In The Know: State seeks 2nd emergency declaration | State working with tribes, IHS for vaccine distribution | More

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

Together Oklahoma Talks Policy: Thriving Families: Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy program, held a Feb. 22 talk on policy and legislative issues that support thriving families in Oklahoma. A video of this conversation is available online. Also available are policy talks about safe communities (justice reform) and healthy Oklahomans (health care). On March 4, Together Oklahoma will hold a Virtual Day of Action to help connect Oklahomans with their lawmakers. [Learn more or register

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma seeks 2nd emergency declaration due to winter storm: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday he is seeking a second federal emergency disaster declaration as a result of a winter storm the dropped snow and ice on the state and resulted in subfreezing temperatures and power outages. [AP News] More aid will be needed in all 77 of the state’s counties, the governor said. His request seeks aid for homeowners, renters, business owners and government entities affected by the record-breaking cold, snow and ice of Feb. 8-20. [The Journal Record]

  • State asking residents, governments to report storm-related damage for federal aid request [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma lawmakers, utilities pledge efforts to mitigate skyrocketing energy costs [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

12,500 Oklahomans get their ‘ticket to freedom’ at mass COVID vaccination events: For many Oklahomans newly eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, the shot was a dose of relief after almost a year living in a pandemic. They said they were ready to get back to churches, to movie theaters, to family reunions, and to grandkids’ sporting events — to normal life. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tulsa County begins massive push of 15K COVID vaccines for teachers, school support workers [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma officials scramble to catch up on shots delayed by winter storm [CNHI via Norman Transcript]
  • Former State Epidemiologist estimates nearly half of Oklahomans have some COVID immunity [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Chickasaw nurse travels to help colleagues, COVID-19 patients [The Journal Record]
  • COVID-19: 359 new cases reported; 24 more deaths confirmed in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Op-Ed: Personal choices, public health — Eliminating mask mandates, vaccination standards is wrong for Oklahoma [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma works with tribes, Indian Health Service to distribute vaccines despite storms: Oklahoma is pushing ahead with its COVID-19 vaccination drive despite severe winter storms that left thousands of people stranded in their homes and many without electricity and running water. The state continues to lead most surrounding states in getting the first dose into residents’ arms, in spite of early opposition to the vaccine. [Cronkite News]

State Government News

Oklahoma bill would undercut independence of OKC, Tulsa Health departments: A state lawmaker wants Oklahoma’s commissioner of health to be able to recommend firing the directors of the Oklahoma City-County and Tulsa Health departments. The legislation from Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, comes after the independent health departments have occasionally challenged the State Department of Health’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Bill would let governor appoint U.S. senator, if a vacancy occurs: The Oklahoma House on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow the governor to appoint an individual to the U.S. Senate, should a seat become vacant. House Bill 2173 by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, passed by a vote of 54-42 and heads to the Senate for consideration. [Tulsa World]

Senate Judiciary Committee advances bills to punish social media websites for perceived censorship: Senate Bill 383 by Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, would grant users the ability to sue certain sites if their political or religious posts are taken down. ACLU of Oklahoma says the bill would also prohibit sites from moderating hate speech, a term that lacks a precise legal definition and that Standridge’s bill pins to someone’s “personal moral code.” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Gov. Stitt names former lawmaker to new Cabinet position: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday tapped former state Rep. Susan Winchester for the new position of secretary of licensing and regulation. Winchester will oversee more than 80 state agencies as part of Stitt’s goal of delivering taxpayers more for their money. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

U.S. Attorney in Muskogee announces plan to resign by end of week: The U.S. attorney based in Muskogee announced his plans Tuesday to resign at the end of the week. Brian J. Kuester, top federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, said in a written statement that his last day in office would be Sunday. [Tulsa World]

Biden nominee for Interior Secretary faces tough questions on energy views: Rep. Debra Haaland, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be Interior Secretary, faced tough questions Tuesday from Republicans concerned about her past criticisms of fossil fuel production and the administration’s early actions to curb drilling on public lands. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee chief’s remarks get international attention, but it’s not just about Jeep: A reporter called to ask a question, and the principal chief simply answered it: No, in his opinion, the Cherokee name should not be used as a marketing tool, not for a sports team, and not for an automobile company, either. The Cherokee Nation didn’t go looking for publicity on the issue, but the tribe sure got it. The chief’s comments attracted international attention this week after Car and Driver magazine published a story it had been working on since January about Jeep’s Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models. [Tulsa World]

