In The Know: Town hall talks vaccine, Black community | Transgender bills pose economic threat | Paid family leave is good for business

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

Paid family and medical leave is good for families and businesses: Paid family and medical leave has been extensively proven to improve the health of children and their parents. Despite its benefits, some groups have raised concerns that providing paid family and medical leave — which nearly every country in the world does — would burden small businesses with excessive costs and possibly harm our economy. However, these well-intentioned fears seem misplaced when examining the effects of paid family and medical leave policies already in place. Instead, paid family and medical leave policies improve families’ financial outcomes while benefiting rather than harming small businesses. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]

State Supreme Court nominations: Unnecessary to ‘fix’ what’s not broken (Capitol Update): The Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) has been under attack by some in the legislature who are unhappy with Supreme Court rulings, especially on wedge political issues. The allegation has been that the court is “out of step” with the current political climate. (Interestingly, the same thing is now being said at the federal level by some Democrats). So far legislators unhappy with the JNC have been unable to muster enough support to return to electing appellate judges, eliminate the JNC, or in some way cause the selection of judges to influence the court toward their political views. So, they introduce bills to tinker with the JNC. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

‘Take a sense of ownership’: Town hall talks COVID-19 vaccine, Black community: OKC Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice hosted a virtual town hall examining COVID-19 vaccines and the Black community Sunday evening that touched on subjects ranging from the Tuskegee Experiments to vaccine ingredients. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma coronavirus case number averages are declining [AP News]
  • With plentiful COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma, advocates push for access for homebound residents [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma has seen COVID cases in vaccinated people. That’s not unexpected, experts say [The Oklahoman]

Applications open June 1 for coverage under Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will start taking applications for coverage under Medicaid expansion a month before it takes effect. The application process will open June 1 at, giving newly eligible Oklahomans time to be approved for SoonerCare before coverage begins July 1. [Public Radio Tulsa

Transgender athlete bill threatens events in Tulsa and the state — and exposes deep rift in Legislature: Legislation that seeks to prevent transgender girls and women from competing in athletics in Oklahoma could cost the state high-level competitions — and has already exposed sharp divisions in how lawmakers view gender identification. Last week, as LGBTQ advocates begged legislative leadership to kill what is now Senate Bill 2, Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, filed a floor amendment to rename it “Oklahoma Enhanced Discrimination in Sports without Evidence of a Problem Act of 2021,” while Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, told a reporter that “people who don’t know who they are” have “mental health issues.” [Tulsa World]

  • GOP Oklahoma lawmaker criticized for transgender comments: “I don’t have any problem backing up what I said,” Humphrey said in a telephone interview with the AP. “If you’re a male, you’re a male to the core. This is science and logic, and science and logic are on my side.” But doctors and scientists say sex and gender aren’t always the same thing, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says variation in gender identity is a normal part of human diversity. [AP News]
  • Editorial: Lawmakers use legislative stunt to revive bills that threaten the state’s economy: Oklahoma lawmakers pulled an old trick to push through bills that could cost the state millions in revenue and tramples on transparency. Proposals targeting LGTBQ people did not gain traction earlier in the session. Rather than try again next year, lawmakers used committee amendments on unrelated bills to keep them alive. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Op-Ed: Lawmakers should consider tax relief for everyday Oklahomans: We’re entering the season when Oklahoma lawmakers form our state budget. The budget is a moral document that outlines the priorities for the state. In a time when many Oklahomans are trying to recover from the economic downturn worsened by the pandemic, the state Legislature must use state funds to prioritize the needs of those fighting to get ahead. This means using state revenues to strengthen agencies and support communities, not for tax cuts that leave out everyday Oklahomans. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman] To learn more about how the Oklahoma EITC impacts each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, check out the interactive map at

Health News

Oklahoma State Department Of Health investigating allegation trans woman denied COVID vaccine: The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Thursday it was investigating an alleged incident in Logan County where a trans woman was denied a COVID-19 vaccine. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Virus-related unemployment claims rise in Oklahoma: Virus-related claims for unemployment benefits, including initial and continuing claims and the four-week moving average, have increased in Oklahoma according to the state Employment Security Commission. [AP News] Weekly data reported by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission shows initial unemployment claims doubled over the past month. Virtually all of the “new” claimants are people who’ve been on unemployment for a year and needed to renew their expired claims. [The Oklahoman]

Political notebook: Lawmakers face busy week as legislative deadline nears: The House and Senate have until Thursday evening to vote on each others’ bills before they go dormant. According to several members, disagreements between House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, may complicate things — a not unusual situation in the Oklahoma Legislature. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Inside the legislative process: With just over a month left in the 2021 Oklahoma legislative session, we pause to discuss what it’s really like to be a legislator. State Senator Darrell Weaver, (R) Moore, was an agency director before being elected to the State Senate. That gives him unique perspective on the governing process. [KGOU]

