In The Know: Special session begins | Oklahoma Nat’l Guard rejects vaccine mandate | Medicaid expansion working as expected

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

Medicaid expansion is working just as expected: Oklahoma has successfully expanded Medicaid, as more than 210,000 Oklahomans have enrolled in expansion and there have been substantial declines in the uninsured rate across all demographics. Though it is too soon to definitively identify the long-term benefits for the state and the newly enrolled, it’s safe to say that Medicaid expansion has done what it was expected to: provide thousands of our friends and neighbors with peace of mind about their health. As many as 144,000 previously uninsured Oklahomans can finally see a doctor and fill a prescription, and thousands more have access to more comprehensive, affordable insurance than they had before the state expanded. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Special session to set new congressional, legislative districts begins Monday: The Oklahoma Legislature on Monday opens what is expected to be a one-week special session under unusual circumstances. The session currently is limited to consideration and passage of legislation related to adoption of new legislative and congressional districts. That work normally is completed during the spring regular session, but pandemic-related delays in 2020 Census data caused it to be postponed until fall. [Tulsa World]

  • What to know about Oklahoma’s redistricting special session that starts Monday [The Oklahoman] | [NonDoc]
  • Capitol Insider: Legislature convenes to approve new congressional, legislative districts [KGOU]

Pentagon stands by vaccine mandate for National Guard after Oklahoma adjutant general says he won’t enforce it: The US Department of Defense on Saturday stood by its vaccine mandate after Oklahoma’s new Adjutant Gen. Thomas Mancino in a letter said the state would not enforce the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for its members of its National Guard. [Business Insider]

  • Oklahoma Guard goes rogue, rejects COVID vaccine mandate after sudden change of command [Army Times]
  • Stitt shakes up state’s National Guard leadership [The Oklahoman]
  • New Oklahoma National Guard leader eases vaccine policy [AP News] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma’s governor puts an opponent of vaccine mandates in charge of the National Guard. [New York Times]

‘A little blind’: Officials, health experts frustrated after State Health Department stops publishing local COVID-19 data: For more than a year until Wednesday, Sand Springs City Manager Mike Carter compiled a regular COVID-19 report based on local data that he shared with community leaders and government officials in other Tulsa suburbs. The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Wednesday cut off city and ZIP code data feeds from the public despite the governor’s and state health officials’ previous pledges to be transparent with COVID data so Oklahomans can make informed personal choices. [Tulsa World]

  • 7 questions answered about COVID vaccines for kids 5-11, including where to get them in OKC [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahomans with mood disorders like depression are at high risk for COVID-19, CDC says [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘We really don’t know how they got it’: Some Oklahoma deer have coronavirus antibodies [The Oklahoman]

Health News

State granted temporary restraining order preventing Ascension St. John from enforcing employee vaccine mandate: In a fast-moving court case, a judge on Friday granted the state of Oklahoma a temporary restraining order prohibiting Ascension St. John Health System from implementing its employee vaccination mandate. [Tulsa World] A Tulsa District Court judge granted Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor’s request for a temporary restraining order on Ascension Healthcare’s termination of employees who were allegedly not given religious exemption from its COVID-19 vaccine requirement. [KFOR] This past summer, Ascension mandated all employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with Friday being the deadline to comply. [The Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma brings religious bias suit over Catholic hospitals’ COVID vaccine mandate [Reuters]

State working to expand insurance options for rural Oklahomans: For the first time, eight insurers have committed to selling health insurance through the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace. But, only two of those providers — Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medica — will offer health insurance plans in all 77 counties in 2022 through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplace. [CNHI via Ada News]

What’s happening with the disability waiting list? (podcast): The podcast Let’s Fix This delves into Oklahoma disability waiting list. [Let’s Fix This]

Op-Ed: Oklahomans need rural health systems, not insurance-managed care: “As a hospital administrator in Tahlequah, I have seen firsthand the way our staff members improve quality of life for those who need it most, including patients who have recently gained access to care with the recent expansion of Medicaid. When voters approved the measure, they did not approve the interference of out-of-state insurance companies for the management of that care.” [Jim Berry / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Ginnie Graham: Tulsa’s local art scene becomes a lesson in preventing burnout among heath care workers: An OU-Tulsa professor wants his class to teach future doctors, physician assistants and other health care providers to take time for themselves with interests outside their profession. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

