In The Know: Report outlines state’s infrastructure needs | Limiting storm-related utility bill increases | Tribes bringing vaccines to underserved areas

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

Oklahoma’s infrastructure needs include roads, bridges, broadband, according to White House report: Oklahoma’s infrastructure needs are outlined in a dozen areas in a state-by-state breakdown of President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan to improve them. Among areas outlined in the breakdown: In Oklahoma there are 2,326 bridges and over 1,004 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.7% in Oklahoma and on average, each driver pays $394 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. From 2010 to 2020, Oklahoma has experienced 46 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $20 billion. [Tulsa World] [The Oklahoman]

How Oklahoma’s securitization plan intends to limit storm-related utility bills: State officials announced two pieces of legislation this afternoon to authorize utilities, municipal power authorities, hospitals, school districts and other entities to securitize their gas-bill debts related to the historic February winter storm. [NonDoc] Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow) said the measures will set up a process for utility companies to package and sell off their debt from spiking natural gas costs, limiting how much of the impact can be passed along to consumers. [Public Radio Tulsa] The legislation would only permit the issuance of bonds to pay for the costs from February’s storm. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Tribal mobile health units take COVID-19 vaccinations to underserved rural areas: Some wild onion dinners and other tribal gatherings are transforming into COVID-19 vaccination sites this season with the help of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health. Two recently purchased mobile health units dubbed “Little Caretaker on the Go” and “Medicine Runner” will deliver COVID-19 vaccines to people in rural communities that historically lack access to medical services, the department announced last week. [Tulsa World] The two vans are named hvlesletkv and vfvstuce arv, which translate from Muscogee to English as “Medicine Runner” and “Little Caretaker on the Go,” respectively. [Public Radio Tulsa]

U.S. COVID cases march higher, hospitalizations up for second week in a row: The United States reported an 8% rise in new cases of COVID-19 to 490,000 last week, the fourth week in a row that infections have increased, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county data. Deaths from COVID-19, which tend to lag infections by several weeks, fell 7% to 5,325 last week, excluding a backlog of deaths reported by Oklahoma, according to the Reuters analysis. Last week, Oklahoma reported 1,716 new deaths that occurred between August and February that had gone unreported due to an error by a laboratory. Including that backlog, deaths rose 21%. [Reuters]

Health News

Column: Managing Medicaid Expansion: Last June, Oklahoma voters passed a state question that expanded Medicaid in the state to more low-income adults beginning this July 1. Anticipating this, the state Legislature last session passed a measure known as SoonerCare 2.0 that would have required the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to oversee the expansion. State budget leaders estimated this would cost about $164 million this year. The governor, however, vetoed that bill and instead directed the Health Care Authority Board to adopt a privatized managed care plan, contracting with four major private health insurers. [Rep. Marcus McEntire / The Duncan Banner]

State Government News

As anti-trans bills advance, NCAA says championship environments must be ‘free of discrimination’: The NCAA Board of Governors issued a statement Monday in support of transgender student-athletes with more than two dozen states considering legislation to restrict their participation. Last week, Oklahoma House Republicans revived a bill dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” Senate Bill 2 would require school and intercollegiate athletics teams in the state be based on biological sex, banning transgender athletes from competing on women’s teams. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Anti-Islam former state Rep. John Bennett to head Oklahoma Republican Party: The Oklahoma Republican Party’s choice of former state Rep. John Bennett as its chairman last weekend did not go unnoticed by the men Bennett once denounced as terrorists or by others who’ve been smacked between the eyes by Bennett’s blunt language and unbending adherence to the world as he believes it should be. [Tulsa World] The state chapter of a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group and the Oklahoma Democratic Party strongly disapprove of the Oklahoma Republican Party’s new leader. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

FEMA to provide reimbursement assistance for funerals of COVID-19 dead: The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday opened applications for financial assistance for funeral costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Snake River in U.S. Pacific Northwest named most endangered by environmental group: The Snake River, crucial habitat for salmon and relied on by native people in the Pacific Northwest, is the most endangered river in the United States, according to an annual ranking released on Tuesday by the American Rivers environmental group. Tar Creek in Oklahoma was also highlighted in the group’s report. [Reuters]

Criminal Justice News

Opinion: Smart criminal justice reform must continue: Over the past few years, Oklahoma has made progress on smart criminal justice reform. But Oklahoma has had one of the highest imprisonment rates in the country for nearly three decades. Our state can’t afford to roll back reforms that have had a positive impact on families, communities and the state budget – especially when reforms are supported by Oklahoma voters. [Jan Largent / The Journal Record]

