In The Know: Supreme Court lets core of McGirt stand | Significant protection of booster shots | Wide-ranging early bill filings

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.

Oklahoma News

‘Tribes are winning most of these legal cases’: Cole urges Stitt cooperate with tribes: On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a vital piece of Oklahoma’s challenge to the landmark McGirt decision but declined to hear arguments over whether or not the high court should overrule its 2020 decision. With McGirt upheld — at least for now — the question posed by some, including Congressman Tom Cole, R-Moore, is when is it time to stop litigating and start cooperating? [Norman Transcript

  • SCOTUS will hear Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, denies request to consider overturning McGirt [NonDoc]
  • ‘McGirt v. Oklahoma’ ruling stands, but Supreme Court will consider arguments that could limit it [KGOU]
  • Stitt’s assault on tribes fails as Supreme Court lets core of McGirt stand [The Black Wall Street Times
  • Supreme Court lets McGirt stand, will address related question [The Oklahoman

Omicron’s risk of reinfection higher, but boosters still provide significant protection, state epidemiologist says: As omicron spreads wildly out of control in Oklahoma and overwhelms hospitals, the state’s chief medical officer emphasized COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots do significantly help protect against infection by the latest variant. [Tulsa World

  • ‘It’s a no-brainer’: Oklahoma clergy share why they encourage people to get the COVID vaccine [The Oklahoman
  • Nursing Homes Hit By Latest COVID Surge [Oklahoma Watch
  • Virus by the numbers: 11 charts that show how Tulsa and Oklahoma are coping with COVID-19 [Tulsa World
  • Oklahoma doctors share 3 things to know about how kids are being affected by omicron variant [The Oklahoman
  • Science Museum Oklahoma receives funding award for community vaccine education [State Impact Oklahoma]
  • The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Saturday reported 13,571 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Safety commissioner says state troopers to focus on mental health awareness, standards that prioritize life: Department of Safety Commissioner Tim Tipton gave an update Friday to lawmakers on agencies he oversees. In a presentation and question session that lasted about 80 minutes, Tipton touched on topics including hiring and retention of state troopers for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. [Public Radio Tulsa

State Government News

From vaccine bills to free park admission, lawmakers file wide-ranging legislation for consideration: Lawmakers could consider nearly 2,300 new measures when they return to the Capitol on Feb. 7. The deadline for filing bills for the upcoming session was Thursday. In addition, nearly 2,500 bills and resolutions were carried over from last session and are available for action. [Tulsa World]

  • ‘My heart just broke’: Standridge files bill criminalizing homeless encampments [The Norman Transcript
  • Capitol Insider: Late Surge In Bill Filing As Legislative Session Nears [KGOU]
  • With bill, Oklahoma legalized sports betting prospects may improve, but obstacles remain [Tulsa World]
  • Culture wars a big focus of upcoming legislative session [The Journal Record]
  • Okla. Senate Bill 1314 screens patients for trauma, mental health services [The Black Wall Street Times
  • Bill seeks to provide Medicaid reimbursement for ACEs screenings [The Duncan Banner
  • Bill would create commission to examine race, equity issues in Oklahoma [The Claremore Daily Progress]
  • Could Oklahoma be the next battleground for the book banning debate? [The Oklahoman

Governor’s Order Throws Transgender Oklahomans into Legal Limbo: On the second Wednesday of every month, attorney Josh Payton can be found behind a gray table downtown at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. Clients say Payton’s clinic and services provide them with pathways to proper medical care and detours around housing and workplace discrimination. The hope his services give clients has faded some since late last year, when the governor’s executive order disrupted the process. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Legislative Financial Disclosures: Tracking Potential Conflicts of Interest: Oklahoma lawmakers will be returning to the State Capitol soon under a new spotlight for potential conflicts of interest. Earlier this year, Rep. Terry O’Donnell, the No. 2 ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, announced on Jan. 6 that he is resigning his leadership post under indictment alleging his 2019 vote cleared the way for his wife to later run a Catoosa tag agency. [Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s public safety agencies seek funds to keep workers’ pay competitive: Oklahoma’s public safety agencies are struggling to find enough workers and officials hope to address the problem this year with pay raises, recruitment programs and mental health support services, according to agency budget presentations heard by state lawmakers last week. [The Oklahoman]

Jason Hicks appointed by Stitt to serve as OCCY Commissioner: Effective immediately, District Attorney Jason Hicks will serve as the Commissioner Representing the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council for the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth (OCCY).  Appointed by Governor Kevin Stitt, Hicks replaces District Attorney Angela Marsee. [Chickashaw News

Federal Government News

March for Life demonstrators at state Capitol hope Roe v. Wade overturned before 50th anniversary: Hundreds of Oklahomans took to the streets on Saturday to publicly declare their stance against legalized abortion and to share their hopes that 2022 will be the year Roe v. Wade is finally overturned. [Tulsa World

  • What A Supreme Court Rejection Of Roe V. Wade Would Mean For Oklahoma [KOTV

Federal funds could nearly double size of planned downtown psychiatric hospital: A new psychiatric hospital to be built in downtown could turn out to be nearly twice as large as originally planned. Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges confirmed last week her agency has asked for $38 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to build a 106-bed facility, instead of the 56-bed hospital first proposed. [Tulsa World]

