childcare subsidy available to job seekers through CARES act funds: Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) announced that beginning in October, parents and guardians of youth in the state who have experienced a job loss of any kind and are looking to return to work will be eligible for three months of fully subsidized child care while they search for a job. This is an expansion of the program which previously only benefitted those who lost their employment due to COVID and was limited to 60 days. Interested individuals may apply at [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Economy & Business News

Bama Companies’ CEO touts importance of meeting employee needs in talk to Rotarians: Paula Marshall, chief executive officer of Tulsa-based Bama Companies, has the ideal bandage for the hemorrhaging U.S. labor market. Employee care. “What we try to do for all our team members is provide a net,” said Chapman, featured speaker Wednesday at a downtown Rotary Club of Tulsa meeting. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Need for cyber analysts continues to swell: An education in cybersecurity equals job security. “Cyber is going to be intertwined with almost all jobs in the future,” said Rick Wilson, professor and head of the Department of Management Science and Information Systems at Oklahoma State University. [The Journal Record]

How OSU researchers help keep Oklahoma’s bridges up to code: When construction faults were discovered in the I-235 bridge in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) needed a team of experts to help with repairs. They contacted researchers at Oklahoma State University to monitor the restoration. [KOSU]

General News

‘Resiliency in numbers’: Oklahoma’s Black towns withstand pandemic, racism: For his whole life, Lawton Mayor Michael Boyles has lived in Langston, one of 13 historically all-Black towns in Oklahoma, all of them rural. In the early 20th century, there were more than 50 of them, making Oklahoma home to the most all-Black towns in the U.S. The surviving Black towns include Langston, Boley, Brooksville, Clearview, Grayson, Lima, Red Bird, Rentiesville, Summit, Taft, Tatums, Tullahassee and Vernon. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa City Council OK’s Afghan refugee welcome resolution [Tulsa World]
  • Norman Ward 5 redistricting proposal faces opposition, gerrymandering accusations from residents, councilmembers [OU Daily]

Quote of the Day

“Cherokees have long known that the first years of any child’s life should be spent in a nurturing and enriching environment to help build the best possible foundation for their lives. Our collective future is being written today by the investments we are making in our youngest children.”

— Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr on investing in children [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


An estimated 82,000 Oklahoma children (about 1 in 10 children) live in extreme poverty, which is considered 50 percent of the federal poverty level.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

Policy Note

The new child tax credit does more than just cut poverty: With COVID-19’s disruptions in employment, child care, and education, it is unsurprising that child poverty substantially increased in 2020—roughly 1.2 million more children were living in poverty in 2020 when compared to 2019 (an increase from 15.7% to 17.5%). As child poverty is unequally distributed in America, so too were its increases—poverty rates grew the most among Latino children (4.2 percentage points), Black children (2.8 percentage points), and children from female-headed families (4.1 percentage points), while they remained flat for white and Asian children. [Brookings]

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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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