In The Know: Supreme Court hears absentee ballot case; state encourages reporting workers who refuse to return to jobs; and 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Cooperation needed to navigate uncharted waters: Oklahomans are ready to see a course toward progress, not be distracted by political stunts and cheap sniping. I know I am not alone in asking our elected officials and policymakers to set aside personal differences as we work toward a full recovery. In doing so, we can rebuild Oklahoma to be a state where all Oklahomans can prosper and thrive. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Four reasons to finish the job on retiree cost of living adjustment: As the Oklahoma Legislature returns to adopt a budget and pass other priority legislation, it should quickly approve retiree cost of living adjustments. HB 3350 that unanimously passed the House earlier this session would give more than 120,000 retired teachers, police officers, firefighters, and state employees up to a four percent cost of living adjustment (COLA). The measure would have no impact on the budget, and it would inject millions of dollars into our economy when it needs it most. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma Supreme Court referee hears arguments in absentee ballot dispute: An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case that could dramatically alter how absentee votes are handled. The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma along with two individuals last week sued State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. [Tulsa World]

State encourages businesses to report workers who refuse to return to jobs: As the state plans to begin rolling back its measures intended to fight the spread of COVID-19 on Friday, it is urging employers to report workers who refuse to return to work to the state’s unemployment agency to terminate their benefits, the head of the state’s secretary of commerce said. [The Frontier] National Employment Law Project: It is concerning that states are “re-opening” their economies and encouraging workers to go back to work. If shutting off access to unemployment insurance is any motivator behind this decision, it is sure to backfire.

Oklahoma has 3,473 known coronavirus cases and at least 214 deaths: There have been 3,473 confirmed cases in the state. At least 214 people have died as of April 29 — 7 more reported deaths than the day before and 44 more than a week ago. However, even though some deaths were reported on a certain day, the deaths might have occurred days or even weeks before it was recorded, according to the state health department. [The Frontier] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Positive COVID-19 cases climbing inside Oklahoma long-term care facilities as the state reopens: While the number of recoveries grow higher by the day, it’s a different story for Oklahoma’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. [KFOR]

Tulsa Health Department Director: Tulsa has not met federal guidelines to reopen: Tulsa’s top public health official said Wednesday that based on federal guidelines, the city is not ready to follow Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reopening plans beginning Friday. [Public Radio Tulsa] Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday while the city will follow the state’s business reopening plan starting Friday, things are not going right back to normal. [Public Radio Tulsa] Bynum says Tulsa police, Health Department will enforce guidelines for reopening businesses. [Tulsa World]

Mayor revises OKC emergency orders effective Friday: Social gatherings of 10 or more people are still prohibited in Oklahoma City under revised COVID-19 emergency orders taking effect Friday. Mayor David Holt issued a new emergency proclamation late Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Dental offices add safety measures in advance of reopening: Across the state, dentists are gearing up to reopen for routine care and minor medical procedures as early as Friday as long as there’s enough protective equipment available to safely operate. [CNHI via McAlester News Capital]

Pandemic is ‘Catch-22’ for many Tulsa-area children: Protection from virus could mean exposure to abuse: During a pandemic, one would think that a couple of quiet weeks at Child Abuse Network in Tulsa would be a good sign. Fewer reports means less abuse, right? Experts say it’s the opposite. [Tulsa World] OK Policy guest post: ‘Safe at Home’ slows virus outbreak, but endangers domestic violence survivors.

