In The Know: Republican lawmakers speak out against managed care | Vaccine to be shipped this month | Oklahoma virus deaths pass 2,000

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

Three key Senate committee chairs named (Capitol Update): Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat announced the appointment of Senate committee membership and chairs for the upcoming session. There were three key vacant committee chairmanships for committees with jurisdiction over policies that effect every Oklahoman. [Steve Lewis / Captiol Update]

Oklahoma News

Republican lawmakers ask Gov. Kevin Stitt to reconsider privatizing Medicaid: More than two dozen Republican lawmakers signed a letter asking Gov. Kevin Stitt to back off his plans to privatize the administration of the state’s Medicaid program, one of them said Friday. Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, said health care providers in his southeastern Oklahoma district are adamantly opposed to converting the current state-managed program to a private system. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma surpass 2,000 after increases in cases, hospitalizations: Oklahoma’s reported death toll from COVID-19 passed a grim benchmark on Friday, and health officials warn the worst may yet to come as cases continue to rise and hospitalizations remain at elevated levels. Reported deaths in December have already exceeded monthly totals from March to September. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Inside a COVID ICU in Oklahoma City: ‘Our hospitals are begging for help’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Sunday — Oklahoma reports 4,332 new coronavirus cases, 22 more deaths [AP News] | [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa County ZIP codes at ‘extreme severe risk’ of COVID-19 spread double from last week [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Mayor asks city’s boards, authorities and commissions delay meeting in person [Tulsa World]
  • ‘They’re not listening to us’: Advocacy groups protest treatment of Oklahoma prisoners [KOSU]

Enough vaccine doses for first priority group expected to be shipped to Oklahoma this month: Oklahoma health officials expect to receive enough shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine this month to cover health care workers providing direct inpatient coronavirus care, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and paramedics, a population of about 160,000 that make up the state’s first priority group. [The Frontier] The first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are expected as soon in Oklahoma during the coming week, perhaps by Wednesday, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said following emergency approval of the vaccine by the Federal Drug Administration on Friday. [AP News]

    • Additional priority group to get COVID-19 vaccines through Phase Two in Oklahoma [Tulsa World] | [AP News
    • State to receive more vaccine than expected [The Journal Record]
    • Long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine called turning point in state’s fight against deadly virus [Tulsa World]
    • Watch: State Department of Health to announce updates to vaccine priority groups [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19 voting precautions expire with new year: Voters who choose to vote by mail in the Feb. 9 elections will now have to have their signature notarized, as a copy of a photo ID is no longer deemed valid for voter verification. As 2020 comes to an end, so has the emergency order declared by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, the order allowed voters who decided to vote by mail in the June primary, August runoffs and the November general elections to attach a copy of their photo ID instead of having to have physical contact with someone in order to get their signature notarized. [Norman Transcript]

Health News

Changes in contact tracing reflect less manpower: Contact tracing still is being done by health care professionals tracking COVID-19, but the format has changed, local officials say. Brandie Combs, regional director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Region 5, said during last week’s virtual town hall meeting that while the concept has not changed, the actual practice now comes down to manpower — or a lack of manpower versus patient numbers. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma tribes preparing for vaccine distribution: Two of Oklahoma’s largest tribes are preparing to distribute their first round of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine beginning this week with other large tribes close behind. The Cherokee and Chickasaw nations both said they plan to begin vaccinations as soon as this week, close to the same schedule being followed across the state, which is planning to begin vaccinations using 33,000 doses it is expecting. [NonDoc]

  • Cherokee Nation to distribute COVID-19 vaccine to tribal members next week [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma flu cases low as more people wear masks during pandemic: The flu virus isn’t very active in Oklahoma so far this year, and that may be partly because people are wearing masks and social distancing for the COVID-19 pandemic, state health officials say. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Oklahoma on pace to break Affordable Care Act enrollment record: More Oklahomans than ever might sign up for a health care plan on the Affordable Care Act exchange for the upcoming year. Federal data released Wednesday shows Oklahoma is on pace to topple the record the state set last year when almost 160,000 signed up for plans that took effect for this year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Judge tosses lawsuit filed against operators of a controversial Jay work-camp recovery program: A judge has tossed a lawsuit that challenged a controversial Christian-based, work-camp recovery program that critics claimed enslaved participants, though proponents said was an effective rehabilitation center. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

State’s first public transit plan delivered to Legislature: The wheels are in motion on improved public transit in Oklahoma after more than one year of coordination by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Transit Association, along with transit agencies statewide to develop the state’s first transit plan. During a special ceremony on Thursday, the completed Oklahoma Public Transit Policy Plan was delivered by ODOT and OTA to legislative leaders from the Oklahoma Senate and the Oklahoma House of Representatives on the steps of the state Capitol. [The Journal Record]

Legislators back away from ‘governor as CEO’: Legislative leaders are ready to dispel the notion of the governor as CEO of the business that is the state of Oklahoma – though they are approaching the upcoming legislative session with business issues at the top of their agenda. [The Journal Record]

Former senator’s comeback bid challenged: Still recovering after a hospital stay for COVID-19, Rob Johnson is making a comeback bid for the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Rep.-elect Stephanie Bice. The problem is — according to one opponent — he no longer lives in Senate District 22. [The Oklahoman]

