In The Know: Some local virus-related restrictions reinstated | State unemployment numbers | Next steps for Medicaid expansion

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

Capitol Update: An early look at requested interim studies in the House:  Typical of an election year, there were only 88 interim study requests in the House of Representatives this year compared with 146 last year. The Senate has not published its interim study requests. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma reports 283 more COVID-19 cases, no new deaths: The Oklahoma State Department of Health said that the additional cases bring the state’s total to 15,928. The actual number of cases is believed to be far higher, but many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms. [AP News] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma. 

  • As cases climb, Oklahoma mayors reinstate local restrictions to curb coronavirus spread [The Frontier]
  • Tulsa mayor imposes ‘minimally invasive’ restrictions as COVID-19 grows at ‘unacceptable’ rate, with ‘great potential’ to overwhelm health systems [Tulsa World]
  • Contact tracers ‘inundated’ as virus spikes locally, with possible influx from rally evident this week [Tulsa World]
  • Questions over funding delay implementation of Tulsa County COVID-19 prevention plan [Tulsa World]
  • Houses of worship continue pandemic precautions [The Oklahoman]
  • Langston University suspends athletics for fall semester due to coronavirus pandemic [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman reports record-high increase in COVID-19 case numbers [Norman Transcript]
  • Choctaw Nation: Masks required on all properties [McAlester News Capital]
  • Editorial: Your right to go without a mask ends at the point we’re sharing the same air [Tulsa World Editorial]

New unemployment claims fall to lowest level in months, as COVID-19 cases continue to tick upward: The number of weekly first-time unemployment claims filed in Oklahoma fell last week to its lowest level since early March, prior to the state seeing record spikes in unemployment claims brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor. [The Frontier]

  • Thousands of unemployment fraud victims in limbo, but state hosting events in Tulsa, OKC metros to clear log jam [Tulsa World]
  • OESC convention center event draws 1,000+ jobless seeking relief [OKC Free Press]
  • Listen Frontier: Unemployed and waiting in line (audio) [Podcast / The Frontier]

With Medicaid expansion approved, what happens next?: Oklahoma voters on Tuesday approved a state question to expand Medicaid, but legislators won’t decide until next year how to pay for the expansion. State Question 802 requires the state to expand Medicaid by July 1, 2021 — the start of the next fiscal year. [The Oklahoman]

  • Medicaid expansion will begin no later than July 1, 2021, a year from now. It will bring health care to somewhere around 200,000 working-poor Oklahomans and will help alleviate the nation’s second-worst rate of uninsured citizens. Over the course of a generation, that should result in healthier, more prosperous Oklahomans and a more financially stable health care system. [Wayne Greene Opinion Column / Tulsa World]
  • A majority of Oklahoma voters ignored the tactics of fear and division this week and took steps toward a healthier future by passing State Question 802, which will expand Medicaid coverage to 215,000 — maybe more — low-income adults. Voters accomplished what legislators refused to do. [Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Health News

Former Oklahoma commissioner of mental health to lead statewide nonprofit: Terri White, former commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health, will be the new CEO of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, the group announced Thursday. [The Oklahoman] White resigned from the state department in January and was plucked amid pandemic chaos by a national search firm MHAOK hired to find Brose’s successor. [Tulsa World] White will assume her new role at the end of August as the successor to longtime CEO Mike Brose, who announced his planned departure earlier this year leading to the commencement of the national search. [The Journal Record] Medicaid, COVID and mental health: Q&A with Terri White: [The Frontier]

Congressional investigators look into COVID-19 billing at two hospitals in Oklahoma: Two small hospitals in Oklahoma City and Tulsa are among 10 facilities being contacted by congressional investigators over the price of COVID-19 testing and reports of surprise medical bills. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Seeking casinos, United Keetoowah Band and Kialegee Tribal Town sign new gaming compacts: Two small Native American tribes that have clashed with larger tribes in pursuit of developing casinos have signed new gaming compacts with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. [NonDoc] Stitt described the compacts as promoting economic development, but the chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association immediately challenged their legality. [The Oklahoman] Signed Wednesday, each agreement is site-specific for an as yet unbuilt facility outside the tribes’ jurisdictional areas within a mile of a highway. [Tulsa World]

Former top public safety officials sue governor over terminations: Former Public Safety Commissioner Rusty Rhoades and two of his former top aides on Thursday sued Gov. Kevin Stitt. The suit alleges that Rhoades and his aides were fired after they discovered wrongdoing in how the Department of Public Safety handled civil asset forfeitures. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Man’s release after his children’s death prompts questions about case of mother, still jailed, whose toddlers drowned: Authorities in Tulsa continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of two children in their father’s locked truck after the man’s release from jail last month. But in a similar case, a woman charged after her children were swept into an east Tulsa creek and drowned remains jailed on $500,000 bond, which has brought scrutiny and questions of whether prosecutors are applying the law equally. [Tulsa World]

Protesters focus criticism on DA David Prater at OKC rally: Oklahoma County DA David Prater is now receiving open and persistent criticism by Black Lives Matter OKC – Oklahoma City and allies after some of its teen members were charged with inciting to riot. [OKC Free Press]

Terrorism defendant charged again: A protester was charged Thursday for a second time with terrorism based on statements he allegedly made on Facebook Live on May 30. He is accused in the second terrorism charge of involvement in the attempted burning of CJ’s Bail Bonds May 30 in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Union accuses Norman of violating statute by defunding police: Norman’s police union is alleging the city council broke the law when it voted last month to reduce the police department’s budget by $865,000 and reallocate the money. [The Oklahoman] Five officers either have resigned or put in for an earlier retirement since June 16 when the city council’s budget amendments left nine positions unfilled, Norman Police Department officials confirmed this week. [Norman Transcript] Four police officers facing layoffs will get to keep their jobs following the recent resignations of three officers and the retirement of two others, a Norman Police Department spokesman said Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

