In The Know: State board considers terminating Epic contract | State COVID-19 cases tops 100,000 | Misinformation about SQ 805

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

Addressing misinformation about SQ 805: As Oklahomans prepare to vote on State Question 805 during the Nov. 3 general election, opponents have started attacking the justice reform measure in predictable ways, attempting to stir up fear through false and misleading claims. Opponents of SQ 805 are preying on emotions that have resulted in Oklahoma maintaining one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates, driven by long and frequent prison sentences for all types of offenses. Four years ago, SQ 780, a ballot initiative to reclassify many drug and property crimes as misdemeanors, received similar attacks. Since that reform measure passed, Oklahoma has achieved great success in diverting people away from prison, while crime rates remain near all-time lows, contrary to the doomsday predictions by some District Attorneys and law enforcement officials. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]

Interim studies highlight how other states passed meaningful law enforcement reform (Capitol Update): There have been multiple interim studies on law enforcement reform in the past few weeks. Two of the better efforts, primarily because they brought in “how to” information from other states, was a bi-partisan, bi-cameral study in the House last week and a Senate study on September 16. The House request was made by Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, and Sen. Kevin Matthew, D-Tulsa. The Senate request was by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat. By “how to,” I mean they heard how other states managed to pass meaningful reforms. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Virtual school board could consider terminating Epic contract today: The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board could consider a change, including termination, of its sponsorship contract with Epic Charter Schools on Tuesday. [Tulsa World] The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Monday voted unanimously to demand back $11.2 million in taxpayer funding from Epic Charter Schools based on an investigative audit that identified chronically excessive administrative overhead costs and inaccurate cost accounting. [Tulsa World] Epic could face additional fallout from the audit conducted by the Office of the State Auditor and Inspector, which pointed to inappropriate oversight, accounting and spending. [Oklahoma Watch] Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday announced his appointment of Melissa McLawhorn Houston to review the audit of Epic, marking a significant turn in the state’s investigation of the virtual charter school system. [The Oklahoman] State lawmakers announced Monday that they will hold a joint hearing to go over an investigative audit critical of Epic Charter Schools. [Tulsa World]

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma soar past 100,000: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Oklahoma reached another grim milestone, topping more than 100,000, state health officials reported Monday. [AP News]

  • COVID-19: Six more deaths reported as case count tops 100,000 in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • GOP governors in spiking states strain for silver linings [AP News]
  • Capitol Insider: Governor disputes White House coronavirus reporting [KGOU]

Tulsa-based nonpartisan group addresses misinformation about SQ805: A Tulsa-based think tank said some of the information opponents have said about State Question 805 are not true. The nonpartisan group criticized police and prosecutors for what they claimed. Oklahoma Policy Institute analyst Ryan Gentzler said his article aims to clarify what he calls misleading information being spread by those oppose State Question 805. [NewsOn6] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 805 available at

Health News

Oklahoma Public Health Laboratory relocation plan draws blowback: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s sudden announcement last week that the state’s public health laboratory will move to Stillwater quickly garnered opposition. Within a matter of days, elected officials and employee advocates raised concerns that the move would shove out employees who have been with the lab for decades, that moving the lab from a central location would hamper its ability to serve the state as a whole, and that the funding mechanisms the Stitt administration plans to employ could be inappropriate. [The Frontier and StateImpact Oklahoma] The Department of Health doubled down Monday despite growing concerns about timing and the wisdom of relocating it from the capital city. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Panel: State will benefit from Medicaid expansion: Questions remain about how Oklahoma will pay for its share of a Medicaid program due to expand next year after nearly a decade of debate, but three health care industry professionals said there should be little question that the state will benefit from expansion in several ways. [The Journal Record]

Group focuses on better education for African American mothers: Our modern world was not built to support a breastfeeding mother, according to Farah Antoine-Mayberry, a Certified Lactation Counselor and Birth Doula. She is among a movement of birth workers and advocates trying to transform community understanding of and behavior towards new and expectant mothers. [Oklahoma Gazette]

State Government News

Brian Bingman named new secretary of state, Mazzei out on budget: The shakeup of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet continued today with an announcement that Mike Mazzei has resigned as secretary of budget and that Brian Bingman will become the first-term governor’s new secretary of state and Native American affairs. [NonDoc] Stitt hired Bingman in August to advise on legislative policy — a role the former state senator will continue in his new position. A member of the Creek Nation, Bingman replaces former secretary of state Michael Rogers, who resigned last week. [The Oklahoman] Also a former state senator, Mazzei said in a statement it was the right time for him to return to his financial planning company. Stitt’s office did not announce a replacement for Mazzei. [AP News]

