In The Know: State officials hopeful for vaccination plan changes | Push for in-person learning continues | OK Policy’s 2021 policy priorities

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

OK Policy announces its 2021 policy priority areas: OK Policy has announced its 2021 legislative priorities, focusing on policy initiatives to help Oklahomans live healthier, create thriving families, and develop safe communities. “Even before COVID-19 struck, far too many Oklahoma families and communities were struggling to provide and care for themselves and their families. The pandemic and its economic fallout exposed the enormous disparities and lack of adequate support, especially for Oklahomans of color,” said OK Policy Board Chair Dr. Joe Siano. “We have identified these policy priorities as the key places in which elected officials, policymakers, and advocates can apply resources to help create a more equitable environment for all Oklahomans.” [OK Policy]

OK Policy Statement: State officials forcing public to choose between health, government participation: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is continuing to stifle taxpayers who want to comment on a major change in its health care system. The Board of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) is meeting on January 20 at 3:00 p.m., where it will vote whether to fund SoonerSelect, the state’s proposed privatized Medicaid managed care plan. Due to the expiration of 2020’s emergency measures allowing virtual public meetings, only in-person comments will be accepted during Wednesday’s public meeting. Oklahoma remains among the worst states for COVID-19 test positivity rates with virus-related hospitalizations continuing as a significant strain on our health care systems. As a result, public meetings can turn into potential health hazards. OK Policy is calling on the OHCA to postpone this vote until members of the public can comment without risking their health. Otherwise, the OHCA will force health care advocates to make the unconscionable choice between risking their health to physically attend a public meeting or being silenced about major policy changes. [OK Policy] UPDATE: OHCA officials have said this meeting will be rescheduled due to a decision of the board chair.

(Capitol Update) New state audit agency makes recommendations regarding state revenue certification: The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), a supercharged legislative audit agency created in 2019, presented its first “rapid response evaluation” to the Legislative Oversight Committee last week. The evaluation was of the State Board of Equalization (BOE) and assessed the accuracy and communication of the revenue certification processes. This is likely because of the uncertainty created last session as the pandemic turned the February certification upside down — and perhaps a feeling by legislators that they did not get accurate data from which certification decisions were being made. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma officials expect vaccination plan changes with new federal administration: The man charged with helping the state dole out COVID-19 vaccine expects changes with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, he said Tuesday. Biden, who will be sworn into office on Wednesday, has said he wants 100 million Americans inoculated in his first 100 days in office, calling the current effort a failure. Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed said that with the dawn of a new day will come changes, but he also said changes have been a constant throughout the process. [Tulsa World] Better than one in eight Oklahomans — more than 510,000 people — have now registered through the portal to be notified when they can get a COVID-19 vaccine. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Stitt pushes for schools to open amid worsening pandemic as teachers wait for vaccine: The same day Gov. Kevin Stitt tweeted “kids are SAFE in schools” in a push to open classrooms statewide, Lawton teacher Janette Garton received an email. “It is with great sadness and a heavy heart…” it began. The announcement said a teacher in her building had died. The teacher, Joseph McKenzie, a U.S. Army veteran who taught math and coached soccer in Lawton Public Schools, died Jan. 6 due to complications of COVID-19 at age 59. A family member said he was not exposed at school. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

State’s choice for health information exchange draws concerns from federal government, 13 major entities in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has approved a contract with a global software company for its new health information exchange despite a protest from a local nonprofit that bid nearly $30 million less, as well as federal misgivings that the decision might adversely affect health care in the state. [Tulsa World]

State & Local Government News

Doctor: Keeping legislative session from ‘superspreading’ a question of lawmaker behavior: With the start of the new legislative session less than two weeks away and COVID-19 trends still troubling, the state Capitol could be the site of a prolonged “superspreader” event, according to one public health figure. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Capitol open Wednesday under heightened security: Security is heightened on Inauguration Day, but visitors to the Oklahoma state Capitol may not even notice the difference, officials said Tuesday. [The Journal Record]

Norman announces city’s first chief diversity and equity officer: The city of Norman has named Cinthya Allen as the city’s first chief diversity and equity officer. Allen will be responsible for advising the city on affirmative actions and creating and implementing programs designed to ensure fair and equitable opportunities for residents, staff and council as she shapes the newly created role, according to a news release. [The Oklahoman]

Legislation to overhaul Oklahoma Rainy Day calculation filed: State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, filed legislation for the upcoming 58th Legislative Session to change the way Oklahoma calculates how much money the state government saves in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma State Senator introduces social media bill to stop what he says is ‘selective censorship’ online: Oklahoma Republican State Sen. Rob Standridge, District 15, proposed the social media bill Friday for the upcoming session and said he wants it to give citizens an opportunity to civil recourse if they feel they’ve been “selectively silenced.” [KFOR]

