In The Know: State weekly virus case count double national rate | Education budget request sent to Legislature | 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 to host conversation on building community unity: Next week, Together Oklahoma will be hosting a discussion on building community unity. The event will take place at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Guest speaker Joshua Harris-Till will be discussing the challenges facing communities across the nation and the things people can do to help make a positive impact. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma’s new weekly case count doubles national rate, White House report shows: Oklahoma’s new weekly COVID-19 case count per capita has doubled the national average in the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report. The rate climbed to 175 per 100,000 people, which is double the U.S. rate of 86. Comparatively, the state dropped one spot from a week ago to No. 6 in the country. [Tulsa World]

  • Task force: Oklahoma 3rd in U.S. in coronavirus positivity [AP News]
  • State Health Commissioner defends color-coded COVID map: ‘Their red is our orange’ [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 1,083 more cases, 7-day rolling average sets record for fourth straight day [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma State Medical Association calls on Tulsa to require masks for children 10 and up [Public Radio Tulsa]

First COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Oklahoma to be reserved for health care workers, most at risk, state officials say: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is reserving the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine for frontline health care workers. State health officials discussed with reporters Thursday their developing three-phase approach to distributing a vaccine. [Tulsa World] At the outset, state officials anticipate Oklahoma will receive enough vaccinations for 20,000-30,000 people, or roughly 1% of the population. [The Oklahoman] Vaccines would become more readily available as the state moves into Phase 3 of the distribution process. [Norman Transcript]

Board passes $3.2 billion education budget request to legislature: Funding to secure the main student information system and to hire hundreds of school counselors to address students’ trauma were key issues in an education budget totalling nearly $3.2 billion approved by the state Board of Education on Thursday. [Oklahoma Watch] The state Legislature will consider the request in its 2021 session.But, the state’s financial picture of the upcoming budget year is murky amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘We are not pleased’: Virus impact on Oklahoma schools prompts push for quarantine consistency [Tulsa World]
  • Health department considering more consistent exposure notification process with schools [Norman Transcript]
  • Oklahoma schools could be given bigger role in tracing COVID cases [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • A month into the fall semester, StateImpact Oklahoma has tracked hundreds of COVID-19 cases in schools [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • Fort Gibson schools notify students, parents about possible COVID-19 exposure [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • EPS quarantine, isolation numbers fall as Adams returns to classroom learning [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Stillwater Board of Education president resigning [Stillwater News Press]

Health News

State: Kids’ dental health to improve: Many children in Oklahoma may get fewer cavities and suffer fewer serious dental problems in the future as a result of changes in store as the state expands Medicaid, the director of dental services at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority said. [The Journal Record]

State Government News

Interim studies examine racial justice, discrimination issues: State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, hosted two interim studies this week that examined the benefits of forming a state commission on race and equality and requiring racial impact statements for new legislation that would affect the criminal justice system. Oklahoma Policy Institute Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade said that the socioeconomic disparities seen in the state are not solely based on race, but are also divided in a rural vs. urban gap. [The Journal Record]

Interim study looks at permanent changes to Open Meetings Act: An interim study held Wednesday in the Oklahoma Senate examined the potential to permanently incorporate changes that the Oklahoma Legislature made earlier this year, allowing agencies, boards and commissions at the state and local levels to meet and hold public meetings virtually. [Lawton Constitution]

  • Sheriff: ‘Broader principle’ at stake in public records case: A western Oklahoma sheriff says agreeing to email public records to citizens could set a precedent that could negatively affect his office. As part of a graduate-level project last year, a Marquette University professor asked the Custer County Sheriff’s Office for some police reports. Sheriff Kenneth Tidwell made the records available but declined to email them. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma wants to get $300 extra in the hands of unemployed using a new online form: State officials have processed about half a million payments under the federal Lost Wages Assistance program this week, but some Oklahomans expressed frustration that they never got benefits they said were owed. [The Oklahoman]

First-time jobless claims hold steady at 5,560 for week: First-time jobless claims for unemployment insurance held steady last week compared to the prior seven-day period, according to a U.S. Labor Department report issued Thursday. [Tulsa World]

OK Senators support Trump SCOTUS nominee, I.C.E. in OK County Jail, prison COVID testing & more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics talks about support from Oklahoma Senators James Lankford and Jim Inhofe to vote for President Trump’s nominee to replace the late-Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Oklahoma County Jail Trust falling one vote shy of removing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement out of the jail and the state’s decision to start testing prison employees following an outbreak of COVID-19 at facilities. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Lankford defends Trump comments on transfer of power: U.S. Sen. James Lankford on Thursday defended President Donald Trump’s comments about the potential transfer of power next year, as the Senate unanimously approved a resolution asserting the Senate’s intent that the people’s will not be overturned. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

