In The Know: Teachers expected to be moved up vaccine priority list | Gov. announces new school measures | 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

Policy Matters: Avoiding the benefit ‘cliff effect’: Public assistance programs are intended to provide a measure of security for community members who most need a helping hand. If designed correctly, these state and federal programs should work together to encourage recipients to grow their income and eventually become self-sufficient. However, as we noted in a recent Oklahoma Policy Institute report developed in partnership with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the fragile and interconnected relationships between these programs can unintentionally harm families and discourage work. [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma expected to make teachers higher priority for vaccine: Oklahoma has received nearly 40,000 doses of the first vaccine approved for COVID-19, state officials announced Wednesday, as 42 more deaths from the disease were reported, including nine each in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. [The Oklahoman] Gov. Kevin Stitt will hold a news conference on Thursday to announce increased prioritization for COVID-19 vaccinations for teachers. Currently, teachers are among those in Phase 3 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan [Tulsa World]

Stitt to announce new measures aimed at moving schools back to in-person learning: Gov. Kevin Stitt will announce on Thursday new measures aimed at getting kids back in school. Stitt said they were coming at a news conference announcing the COVID-19 vaccine’s arrival in southwest Oklahoma Wednesday afternoon. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Video critical of Gov. Stitt’s handling of COVID-19 making the rounds: A video making the rounds on social media takes aim at Gov. Kevin Stitt’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. A recently formed political action committee called The Oklahoma Project is responsible for the video and says more are to come. The video has a counter indicating the rising number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state. It also includes statements Stitt has made about the pandemic and issues related to it. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma reports second largest number of COVID deaths in a single day, with 42 [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19 patients filling McAlester hospital’s ICU [McAlester News-Capital]
  • City of Tulsa COVID Mitigation Group: No additional measures recommended for Tulsa right now [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Mourning COVID-19 deaths: These are some of the Oklahomans we lost in 2020 [Tulsa World]

State Government News

State forced to halt $400 bonus unemployment payment: State officials have reluctantly halted a plan to pay a $400 bonus to thousands of unemployed Oklahomans from excess Lost Wages Assistance program funds. Those payments were scheduled to be distributed this week, but the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission now says it might not have the authority to spend that money. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said in a news release Wednesday that the payments would be on hold after the state agency received what it called “conflicting guidance” about the use of the excess funds, which might be seen as overpayments that would have to be returned. [Tulsa World]

High court to hear challenge to state’s regulatory powers: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the state’s authority to regulate oil and gas production in eastern Oklahoma based on a case spawned by the McGirt decision. The plaintiff argues that due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which found that much of eastern Oklahoma is Indian land, state regulators lack jurisdiction to regulate oil and gas activity in the area. [The Journal Record]

A grandma and a pool house? Two SD 22 candidates stricken from ballot: The Republican primary field for the special election in Oklahoma State Senate District 22 was cut in half today when a pair of candidates successfully challenged each other’s eligibility to seek the seat. [NonDoc] The Oklahoma State Election Board on Wednesday ruled former state Sen. Rob Johnson and opponent Darrick Matthews cannot run for Senate in the upcoming special elections. [The Oklahoman]

  • Democratic nominee Broyles launches group to boost voting [AP News]

Oklahoma GOP lawmaker says he will introduce bill to criminalize and end all abortions in the state: An Oklahoma GOP lawmaker announced plans Wednesday to introduce a bill criminalizing abortion in the state. Republican State Sen. Warren Hamilton said in a statement he plans to file the bill, titled the Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act/Equal Protection and Equal Justice Act. [The Hill]

Criminal Justice News

State courts to continue meeting remotely: While state boards and commissions wrestle with resuming open meetings in accordance with both state law and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines during the pandemic, the courts will continue conducting business via teleconference and videoconference. [The Journal Record]

Economic Opportunity

Project Santa: Tulsa woman hopes to stay in home she loves after tough, emotionally draining year: For Lucy Forbes, 2020 has been difficult in about every conceivable way. But by far the hardest part — harder than all the health and financial challenges — has been missing her mom’s presence around the house. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

CVS, Walgreens aim to add employees at Oklahoma stores as Coronavirus vaccine arrives: Two national pharmacies with locations across Oklahoma are about to take center stage in helping our nation past the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Both Walgreens and CVS will be administering vaccines in the near future, and both are boosting the size of their staffs in anticipation of added services. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Chamber, leaders plan post-pandemic recovery: The Tulsa Regional Chamber, city of Tulsa and community leaders are working together to address immediate needs of businesses and the local workforce to position the city for economic recovery post-pandemic. [The Journal Record]

FAPC impacts food industry during a year of uncertainty: The year 2020 has been one of uncertainty, and there is no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the food industry. From temporarily closing of manufacturing plants to food product shortages, changes have been seen on a global scale. [OSU News and Information]

Statewide marijuana sales drop to lowest since April: Recent data shows Oklahoma has likely already hit its peak when it comes to medical marijuana revenue. According to recent Oklahoma Tax Commission data, statewide dispensary revenue dropped to $10.75 million in October, which amounts to nearly 15% less revenue than the state’s peak revenue month in May. State dispensaries remitted $12.6 million in May. [The Norman Transcript]

Education News

Will COVID-19 pivot in schools mean Oklahoma snow days are a thing of the past?: Dozens of districts around Oklahoma made an appearance on local newscast chyrons announcing they’d be in distance learning because of winter weather. That’s following a national trend. For years, northern states like Pennsylvania have slowly been replacing snow days with virtual learning options. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State auditor: Epic shortchanged taxpayers an additional $823,000: An updated audit of Epic Charter Schools shows the school could have overspent by an additional $823,772 on administrators’ salaries. State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd announced Wednesday that a second evaluation of Epic’s financial reports shows the school incorrectly classified as much as $9.73 million as non-administrative payroll, though it was paid as salaries to school administrators. [The Oklahoman]

Victims of sexual violence face multiple road blocks to justice on college campuses: Sexual violence often goes unreported on college campuses for many reasons, according to advocates for victims. Victims may not realize that they were a victim, fear retaliation from the accused, humiliation and more, Parham said. John Foubert, former Oklahoma State University professor and now expert witness on sexual assaults on college campuses, said victims may not report because they fear no one will believe them. [Stillwater News-Press]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“We need Oklahomans to continue doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is widely available to the public later in 2021.”

-Keith Reed, the state’s Deputy Commissioner of Health [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children whose parents lack secure employment

[Source: KIDS COUNT]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer: The U.S. poverty rate has surged over the past five months, with 7.8 million Americans falling into poverty, the latest indication of how deeply many are struggling after government aid dwindled. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7 percent in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June, according to new data released by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. While overall poverty levels are low by historical standards, the increase in poverty this year has been swift. It is the biggest jump in a single year since the government began tracking poverty 60 years ago. [Washington Post]

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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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