Trent Shores reflects on his time as U.S. Attorney, remains committed to justice for Indian Country: This is a bittersweet week for U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. He tendered his resignation effective February 28th to make way for President Joe Biden’s new head prosecutor for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Over the last four years, he’s worked closely with tribal and state leaders, as both adjust to last summer’s landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling. [KOSU]

State of Indian Nations address: The federal government ‘simply must do better’: The state of Indian nations is strong, but the federal government still needs to “come to terms with the right of tribal nations to chart their own course and their rightful place,” National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp said Monday in the 19th annual State of Indian Nations address on Monday. [NonDoc]

New page offers info about tribal nations in Oklahoma: One of Oklahoma’s most distinctive features is that 39 federally recognized tribal nations call it home. They range from the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma, which has only a few hundred enrolled citizens, to the Cherokee Nation, which, with more than 380,000 citizens, is the largest tribe in the United States. [NonDoc]

Economic Opportunity

‘One person is too many’: Tulsa shoe repairman found dead under east Tulsa overpass after days of frigid weather: Andy Nelson spent many days as a father trying to instill in his children a heart and compassion for those experiencing homelessness. Three days after his body was found under an east Tulsa overpass, his adult daughter wondered what more could have been done. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Chamber’s 2021 forecast: A mixed bag: Oklahoma City is expected to regain its economic footing in 2021. “That’s the hope,” said Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. [The Journal Record]

Boeing sends newest passenger jet to rural Oklahoma airport for testing: A Boeing 777-9 landed at a remote Oklahoma airport Tuesday to begin flight tests proposed by the company last year. The 777-9 is Boeing’s newest commercial wide-body jet. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Oklahoma consumer crisis may follow last week’s weather crisis: Top state officials held a press conference Monday to assure the public that they are on top of the looming utility bill crisis facing Oklahoma consumers following last week’s record cold snap. The event was supposed to assure the public, but anyone who watched could easily have walked away with an even greater sense of panic. This was clear: The state’s top elected and appointed officials largely don’t know what they’re going to do — if anything — and the best assurances they had to offer were only modestly assuring. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Tulsa Public Schools return to in-person learning after 11-month pandemic hiatus: After almost 11 months of distance learning, Tuesday was the first day of in-person instruction for Tulsa Public Schools’ Tier 3 and 4 special education students, as well as fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth graders, plus seventh graders at the district’s junior high schools. [Tulsa World]

  • As students begin in-person return, TPS raises pay to entice substitutes [Public Radio Tulsa]

COVID’s impact shows up in Tulsa Public Schools student performance data: COVID-19’s impact is starting to show up in some of the performance data collected about Tulsa Public Schools’ student body. At Monday night’s school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Paula Shannon and Director of Data Strategy Sean Berkstresser walked board members through TPS’ annual midyear performance report, which had to adjust its metrics to accommodate for the pandemic’s impact. [Tulsa World]

General News

Possible 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims could find permanent resting place in Greenwood District, graves committee says: If confirmed to be victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the bodies recently located at Oaklawn Cemetery could eventually find a final resting place in the Greenwood District, where the violence occurred a century ago, officials said Tuesday night. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Commissioners vote 2-1 to dissolve Cleveland County budget board [Norman Transcript] [OU Daily]
  • OKC Council candidate Martinez-Brooks amends ethics report to correct error [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners approve virtual meetings, Triple X Road work, respite care [OKC Free Press]
  • Lawsuit filed to force City of OKC police body-worn cam footage release [OKC Free Press]
  • Edmond Public Schools selects next superintendent [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I really want to see this go away. I’m pretty much fed up with it. I mean, a half a million dead? I don’t want to see no more lives lost.“

-Jay Oates, a 30-year employee at Tulsa Public Schools who serves as grounds director, after receiving his first COVID-19 vaccination this week [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who are eligible for their second COVID-19 vaccination dose but have not yet gotten the shot.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Health via CNHI]

Policy Note

‘There’s No Natural Dignity in Work’: Wanda Lavender lives in Milwaukee. She’s 39, with six children and one grandchild. She used to be a day care teacher and proud of the work. But after a decade, she was still making $9 an hour. She was a single mother by then, and the money wasn’t enough. So she began working at Popeyes, too. She did both jobs for a time, putting in more than 60 hours a week. Here’s the question: Were those years in which Lavender worked night and day barely seeing her children, feeling her body break under the labor, a success of American public policy or a failure? [New York Times]

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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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