In The Know: Teacher vaccine distribution beginning | Storm recovery continuing | SB 704 would help reduce over-incarceration

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

SB 704 would be step towards reducing Oklahoma’s incarceration rate (Capitol Update): Oklahoma is among the top incarcerators in the nation at nearly twice the national average incarceration rate and spends over half a billion dollars per year on the Department of Corrections. During the week of February 8, 2021, there were 21,681 inmates in Oklahoma prison facilities and 1,009 in county jails awaiting transfer to prison. Part of the problem is lengthy sentences for non-violent offenses that do not make the state safer or the offender less likely to repeat offend. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Lawmakers: Gov. Stitt’s managed care plan complicates Medicaid expansion funding plan: The passage of State Question 802 last June started a countdown for the state to start enrolling newly eligible Oklahomans in the state’s Medicaid program, known as Soonercare, by July 1. But, with Oklahoma’s legislative session underway, there still isn’t an agreement on how the state will fund it. And Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent push to privatize SoonerCare now threatens to sink a previously agreed-upon deal that would use cost offsets and an increase in a fee hospitals pay to cover the state’s expected $162 million share of the costs. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • FAQ: As Oklahoma debates managed care, what does it really mean? [Oklahoma Watch]

Teacher vaccines beginning across Oklahoma, while most Tulsa County teachers still waiting for allocations: The official rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for teachers and other school employees begins Monday across Oklahoma, while most teachers in the Tulsa-area will apparently have to wait for vaccine shipments delayed by last week’s blast of winter weather. [Tulsa World]

  • More than 681,000 Oklahomans have received virus vaccine [AP News]
  • White House: Oklahoma top ten state for vaccinations, but also new cases, hospitalizations and deaths [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • With COVID-19 variants confirmed in Oklahoma, we’re in a race against virus mutations, experts say [The Oklahoman]
  • Infection prevention expert emphasizes vaccines seem ‘plenty effective’ against at least two COVID-19 variants [Tulsa World]
  • Temperatures Freeze Vaccine Rollout in Oklahoma as COVID-19 Cases Show Decline [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Tribal health services continue vaccine clinics despite weather interruptions [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: 26 more deaths, 1,036 cases reported Sunday [Tulsa World] | [AP News]
  • Rolling average of new Oklahoma virus cases cut in half [AP News]

Energy reps, scholar inject context into the recent weather-induced crisis: Energy reps, scholar inject context into the recent weather-induced crisis: The paralyzing cold that enveloped Oklahoma in the last week unleashed a snowball effect that zapped energy supplies and curtailed utilities’ stream of electricity. The likelihood of the crisis repeating itself could depend largely on how the energy industry reacts, a local expert said. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

New legislation would protect drivers who hit protestors: Republican politicians across the country are moving to stop the road-blocking maneuver, proposing increased penalties for demonstrators who run onto highways and legal immunity for drivers who hit them. [AP News] Legislation that Oklahoma lawmakers say is intended to curb rioting but others view as attempts to curb dissent continued moving out of committee last week. [Tulsa World]

New criminal justice bill could save Oklahoma $134 million over next decade: A conservative think tank supporting a bill that would limit the practice of giving higher prison sentences to repeat nonviolent offenders says the move would save millions of dollars even though its benefits would affect fewer people than a recent failed state question. [KOSU]

House committees move bills to accomplish Stitt’s public education policy goals: Oklahoma House committees advanced legislation this week that would accomplish public education policy changes Gov. Kevin Stitt pushed in his state of the state address. House Bill 2078 would change the statewide funding formula so initial allocations are based on districts’ average weighted attendance from the preceding school year, rather than letting them use the higher of the past two years. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Capitol Insider: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister [KGOU]

Oklahoma’s leading pro-gun group endorses ‘Anti-Islam’ former lawmaker for chairman of state’s Republican Party: The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, a nonprofit that bills itself as “the state’s leading advocate for Second Amendment rights,” has endorsed for state Republican Party chairman a controversial former state lawmaker who drew the ire of Muslim groups when he called Islam “a cancer.” [The Frontier]

Oklahoma House approves expanding nonresident medical marijuana licenses: The Oklahoma House on Thursday approved extending the length of medical marijuana licenses granted to out-of-state residents. On a vote of 52-32, the House approved legislation to extend nonresident medical marijuana licenses from 30 days to two years. [The Oklahoman]

The first major deadline of the #okleg year: Last week was shortened owing to the weather, but this week looks to be lengthened owing to Thursday’s deadline for bills and resolutions to be heard by a committee in the chamber of their origin. With several committee meetings cancelled last week, this week’s committees are expected to have longer agendas. [NonDoc]

ODOT received $154M from federal coronavirus relief package passed in December: State Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz plans to put a portion of that into the agency’s asset preservation fund. He said the timing of a cash infusion for road repairs couldn’t be better. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Climate change could be related to Oklahoma’s record cold temperatures: Oklahoma City recently recorded 14-below zero, the coldest temperature for the city since 1899. Meteorologists say there may be a man made reason that contributed to the rare cold. [KGOU]

  • (Audio) Pod bods, electric bugaboo, climate change and TV madness [NonDoc]
  • (Audio) This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Governor’s vacation, more spending money, privatized Medicaid lawsuit, and more [KOSU]

