In The Know: Thousands still waiting for rental assistance | DHS data breach | Gov. Stitt urges Pres. Biden to rely on local oil and gas

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

Why 25,000-plus Oklahomans are still waiting for rental assistance: Since Dec, 2020, the state of Oklahoma received $485 million in federal emergency funds to help those at risk of eviction or having their utilities cut off, according to the U.S. Treasury. Yet thousands of Oklahomans have been evicted. Of the 60,727 evictions filed since the start of the pandemic, 22,824 have been carried out, according to Open Justice Oklahoma eviction tracker, a program from the Oklahoma Policy Institute — 6,934 of those have happened since August when the federal eviction moratorium ended. [Oklahoma Watch

Open Justice Oklahoma Data Dashboard from OK Policy: Policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis. We’re tracking these evictions cases with our Oklahoma Court Tracker tool.

Data breach at DHS may have compromised thousands of peoples’ information: A data breach at Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services is causing concerns. DHS said thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities might have had their information stolen. Liberty of Oklahoma, which handles an Oklahoma Department of Human Services wait-list is notifying people of the potential for leaked information after the breach in December. [News On 6

Stitt pens letter to Biden, urging U.S. energy independence, halt imports of Russian oil, gas: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting immediate action be taken to strengthen the United States and its allies abroad “by embracing America’s domestic crude oil and natural gas industry and halting the importation of Russian crude oil and natural gas products.” [Tulsa World] “The recent events in Ukraine are yet another example of why we should be selling energy to our friends and not buying it from our enemies,” Stitt wrote. [Public Radio Tulsa

Oklahoma Congressional Delegation reacts to President Biden’s State of the Union Address: Biden addressed a range of issues in his address, from the current crisis in Ukraine as Russian forces continue invading the sovereign nation, to the U.S. economy, to the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. [KFOR] Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, all Republicans, panned President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas said Biden and his policies have left the country worse off than it was before he took office. [Enid News & Eagle]

  • Energy, inflation are Oklahoma delegation’s top concerns after President Biden’s first State of the Union address [Tulsa World]

State Government News

We’ve got the details on $15 million in cash Oklahoma has pledged to an EV startup: Canoo has yet to turn a profit, but the deal is the largest the state has awarded since the Quick Action incentive was created over a decade ago. [The Frontier] In comments released with an announcement late Monday of Canoo’s fourth-quarter and fiscal year 2021 results, Aquila identified multiple agreements with the states of Oklahoma and Arkansas and with the Cherokee Nation as among highlights for the company in 2021. [The Journal Record] The state money will back Canoo’s commitment to provide 1,500 jobs at a “mega-microfactory” at MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor and a combined 700 jobs at a Tulsa technology hub and software development center and an Oklahoma City customer service and financial center, Oklahoma Department of Commerce contracts indicate. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers advance bill targeting state questions, voter registration laws: Oklahoma lawmakers took the first steps towards passing laws that would tighten voter registration laws, give poll watchers more protections and make it more difficult for state questions to get on the ballot or pass. [Oklahoma Watch

  • Some GOP Oklahoma lawmakers seek to make it harder to pass citizen-led state questions [The Oklahoman

Another $2.7 billion in utility bonds crawl toward reality: While they wait on the state Supreme Court to make decisions regarding $800 million in OG&E ratepayer debt securitization bonds, the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority today authorized three other securitization issuances to buy debt held by Oklahoma Natural Gas, Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Summit Utilities Oklahoma, which could total a combined $2.7 billion. [NonDoc

Bill would make school districts offer 12 weeks of paid maternity leave: Public school teachers in Oklahoma usually receive about six weeks of unpaid maternity leave after they give birth. Then these educators have to figure out care plans for their newborns and head back into the classroom. [NonDoc

Previously from OK Policy: Paid family and medical leave is good for families and businesses

Grego says he will address concerns on bill regarding Open Records and Open Meeting Acts: The News-Capital contacted Grego on Tuesday to tell him of the newspaper’s deep concerns regarding his bill and the chilling effect it could have on access to public records as well as on some open meetings, on both the media and the general public. [McAlester News-Capital]

Rep. Ranson bill altering publication of public notices passes House committee: Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater) received committee approval for a bill she authored that has the potential to change how cities or towns publish legal notices. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Bill limiting sexual content in school libraries passes through committee: A bill that would limit sexual content in school libraries passed out of the Senate Education Committee Tuesday. Senate Bill 1142, was pared down for its first public hearing in the Capitol. Now the measure simply bans books about the “study of sex, sexual lifestyles, or sexual activity.” [KGOU

Oklahoma Legislature advances bill to study effect of ‘shrooms’ on PTSD, depression: Bipartisan support is mounting for legislation that would add an unusual new tool to combat the state’s mental health crisis by seeking to legalize research of psychedelic substances. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Emmett Till anti-lynching act passes US House, on track to become law: In an almost unanimous vote, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to make lynching a federal hate crime. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act would make lynching punishable by life imprisonment. [The Black Wall Street Times

