In The Know: State tallies record day of COVID cases | Supreme Court blocks mandate | Unemployment claims increase | 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.

Note: OK Policy’s offices will be closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. In The Know will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: As the 2022 legislative session approaches, some lawmakers are proposing additional corporate and income tax cuts. Hearing this puts me in the mind of the classic comedy bit about a patient who walks into the doctor’s office and says, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor ponders the situation and replies, “Well … then don’t do that.” [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

UPDATE: 2022 State Budget Summit, January 27, 2022: Due to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, we have decided to move this year’s State Budget Summit to be entirely online. With this change, we also have decided to offer free registration, with donations welcomed to support our work. While we prefer to gather in person, the decision to move to a virtual format will protect everyone’s health while still providing this unique opportunity to hear from our panel of experts and ask your questions about our state’s budget and revenue outlook. [Register and Learn More]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma tallies a record 10,502 new COVID-19 cases in one day: Oklahoma posted a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases Thursday, and it was more than 10,000 for the first time. The state reported 10,502 new COVID cases, which boosted the seven-day rolling average to a record 7,788. Amid rampant spread of the omicron variant, the previous high in Oklahoma, Sunday’s 9,608 new cases, was quickly toppled. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma hospitals increase in pediatric patients amid omicron surge [KOCO]
  • The state’s seven-day average in new coronavirus cases has jumped to 7,788 per day [KOSU]
  • At least nine law enforcement officers in Oklahoma died from COVID-19 in 2021 [Tulsa World
  • OKC Fire Department fights Covid-19 cases as mask mandate put in place for city employees [The Oklahoman]

Supreme Court rejects vaccine mandate for businesses: The U.S. Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job. At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. [The Journal Record]

  • State leaders celebrate U.S. Supreme Court vaccine business mandate ruling, lament health-care workers aspect [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma set to get $266.9 million from infrastructure bill to repair and replace bridges: Oklahoma is set to receive $266.9 million to improve its bridges as part of a new funding program being launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding, to be allocated over five years, is part of $26.5 billion going to states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Another $825 million will be provided to tribal transportation projects. [The Oklahoman

Health News

OU-led research team uses AI to predict coronavirus strains in bats: A University of Oklahoma professor is leading a team that uses artificial intelligence to better understand bat populations and predict betacoronavirus transmission to humans. Betacoronaviruses include the viruses responsible for SARS and COVID-19. While the origins of COVID-19 aren’t fully understood, bats are thought to be a suspect. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State Government News

Legislators to decide fate of $10.3 billion in next session: With less than a month before the Second Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature begins, state lawmakers will have dozens of issues to address this year. The lack of money, however, won’t be one of them. Flush with a positive report from the state Board of Equalization, revenue estimates show that legislators will have about $10.3 billion to spend this year. [Southwest Ledger]

First-time state unemployment claims increase 30%: First-time unemployment claims in the state increased 30% the week ending Saturday from the prior week’s adjusted numbers, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 2,381 initial claims for unemployment benefits were filed in Oklahoma for the week ending Saturday. [Tulsa World

Who cashed in during February’s storm? Oklahoma regulators could soon help cut through the secrecy: The Public Utility Division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission seeks to provide those customers with at least some answers by unveiling information typically shielded from public view. [The Oklahoman]

Some lawmakers question timing of Thursday’s Professional Oklahoma Educators forum: Some lawmakers Thursday questioned the wisdom of having an educator advocacy day at the Capitol as growing numbers of schools closed because of staffing shortages and COVID-19 case numbers soared. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

(Audio) Education secretary criticism, O’Donnell resigns leadership post, executions by firing squad and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses Education Secretary Ryan Walters coming under fire for attacking schools as they are forced to close their doors as COVID numbers skyrocket, State Representative Terry O’Donnell resigning his post as House Speaker Pro Tem amid allegations of corruption and the US Supreme Court leaving in place a lower court decision ruling McGirt v. Oklahoma isn’t retroactive. [KOSU]

