In The Know: Senate leaders split on revenue reduction proposal | Prisons begin vaccinations | How to vaccinate the skeptical?

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

Senate party leaders split on House’s $500M tax reduction proposal: The Oklahoma Senate has not yet started its budget work in earnest, but it has received a $500 million income tax reduction package from the House to consider. That includes nearly $200 million in personal income tax reductions through credits equivalent to a 0.25% rate reduction and a five-year phasing out of the corporate income tax, which currently accounts for more than $300 million a year in state revenue. Senate President Pro Team Greg Treat said the chamber will take a careful look at the proposals. [Public Radio Tulsa] OK Policy: Oklahomans who are invested in our state’s success should be alarmed by this short-sighted attempt to cut revenue. If signed into law, these tax cuts will inevitably lead to a dangerous loss of service and supports for low-income families still reeling from the pandemic’s impact. 

Incarcerated Oklahomans begin receiving vaccine, but advocates question priority structure: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections says COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to arrive at the state’s prisons, but some advocates for the incarcerated say the state’s rollout for that population is lacking. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Free vaccine shuttle for area seniors funded by $110K from federal government [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma City mayor publicly receives COVID-19 vaccine [AP News]
  • Osage Nation opens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to anyone 18 or older [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: Oklahoma averages 519 new cases daily; CDC records more than 7,500 total deaths [Tulsa World]
  • CDC: COVID-19 has now killed more than 7,500 Oklahomans [Public Radio Tulsa]

Plenty of vaccines, but not enough arms: A warning sign in Cherokee Nation: As people across the United States jockey and wait to get vaccinated, a surprising problem is unfolding in the Cherokee Nation: plenty of shots, but not enough arms. It is a side effect of early success, tribal health officials said. With many enthusiastic patients inoculated and new coronavirus infections at an ebb, the urgency for vaccines has gone distressingly quiet. [New York Times]

‘It felt like a punch to the gut’; Diabetes community responds to broadcaster’s excuse for racist comments: Matt Rowan’s use of a racist slur on a high school basketball broadcast last week drew scorn from across the county. His excuse — that it was caused by an episode of high blood sugar due to his Type 1 diabetes — only brought more contempt, this time from the diabetic community. [The Frontier]

  • ‘Exactly why we decided to kneel’: Norman girls basketball team says announcer ‘should be held accountable’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Undeterred by racist slur, Norman High girls basketball team wins state title in undefeated fashion [KOSU] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • WNBA congratulates Norman High School girls’ on championship season. [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • The announcer who blamed his racism on diabetes? That’s the Oklahoma I grew up in [The Guardian / The Oklahoma Eagle

State Government News

Conflict simmers over health department posts: The latest version of a bill to insert the Oklahoma commissioner of health into the operations of the state’s two largest county health departments is better than it was when originally filed, but is still a solution in search of a problem, Oklahoma City leaders said Monday. [The Journal Record]

  • County Commissioners united against bill giving Governor more power over Tulsa Health Department [Pubic Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma bills in favor of less transparency brought on by last year’s protests: Oklahoma media professionals and experts say last year’s protests brought on bills currently making their way through the state Legislature, and many of these bills would result in less public transparency. According to the news organization The Frontier, at least 35 pieces of legislation were filed by lawmakers in response to protests last year. [Enid News & Eagle]

State Senate, House hear no bills related to Epic Charter Schools audit findings: The State Auditor and Inspector’s report on Epic Charter Schools last fall included a host of recommendations for policymakers to consider to increase transparency and accountability for the use of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars every year. So why have leaders in the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives not heard any legislation related to the forensic audit findings? [Tulsa World]

Juvenile records expungement bill passes House, on way to Senate: A bipartisan House bill that would amend the process for juvenile record expungements passed out of the House of Representatives on Monday, March 8th with a vote of 86 to 9. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma House asks NRA to relocate to state: The Oklahoma House of Representatives met just long enough Monday to invite the National Rifle Association — described in a resolution adopted Monday as “the oldest civil rights organization in the nation” — to move to Oklahoma. The nonbinding resolution passed by unanimous consent, meaning there was no recorded vote. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House passes bill that would limit number of medical marijuana businesses: Oklahoma’s medical marijuana market stands out in the nation’s cannabis industry due to its low barrier of entry for businesses, but the Oklahoma House passed a bill recently that would make it more difficult to enter the industry. [KGOU]

Environmental group sues Oklahoma Department of Agriculture over poultry facility oversight: The Spring Creek Coalition is suing the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, arguing that there has been a lack of environmental oversight over poultry facilities moving into the area. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Senate formally objects to federal voting and elections bill: The Oklahoma Senate passed a resolution on Monday objecting to federal legislation on elections, voting and ethics. H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, could greatly expand voting access in some states, including Oklahoma. The bill includes requirements for states to set up automatic voter registration, offer same-day registration and hold two weeks of early voting. [Public Radio Tulsa]

When do stimulus checks arrive for Oklahomans?: Oklahomans should expect a third round of stimulus checks to hit their bank accounts soon, if they are eligible. In general, most people earning less than $75,000 per year will get $1,400 for themselves and $1,400 for each qualifying dependent claimed on their tax return. [The Oklahoman]

As state’s criminal jurisdiction narrows on reservations, leaders look to Congress: As eastern Oklahoma’s transformation to Indian reservations took a leap forward last week, some state and tribal leaders renewed their call for Congress to allow them to forge agreements for prosecuting criminal cases. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said recent discussions with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation “give me optimism and confidence that they’re going to move as quickly as this situation requires” to introduce legislation. [The Oklahoman]

  • Monumental court rulings in Oklahoma affirm tribal sovereignty [KOSU]