Oklahomans need a REAL ID license, and a mobile app can help get one: Oklahoma’s mobile ID app will now let residents upload documents needed for a REAL ID-compliant license to their phone. This latest version of the app debuts less than a year before Oklahomans will need REAL ID to board an airplane, enter federal buildings or visit military bases. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Calculating the fundraising backlash against Oklahoma Congressional delegation: Oklahoma’s congressional delegation could see political repercussions after all five of the state’s U.S. House of Representatives members voted against certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s electoral college win. An Oklahoma Watch analysis of campaign finance records found that nearly half of the 35 largest corporate donors to Oklahoma’s U.S. House delegation are either pausing all campaign contributions or specifically suspending donations to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the presidential election. [Oklahoma Watch]

Lankford, Inhofe question Biden defense, treasury nominees: U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford were among the first at bat Tuesday as the examination of President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet nominees began in advance of his Wednesday inauguration. Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general. Lankford drew double duty, quizzing both prospective Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin and Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas. [Tulsa World

Two dozen tribal leaders throw support behind Deb Haaland for Interior Secretary: As the Senate begins confirmation hearings on President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees, more than two dozen Oklahoma tribal leaders are supporting Rep. Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior. [KOSU]

Capitol attack stirs memories of Oklahoma bombing: The attack on the U.S. Capitol by an angry mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters shocked many Americans who thought such a violent assault by their fellow countrymen wasn’t possible. But for Oklahoma City bombing survivor Dennis Purifoy, the Capitol assault was a clear parallel to what happened at the federal building in his hometown more than 25 years ago. [AP News]

Criminal Justice News

Despite IRS objections, many Oklahoma state prisoners will get stimulus checks: As the 2021 tax season looms, Oklahomans are waiting for another round of COVID-19 relief payments. State prisoners are also waiting to get their stimulus checks, despite objections from the Internal Revenue Service. [KOSU]

Police kill Black 24-year-old Zonterius on his birthday: Family members and witnesses are demanding answers and disagree with the official story after police officers shot and killed a Black man celebrating his 24th birthday outside a Lawton event venue early Sunday morning. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • One Lawton police shooting probe continues, other investigation reviewed by Comanche County District Attorney’s Office [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma County Commissioners hear report on Jail, seek to expand SHINE program: The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) moved through a conflict-free meeting and heard reports on further repairs being made to the Jail and expansion of the SHINE program, an alternative sentencing program in the county. [OKC Free Press]

  • Jail Trust struggles to take action as activists fight limits on public comment [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

‘Signs of gentrification’: Greenwood community worries residents being pushed out, history disrespected: Many residents of the near-downtown district can see neighboring Tulsa Arts and Blue Dome districts flourish around it with upscale restaurants and entertainment venues while the Greenwood District, particularly Black Wall Street, struggles to regain the prominence it enjoyed before and after the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘Forever impact their hearts and minds’: Greenwood District history to be experienced through mobile app [Tulsa World]
  • Commemoration fund taking applications from programs to fix injustices affecting Tulsans of color [Public Radio Tulsa]

Respect for lower-wage health workers is up, but their pay isn’t: The pandemic shone a light on essential health care workers like nursing assistants and home health aides, but these jobs remain poorly paid and difficult to fill. Yet the coronavirus is calling more Americans to the health field, including those hoping to find reliable work after a layoff in another industry. [Big If True]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council extends mask ordinance until March 5 [The Journal Record] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Mask ordinance proposal dies at Broken Arrow City Council meeting [Tulsa World]
  • Cheat sheet: Norman Ward 1 race to be decided between three newcomers [NonDoc]
  • No-go for Joe Exotic: Trump pardon list omits ‘Tiger King’ [AP News] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma judge orders ‘Tiger King’ zoo to turn over big cats [AP News]

Quote of the Day

“Most of us, we just feel like a cog in a machine. It’s like: OK, one teacher died. Let’s just stick a sub in there.”

-Lawton teacher Janette Garton about the push for in-person as virus cases continue to climb in Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


Number of hours spent in public debate at Tuesday’s Broken Arrow City Council about a proposed COVID-19-related mask mandate. The majority of those speaking voiced opposition to a mask order, and the measure died before a vote could be called late Tuesday. The council also rejected for the second time a resolution that would have encouraged the wearing of masks. The council vote ended in a 2-2 tie, with the city’s fifth councilor not attending the meeting due to being symptomatic after a COVID exposure. [Tulsa World]


Policy Note

Administration Should Act to Expand and Improve Health Coverage: Alongside legislation to expand health coverage and make it more affordable, the Biden Administration can take administrative actions to reduce the uninsured rate, begin to address disparities in health coverage, and improve the affordability and quality of coverage for many people. [CBPP]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.




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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.