In The Know: State court affirms Quapaw Nation sovereignty | Nonbinary birth certificates | Pandemic’s impact on teachers, nurses

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

Quapaw Nation reservation affirmed by Oklahoma appeals court: The Quapaw Nation’s reservation in the northeast corner of Oklahoma was never disestablished by Congress and still exists, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Thursday in a case that will extend federal jurisdiction to the reservation for crimes involving Native Americans. [The Oklahoman] In court documents, the Quapaw Nation said the 1833 treaty signed with the United States established the Quapaw Reservation following their removal from their homelands in Arkansas to “land west of the state line of Missouri and between the lands of the Senecas and Shawnees…to provide a permanent home for their nation.” [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] Quapaw Nation officials on Thursday welcomed the decision and said the tribe is prepared for the switch in criminal jurisdictions. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s response to nonbinary birth certificate lawsuit creates stir at Capitol: An Oklahoma State Department of Health decision to let people designate as nonbinary on birth certificates has caused a stir at the Capitol. Nonbinary individuals do not identify specifically as male or female. They do not feel male or female is a clear gender identity. The agency made the change in response to a lawsuit, according to online media outlet NonDoc, which first reported the story. [Tulsa World] Gov. Kevin Stitt and other Republican leaders expressed outrage Thursday after learning the State Department of Health issued a birth certificate this year with a nonbinary gender designation. [AP News] Members of the LGBTQ community rejoiced after an Oregon resident who was born in Oklahoma successfully petitioned the State Health Department to reissue on Oct. 7 their birth certificate with their sex now identified as nonbinary. [The Oklahoman] Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Nicole McAfee said the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is intentional and damaging. [Public Radio Tulsa

Health News

Nurses, teachers in despair over their professions: Exhausted. Stressed. Frustrated. These are the words nurses and teachers are using to describe why they are deserting their chosen profession, leaving a post-pandemic vacuum that will have long-lasting ramifications in the state. Oklahoma’s dwindling workforce of nurses and teachers was discussed Tuesday during the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition’s virtual media briefing. [The Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma is the second most vaccine hesitant state with 24.1 percent of residents over 18 reporting being hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine [Becker’s Hospital Review]
  • The state’s seven-day average in new coronavirus cases remained about the same at 1,031 per day. [KOSU]
  • The Source Podcast: OKC Thunder, among the NBA’s most cautious franchises, allows fans back at home games [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma law targeting ‘critical race theory’ in schools draws lawsuit: The ACLU and a group of multiracial advocacy organizations and educators have sued state officials over the constitutionality of a new law that restricts discussions on race and gender in school in an attempt to ban “critical race theory” teachings in public schools. [CNHI via The Duncan Banner]

State responds to suit on abortion bills: The state is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to decline a request from reproductive rights supporters to put three abortion laws on hold. The action came after the reproductive rights supporters appealed a decision by Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong, who declined to put the measures on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge. The three laws are set to take effect Nov. 1. [Tulsa World]

State’s jobless rate improving week to week: Most Oklahoma unemployment figures show the state’s jobless rate is improving week to week, according to numbers released by the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission. [Southwest Ledger] First-time jobless claims last week in the state dipped below pre-pandemic levels for the second time in the past month, declining nearly 27% when compared to the prior seven-day period, according to a government report. [Tulsa World]

Debate continues over open market for electricity: After entertaining hours of input from the pubic on restructuring Oklahoma’s electricity market, and accepting dozens of filings on the subject, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday put the matter aside for now. [The Journal Record]

Partisan Gerrymandering Targets Campuses: Gautam said the states with some of the highest number of student and minority student communities at risk of gerrymandering are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. [Inside HigherEd]

We fact-checked Oklahoma elected officials’ claims about the U.S.-Mexico border crisis: Border Patrol encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border reached their highest level in more than two decades in July, giving Oklahoma Republicans ample fodder for criticisms of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. [The Frontier]

Study focuses on film industry education in Oklahoma: Opportunities are on the rise for young Oklahomans interested in careers in the state’s growing film and media industry, but there’s a risk that workers may not be ready in sufficient numbers to take jobs when they become available. [The Journal Record]

Hofmeister is running as a Democrat. Would she govern like one?: During a Thursday interview with The Frontier, two-term State Superintendent of Public Instruction and former lifelong Republican Joy Hofmeister said she was motivated to switch parties because she disagrees with many of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s policies.  [The Frontier]

