In The Know: State sues over vaccine mandate | Lawmakers hear concerns about teacher retirement system | Disability services wait list

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 new board member: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has announced Rebecca Thompson, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of AAON, Inc., has joined its board of directors. Thompson has served as AAON’s CFO and Treasurer since May 2021. Previously, she served as the company’s Chief Accounting Officer since December 2012 and as its CAO and Treasurer since November 2017. The Tulsa-based company is engaged in the engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sale of semi-custom heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment (HVAC) for commercial use. She oversees all accounting and finance functions, including Security and Exchange Commission reporting, Sarbanes-Oxley reporting compliance, payroll, and income taxes. [OK Policy]

State Government News

State sues Biden administration over vaccine mandate for federal contractors: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 mandate for federal contractors. The office has hired outside attorneys to help with the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The state Legislature last session gave the Attorney General’s office $10 million to fight federal over reach and the ability to review executive orders. [Tulsa World]

Regular boosts to retired teachers’ income would derail progress toward fully funding OTRS, legislators told: Oklahoma’s long-beleaguered teacher retirement system absorbed 2018’s one-time “bonus” disbursement and 2020’s cost-of-living adjustment without much difficulty, but regular COLAs would be another matter, Executive Director Sarah Green indicated Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s gross tax receipts continue to rise; $1.27 billion accumulated in October: Gross tax receipts to the state treasury continued double-digit growth in October, signaling continued economic expansion, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Wednesday. “The growth we are seeing reflects true economic expansion even when inflationary factors are taken into consideration,” McDaniel said in a press release. “While the strong performance of the state economy — evidenced by record high collections and low unemployment — has become almost routine, it’s still impressive.” [Tulsa World]

A positive unemployment report: Initial claims in Oklahoma decline by nearly half from prior week: Oklahoma workers filed half as many first-time unemployment claims last week as the prior week, while continued claims resumed their downward trend after a one-week upswing, according to a government report released Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma State Senator files legislation to remove marijuana industry growers’ agricultural sales tax exemption: A state senator is seeking to have Oklahoma’s agricultural sales tax exemption for marijuana industry growers removed. Sen. George Burns filed Senate Bill 1101 ahead of the upcoming legislative session. [KFOR]

Redistricting map released, Julius Jones clemency recommended, anti-protestor bill blocked and more (podcast): This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the new map released by legislative leaders for the special session to deal with redistricting, the Pardon and Parole Board recommending clemency for death row inmate Julius Jones and a judge stopping an anti-protest bill from taking effect. [KOSU]

Twelve Years on the Waiting List: Why is it Taking so Long to Get Services for People with Intellectual Disabilities?: After taking on my brother’s guardianship eleven years ago, I began attempting to educate myself to be a better advocate. The learning curve has been steeper than I had imagined, but I am grateful for the opportunity to become more informed. I kept hearing about the twelve-year-long waiting list, but I didn’t fully understand it, so I began attending some of the meetings held by Wanda Felty. I was fortunate she agreed to answer some questions for TulsaKids. [Tulsa Kids]

State in denial over disability waiting list: “I am a single working mother who understands the caregiver role and the burnout that sadly comes with it.  As an Executive Director in healthcare and a nurse for the last 30 years, I have assisted many families with their elderly parents and adults with disabilities. But now it is my daughter’s turn to get some help and I am calling on our legislature to prioritize the developmental disabilities waiting list.” [Skye Statum / Edmond Life & Leisure]

Federal Government News

COVID-19 vaccine mandate aids military readiness, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says: Saying COVID-19 could render a military unit unable to accomplish its mission, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe that a vaccine mandate is critical to troop readiness and not a hindrance. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Department of Commerce gets $1 million federal grant for statewide economic development: The Oklahoma Department of Commerce recently was awarded a $1 million grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). The purpose is to provide support and funding to Oklahoma communities to increase economic development opportunities throughout the state, particularly in rural communities. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cheyenne and Arapaho Gov. Reggie Wassana wins landslide re-election: Cheyenne and Arapaho Gov. Reggie Wassana and Lt. Gov. Gib Miles won the Nov. 2 general election by a landslide. According to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Tribune, this marks the first time the tribes have elected a governor to two consecutive terms. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

‘For the future’: James Jennings challenged by Nelson Harjo Sr. in Muscogee Council runoff: After neither man topped 50 percent support in the primary election earlier this year, incumbent James Jennings and challenger Nelson Harjo Sr. are facing off for the Muscogee National Council Okmulgee District B seat in the sovereign nation’s Nov. 13 general election. [NonDoc]

5 events to attend in honor of Native American Heritage Month in Oklahoma: The month of November has been declared National Native American Heritage Month by President Joe Biden, an annual tradition since 1994. More than a century ago, Red Fox James of the Blackfeet Nation rode across the country seeking state approvals for a national day to honor Native Americans. He presented the endorsement of 24 states to the White House on Dec. 14, 1915, but the national day was never declared. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