NAACP calls for resignation of parole board member: The Oklahoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is asking Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board member Allen McCall to resign following the revelation of emails he sent concerning death row commutation requests. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Highway Patrol faces imminent shortage of troopers: For Col. Brent Sugg of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the last few months have been “rough.” But for the chief of the state’s largest law enforcement agency, the next few years could be even rougher. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Annual count of OKC’s homeless population increases: More than 1,500 people were experiencing homelessness on the night of Oklahoma City’s annual count, according to a report released by the city and the Homeless Alliance. The community conducted its annual Point in Time Count of the homeless population Jan. 23, and 1,573 people were counted, up from 1,273 the year before. [The Journal Record

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma gross receipts show signs of economic resiliency, concern: In spite of a sharp downturn in oil and gas production tax collections, the Oklahoma economy displayed signs of resiliency in June, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said as he released the monthly Gross Receipts to the Treasury report. [The Journal Record] But the June collections continued showing how weak Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry has become in the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting low energy prices. [OK Energy Today]

Restaurants continue to adjust to public health demands: A tough week got tougher on Wednesday for local restaurants and bars when Mayor David Holt announced a “dimming” to the reopening schedule. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensaries forced to find new homes as 7-Eleven discontinues leases: Many Oklahoma cannabis dispensaries are being uprooted from their locations with little warning after Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. decided to not renew leases with any medical marijuana businesses. [NonDoc]

National rig numbers drop again while Oklahoma holds steady: Oklahoma maintained its rig count at 10 in the past while the nationwide oil and gas rig numbers dropped by two to reach 263. A year ago, Oklahoma had 97 active rigs. [OK Energy Today]

Chesapeake Energy transformation of OKC came with a price: The future for Chesapeake Energy may be uncertain, but the company’s impact on Oklahoma City, much of it shaped by founder Aubrey McClendon, is extensive. [The Oklahoman]

Drought expected to grow across Oklahoma: Oklahoma climatologist Gary McManus says this week’s scorching summer weather is an indication that not only will the high temperatures continue to grow, but so will the state’s drought. [OK Energy Today]

Opinion: Rich become richer, poor become poorer under pandemic economy: The June labor report announced a drop to 11.1 percent unemployment and the addition of 4.8 million jobs, and after four months of coronavirus closures, billionaires are nearly $600 billion richer than they were before the pandemic. Meanwhile, the middle class is getting decimated, and those job figures do not reflect our current reality. [Opinion / OKC Free Press]

Education News

TPS launches Tulsa Virtual Academy for families who don’t want their kids to go to school during pandemic: Tulsa Public Schools is launching a district-wide virtual option for families who don’t want to send their children to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic this fall. [Tulsa World]

Column: No one knows how to operate schools in a pandemic: Among all the professional development and higher education related to teaching and operating schools, no lessons exist on handling a pandemic. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

General News

Census door knockers starting in Oklahoma, five other states later this month: Homes in six states across the U.S. can expect to get knocks on their doors from census takers in two weeks as part of a soft launch of the next phase of the largest head count in U.S. history, Census Bureau officials said Wednesday. [AP / Tulsa World] Canadian County leads the way in Oklahoma census responses. Topping the list of all 77 counties statewide, Canadian County’s self-response rate to the 2020 U.S. Census stood at 67.5% on July 1. Of that total, 59.1% of responses had been made online. [Yukon Progress]

‘Abolitionist’ candidates largely unsuccessful in legislative races: At least eight self-proclaimed “abolitionists,” those who want to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and abolish abortion entirely, lost their legislative bids Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma primary results push Republicans and Democrats further apart: Those on high alert may have felt a slight shudder pass through state politics on Tuesday, something that may have been a tremor caused by Republicans and Democrats pulling in opposite directions. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: What is the Fourth of July to the Black American?: “Imagine being so deprived of your history and culture that you didn’t know about a major historical holiday until your early twenties. If you’re reading this and you are white, you literally can’t. The colonizers, slave owners and confederate leaders of your ancestry all have holidays and statues for their ‘works.'” [Opinion / The Frontier]

Op-Ed: A ‘monumental’ swing in public opinion on the future Confederate statues: What you think about removing Confederate statues has less to do with your opinions about race and more with how you perceive the motivation behind removing them in the first place. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Oklahomans show they can vote by mail, and the state should accommodate them: Oklahoma has a good election system, but we can make it better: Safer and open to broader participation. When the Oklahoma Legislature reconvenes, we think a top priority should be a thorough study of how we can improve our elections and at the top of that list should be expanding the opportunity for Oklahomans to vote securely by mail. [Tulsa World Editorial]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“For two years now, we’ve had a proposal for how you fund Medicaid expansion that did not include tax increases, did not include cuts to education, all of those things that we are now being told will have to happen. So I’m still very hopeful that we can go back to the funding plan that we’ve had all along, and that could be the cornerstone to how we do this without damaging the rest of the state’s budget or increasing taxes.”

-Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s continued unemployment claims, which shows the total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits in a given week, for the week ending June 27. That is down from the previous week’s claims, which hit an all-time high of 182,191.

[Source: The Frontier]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Do We Treat Unemployment Applicants as Potential Criminals? Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is available to anyone who “self-certifies” as not being able to work because of the pandemic, whether they were furloughed or lost their job due to a business closure, or were unable to work because they became sick or had to take care of a family member. But there’s a catch: U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines require states to include messaging in the self-certification process warning that claimants could be prosecuted if they are found to have committed fraud. While the goal of this provision is to keep people who are not eligible for benefits from applying, there’s evidence that the warnings are keeping away people who do likely qualify. [Governing]

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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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