In The Know: Statewide protests continue; Gov. hosts televised discussion on race; virus cases up 8% during Phase 3

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

Capitol Update: Building a new momentum: What comes to mind, though, are the words we have been hearing from across the country the past few days: “We’re tired of being tired.” The words reflect longstanding disappointment and anger, mixed with hope that someone will step forward to help carry the burden. Unfortunately, when the economy turns downward those already suffering, especially due to circumstance of birth, suffer the most. Whether the momentum we seemed to have before the pandemic would have brought them along, we do not know. But things have changed, and a new momentum could carry us farther. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Ongoing Coverage of Statewide Protests 

  • Black business owners call for unity, understanding [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma medical professionals rally in support of black lives [The Oklahoman]
  • Protesters persist through worries of COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Change can take place’: Tiffany Crutcher talks protests, progress in Tulsa [Tulsa World]
  • OKC marchers protest in Deep Deuce, Bricktown [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘A lot of anxiety’: OKC bar became protest flashpoint [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC police chief rejects notion that police should ‘dominate the streets’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman, OU community rally for racial justice with George Floyd March [Norman Transcript]
  • Norman protest: ‘We have to continue to fight’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Edmond protesters focus on Isaiah Lewis’ death [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Like it happened yesterday’: Clinton protest recalls past local police shootings [NonDoc]
  • Amid nationwide protests, group renews call for ‘justice’ in Shawnee man’s death [The Frontier
  • A community protesting for justice in Guymon [Guymon Daily Herald]
  • Slide show of Tahlequah’s Black Lives Matter event at Norris Park [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • ‘We are not OK’: Sunday night gathering for mental health may be first of many [Tulsa World]
  • ‘We’re all in this together,’ church rally declares in south Tulsa [Tulsa World]
  • Hundreds of demonstrators gather in Owasso for racial justice march created by 11-year-old [Tulsa World]
  • Broken Arrow peaceful protest against police brutality, racism addresses issues from why Black Lives Matter to empathy and white privilege [Tulsa World]
  • Hundreds Attend Black Lives Matter Protest in Broken Arrow [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Man who fell from I-244 during Tulsa protest broke his neck and back, remains in ICU [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa attorneys volunteering legal support to local protesters [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tough talks needed to fight racism: Local pastors, police officer, discuss the issue at ‘Lets Talk About Race’ forum [The Oklahoman]
  • Community barbecue a chance to rest amid turbulent times [The Oklahoman]
  • Op-Ed: Listen to the dying gasps of George Floyd; black lives do matter [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]
  • Point of View: Rural areas and the Black Lives Matter movement [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]
  • Op-Ed: It’s time to defund the police: 4 years of policy fails [Op-Ed / The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Editorial: OKC mayor showing solid leadership amid turmoil [Editorial / The Oklahoman]
  • Editorial: We’ve let police police the police; that model is in obvious crisis and must change [Editorial / Tulsa World]

‘Take a moment to truly listen’: Stitts host discussion on race: As thousands of people across the country protest racial inequality and police violence, Gov. Kevin Stitt and his wife, Sarah, hosted a televised discussion on race Sunday with local law enforcement and religious leaders. The Stitts sought understanding for how Oklahomans can reduce racism and bring people together. [The Oklahoman] Gov. Stitt called for all Oklahomans to make personal effort to improve race relations [Tulsa World]

OSDH: New COVID-19 cases up 8% in first week of Phase 3 recovery in Oklahoma: New COVID-19 cases rose by 8% in the first days of more relaxed restrictions adopted Monday in the state, while the number of those recovering and associated deaths fell based on a week-to-week comparison, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [OSDH / Enid News & Eagle] One more person has died in Oklahoma from the virulent disease COVID-19. There have been 348 deaths from the disease in the state since late March, and 7,150 infections confirmed. Oklahoma State Department of Health officials reported 91 new cases in the state on Sunday. [Tulsa World]

New weekly tracker: COVID-19 by ZIP Code: Oklahoma Watch’s new weekly tracker shows the latest hot spots for COVID-19 infections by ZIP code across Oklahoma. For May 28 through June 4, Oklahoma State Department of Health data show surges in ZIP codes inHugo, Guymon and south Tulsa area. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