Tulsa World editorial: New etiquette in public places is to wear a mask and keep a distance: As businesses start reopening Friday in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first phase to restart the economy, residents need to take precautions in public against the COVID-19 virus. [Tulsa World Editorial]

State Government News

Health Department audit request re-kindles old infernos: Attorney General Mike Hunter and his team have encountered financial mismanagement at the Oklahoma State Department of Health before, but their 2018 multi-county grand jury review of OSDH’s financial implosion and its co-mingling of state and federal funds yielded no action. [NonDoc] Republican state leaders in Oklahoma and Utah are facing scrutiny for spending millions of dollars combined to purchase malaria drugs promoted by President Trump to treat COVID-19 patients that many other states obtained for free and that doctors warned shouldn’t be used without more testing. [AP News via The Journal Record]

Agency investigating thousands of fake unemployment claims: Oklahoma’s unemployment agency said it has discovered more than 3,800 fictitious claims since mid-March. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is also reviewing hundreds of other suspicious filings, it said Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma’s CED 7 seeks attorney following damning state audit: Circuit Engineering District 7 officials voted at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday to hire an attorney following the release of an audit by the state of Oklahoma that found several irregularities. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma National Guard adds more response teams for virus assistance to nursing homes: The head of the Oklahoma National Guard said Wednesday that the Guard will ramp up its mission to provide assistance to the state’s nursing homes and longterm health care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

Federal judge temporarily prevents for-profit group from receiving CARES funds intended for tribes: On Monday, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing Alaska Native Corporations from receiving money allocated to tribes under the CARES Act. Tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, argued it was unfair that relief funds were slated to go to for-profit organizations. [KOSU] Tribal governments were supposed to get $8 billion in direct emergency relief from the CARES Act, the $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill that became law on March 27. More than a month later, they haven’t gotten any of it. [Huffington Post]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma prison chief discusses COVID-19 testing in state prisons: Prisons across the United States are struggling with a rash of COVID-19 infections. In Oklahoma, two prisoners and nine corrections employees have tested positive for the disease. StateImpact’s Quinton Chandler spoke with Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow about the state’s ability to test for Covid-19 in prisons. [StateImpact Oklahoma] OK Policy and other organizations have urge elected officials and state officials to take action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma corrections facilities

Oklahoma County sheriff’s office moving out of jail: Over the next month, the Oklahoma County sheriff’s office will take a historic step as it moves out of the county jail and into a facility in northeast Oklahoma City. With approval from county commissioners during a Wednesday meeting, the office will now call the county’s Krowse Army Reserve Center building at NE 36 and Martin Luther King Avenue home. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Property owners, officials working to mitigate evictions: Working out a payment arrangement with tenants who cannot pay their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic is in the best interest of landlords, and a recent survey shows most property owners in the Oklahoma City area are doing exactly that. [The Journal Record] OK Policy: Policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Apartment complex accused of evicting Enid tenants, told to move out in 9 days during COVID-19 pandemic: Enid renters are caught in the middle of an eviction fight after they are now stuck with a new property management company who wants them to pack up and move out immediately in the midst of a pandemic. [KFOR

Overdue utility bills stacking up in OKC: The number of overdue utility accounts has soared in the past six weeks, from an average of 300 before the COVID-19 pandemic to nearly 11,000, leaving households more than $3.2 million behind on their bills. The average amount due is $315. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Child care provider organization “disappointed” in DHS plan for $50 million in CARES Act funds: The Licensed Child Care Association of Oklahoma has released a statement calling on the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to “revoke” its plan to allocate the $50 million given to the state through the CARES Act. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy and nine other state organizations developed a series of policy recommendations and policy changes that can bring relief to Oklahoma child care providers. As many as 60% of child care providers could go out of business without additional support, which would leave Oklahoma ill-equipped for a full economic recovery as workers requiring child care to return to their jobs. 