4 Oklahoma inmates appeal ruling permitting their executions: Attorneys for the next four Oklahoma inmates scheduled to be executed filed an appeal on Thursday of a federal judge’s ruling allowing the executions to proceed. The attorneys for Julius Jones, Wade Lay, Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle filed their appeal with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. [AP News]

  • The Source Podcast: Julius Jones recommended for clemency days after other Oklahoma inmate is executed [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Police Department seeking public feedback on community policing effort: The Tulsa Police Department plans to meet with Tulsa residents next week to gather feedback for a community policing evaluation from policing firm CNA, the city announced in a news release. [Tulsa World]

Hogue attorney: Legal options being considered; client maintains innocence: After Rebecca Hogue was found guilty of first-degree murder through permitting child abuse Wednesday, one of her attorneys — who defended her free of charge — said he’s considering options following the verdict. Hogue’s son, Jeremiah “Ryder” Johnson, was murdered by her then-boyfriend Christopher Trent while she was at work Jan. 1, 2020. Since her son’s death, Hogue has insisted she did not know Trent abused her son. Oklahoma’s failure to protect law states that a guardian may be charged with murder if they knew or reasonably should have known their child was being abused. [Norman Transcript]

Health News

Agency: 80,000 Oklahomans likely eligible for SoonerCare under Medicaid expansion: Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans are now able to obtain healthcare through the state’s Medicaid expansion. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority says it is serving more than 200,000 Oklahomans approved for SoonerCare benefits through Medicaid expansion. [KFOR]

Health department begins administering pediatric vaccines: The Comanche County Health Department began administering pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 to 11 on Thursday. The vaccines began following the Food and Drug Administration’s and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency authorization on Wednesday. [The Lawton Constitution]

Economic Opportunity

Landlords’ refusal to take rental assistance money could lead to more homeless Oklahomans: Job loss, illness and hospital costs have driven more people onto the streets during the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal government, however, stepped in with the Rental Assistance Program to keep people from being evicted. The money comes with no strings attached, and all landlords have to do is enroll in the program. But more and more landlords, particularly those from out of state, are passing up the help and evicting tenants so they can quickly re-rent their properties. [KOCO]

Economy & Business News

Tourism business booming in OKC: Tourism is emerging as a major new sector in the city’s economy, Mayor David Holt said this week during his State of the City address. “The Oklahoma City visitor economy is something that hardly existed a quarter-century ago, but now it is a major aspect of life in Oklahoma City,” Holt said. [The Journal Record]

Education News

‘So hurtful’: Fired Oklahoma City teachers respond after losing jobs for refusing to wear masks: Five teachers pledged to continue fighting Oklahoma City Public Schools after the school district fired them for refusing to wear masks. The teachers lost their jobs Wednesday after the district school board voted unanimously to terminate their employment. [The Oklahoman]

An Early Look at the Race for State Superintendent: Joy Hofmeister is term-limited and recently announced she’s running for governor. The race to fill the state’s top education post will be critical to the future of public education in Oklahoma. Three candidates so far have announced they are running. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Mayor talks heroes, hardship and the ‘outrage industrial complex’ in State of the City address [Tulsa World]
  • Bynum offers a progress report in his 5th state of the city [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Wrecking of former OKC City courts and police station begins [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“(T)he truth is the waiting list is not the problem for people with developmental disabilities; it is only a symptom of the problem. The problem is that Oklahoma has not committed to supporting people with intellectual disabilities and their families with comprehensive, long-term, community-based supports and services.”

-Wanda Felty, mother of a 33-year-old daughter born with significant developmental disabilities along with complex medical conditions, speaking about Oklahoma’s 13-year waiting list for families needing developmental disability services [Tulsa Kids]  

Number of the Day


Number of people on the state’s waiting list for disability services, as of March 2021 [The Frontier]

Policy Note

5 Million Children in Veteran and Active-Duty Families Will Lose Out if Child Tax Credit Expansions End: Some 5 million children with veteran or active-duty parents are eligible for a new or bigger Child Tax Credit this year thanks to the American Rescue Plan’s expansions of the credit, but they — along with tens of millions of other children — will lose out after this year unless Congress extends those Rescue Plan provisions. Some 5 million children with veteran or active-duty parents will lose out after this year unless Congress extends the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit.The stakes are especially high for the 1 million children in veteran and active-duty families who previously received only a partial credit or none at all because their incomes were too low or they lacked earnings in the year; the full Child Tax Credit, or a portion of the credit, will be taken away from them unless Congress extends the Rescue Plan provision making the full credit available to families with the lowest incomes. [Center on Budget and 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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