Pardon and Parole Board trying out SharePoint for application files: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is turning to online collaboration tool SharePoint to improve its processing of stage one commutation applications. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economic Opportunity

East OKC residents out of options in long fight to curb recycling plant explosions: Several times a week for approximately the past decade, northeast Oklahoma City’s John F. Kennedy neighborhood has been shaken by loud booms and shock waves emanating from the nearby Derichebourg Recycling plant. The noise is highly disruptive, and some residents say it has even caused structural damage to their homes. [NonDoc]

Economy & Business News

Enid is looking to become more ‘film-friendly’ awaiting boosts from the state: Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor said he’s eager to help Enid get “off to the races” so the area can land a starring role in the story of the state’s growing film and TV industry. [Enid News & Eagle]

Wind companies invest heavily in Northwest Oklahoma businesses and communities: On March 24, 2021, Chicago-based Invenergy announced it had finalized a construction loan that would allow it to complete the Traverse Wind Energy Center, a 999-megawatt energy facility located in Custer, Blaine and Kingfisher counties. [Enid News & Eagle]

Education News

‘Please help us’: Oklahoma City schools face urgent complaints, one district on probation: Conditions have become dire in a southwest Oklahoma City school district and a local charter school, putting the status of both in danger. Western Heights Public Schools has been placed on probation, one step away from potentially dissolving the school district. State education officials raised concerns of significant losses in enrollment and staffing at Western Heights, a failure to provide in-person education this school year and wrongful use of bond funds. Sovereign Community School, an indigenous-focused charter school in Oklahoma City, avoided complete closure on Friday. Sovereign has been on probation for months because of financial disarray. [The Oklahoman]

  • Investigative audit called for Santa Fe South Charter Schools [The Oklahoman] | [Free Press OKC]
  • OKCPS Board of Ed installs new members, elects officers [Free Press OKC]
  • Lawsuit against Stillwater Public Schools dismissed after district welcomed students back to class [KGOU]
  • Tulsa Public Schools’ enrollment climbing following restart, district says [Tulsa World]

The story behind the high school basketball team that took a knee in Oklahoma: It started in the most ordinary of ways. As they waited for their game to begin on Jan. 15, two teenage basketball players, Norman High School’s Chantae Embry and Myka Perry, were chilling in the stands as the junior varsity played. “We were about to play Moore High School and we were in their gym and me and Myka Perry were just having a conversation,” Embry, a senior, said. “It just came up in the conversation.” By “it,” she means the suggestion that Norman – the top-ranked team in Oklahoma, with half a dozen Division I recruits – start kneeling before every game to protest police brutality, racial inequality and social injustice. [The Undefeated]

General News

First Black mayor of former sundown town: “You don’t run from your past”: Darrel Davis can’t get his phone to stop ringing after Edmond, Oklahoma residents elected him the first Black mayor of a community that once banned Black people from living there. In the former sundown town, only 5 percent of the roughly 81,000 residents identify as African American. Nevertheless, voters overwhelmingly chose longtime city councilman Darrel Davis to lead the city into the future. [The Black Wall Street Times]

City selects award-winning architecture firm Moody Nolan/JCJ Architecture for Greenwood Cultural Center renovation project: After a recommendation from the Greenwood Cultural Center Board, Mayor G.T. Bynum selected the Moody Nolan / JCJ Architecture team to lead the Greenwood Cultural Center’s renovation project. [The Oklahoma Eagle] Moody Nolan is the largest African American-owned architecture firm in the country. JCJ Architecture will be the local architect of record, according to the city. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahomans are not overtaxed. They’re underserved by their state government, which is the largest single impediment to economic growth.”

-Tulsa World Editorial [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of states, which includes Oklahoma, where the state Earned Income Tax credit is non-refundable.

[Source: Urban Institute]

Policy Note

Policy Basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit: In 2018, the EITC lifted about 5.6 million people out of poverty, including about 3 million children. The number of poor children would have been more than one-quarter higher without the EITC. The credit reduced the severity of poverty for another 16.5 million people, including 6.1 million children. In combination with the Child Tax Credit, the EITC lifts even more families with children out of poverty. The EITC reduces poverty by supplementing the earnings of low-wage workers and by rewarding work. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.