Lankford: Keep filibuster; state election laws better monitored by federal courts: With the filibuster at the focal point of both parties in the Senate, Oklahoma’s junior Sen. James Lankford has sought to preserve it, even as Democrats say keeping it intact could lead to the end of democracy. [The Norman Transcript

Bob Doucette: After a mixed first year, mandate for Biden is to make things work again: If there’s an analogy to fit the first year of Joe Biden’s presidency, it’s this: It’s one thing to win the war, but another to win the peace. Defeating then-President Donald Trump was a tall task, but governing — winning the peace — is a whole other animal. [Editorial/Tulsa World

Voting and Election News

Editorial: Oklahoma governor already most powerful in state’s history: In the last 10 years, Oklahoma lawmakers, dominated by Republican Legislatures, have ceded more authority to the governor than at any other point, making Gov. Kevin Stitt the most powerful in the state’s history. It’s a turnabout from the state’s founding, which feared autocratic rule. That philosophy led early Oklahomans to vote on everything from dozens of state agency heads down to three assistant mine inspectors. [Editorial/Tulsa World

Economic Opportunity

OU researchers aim to repurpose abandoned oil wells for geothermal energy: Researchers at the University of Oklahoma were awarded $1.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to repurpose abandoned oil and gas wells for providing geothermal energy. The grant will allow the researchers to evaluate and demonstrate the viability of geothermal energy production from four hydrocarbon wells. [State Impact Oklahoma

Ginnie Graham: Tipping has roots in system racism, and it’s time to end it: Recently, my son interviewed with a chain restaurant and was told during the interview the pay is $5 an hour plus tips. Another person knew of a fast-food place paying as low as $3 an hour. Want to know why so many restaurants are short-staffed? The whole pay system is based on the generosity of diners. [Editorial/Tulsa World

Housing in Tulsa: 13 charts that show where homes sales are headed: Find out how home sales have changed recently, which areas have the most home listings, plus the average sale price and more with these charts and maps. [Tulsa World]  

Economy & Business News

OKC experts break down why some stores, shops and eateries defy expectations amid pandemic: “Ghost kitchens,” outdoor dining, and booming drive-thrus are coronavirus contenders in Oklahoma City. Almost nobody saw it coming through the fog of the COVID-19 pandemic, but after the initial shock and shutdowns in 2020, some stores soared, eateries eked out a livelihood, and retail revived, defying gloom-and-doom expectations through 2021 and into 2022. [The Oklahoman

PSO customers could soon be receiving 20-year invoice for last February’s cold-weather fuel usage: Public Service Company of Oklahoma customers soon could be getting what amounts to a 20-year invoice for costs associated with a widespread and prolonged cold snap in February last year. So with the anniversary of that deep freeze only weeks away, many rate payers are wondering whether they could be saddled with similar generation-length bills in the future. [Tulsa World

Economy by the numbers: 11 charts that show how the economy is performing in Tulsa and Oklahoma: Find out how the unemployment rate has changed recently, where gas is the cheapest, how weekly earnings compare across the state and more with these charts and maps. [Tulsa World

Stocks suffer worst week since March 2020: Stocks fell again on Wall Street Friday, capping off the worst weekly drop for the S&P 500 since the start of the pandemic. Investors have grown increasingly worried about rising inflation and how aggressive the Federal Reserve might be in raising interest rates to tamp it down. [The Journal Record

Climate Experts Say Drought Could Get Worse: Western Oklahoma is still experiencing a major drought, and climate experts warn it may not get much better. Experts said in the past 50 years, the dividing line between the drier west and more humid east has shifted 140 miles east and is now along the I-35 corridor. [News 9]

General News

As embezzlement allegation looms, Phil Albert resigns from OU Board of Regents: As unanswered questions linger regarding a two-year, resource-draining legal battle over accusations that he embezzled $7.4 million from his former employer, Phil Albert has resigned from the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents. [NonDoc

Oklahoma Local News

  • Bridge Impact Center provides east side youth mentorship, chance to explore passions [The Oklahoman
  • Candidates for City of OKC mayor invited to debate Tuesday, Jan. 25 [OKC Free Press]
  • How City of OKC’s redistricting works, and how you can get involved [OKC Free Press]
  • Chickens could be coming home to roost in OKC [NonDoc

Quote of the Day

“We ought to step back and say, Tribes are winning most of these legal cases, they’re not losing them. (So) shouldn’t we have a dialogue here? Because again, at the end of the day, you have to remember that when you’re negotiating with a tribe in Oklahoma, they’re citizens of the state, too.”

– Congressman Tom Cole, R-Moore, speaking about the state of Oklahoma’s decision to fight the McGirt decision [The Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day

4% to 14%

Range of the gross production tax on petroleum as a portion of state revenue during the past decade. The gross production tax is the most volatile of Oklahoma’s major tax sources.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

A Better Path Forward: Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma faced a fiscal gap, or “structural deficit,” meaning that economic growth will not produce enough revenue to fund the growing costs of providing our current government services. Projections show that even after nearly a billion dollars in tax increases in 2016-18, this gap will reach $1.1 billion annually by 2030. The state cannot afford more deterioration in its basic services, and budget cuts take much-needed money out of the economy. Cuts to state services also disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. 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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