In The Know: State revenue up over projections | Stitt considering AG appointment | CDC funding to address COVID-related health disparities

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

State general revenue could splash over into Rainy Day Fund: A solid general revenue report for May means Oklahoma is on track for a deposit to the state’s constitutional reserve fund when the current fiscal year ends on June 30, officials said Tuesday. General revenue — state government’s primary operating fund — totaled $623.6 million in May, or almost $110 million more than projected. That brought general revenue receipts for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2021 to $6.14 billion, or $64.7 million more than the estimate. Balances of up to 15% of the estimate go into the reserve fund — or, as it is generally called, the Rainy Day Fund. [Tulsa World]

Stitt mulling attorney general appointment: Gov. Kevin Stitt has been weighing potential appointments for Oklahoma attorney general, with a decision likely to influence the 2022 race for the powerful position. The governor has not set a public timetable for announcing a replacement for Mike Hunter, a Republican, who resigned as The Oklahoman was set to report about his extramarital affair. The resignation was effective June 1. Hunter was planning to run for reelection next year, and would have been a heavy favorite to win a second term. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma awarded $53 million in CDC funding to address COVID-19-related health disparities: Oklahoma health departments will receive more than $53 million in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address COVID-19 related health disparities. More than $43 million will go to the state Health Department, about $3.7 million will go to the Oklahoma-City County Health Department and more than $5.9 million will go to the Tulsa Health Department. The grants were awarded as part of CDC’s plan to invest $2.25 billion in programs supporting health equity over two years — the agency’s largest-ever investment toward improving health equity in the U.S. The pandemic highlighted long-standing health disparities across the U.S. and had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, as well as people who live in rural areas. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

A Tulsa woman who survived COVID after weeks on a ventilator is glad to be vaccinated after initial hesitancy: After enduring six weeks on a ventilator last fall with COVID-19, Tricia Bergen didn’t want to take a vaccine after hearing rumors that some shots could trigger the disease itself. “I was adamant that I was not going to get it,” Bergen said Tuesday. “It can be difficult to know what to believe.” As friends and loved ones encouraged her to reconsider, Bergen sought advice from three doctors, all of whom agreed that side effects were rare and almost always mild. [Tulsa World]

  • FDA pushes back Johnson & Johnson vaccine expiration dates, granting reprieve to nearly 85,000 doses in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma’s Provisional Death Count, which reflects COVID-19 deaths based on death certificates, remains at 8,546. [KOSU]

Blood donations needed locally amid ‘severe’ national shortage: The American Red Cross is calling on Tulsans to help stave off an emerging shortage of blood affecting the organization nationwide. Hospitals in the U.S. are responding to an “atypically high” number of trauma cases and emergency room visits, according to data released by the American Red Cross. Demand from trauma centers has climbed by 10% in 2021 compared to 2019. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

5 THINGS TO KNOW: What is Soonercare 2.0 and who is eligible to receive the expanded benefits?: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority explains the details of Medicaid expansion, who is now eligible to receive Soonercare, and when the expansion will go into effect. [Woodward News] OK Policy and the CoverOK Coalition held a webinar Connecting to Health Care: The Ins and Outs of Enrolling for Medicaid Expansion to help explain how Oklahomans can apply for health care coverage through Medicaid expansion.

Cannabis draws organized crime, official asks for study: The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is inundated with crime tips related to medical cannabis businesses — including some in Cleveland County — and a local official is asking the legislature for help. Cleveland County Commissioner District 1 Rod Cleveland plans to ask the state legislature to study public safety and permitting requirements for medical cannabis agriculture and processing facilities, he told The Transcript Monday. [The Norman Transcript]

Editorial: Better, more permanent fixes needed at state DPS offices: Despite executive orders issued by Gov. Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma residents are still camping out before sunrise at Department of Public Safety offices and waiting months for testing and identification cards. The Legislature set aside $6.6 million for Tulsa and Oklahoma City to host megacenters this summer to knock down the Real ID backlog, hoping to alleviate the burden on the offices for driver’s tests. This was the solution last summer when the Oklahoma Employment Services Commission was overwhelmed by unemployment claims. It helped, but residents still had lingering problems with access. Both situations were results of the Legislature’s consistent cuts to the agencies as tax revenue fell. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole asks education secretary to withdraw grant priorities: U.S. Rep. Tom Cole is using more caution on a bill he co-sponsored in March about civics education since the Biden administration announced grant priorities for the bill in late April. “The best way to preserve America’s unique form of governance is through civics education,” said Cole (OK-4). [Gaylord News]

RISE grants to help rural communities invest in businesses, jobs: Rural communities like Poteau in eastern Oklahoma or Woodward in the west may benefit from a new grant program announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rural Innovation Stronger Economy, or RISE, grants will be awarded to help rural communities create good-paying jobs and support new businesses, according to USDA Rural Development Cooperative Service Administrator Karama Neal. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

School districts increasingly drive housing market: Summer traditionally is house hunting season for families who want to move in and be settled before their children start a new school year. Metro Realtor Monty Strickland said that, during his 20 years in the business, school district choice has “really driven the market.” It’s the top priority for many homebuyers. That makes the hunt harder in 2021 when inventory is so low. The narrower the search criteria, the fewer of the limited houses on the market will pop up. [The Journal Record]

Three railroads in merger fight over vast route: Former U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan is making the rounds, telling regulators, business leaders and the public at large why they should care about which proposed railroad merger would create the best option for a line that would join Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Epic Charter Schools approves $335.5 million budget: Oklahoma’s biggest public school system projects $335.5 million in expenses next year. Epic Charter Schools had its budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which begins July 1, approved Wednesday evening. Epic anticipates at least a 20% increase in per-student funding this year. The Oklahoma Legislature increased its allocation for the state’s public schools by $171 million for the next fiscal year. [The Oklahoman]

General News

Examination yet to confirm bodies are Tulsa Race Massacre victims: The examination of remains exhumed from a Tulsa cemetery has not yet confirmed that they were victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an investigator said Monday. The remains of seven individuals have been received and six of those have been examined since exhumation began last week, according to forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield. [AP News]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Broken Arrow water discolored after increased demand stirs up ‘naturally occurring minerals’ [Tulsa World]
  • Two OKC pools still not open – Parks Dept. blames “challenging job market” [OKC Free Press]
  • City to move ahead with three-year franchise fee, hotel tax audits [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Environmental Protection Agency highlights Tulsa’s number of energy-efficient buildings [Tulsa World]
  • OU awarded $208M for severe weather research institute [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Our version of Fourth of July’: New event Juneteenth on the East celebrates Black freedom [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa Juneteenth festival expands to five days [Tulsa World]
  • Lawton’s Juneteenth celebration going virtual for 2021 [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Getting a license shouldn’t be harder than landing Garth Brooks concert tickets.”

-Tulsa World editorial about issues Oklahomans are having renewing driver’s licenses, as well as getting new licenses or REAL ID [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


COVID-19 vaccination rate in rural Oklahoma, compared with 46% for urban areas in the state. [Source: CDC]

Policy Note

Targeted Text Message Outreach Can Increase WIC Enrollment, Pilots Show: Over the last decade, a declining share of eligible families has participated in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). As a result, millions of eligible low-income people are missing out on the diet, health, and developmental benefits associated with participating in WIC.[1] Targeted text messaging offers a promising option to states planning strategies to reach more families eligible for WIC, as several recent pilot programs have shown it may help increase awareness about and enrollment in the program. [Center on Budget & Policy Priorities

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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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