In The Know: State sues Interior Dept. citing McGirt | Relief fund spending examined | Medicaid expansion will improve mental health

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

Medicaid expansion will improve mental health in Oklahoma (Guest Post): The passage of Medicaid expansion and opening up of enrollment in June are positive steps in improving Oklahoma’s ranking as 41st in the nation for adult mental health. More than 200,000 Oklahomans are newly eligible for affordable health coverage, including treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. This should assist some of the 92,000 uninsured adults with a mental illness and a number of the 248,000 Oklahomans who had a substance use disorder in the past year. [Whitney Cipolla / Guest Post]

Oklahoma News

Stitt sues Interior Department citing ‘erroneous expansion’ of McGirt decision: Gov. Kevin Stitt and the state of Oklahoma have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland for “unlawfully attempting to strip Oklahoma of its jurisdiction to regulate surface coal mining and reclamation operations,” according to a Monday morning press release from Stitt’s office. [NonDoc] The U.S. Department of the Interior notified the state earlier this year it planned to strip Oklahoma of its jurisdiction to regulate surface coal mining within the Muscogee Nation reservation following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, which determined the tribe’s reservation in eastern Oklahoma was never disestablished by Congress. [AP News] Oklahoma officials believe the McGirt decision is limited and applies only to federal criminal law and should not be used as justification for federal officials to wrest control of the state’s coal mining activity from state regulators. [The Oklahoman] The state is challenging not only the federal government’s reasoning but the procedure by which it assumed jurisdiction over mining regulation and rehabilitation. [Tulsa World]

State auditor finds problems with Oklahoma’s COVID-19 relief fund spending, unemployment: A recently released audit found a variety of concerns with how the state spent COVID-19 federal relief funds. The audit report, released by State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd, also found problems with how the state handled unemployment insurance during the pandemic. The state received more than $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars to address the impacts of COVID-19, but the audit covered only a fraction of the money. Those dollars came in during fiscal year 2020. Additional money came in later. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19 cases climbing at the Oklahoma County Jail: COVID-19 infections are increasing at the Oklahoma County Jail thanks to the Delta variant, jail administrator Greg Williams told the jail trust today. The rising number of infections, mitigation efforts and a blistering report from the Oklahoma State Department of Health on jail conditions were among the top agenda items discussed during the 81-minute meeting. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma is facing another COVID-19 surge, and the unvaccinated are at risk, experts say [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma daily virus cases continue upward trend [AP News]
  • Delta is more contagious, but there’s not enough data to judge its severity in Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Column: Post-COVID syndrome patients report more health and pain problems than cancer patients, study shows [Wayne Greene Column / Tulsa World]

Grading Oklahoma: Child well-being: Oklahoma ranks among the bottom 10 states in the nation for child well-being, according to a new annual report released last week. The state rose three places from the previous year’s rankings, from 45th to 42nd, according to the new KIDS COUNT report, which is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and evaluates states in four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Stitt: Rescue Act funds should accelerate Oklahoma’s economic growth: Gov. Kevin Stitt sent a letter Monday to co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding, outlining plans to leverage federal aid to accelerate Oklahoma’s economy. In the letter to state Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and state Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, the governor said decisions made earlier in the pandemic to keep businesses open as much as possible and to save as many jobs as possible should pay dividends as other states struggle to re-spark their economies and Oklahoma is more in a position to grow. [The Journal Record]

Unemployment rate dips to 3.7% in state: New figures released by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor show Oklahoma’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 3.7% in June, ranking the state as the eighth lowest in the country for unemployment. The June rate was the state’s lowest since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

Osage Nation seeks court affirmation that its reservation also was never disestablished: Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, another area tribe is seeking affirmation that its reservation was never legally disestablished. According to court records, the Osage Nation has filed an amicus brief with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in Young v. Oklahoma, arguing that according to the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, only Congress has the authority to disestablish a reservation and that therefore, Osage County should be recognized as the Osage Nation’s reservation. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Jail Trust hears updates on COVID, Juvenile detainee decertification: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) was informed Monday about the current status of COVID in the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail). Increases in jail COVID numbers reflect the recent rise in cases statewide and included positive cases among staff and detainees. The Trust also discussed the realities of compliance with a recent letter from the State Department of Health that declared the Jail an inappropriate place to house juveniles. [OKC Free Press]

  • Juvenile Task Force delivers recommendations to County Commissioners [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

Financing advances new phase of Tulsa affordable housing project: The Tulsa Housing Authority has closed the $25 million Phase III financing for Choice Neighborhoods – River West, a mixed-income housing development. RBC Community Investments provided $9.2 million in tax credit equity, local bank services firm Regent Bank provided an $11.6 million construction loan, and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage facilitated a $5.1 million Freddie Mac Forward permanent mortgage. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Hofmeister visits Sand Springs to praise educators, encourage COVID vaccinations: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister was at two Sand Springs schools Monday to praise educators at the suburban school district not only for their perseverance in getting through the last school year but also for embracing this summer as an opportunity to begin making up ground lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Daniel Craig brings state experience as superintendent of Kingfisher Public Schools: For Daniel Craig, who became district superintendent of Kingfisher Public Schools in May, his new job is also a homecoming. [NonDoc]

General News

Tulsa Race Massacre survivors, descendants filed open records requests regarding ongoing grave excavations: Attorneys for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and a group of survivors’ descendants have filed open records requests for documents related to the ongoing excavation and search for massacre victims’ graves. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“We’re really concerned about seeing such an uptick in the last two weeks, just how rapidly cases are increasing. Hospitalizations always follow that. And then, of course, deaths always follow that.”

-LaWanna Halstead, vice president of quality and clinical initiatives with the Oklahoma Hospital Association, about Oklahoma’s rising virus numbers [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

1.3 million

Number of children who would be lifted out of poverty if the minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour

[Source: Economic Policy Institute]

Policy Note

Economists in support of a federal minimum wage of $15 by 2024: Today, workers who earn the federal minimum wage make $7.25 an hour—about 29 percent less per hour than their counterparts made 50 years ago (after adjusting for inflation). We can afford to pay the lowest-paid workers in America substantially more than what their counterparts were paid a half century ago. Workers produce more today from each hour of work, with productivity nearly doubling since the late 1960s. [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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