More Oklahoma tribes are looking beyond state borders to expand gaming footprint: Oklahoma has one of the nation’s largest gaming industries with more than 100 casinos, which is prompting many tribes to look beyond the state’s borders to grow. [The Oklahoman]

Three up, three down: Muscogee Council challengers oust incumbents: All three incumbent members up for reelection to the Muscogee National Council on Saturday were voted out of office, according to unofficial results. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Federal court rejects Oklahoma death row inmates appeal: A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by four Oklahoma inmates to stay their executions scheduled over the next three months, including a planned lethal injection next week that has drawn international attention. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday denied the request to intervene by inmates Julius Jones, Wade Lay, Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle. [AP News]

  • Julius Jones loses in federal appeals court, fate now rests with Governor Kevin Stitt [The Oklahoman]
  • Julius Jones’ supporters hoping, praying for ‘a miracle at midnight’ [OKC Free Press]
  • Conservative lawmakers, groups call for Julius Jones’ clemency ahead of execution [The Norman Transcript]

Economic Opportunity

Hotel to Housing failed to make good on promises to the homeless, former employees say: Carlene’s account of a temporary housing facility mired in chaos and undermined by mismanagement is echoed by at least five other former Housing Solutions employees, none of whom questioned the organization’s intentions but who all contend that it failed to make good on its promises to the homeless community it serves. [Tulsa World]

Thanksgiving meal ‘in jeopardy’ as 2,500 turkeys, donations needed to support holiday dinner: John 3:16 Mission is in desperate need of donations after the first weekend of the nonprofit’s Thanksgiving food drive brought in only one-fifth of the turkeys needed for those in need of help on the holiday, organizers said. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Clara Luper’s daughter weighs in on history-teaching controversy: In the midst of a nationwide controversy about teaching the history of race and race relations in the U.S., the daughter of famous civil rights leader Clara Luper holds out for accurate teaching of all of history. “We have a responsibility to teach history the way it was, not the way we want it to be,” said Marilyn Hildreth, daughter of famed Oklahoma City Civil Rights leader Clara Luper. [OKC Free Press]

Editorial: Epic saga is not over, lawmakers and law enforcement need to do more: New revelations and allegations about the Epic Charter Schools founders from Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd ought to light a fire under lawmakers and law enforcement. At a meeting of the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County on Tuesday, Byrd detailed her investigative audit of the public virtual charter school released last year. It uncovered millions in excessive administrative spending and questionable handling of $145 million in taxpayer funds. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

General Opinion & Columns

Editorial: Stitt’s executive order on nonbinary birth certificates a costly culture war fight we don’t need: Gov. Kevin Stitt promised action to stop the state from issuing nonbinary birth certificates, and last week he made good on that by writing an executive order to prevent such action. In doing so, he’s likely plunging the state into another needless and costly legal fight. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Bob Doucette: If we want a better future, we need to learn our past. And that means all of it: I think about the stories of history I learned growing up. Westward expansion was seen through the eyes of the pioneers. What didn’t we learn? What European arrival and settlement looked like through the eyes of people who already lived here, what nations Indigenous people lived in, who their leaders were, and how many thousands of years humans had called the Western Hemisphere home. [Bob Doucette Column / Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“If we can continue to give people that data, I have seen people that have chosen to change course based on what they see happening. Without that (local data), I’m not sure we’ll continue to see that.”

-Sand Springs City Manager Mike Carter, speaking about the state discontinuing reporting city and ZIP code data feeds despite the governor’s and state health officials’ previous pledges to be transparent with COVID data so Oklahomans can make informed personal choices. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma residents approved for health care via Medicaid expansion since June 1, 2021 (as of 11/15/21) [Oklahoma Health Care Authority

Policy Note

The Redistricting Landscape, 2021–22: Under the best of circumstances, the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts every 10 years is a fraught and abuse-prone process. But the next round of redistricting in 2021 and 2022 will be the most challenging in recent history. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, intense fights over representation and fair maps were all but certain in many states due to rapid demographic change and a weakening of the legal framework governing redistricting. Invariably, communities of color would bear much of the brunt, facing outright discrimination in some places and being used as a convenient tool for achieving unfair partisan advantage in others. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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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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