Point of View: Ticket to better health, better economy, a stronger state: A “Yes” vote on SQ 802 would bring those health care dollars back to Oklahoma and cover nearly 200,000 Oklahomans who don’t have health insurance today. Passage of State Question 802 will ensure no politician will be able to take that coverage away or water it down without a vote of the people. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Arnold Hamilton: An opportunity to improve health of working poor: Two governors and five legislatures failed to deliver. Now it’s up to rank-and-file Oklahomans to take matters into their own hands. June 30’s long-awaited vote on State Question 802’s Medicaid expansion proposal would – if approved – take a giant step toward improving the health of the state’s working poor. [Opinion/ The Journal Record]

Nursing homes: 95 deaths, no violations: Inspectors found no violations in the 10 nursing homes with the largest outbreaks, in which 698 residents and staff have tested positive and 95 have died. Those facilities, which account for about half of all COVID-19 deaths and infections in state long-term care centers, were found by inspectors to be in compliance with CDC guidelines. [Oklahoma Watch]

Nursing homes may reopen soon: Health officials are developing a plan to reopen state nursing homes and long-term care facilities in weeks even as the number of locations with known COVID-19 infections has climbed above 100. [The Oklahoman]

Saliva testing validation ‘stops and starts’ have kept it from becoming widely used in Oklahoma despite early push: After some false starts, Dr. Kayse Shrum believes saliva testing is back on track to soon become a more robust and less unpleasant way of identifying COVID-19 infections in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Failure to protect: How an Oklahoma child abuse law treats women differently than men (video):  An Oklahoma law stipulates that any parent or guardian who knows a child is being abused and does nothing to stop it can be charged with a felony. But a 60 Minutes investigation found that 15 women who were never found to have abused their children have received harsher punishments than the man who did. [60 Minutes / CBS]

Oklahoma releases execution training protocol to attorneys for death row inmates: The Oklahoma Attorney Generals Office and Department of Corrections released its death penalty training protocol on Friday to attorneys for death row inmates as the state attempts to resume executions. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Officials vow to fix state’s struggling unemployment system: Officials are vowing to fix the state’s struggling unemployment system and expedite processing tens of thousands of backlogged cases. But leaders admit the problems facing the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission are complex. Questions on the state’s unemployment application are unnecessarily confusing, and the system’s loading time can be frustratingly slow. Also, quick payouts are not guaranteed once the backlogged cases are finally processed. [CNHI] Among the changes implemented by OESC’s new interim director during the first week was to push through more than 27,000 claims that had been held up for a variety of reasons in the unemployment approval process. [The Journal Record] OESC claims 71% of backlog has been addressed [Public Radio Tulsa]

After veto, some Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses in license limbo: On May 21, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed HB 3228, which could have provided Koontz and other marijuana business owners some relief. During 2020’s abbreviated legislative session, the bill had become a combination of several adjustments to policies within the state’s medical marijuana industry. [NonDoc] Revenue for Norman dispensaries continues to increase [Norman Transcript]

Trustee warns COTPA of cuts to services for the ‘marginalized’: When cutting budgets, public officials must take care not to slash services to vulnerable populations, said a member of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority on Friday as the body approved its budget for fiscal year 2021. [The Journal Record]

Capitol Insider: Moving beyond the Legislative session (audio): With the 2020 legislative session now over, lawmakers are refocusing on the upcoming elections and issues relevant in the year ahead. KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley take one last look at the session and its effect on the months to come. [KGOU]

Wayne Greene: It’s time to redistrict the Oklahoma Legislature and anything could happen: A year from now, the state’s political map will look very different. You can count on it, but depending on how you count — or, rather, who’s doing the counting — the final result could go in any number of ways. It’s time to redistrict the Oklahoma Legislature, a process that is often heated and always political. [Opinion / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