Electric vehicle charging stations going statewide with $66.3 million infrastructure funding: The state is under a deadline to prepare a plan to address gaps in charging stations using $66.3 million to be allocated over five years as part of the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden on Nov. 15. As manager of the multi-model division at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Jared Schwennesen has until Aug. 1 to show federal officials how the money will be spent. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

In Supreme Court, Oklahoma seeks to reclaim criminal jurisdiction over tribal reservations: Oklahoma can prosecute non-Indians accused of crimes against Indians on tribal reservations because Congress has never explicitly barred states from exercising jurisdiction in such cases, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor told the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. [The Oklahoman

ICWA expert says law is ‘the gold standard’: The Indian Child Welfare Act is a 44-year law that defends Native children. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Texas vs. Haaland. It is a case that aims to overturn this hallmark law. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt sets special election to replace Sen. Jim Inhofe: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday ordered that a special election be held this year to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, with the primary and general election dates coinciding with the statewide elections already scheduled. [The Oklahoman

Voter registration deadline for April election fast approaching in Oklahoma: The deadline to register to vote for the upcoming Board of Education General Election and Special School Bond is fast approaching. The election is set for Tuesday, April 5, while voter registration application forms need to be postmarked no later than midnight March 11. [KSWO

Health News

Falling COVID-19 numbers cause for cautious optimism: The number of new COVID-19 cases has plummeted in recent weeks, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lightening up on masking guidelines. [The Journal Record

  • Tulsa Health Department swaps COVID ZIP-code map for CDC’s county-level tool [Tulsa World
  • COVID-19 in Oklahoma tracker: Daily updates on new cases, deaths, vaccines for March 2022 [The Oklahoman

Criminal Justice News

Will executions continue in Oklahoma? Federal judge to decide after hearing from experts: More than two dozen death row inmates are asking U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot to find the protocol in violation of the constitutional protocol against cruel and unusual punishment. [The Oklahoman] On Monday, the plaintiffs called Dr. Craig Stephens, an Oklahoma State University professor of pharmacology, who testified that midazolam is not an appropriate drug to render a person insensate to pain. [The Journal Record

‘At odds’ OKC City Council receives police policy recommendations: The OKC City Council voted 8-1 today to receive 39 police policy recommendations from 21CP Solutions, a consulting firm hired to collect input from the public and formulate ideas for changes. [NonDoc] While council approved receiving the report of recommendations in a 8-to-1 vote, with Ward 1 Councilman Bradley Carter voting against, City Manager Craig Freeman clarified that this is only the beginning of the process. [The Oklahoman] Twelve members of the public signed up to address the Council and ask them to adopt the recommendations and to implement them as soon as possible. [OKC Free Press]

General News

Race massacre graves: Researchers call for more excavations, surveys ahead of first DNA tests: With only one set of remains so far meeting the criteria for a possible victim, researchers searching for unmarked burials from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre are recommending more excavations at Oaklawn Cemetery. [Tulsa World] Phoebe Stubblefield, forensic anthropologist, said they’re planning to return to Oaklawn Cemetery to conduct a systematic enlargement of the excavation in an area known as “Colored Potter’s Field.” The latest effort will focus on exhuming simple coffins with the remains of Black men inside. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma ranked worst state for women in 2022: A recent study from WalletHub found Oklahoma is considered the worst state to live in for women, highlighting poor outcomes in nearly every metric, including poverty, voter turnout and life expectancy. [The Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma Local News

Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee resigns amid embezzlement investigation: Okmulgee Mayor Richard Larabee resigned today, less than a week after law enforcement received an allegation that he embezzled more than $150,000 while working as the property manager at McCulloch Building Owners LLC. [NonDoc

OKC Council uses MAPS money to fund operations, maintenance: The Oklahoma City Council voted Tuesday to transfer $80 million in MAPS 4 sales tax collections to a fund for the operations and maintenance of five MAPS 4 projects. It was the first time in the history of the city’s Metropolitan Area Projects that money has been set aside for operations and upkeep. [The Journal Record]  

Quote of the Day

“Most people in housing court are there because they had a one-time financial setback, so we need a better system in place to make sure that rent assistance and legal assistance is available to those tenants, otherwise they become homeless. Then we are all paying more to help that family.”

— Eric Hallett, the coordinator of housing advocacy for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Amount of income needed to be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit

[Source: Urban Institute]

Previously from OK Policy (2021): The state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) encourages parents to work because they will save more on taxes the more they earn, up to a limit. In 2016, the Legislature addressed a budget shortfall by making this credit non-refundable, but lawmakers restored the refundable credit in 2021.

Policy Note

Robust COVID Relief Achieved Historic Gains Against Poverty and Hardship, Bolstered Economy: The robust federal policy response helped make the COVID-19 recession the shortest on record and helped fuel an economic recovery that has brought the unemployment rate, which peaked at 14.8 percent in April 2020, down to 4.0 percent. One measure of annual poverty declined by the most on record in 2020, in data back to 1967, and the number of uninsured people remained stable, rather than rising as typically happens with large-scale job loss. Various data indicate that in 2021, relief measures reduced poverty, helped people access health coverage, and reduced hardships like inability to afford food or meet other basic needs. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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