Dozens of manufacturers to get state funds: Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce hopes to “reboot” 30 manufacturing companies selected to receive a total of $5 million through a new program. Manufacturing Reboot Program funds will come from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, which was originally designed to help manufacturers develop new projects and expand. [The Oklahoman] The commerce department announced funding awards for one business assistance program as well as the launch of a new program to help Oklahoma businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. [FOX25] Broken Arrow company gets funding award through state Department of Commerce Reboot Program [Tulsa World]

Nowhere to go: Oklahoma cattle industry loses $600M due to COVID-19: Shutdowns and slowdowns at numerous plants have put kinks in the nation’s complex food supply chain that will affect everyday consumers and inflict billions of dollars’ worth of damages on industries vital to Oklahoma and the rest of the country. [The Journal Record] At present, there is plenty of food’: National meat shortage not affecting Oklahoma yet [Tulsa World] An executive order signed by President Trump on Tuesday could mean some support for the nation’s — and Oklahoma’s — beleaguered meat industry as it weathers the coronavirus pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bars not among businesses reopening on Friday: When businesses begin reopening Friday bars won’t be among them.The state updated its guidelines for phase one of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to reopen state businesses late Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Slow, steady approach to reopening Oklahoma businesses: Some barber shops and hair salons in the metro area reopened on Friday, taking advantage of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan for a gradual reopening of the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional businesses have permission to reopen Friday, although it’s clear from our reporting that the ramp-up will be gradual. [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Producers have too much crude oil. Where do they put it?: Abundant supplies of crude oil have regulators pondering how and where it should be stored at off-lease locations. On Thursday, elected members of Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission will consider a proposed emergency rule to establish those requirements. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma City, Tulsa superintendents call for $200 billion in federal relief for schools: Without a massive bailout from the federal government, the nation’s largest school districts face an “educational catastrophe,” according to a letter signed by Tulsa and Oklahoma City’s superintendents. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma climbs to third in the country for Pre-K access for 4-year-olds: According to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)), Oklahoma climbs to third in the country for Pre-K access for 4-year-olds. In the same report last year, Oklahoma scored among the top eight states in the nation. [FOX25]

State Rep. Sherrie Conley calls on SDE to protect four-day weeks for rural schools: Senate Bill 441 was passed by Legislature last year, which would require school districts to use school years with a minimum of 165 days and at least 1,080 hours, beginning next school year. [FOX25]

General News

Op-Ed: Conspiring pandemics in our country: The COVID-19 pandemic is a societal earthquake, but the pandemic of poverty will be its tsunami. The swell of this wave has begun. These two pandemics are combining forces in our communities, and millions caught in their wake have nowhere to turn. [David Dennis Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Accurate U.S. Census count brings federal dollars to state: Of the many reasons for Oklahomans to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census, perhaps the easiest to understand is the amount of federal dollars coming to the state with each resident who does so. According to Kyle Key, Chickasaw Nation executive officer of self-governance, that money translates into investments in hospitals, bridges, road construction and numerous federal programs. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City Municipal Court aims for date after May 1 for re-opening [FOX25]
  • June jury duty canceled in Oklahoma County [KFOR]
  • While some hair salons, barber shops have been open nearly a week, Tulsa’s can open this Friday — but some will wait longer [Tulsa World]
  • Ada is still mostly closed, but that could change soon [Stillwater News Press]
  • Stillwater lays out rules for opening businesses [Stillwater News Press]
  • Payne County begins opening facilities Friday [Ada News]
  • Cases rise in Texas County, ranked 6th in state [Guymon Daily Herald]
  • Guthrie Council unanimously votes to amend shelter-in-place ordinance [Guthrie News Leader]
  • Duncan council discusses reopening of restaurants, businesses [Duncan Banner]

Quote of the Day

“I think it is important that everyone recognize that as we are going into this, we are not celebrating that the virus went away. What we are trying to do is identify ways that we can go about our lives closer to what we used to know with reduced risk … recognizing also that we just cannot maintain shelter-in-place for the indefinite future.”

-Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum [Tulsa World

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma child care providers that could permanently close due to COVID-19 without state financial assistance.

[Source: Center for American Progress]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Unemployed workers face choice between safety and money as states reopen: Public health experts and labor advocates fear the result is that opening the economy will drive Americans back to work in search of a paycheck but leave them vulnerable to catching the coronavirus and fueling a second wave of the disease. [Politico]

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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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