‘Monumental day’: Indian Country reacts to Deb Haaland vote: Citizens of tribes across the U.S. cried and clapped in celebration Monday as Deb Haaland became the first Native American confirmed as secretary of a Cabinet agency. The U.S. Senate voted 51-40 in favor of the Democrat’s nomination to lead the Interior Department, which has broad oversight of tribal affairs and energy development. [AP News]

Criminal Justice News

Gov. Stitt appoints Scott Williams to Pardon and Parole Board: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday he tapped Scott Williams to fill the vacant seat on the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Williams, of Edmond, will fill the vacancy left by the late Robert Gilliland. Williams has served on several boards, including the Office of Juvenile Affairs, State Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice, Salt and Light Leadership Training and the OKC Black Justice Fund’s evaluation committee. [Tulsa World]

Judge dismisses federal lawsuit challenging court fine-, fee-collection system: State courts are controlled by the legislative and executive branches, which is where a challenge to the Oklahoma justice system’s court fine- and fee-collection system belongs, according to a federal judge’s opinion in dismissing a civil rights lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Terence Kern, in an opinion issued Friday, ruled that federal court was not the correct venue for the civil lawsuit filed in 2017 on behalf of indigent individuals jailed after failing to pay court fines and costs. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Oklahoma should release low-risk, ill inmates to make room to hold dangerous prisoners longer: Desperately sick prison inmates serving lengthy sentences are a draining expense on the state, a security risk in the facilities where they are housed and, often, very little danger to society. Recently, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 320, a smart-on-crime measure that securely expands the state’s medical parole process without great risk to public safety. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Enid police chief says proposed demographic data collection would be ‘labor-intensive,’ ‘intrusive’: Enid’s police chief said he doesn’t support an attempted ordinance change from city commissioners that would require officers to collect and keep track of demographic data such as race/ethnicity during all “significant” interactions. [Enid News & Eagle]

Her 15-year-old son was fatally shot by OKC police. Now Stavian Rodriguez’s mother speaks out: ‘He was complying’: In moments between confusion over why her 15-year-old boy was armed with a gun inside a south Oklahoma City store and anger toward the police officers who shot him to death, Cameo Holland, otherwise stoic as she speaks, breaks down in tears when she remembers the color of her dead son’s eyes. [The Oklahoman]

OHP pursuit that left two uninvolved motorists dead included quarter-mile stretch with eluder in wrong lanes: The stolen vehicle pursuit that recently led to the deaths of an uninvolved woman and her daughter in east Tulsa had at least one stretch in which the eluder drove on the wrong side of a street and state troopers apparently continued the chase. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Eviction moratorium ending soon: Resources to help you: The nation is facing an eviction crisis and Oklahoma is no exception. Community Cares Partners is a local organization here to help if you are on the verge of being evicted. That moratorium ends March 31 as nearly 30,000 evictions are filed in the state. That means thousands of Oklahoma families are on the verge of homelessness. And while many have not been evicted yet, their rent is still racking up. [News9]

  • City of Tulsa launches program to identify and reward landlords following best practices [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa launches $19.6 million effort to help residents pay overdue rent and utility bills [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]

OKC Council to weigh $2.6 million in relief funds: The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on the distribution of nearly $2.6 million in additional federal relief funds to organizations providing homeless services. The funding is for homeless prevention, rapid rehousing, emergency shelter and street outreach activities. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Organization’s survey reveals COVID-19 impact on local, national construction sector: A year following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, construction companies have seen a jump in the cost of materials, problems with the supply chain and lingering project deferrals and cancellations, according to a released last week by the Associated General Contractors of America. [Tulsa World]

Education News

‘I believe in all of them’: Jessica Eschbach shows kids their potential: Jessica Eschbach, an innovative-learning coach for Norman Public Schools, was named the 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year during a virtual ceremony on March 4, after being selected from a pool of 12 finalists from all over the state. [NonDoc]

Tulsa City councilor plans to provide seed money for local schools endowment: City government has no authority over Tulsa Public Schools operations, but since being elected to office last year, District 9 Councilor Jayme Fowler has spoken passionately about the need to ensure that all Tulsans have access to a quality education. [Tulsa World]

Health News

What you don’t know and should about nursing home care: After a year of COVID-19 restrictions, Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities are beginning to reopen to visitors. It could still be weeks or months before families are reunited. [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

Drillers bring attention to Tulsa Race Massacre centennial with home-uniform patch in May: During May, the Tulsa Drillers’ home uniforms will have a special patch to raise awareness about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC gives residents a break on water bills [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma County Jail Trust formally establishes Action Committee, hears reports [Free Press OKC]
  • Oklahoma County Commissioners reject donations, vote to oppose state legislation [Free Press OKC]
  • Airline travel demand growing locally and nationally [Tulsa World]
  • Route 66 getting new signs in Tulsa, state [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We have a governor that’s talking about discontinuing a revenue stream, with income tax. It’s just like, well, why would we even consider doing that when we don’t have enough money as it is and we’re still reeling from COVID? We still have a lot of bills to pay. We’ve still got Medicaid expansion to put forth.”

-Sen. Kay Floyd, D-OKC, speaking about revenue reduction proposals that would cut $540 million from the state budget [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day

$3 billion

Oklahoma has about $3 billion less annual state revenue — about 25% less — for public programs and services than it did in 2001, when adjusted for inflation and population growth.

[Source: OK Policy Analysis of State Budget]

Policy Note

Does Lowering the Corporate Tax Rate Spur Economic Growth? Analysis suggests that the largest beneficiaries from a tax cut would be the owners of firms (40%), with landowners and workers splitting the remaining 60% of the economic gains. This implies that cuts to corporate taxes are likely to increase inequality. Financing improvements in education and infrastructure might do more to attract businesses than corporate tax cuts. [Microeconomic Insights]

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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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