Garvin wants to give schools more local control, curb college fees: Senator Garvin (R-Duncan) will introduce legislation that would bring mental health counselors into public schools, make college and university fee structure more transparent to the public and eliminate the cap on the number of hours a school district can use a substitute teacher. [Southwest Ledger]

Wildlife Department to push for licensing authority: The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is again seeking a major overhaul to hunting and fishing license fees. The agency wants to control the fee-setting structures itself, rather than going through the legislature. [The Ada News]

Federal Government News

Medical education program benefits state, lawmakers say: Action to better ensure the future of a program that helps to fund training of aspiring physicians has drawn support from lawmakers representing Oklahoma in Washington, D.C. The Medical Student Education program, which provides grants intended to enhance and expand health care training at colleges and universities, has yielded benefits for the Sooner State since it was established in 2019. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Lethal injection hides cruelty behind guise of medicine: As Oklahoma plans to start 2022 with another execution, it is time for a sober reassessment of the broken practice of lethal injection. As an emergency physician born and raised in Oklahoma, I am deeply troubled by our state’s insistence on using life-saving medicines to end lives. [NonDoc]

Construction school to help former inmates jump-start lives: A new school and some partnerships pushed by a state senator from Tulsa may help former prison inmates jump-start lives while at the same time adding to Tulsa’s inventory of desperately needed affordable housing. [The Journal Record

101 years after Tulsa Race Massacre, lab tries to identify human remains: Over a century after the Tulsa Race Massacre, a terrorist group of angry white men went on a rampage in Greenwood Oklahoma, slaughtering somewhere upwards of 300 unsuspecting and terrified ancestors who literally did nothing but develop their community into one of the wealthiest Black districts in the nation. Thanks to a lab in Salt Lake City, some affected families may finally receive the answers they’ve been denied for generations. [The Black Wall Street Times

First Oklahoma County Jail death of 2022 under investigation: The first death of an Oklahoma County Detention Center (OCDC or Jail) detainee happened some time through the night of late Tuesday or early Wednesday. [OKC Free Press]

Economy & Business News

Manufacturers hampered by latest case surge: Workforce and supply chain issues plaguing Oklahoma businesses since COVID-19 infections began 22 months ago are surging along with the fast-spreading omicron variant. “Manpower is the most significant issue right now. It’s very severe at this point,” Joe Epperley, communications director with the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, said Thursday. “It’s been a problem since 2020 but now it’s even worse with the omicron surge.” [The Journal Record]

Education News

Oklahoma school districts struggle as omicron variant leaves staff, students sick or quarantined: Schools throughout Oklahoma are going virtual or canceling classes, moves that impact tens of thousands of students and parents. These changes come as staff and students call out sick with COVID-19. [KOCO]

  • Broken Arrow, Tahlequah, Stillwater added to list of schools with distance learning shifts [Tulsa World

Owasso Public Schools sees enrollment increase after first full year of pandemic: Owasso Public Schools saw an increase in enrollment at the start of the second full year of the pandemic, according to newly released state data. The Oklahoma State Department of Education on Wednesday released its annual Oct. 1 student count, which shows 9,656 class seats filled at Tulsa’s northernmost neighboring school district compared to last year’s total of 9,035. [Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“Most of us doing this work are second-chance folks giving others an opportunity for a second chance and more options for those who may not be taking traditional routes to make a living.”

—Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, speaking about a new program in Tulsa that aims to help people who were formerly incarcerated with job training and employment [The Journal Record

Number of the Day

20%

Oil and gas accounts for nearly 20% of Oklahoma tax revenues

[Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

Policy Note

Oklahoma’s Evolving Energy Landscape: This edition of the Oklahoma Economist investigates recent trends and the longer-term evolution of the state’s energy sector. In 2020, the pandemic-induced collapse in oil prices led to less oil and gas drilling, production, and jobs, and tighter fiscal discipline among exploration and production (E&P) firms. While the sector rebounded considerably in 2021, employment has lagged as firms have continued to become more efficient. Meanwhile, renewable energy in the state has steadily grown and will continue to make up a larger portion of Oklahoma’s energy landscape. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristin Wells joined OK Policy in October 2021 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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