Odds for legalized sports betting in Oklahoma are iffy, for now: Legalized sports betting in Oklahoma could again be on the table amid COVID-19 cash-strapped state budgets and a growing number of states approving it. But the odds are iffy, at least for now. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma state parks improvements ongoing as visitors grow during pandemic: Oklahoma’s state parks have seen a record number of visitors during the pandemic. Visits to the state’s nearly three dozen parks grew by 2.5 million in the last fiscal year. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma hunting, fishing compacts extended with Cherokee and Choctaw nations: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday signed a one-year extension on the state’s hunting and fishing compact with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma that was set to expire on Dec. 31. On Tuesday, the governor’s office also extended a similar hunting and fishing compact with the Choctaw Nation for one year. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Rep. Cole: ‘We’re pretty vlose to one another’ on new virus relief bill: Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole believes Congress could settle on a new coronavirus relief bill late this week. Cole, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a weekly, online video update lawmakers seem to be in agreement about everything except whether funding should go toward renewing enhanced unemployment benefits above what states offer or another round of stimulus payments to all Americans. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Senate sends Jim Inhofe’s defense bill to Trump with another veto-proof margin: The U.S. Senate passed the $740 billion defense bill by an overwhelming margin on Friday, daring President Donald Trump to follow through on his threat to veto the measure over his complaint that it doesn’t repeal a law related to social media. [The Oklahoman]

  • 5 Oklahoma things about the $740 billion defense bill [The Oklahoman]

Judge throws out CARES Act lawsuit against Oklahoma County commissioners: A federal judge has thrown out a legal challenge to how Oklahoma County commissioners voted to spend CARES Act funding. Two activists and a restaurant owner were seeking a judicial ruling that giving the relief money to the Oklahoma County Jail Trust was improper. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Protest follows police killing of Oklahoma City man: Oklahoma City Police responding to a disturbance call killed a man Friday. He has been identified by family members as Bennie Edwards – a black man who struggled with a mental health diagnosis. Edwards’ family members said he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • Protesters against deadly OKC police shootings call out Mayor Holt, clash with Trump supporters [The Oklahoman]
  • Bennie Edwards latest victim of police violence [Black Wall Street Times]
  • “He died scared” says niece of man shot and killed by OKC police [OKC Free Press]
  • Black man shot and killed by police in north Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]

With executions set to resume, attention returns to death penalty case of Julius Jones: Jones’ supporters are trying to save him from death row, attempts the Oklahoma Attorney General believes are sincere but misguided. [The Frontier]

  • The case for/against commuting Julius Jones’ sentence [The Frontier]

Police union not connected to dark money campaign used in city council races, Tulsa FOP leader says: Tulsa’s Fraternal Order of Police had nothing to do with a dark money campaign that produced ads that distorted and misrepresented the positions of two Tulsa City Council candidates the union opposed, the organization’s leader said. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Council to Consider Right to Counsel Resolution for Tulsans Facing Eviction: Tulsa city councilors will consider a resolution this week supporting a right to counsel for people facing eviction. The resolution also encourages tenants, landlords, mediators and courts to find solutions that will allow time to get rent paid, including through assistance programs. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Amid COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment, who can be evicted?: Amid the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus is also the battle of unemployment due to the pandemic. Many are worried about their ability to pay rent. “March going into April, that’s when the federal government brought about a moratorium on stopping those evictions,” said Mark Myers, with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. [KOCO]

Law professor says OKC’s appeal of panhandling ordinance ruling is futile: An attorney who challenged a panhandling ordinance says the Oklahoma City Council’s attempt to revive the measure before the U.S. Supreme Court is destined to fail and will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars on top of the hundreds of thousands already spent. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oil and gas regulation in Indian Country? Oklahoma’s Supreme Court will weigh in: Should tribes get to regulate oil and gas activities inside Indian Country? Oklahoma’s Supreme Court will weigh in. The court issued an order this week stating it will review an earlier decision made by a majority of Oklahoma’s elected Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners concluding state regulators retain authority to oversee energy industry activities inside parts of Oklahoma within historical boundaries of the state’s Five Civilized Tribes. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

OKCPS bringing vital resources directly to students’ front door: Oklahoma City Public Schools is using buses to meet the needs of students across the district. The new program is called “Routes to Resources” and brings support directly to students in need. Students also have access to books, hygiene kits, backpacks, coats and other essential items. [KFOR]

  • The week in coveducation: Board of Education appointee backs out, Epic updates [NonDoc]

Bixby, Jenks update school calendars to guard against post-holiday COVID surge: Two Tulsa-area school districts made changes to their January school calendars to avoid a potential post-holiday rise in COVID-19 cases. Jenks and Bixby public schools pushed back returns to in-person classes but in different ways. [Tulsa World]

  • Instead of state suggestion, EPS would use new COVID-19 criteria [Enid News & Eagle]

General News

Native Oklahoma woman’s prom dress on exhibit in Smithsonian: For her prom, Cornell, who is from Oklahoma City and a member of the Choctaw Nation, chose a custom-made dress by Crow designer Della Bighair-Stump of Hardin, Montana. The purpose was to bring attention to the peril faced by Indigenous women. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Big differences in ideas about south side revealed in OKC Ward 4 race [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“Quality goes down, prices go up and local options will become fewer.”

-Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, describing how health care professionals describe managed care [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma, as of Dec. 14, 2020

[Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hispanic People are Facing Widening Gaps in Health Coverage: New analysis shows that, in 2019, the number of uninsured continued to increase for the third year in a row, rising to 28.9 million people. Much of the coverage loss between 2018 and 2019 was among Hispanic people, who already were at increased risk of being uninsured. These losses erode earlier coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that had narrowed longstanding disparities in health coverage. Since 2019, coverage losses have likely continued due to the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken a disproportionate toll on Hispanic people and other people of color. Together these data point to significant increased barriers to health care for Hispanic people, including children, that will likely lead to widening health disparities looking forward. [KFF]

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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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