‘What if people could trust us?’: Wayland Cubit, an officer and mentor, runs for sheriff: Cubit wants to create a sheriff’s department focused on building trust between law enforcement and the community. As an Oklahoma City police officer and leader of a youth mentoring organization, Cubit’s professional and personal life has centered on saving children growing up in northeast Oklahoma City, the community where he was raised and still lives. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma court says child neglect charge applies to unborn: Unborn children are included in the definition of a “child” for purposes of prosecuting child neglect cases, an Oklahoma appeals court ruled on Thursday. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned a lower court ruling in a case involving Kearline Datara Anderson of Rogers County who was charged with child neglect after state prosecutors alleged she used illegal drugs while she was pregnant. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

OHFA trustees approve $4.4M in affordable housing grants: The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency Board of Trustees approved HOME Investment Partnerships Program and National Housing Trust Fund grants totaling more than $4.4 million at its September meeting. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Newly appointed education secretary: Virtual teaching during COVID a ‘heavy lift’: In just a few years, Ryan Walters has gone from commanding a classroom to having the ear of the governor. Walters, a teacher from McAlester, was tapped by Gov. Kevin Stitt to serve as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education earlier this month, following the resignation of Oklahoma Secretary of State Michael Rogers, who had been filling both roles. The appointment will require confirmation from the Senate. [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

Oklahoma in ‘final sprint’ before census deadline: As the Sept. 30 deadline for census responses approaches, a number of Oklahoma groups are working to ensure as many people as possible are counted. Oklahoma currently has a response rate of 93.8%, ranking 38th in the nation for response rates, according to the official census website. [KGOU]

  • Census director visits Oklahoma, urges residents to sign up. [Southwest Ledger]
  • Several Oklahoma communities have increased the percentage of residents responding to the once-in-a-decade event. [Pauls Valley Daily Democrat]

Poll: One in five likely Oklahoma voters say they’ll cast ballot by mail: One in five likely voters in Oklahoma plans to vote by mail in the general election, according to a poll that shows independent and Democratic voters are more inclined than Republicans to mail in absentee ballots. [The Oklahoman]

  • Tulsa County Election Board sending out thousands of absentee ballots for Nov. 3 election [Tulsa World]

Rabies-infected bats in Oklahoma “not the next plague of 2020 or anything”: Oklahoma has seen its second case of rabies in a bat in the past six weeks and health officials say it’s a good reminder to take precautions against the disease. [KGOU] Health officials in Oklahoma report an increase in rabies in Oklahoma with 38 cases thus far in 2020 compared to an average of 36 per year during the previous four years. [AP News]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Medical marijuana sales tax revenues multiply in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • Triple X Road to be restored after years of safety concerns [The Oklahoman]
  • Protest in OKC focused on Breonna Taylor death in Kentucky [OKC Free Press]
  • Tulsa City sales tax collections still trending up, but not at pre-pandemic levels [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Greenwood Rising vision is spurring dialogue: ‘Acknowledge the past and address it’ [Tulsa World]
  • Changes to Norman mask ordinance explained by city [Norman Transcript]
  • ‘Unite Norman’ group storms city council demanding a vote for Boyd [KGOU]

Quote of the Day

 “African Americans make up 8-9% of our state’s population, but this same group makes up 25-30% of our total incarceration rate. Mass incarceration exasperates inequality and we must address this issue.”

-Sen. George Young, D-OKC, during an interim study on the need for racial impact statements when crafting criminal justice legislation. [The Journal Record]

Number of the Day


The share of Oklahoma state and local taxes that comes from sales taxes, ranking our state as the 12th most dependent on sales taxes. [Tax Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bolstering State Economies by Raising Progressive Taxes: As state and local governments face unprecedented revenue shortfalls over the next three fiscal years, many are considering slashing services and public sector employment at exactly the time they are needed most. These moves have the potential to devastate communities and local economies, causing unnecessary hardship, deepening the recession, and hampering the eventual economic recovery. The federal government should step in immediately, using cheap federal borrowing to support state and local governments—just as the recently passed House stimulus bill (the HEROES Act) would do. But states and localities should also move quickly to stave off cuts and expand services and employment by raising revenue progressively. [Roosevelt 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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