Tribal Nations News

Muscogee election appeal denied, results certified: The Supreme Court of the Muscogee Nation this afternoon upheld a district court decision to deny petitions from two candidates alleging fraud and irregularities in the nation’s Sept. 18 primary election. U.S. Postal Service delays resulted in more than half of absentee ballots cast in the Muscogee election to arrive after the 11 a.m. Sept. 18 deadline, according to tribal officials. [NonDoc]

Chickasaw Nation to build $300 million resort adjoining First Americans Museum on Oklahoma River: A $300 million resort, including a water park, retail, dining and hotel, is set to be built by the Chickasaw Nation along the Oklahoma River south of downtown. The Chickasaws first envisioned developing the land surrounding the First Americans Museum when the tribe in 2015 negotiated an agreement with Oklahoma City to complete the cultural center after state legislators sought to abandon the project. [The Oklahoman] The construction of a $300 million resort along the Oklahoma River is projected to generate 1,400 jobs annually with a payroll of $80.7 million and $226.3 million in construction expenditures. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Death row inmate Julius Jones seeks execution stay: High-profile death row inmate Julius Jones on Wednesday asked an Oklahoma City federal judge for a temporary stay of his execution. Jones is set to be executed Nov. 18. Joining him in the emergency request were death row inmates John Marion Grant, Donald A. Grant and Gilbert Ray Postelle. [The Oklahoman] Days ago, a federal appeals court reinstated death row prisoners to a lawsuit challenging the state’s method of execution. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • As attorney general pushes for executions, fate of condemned rests with federal judge [Public Radio Tulsa]

Attorney calls testimony ‘perjurious,’ but trial continues with defense witnesses: After the prosecution rested in a Creek County murder trial Thursday, Kenneth Ray Smith’s attorney asked the judge to dismiss the case against him based on Wednesday’s testimony from the prosecution’s key witness, which the defense attorney called “perjurious.” Judge Douglas W. Golden denied attorney Ben Fu’s motion, as well as Fu’s subsequent request that the controversial testimony be stricken from the court record. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma appeals court reverses double-murder conviction: An Oklahoma appeals court on Thursday reversed the double-murder conviction of a Spencer man and remanded the case for a new trial. [AP News]

New Oklahoma County jail facility option chosen for further study: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) voted unanimously Thursday to focus on studying a new jail facility as they narrow options before making recommendations to the Jail Trust later. The vote came after a presentation from consultants at FSB and HOK updating details of the options for facility improvements for the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail). [OKC Free Press]

  • Medical assistant arrested in Oklahoma County Jail contraband case [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Expert: Small, large businesses face cyberattacks: Cybercriminals are a threat to small and large businesses. Mark Barnett, IT project manager for Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, gave that sobering assessment in a talk about cybersecurity during Enid Regional Development Alliance’s quarterly luncheon Thursday at Oakwood Country Club. [Enid News & Eagle]

OKC forum to elevate aerospace in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s place in advancing the global aerospace industry – to be characterized more and more in the future by autonomous, solar-powered and other technologically advanced aircraft being developed in the Sooner State – will be explored next week as the annual Oklahoma Aerospace Forum is planned in Oklahoma City. [The Journal Record]

Education News

TPS, Union expanding online tutoring access with federal funding: Facing the continued repercussions of pandemic-induced academic interruptions, more tutoring resources are coming online for area students. “We know the need is great,” Tulsa Public Schools Chief Learning Officer Ebony Johnson said. [Tulsa World]

Hamilton: GOP owns Oklahoma’s dismal college graduation rate: Ten years and two months ago, then-Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled an initiative aimed at enhancing Oklahoma’s ability to compete in the 21st-century global economy. “Oklahoma,” she declared, “is not producing enough college graduates and that’s a disadvantage,” citing research that only about one-third of Sooners ages 25-34 had earned their college diplomas. “That’s not good enough. We can do better in the state of Oklahoma.” [Arnold Hamilton / The Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“The Lawhorn decision rightfully affirms what we have always known – The Quapaw Nation is Indian Country. Our Reservation still exists, and our sovereign rights are what we have always known them to be.”

-Quapaw Nation Chairman Joseph Tali Byrd in a statement about Thursday’s state appellate court ruling that expanded the list of tribes whose reservations have never been disestablished by Congress to include the Quapaw Nation [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Median family income for Black households in Oklahoma, compared to $76,000 for white households. Median household incomes for Latinx families and American Indian families were $43,000 and $54,000, respectively.

[Source: KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

Pandemic-related economic insecurity among Black and Hispanic households would have been worse without a swift policy response: The Census Bureau report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in 2020 reveals an expected shock to median household income relative to 2019 resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. Across all racial and ethnic groups, median household income either declined or was statistically unchanged from the previous year. [Economic Policy 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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