State’s high court questions adequate notice in fracking permit ruling: A water use permit for a fracking operation was nullified by the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week when the court determined that notice had not been properly served to neighboring landowners. [The Journal Record]

McDugle to host study on death penalty: State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, will host an interim study this week focusing on death penalty practices and procedures. The study will be hosted before the House Public Safety Committee. [The Norman Transcript]

Throwback Tulsa: Oklahoma state agencies cut budget for third month on this day in 2009: On this day in 2009, State Treasurer Scott Meacham said a 5 percent budget cut for state agencies would continue for a third consecutive month after revenues continued their double-digit lag. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Murdered, missing Indigenous women acts signed into law: Companion bills designed to change the way law enforcement responds to murdered or missing Indigenous women were signed into law almost symbolically by President Donald Trump on the weekend before Indigenous Peoples’ Day. [Gaylord News via NonDoc]

Cole, Horn back Indigenous People’s Day over Columbus Day: U.S. Reps. Tom Cole and Kendra Horn have co-sponsored a resolution that supports changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. [The Oklahoman]

OCPA letter sparks backlash: Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs launched a campaign to roll back treaty rights upheld by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed the existence of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation boundaries. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Horn and Bice make final pitches in nation’s tightest House race: Democrat Rep. Kendra Horn, who promotes her independence from her party, is fighting off claims of extremism from Republican State Sen. Stephanie Bice, who hopes to win back this Oklahoma City seat. [The Frontier]

Criminal Justice News

New Pardon and Parole Executive Director says action coming on commutation backlog: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s new leader said Monday he’s spent the past few weeks making a plan to tackle a backlog of commutation requests. Executive Director Tom Bates said he expects there will be some training soon to help sort through around 3,000 applications that have built up as the board has taken up smaller dockets because of concerns about the review process. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Calvey petitions court to rule on new county commissioners’ ICE, Jail policy: Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey filed a petition with district court Tuesday asking for a declaratory judgment on the legality of a Board of County Commissioners’ policy passed 2-1 just the day before. [OKC Free Press]

Economy & Business News

OG&E is asking its consumers for an extra $14 million; here’s why it could save Oklahomans millions more in the long run: Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. is seeking approval to invest $14 million of your money over the next two years to improve the reliability and resiliency of the system used to deliver you power. [The Oklahoman]

Rural business grants will help Comanche expand its business base: Two economic development grants will allow community leaders in Comanche to continue efforts to make the small Stephens County community more attractive to visitors and new residents by expanding its business base. [The Lawton Constitution]

Education News

Some parents, teachers urge Tulsa Public Schools to stay with distance learning: While many parents are pushing Tulsa Public Schools to revert to in-person instruction during the second quarter of 2020-21, others — including teachers — want the district to remain in distance learning. [Tulsa World]

General News

Questions about mail-in voting? Here’s how to get free help: Voters in OKC can get free assistance with mail-in ballots five days a week until the Nov. 3 election at a pair of retail and entertainment landmarks on 23 Street. The initiative is sponsored by the League of Women Voters Oklahoma in partnership with the EastPoint retail center. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma voter guide 2020: What you need to know for the Nov. 3 election [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma celebrates 75th National Disability Employment Awareness Month: October 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the United States. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt recognized the anniversary with a proclamation “to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of Oklahomans with disabilities.” [FOX25]

Oklahoma County prosecutor reduces charges in protest case: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater agreed Monday to reduce criminal charges against five young people accused of inciting a riot following a confrontation with police in June. [AP News] The five had been charged with a felony, incitement to riot, over the incident outside Oklahoma City Police Department headquarters June 23. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“We need to look at (Medicaid expansion) not just as a short-term economic development tool but also in the long term for improving outcomes for our businesses, healthier employees paying taxes and also healthier families in the long term.”

-Oklahoma Hospital Association President Patti Davis about implementing Medicaid expansion following voter approval of SQ 802 [The Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Amount Oklahoma has spent of the federal funds allocated to support COVID-19-related government expenses as of Oct. 12. This represents about 56% of the $1.259 billion the State of Oklahoma received this spring as its share of the CARES Act funding.

[Source: Oklahoma Checkbook]      

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How much is COVID-19 hurting state and local revenues?: State and local governments are significant players in the U.S. economy. Employment by state and local governments represents about 13 percent of total employment in the U.S.—more than the federal government. State and local tax revenues represent about 9 percent of GDP. And unlike the federal government, state and local governments generally have to balance their operating budgets; they can’t borrow to finance large deficits. This Q&A examines the fiscal impact that COVID-19 has had on state and local governments. [Brookings Institute]

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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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