In The Know: State breaks COVID hospitalization records | Bill to reorganize drug courts | 2 executions to proceed

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

SB 1548 would prioritize treatment, stability over punishment in Oklahoma’s drug courts (Capitol Update): Of the 2,297 bills filed for the upcoming session, one of the best is Senate Bill 1548 by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah. The bill reorganizes drug courts in Oklahoma, giving the upper hand in decision making to mental health professionals and drug court judges. The Center for Disease Control released figures recently showing that 798 Oklahomans died from a drug overdose between April 2020 and April 2021, 20 percent more than the previous year. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

2022 State Budget Summit, Thursday, January 27: OK Policy’s 2022 State Budget Summit will shine a light on the state’s fiscal outlook for the coming year. Now in its eighth year, OK Policy’s State Budget Summit provides an opportunity to hear from state and local officials, tribal leaders, community leaders, and engaged citizens about the state’s current fiscal circumstances, what we might expect during this year’s legislative session, and where we can improve our state’s budget and tax system. [Click here to learn more and register]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma breaks COVID hospitalization records; omicron is dangerous for children, pediatricians warn: COVID-19 hospitalizations for both children and adults have hit highs in Oklahoma in recent days and are overwhelming the state’s hospitals. Pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations reached an overall record Thursday at 73 across the state, a three-day average the state first started reporting in mid-July, during the delta variant wave. [Tulsa World

  • Some Oklahomans are now eligible for fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine [The Oklahoman
  • Get tests mailed to you: COVID-19 information Oklahomans need to know [Lake Geneva Regional News]
  • 7,679 new coronavirus infections were also reported on Monday [KOSU

State Government News

Lobbyist says former Oklahoma lawmaker sexually assaulted her at New Year’s party: An Oklahoma City woman says former state lawmaker Jose Cruz cornered her in a bathroom and sexually assaulted her while at a party last month before pleading with her not to tell anyone. [The Oklahoman

Minimum-wage increase subject of two bills: On Jan. 1, 2022, the minimum wage increased in 21 states nationwide. Oklahoma was not one of those states. But two state lawmakers are trying again this year to give Oklahoma’s minimum wage a bit of a boost. [The Journal Record

OK Policy Analysis: Raising the minimum wage would be a lifeline to the one in three Oklahoma workers earning less than the living wage for a single person, as well as more than half of fast food workers, who are paid so low that they must rely on public assistance. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma, other states poised to act on abortion: Less than a month into 2022, battles over the future of abortion already are setting up around the U.S., including in Oklahoma. Republican lawmakers are proposing new restrictions modeled after laws in Texas and Mississippi that present a direct challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, while some Democratic-led states are working to preserve or expand access. [The Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers will consider several abortion bills this session [KFOR
  • Oklahoma ‘March for Life’ draws about 500 to state Capitol in OKC [The Oklahoman

Federal Government News

State asks U.S. Supreme Court to uphold conviction in ‘Innocent Man’ case: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the conviction of one man in the 1984 murder of an Ada convenience store worker featured featured The Innocent Man. [The Frontier]

Lankford breaks down U.S. Senate filibuster to Enid audience: U.S. Sen. James Lankford used an unscheduled break from his legislative duties to return to Oklahoma and included a stop in Enid on his agenda. [Enid News & Eagle]

Tribal Nations News

Tax Commission denies tribal citizen’s income tax exemption appeal: On Dec. 8, the Oklahoma Tax Commission issued a final order denying the appeal of a Muscogee Nation citizen who cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma as grounds to qualify for an “exempt tribal income exclusion” on state income taxes. Released publicly today, the order — issued by three tax commissioners in December after adopting fact findings, conclusions of law and recommendations that an administrative law judge issued in November — marks the first post-McGirt income tax protest to complete the Tax Commission adjudication process. [NonDoc]

Supreme Court denies overturning McGirt 31 times: The Supreme Court on Monday in a sweeping series of rulings denied 31 Oklahoma appeals of multiple McGirt-related decisions, a landmark case that reaffirmed the Muscogee (Creek) reservation in eastern Oklahoma had never been dissolved. [Gaylord News / The Norman Transcript]

Voting and Election News

OKC mayor’s race leads Feb. 8 list of municipal elections: The first elections of 2022 are set for Feb. 8 and local residents will cast votes to decide on municipal and school board leadership as well as a number of bond initiatives for improvements to schools, streets, parks and more. The elections will include several races, including three mayoral contests set for cities in Oklahoma and Cleveland counties. [The Oklahoman

  • With big lead, OKC Mayor Holt to be a no-show at mayoral debate [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa County Election Board short 120 precinct workers for Feb. 8 elections [Tulsa World]

Health News

Response times could fracture OKC’s relationship with EMSA: Amid a pandemic that has created staffing shortfalls, Emergency Medical Services Authority, the entity that provides emergency medical transport services in Oklahoma City, struggled to meet its required response times in 2021. [NonDoc

Criminal Justice News

Two executions to proceed in Oklahoma after appeals court denies stays: Admitted double murderer Donald Anthony Grant has lost again in court and remains on schedule to be executed Thursday. The execution will be the third in Oklahoma since lethal injections resumed in the state last year. [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

Emission-control technology firm from Seattle moving headquarters to Tulsa: A former Seattle-based company that develops emission-control technology has announced that it is moving its headquarters to Tulsa. “The move of our headquarters to Tulsa provides both strategic and business development benefits,” Jim Deller, chief executive officer of ClearSign, said in a statement. [Tulsa World

Education News

“I just kind of feel like it’s just a Band-Aid on a larger problem,” Oklahoma teacher skeptical of Governor Stitt’s executive order to address substitute shortage: A Putnam City schools teacher spoke with KFOR about Governor Stitt’s executive order that allows state employees to volunteer to be substitute teachers during a time where many schools are dealing with critical staffing shortages. [KFOR

Editorial: Oklahoma legislative report manipulates numbers to claim top teacher salaries: A recent legislative report did some tinkering to find that Oklahoma teachers have the highest salary in the region; if only that were true. [Editorial / Tulsa World

Tulsa school board approves changes to meetings’ structure, conflict of interest policy: Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education meetings will look different in the future, but the citizens’ comment period will be a part of regular meetings. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

 “If we truly want to be a ‘Top 10 State,’ we must raise our minimum wage rate to be competitive with other states on a national level.”

– Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, in a statement about his bill to raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma [The Journal Record]

OK Policy Analysis: Raising the minimum wage will be a lifeline to our low-income families with little impact to our wallets [OK Policy]

Number of the Day

$4.4 billion

Amount of targeted tax expenditures for select individuals and businesses the state of Oklahoma handed out in 2018. That amount was just $500 million in 2010. Tax expenditures — the credits, deductions, exemptions, and incentives that allow taxes not to be paid when they otherwise would have been — significantly cut into Oklahoma’s annual revenue and our ability to fund services.

[Source: Oklahoma Tax Commission]

OK Policy Analysis: A Better Path Forward is a comprehensive report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute detailing how the state cut nearly a quarter of the state’s budget capacity and the implications of those decisions. More importantly, the report includes a menu of budget and tax reforms that can provide vital state revenue while bringing more fairness to the state’s tax system. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

Do Tax Breaks Help or Hurt a State’s Finances? New Study Digs Deep: The debate over tax incentives usually centers on whether they lead to job creation and other economic benefits. But governments must also pay attention to their own bottom lines. This begs the question: How do all the financial incentives that states offer actually influence fiscal health? [Governing]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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