U.S. Senate primary draws lively competition despite Inhofe’s decades dominating at polls: Since his first election in 1966, Jim Inhofe has almost always had a primary opponent. Since 1994, he’s run for the U.S. Senate six times and been primaried five. This year Inhofe has three primary opponents. He had four in 2008 and in 2014. Yet for all the names on the ballots, Inhofe has never gotten less than 75% of the vote in a Senate primary — and that was against a single opponent in 1996. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Editorial: Officials must prevent humanitarian catastrophe of post-pandemic mass eviction: A coalition of advocacy groups is pushing efforts to help Oklahoma renters avoid a post-pandemic wave of evictions. The agenda includes a call for Gov. Kevin Stitt to issue a statewide moratorium on evictions and using federal stimulus funds to provide relief for landlords. The Tulsa and Oklahoma City city councils are considering resolutions endorsing action. [Editorial / Tulsa World] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma have been tracking Oklahoma’s evictions and foreclosures filed since the March 15 state of emergency and provided analysis on the issue.

Point of View: TSET working to address food insecurity:  The COVID-19 crisis magnified the need to make nutritious food available to Oklahoma’s most food-insecure residents. he Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust has quickly responded to this urgent need. At a recent meeting, the TSET Board of Directors approved up to $1 million to be awarded for short-term projects to address food insecurity.  [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Flex classes, safety measures in the works for reopening Oklahoma colleges: With plans for students to return this fall, Oklahoma colleges will try to limit exposure to the coronavirus in campus environments that, under normal circumstances, encourage community contact. [The Oklahoman] OSU will resume to in-person instruction this fall but will finish the final two weeks of the fall semester online. This will be the final step of a six-phase reopening plan for the Stillwater campus, which the university released on Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Alabama and Oklahoma State football players tested positive for COVID-19 as schools prepare to reopen for athletics: The positive tests come as schools re-open their athletic facilities, though many are in a limited capacity, with specific protocols in place. [Insider]

General News

Poll workers hesitant to work June 30 election: With Oklahoma’s primary election quickly approaching, some election workers say they have to choose between their civic duty and their health. With in-person voting on track to occur on June 30, Oklahoma poll workers, many of whom are older, must decide if they want to work on Election Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]  

Financial institutions offer free absentee voter services: The Oklahoma State Election Board is partnering with banks and credit unions across the state to provide voters with access to free absentee ballot notarizations and identification card photocopies. [NonDoc] Safety and cleanliness are priorities for Election Day [NonDoc] The Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City and Pioneer Library System in Norman are also offering free ID copies for absentee voters. [The Oklahoman]

State official pitches Oklahoma as site for Republican National Convention: Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell has lobbied for the Republican National Committee to consider holding the party’s national convention in Oklahoma this August. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • A breakdown of OKC’s budget challenges [The Oklahoman]
  • Some desire to have councilwoman killed, her husband says [The Oklahoman]
  • Familiar faces? Tulsa’s deaf interpreters nab recognition for City Hall, plead to continue access after pandemic [Tulsa World]
  • Filing for Tulsa municipal officers begins Monday [Tulsa World]
  • Osage Nation reports six new cases of COVID-19 [KOSU]
  • Woodward County board to take up short agenda [Woodward News]

Quote of the Day

“If you were ever considering voting by mail rather than going to a polling place, this would be the election to do it.”

-Oklahoma County Election Board Secretary Doug Sanderson, speaking about long lines expected for in-person voting during the June 30 election due to COVID-19 precautions and a reduced number of poll volunteers [The Oklahoman]  

Number of the Day


The cumulative number of Oklahomans who have filed unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic 

[Source: Oklahoma Employment Security Commission via CNHI]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Pandemic and digital divide threaten accurate census count of Native populations: An inaccurate census count wreaks havoc on tribal nations and people for generations to come. For Native people, the census is crucial to state and federal recognition, the enforcement of treaties, and the economic health and overall well-being of tribal nations and their citizens and members. Face-to-face enumeration is key to an accurate American Indian and Alaska Native count, but has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As many AI and AN people lack reliable telecommunications and broadband access, self-response rates are significantly lower than the general population. Inaccurate census data could even exacerbate funding for potential future pandemics. [Truthout]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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