Point of View: Redistricting making progress in Oklahoma Senate: Where we are in the process now is an important step. Now is the time for Oklahomans to submit their input on redistricting. You can do so in the Senate by emailing Submit your thoughts on what your local district should look like, what are the communities of interest that matter most to you, and eventually what you think the new legislative maps should look like. [State Sen. Lonnie Paxton Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Straight-party voting reform bill killed in Oklahoma Legislature: Failing a legislative miracle, straight-party voting will remain on the books in Oklahoma for another year. Straight-party voting is a throwback to an earlier age when illiterate citizens simply checked off their party’s symbol on Election Day. Reading isn’t the issue any longer, but straight-party voting remains the crutch of low-information voters and the best friend of the politicians who rely on them. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Jail trust changes meeting schedule, shoots down rule change: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, also known as the jail trust, will begin meeting only once a month after a majority of the trust voted on Friday for a measure calling for a reduced schedule. [NonDoc] Since the previous meeting of the Jail Trust, there have been two more deaths at the Jail but none were discussed at Friday’s meeting, the first in a month. And the Jail Trust found itself in a bind with the public when it comes to public comment rules for their meetings. [OKC Free Press]

Oklahoma City settles lawsuit over 2014 fatal shooting of Black man: More than six years after Oklahoma City police fatally shot a Black man, his widow and children will split what’s left of a lawsuit settlement after medical bills and litigation costs are paid. Jerry Demonte Nowlin died on Dec. 7, 2014. He was 39. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

‘We have bills to pay, too’: Rental assistance programs aim to help Tulsa landlords, not just tenants: Even before the pandemic, Tulsa had one of the highest eviction rates in the country, with local courts handling 1,200 cases a month. And the COVID-19 economy would be putting even more Tulsans at risk of being evicted this year, according to a local official, if not for the federal moratorium and a massive effort to provide rental-assistance payments to local residents. [Tulsa World]

Help for homeless during freeze is tip of iceberg in Tulsa after decades of work on solutions: The stories this past week have been heartbreaking and heartwarming of Tulsans finding housing for people without homes. More than ever, the deadly cold brought more Tulsans face-to-face with those who live on the streets and in cars. [Tulsa World]

  • Mutual aid group disputes city’s claims about encampment for unhoused tulsans [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahomans’ utility bills will be higher, but too soon to say how much: Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. said Sunday it’s likely the recent frigid weather will cost customers more in terms of higher utility bills. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Injections wells closed or reduced after Oklahoma earthquake: The injection of wastewater into underground wells by oil and natural gas producers has been stopped or reduced in the area where a magnitude 4.2 earthquake struck in northern Oklahoma. [AP News]

As U.S. pork plant speeds up slaughtering, workers report more injuries: One of America’s leading pig slaughterhouses is running faster than ever as meatpackers hustle to keep pork in grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plant worker Hector Ixquier says it’s time to slow down. Ixquier said he sought medical treatment in January for tendons he strained in his right arm while draining blood from pigs in a Seaboard Foods pork plant in Guymon, Oklahoma. [Reuters]

Education News

Column: Program aims to boost teacher diversity in OKC classrooms: Data can and should be used to guide decision making and is certainly critical in the realm of public education. The data on how teacher diversity effects student success continues to be powerful, and The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public School’s Bilingual and Diversity Teacher Pipeline Programs are already proving that long-term recruitment solutions are available in our own backyard. [Mary Melon / The Oklahoman]

General News

Oklahoma tribes’ Black Freedmen seek ally in Haaland: In 2017, Shelby Ward applied for citizenship in the nation of her ancestors. Her great-grandmother, Ernestine McCoy Jones, was born a citizen of the Choctaw Nation in 1898 in an area that would become part of Oklahoma nine years later. Jones’ maiden name appears on the rolls, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) told Ward. But not under the “Choctaw by Blood” section. Her application was denied. [EE News]

Meet Shalynne Jackson: ‘Diversity and inclusion is for everyone’: In mid-January, Oklahoma City announced the hiring of its first diversity and inclusion officer, Shalynne Jackson, to “lead the execution of the city’s strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion, including providing training, implementing best practices, and providing coaching, guidance and education.” [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • It’s chambers vs unions vs small donors in OKC City Council runoff race [OKC Free Press]
  • City of Tulsa looking at potential $10 million revenue shortfall in fiscal year 2022 [Tulsa World]
  • Downtown coordinating council monitoring bill to let some hotels opt out of improvement districts [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Short Norman documentary highlights political tumult [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“We don’t know the long-term impact of the pandemic, but believe more and more people fall into financial crisis. More and more people will be in need of more affordable housing than we’ve had in the past.”

-Becky Gligo, executive director of the Tulsa nonprofit Housing Solutions [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of those experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City who were members of families with children.

[Source: Homeless Alliance, 2020 point-in-time count]   

Policy Note

The ACA Marketplace Is Open Again for Insurance Sign-Ups. Here’s What You Need to Know: For people who’ve been without health insurance during the pandemic, relief is in sight. In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to open up the federal health insurance marketplace for three months as of Monday so uninsured people can buy a plan and those who want to change their marketplace coverage can do so. [Kaiser Health News]

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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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