Oklahoma House members listen to several redistricting map presentations: For the first time ever, a committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives heard from several Oklahomans who openly participated in this year’s redistricting process in a public comment session Thursday afternoon at the State Capital. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma City protest leaders defiant about anti-protest law on Governor’s desk: Leaders of protests in Oklahoma County meetings say localizing an already existing Oklahoma law to prohibit protests won’t change their approach. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma’s Tar Creek named on list of most endangered rivers in country: Contamination from what was once the world’s largest zinc and lead mines have turned Tar Creek’s water orange. One million gallons of contaminated water per day is released into the creek. The effort to clean the site has extended 42 years. That’s why the environmental advocacy organization American Rivers ranked it one of the most endangered rivers in the country. [KOSU]

Federal Government News

Rep. Stephanie Bice votes show impact of 5th District flip: In her first three months in Congress, Rep. Stephanie Bice has voted mostly along Republican Party lines, flipping the 5th District’s position on such issues as background checks, immigration and election policy. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma court stays ruling, killer remains in state custody: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed its ruling that overturns a man’s conviction and death sentence while the state asks the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on its claim of concurrent jurisdiction in the case. The state court on Thursday agreed to a 45-day stay that keeps Shaun Bosse in state, rather than federal, custody. [AP News]

Ex-Quapaw Tribal Chairman, officials charged over misappropriation of funds: Former Quapaw Nation chairman John Berrey and former secretary treasurer Tamara Smiley-Reeves have been hit with criminal charges ranging from attempted embezzlement, conspiracy and abuse of office to improper gifts to tribal officials or employees. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

OKC state legislator asks U.S. Justice Department to intercede in Oklahoma County Jail: An eastside Oklahoma City legislator has requested in writing that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “intercede” in the operation of the Oklahoma County Detention Center (Jail). Representative Jason Lowe, D-OKC, HD-97, described the Jail as creating “horrendous conditions” for those held there. He wrote that the Jail is “unihabitable and in need of reform.” [Free Press OKC]

Town hall callers share stories of encounters with Oklahoma City police: Callers characterized a toxic police culture as an impediment to law enforcement reform in remarks last week during a virtual town hall meeting in Oklahoma City. More than 20 callers took part in the two-hour town hall sponsored by the mayor’s Law Enforcement Policy Task Force and an internal Community Policing Working Group. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County district attorney race begins to replace retiring incumbent David Prater: A criminal defense lawyer is seeking to become the next Oklahoma County district attorney. Robert W. Gray, an Edmond Republican, is the first to announce a candidacy for the 2022 DA race. The incumbent, David Prater, 61, is retiring in January 2023 at the end of his term. [The Oklahoman]

Resonance’s Take 2 Café celebrates five years of helping women achieve their goals: Since its inception five years ago, Resonance Center for Women’s Take 2 Café has not only served up thousands of delicious sandwiches, salads, pies, and other goodies to hungry Tulsans, it also has helped make the transition back into everyday life and onto a successful future a little less daunting for many formerly incarcerated women. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa ‘significantly short’ of the affordable housing it needs to fight homelessness, officials say: Tulsa needs about 4,000 additional units of affordable housing to help alleviate homelessness and reduce the city’s high eviction rate, officials said Thursday. The apparent shortage of affordable housing has been a topic of discussion since at least 2016, when a national study indicated that Tulsa had the 11th highest eviction rate in the United States. But officials have rarely been so specific about the number of additional units the city needs. [Tulsa World]

Maryland could be the first state to provide lawyers for tenants facing eviction: A bill passed by the Maryland state legislature, but yet to be enacted, would offer access to counsel for low-income renters. Several cities have proposed initiatives that would guarantee counsel to tenants facing eviction, including Denver and Tulsa, Oklahoma. [The Appeal]

Oklahoma City panhandling ordinance may make a comeback: Oklahoma City Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher says it is time to “revisit and revise” the 2015 panhandling ordinance that was ruled unconstitutional by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver last summer. [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma poised to be cannabis hub: It’s a high-tech, billion-dollar business, a baby behemoth with the power to greatly alter the nation’s health care, agriculture and retail industries. It is in need of an ever-growing, highly skilled workforce, and Oklahoma is well-poised to serve as an industry hub as it explodes nationwide. [The Journal Record]

Fewer homeowners in need of forbearance help: Federal protections continue for homeowners who cannot make their mortgage payments due to financial hardship brought on by COVID-19, but fewer people are seeking the relief. April 4 marked the sixth straight week of decline in mortgage forbearance, said metro area Realtor Steve Reese. [The Journal Record]

As ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ starts filming, rural Oklahoma gets boost from movie biz: The historically charming streets of Guthrie could have become a veritable ghost town in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled beloved events like the Territorial Christmas festivities, Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival and 89er Days Celebration. Overnight visitors stopped booking rooms. The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple couldn’t host tours, concerts or other events. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Oklahoma virtual education board member Mathew Hamrick sues over Epic disqualification: A member of the state agency overseeing virtual education is suing that same agency to overturn his disqualification from discussions and votes on Epic Charter Schools. Mathew Hamrick filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board in Oklahoma County District Court. [The Oklahoman]

  • Epic Charter School hit with $10 million in penalties [KGOU]

General News

OKC Mayor David Holt rakes in cash for re-election campaign: Mayor David Holt’s re-election campaign has raised $275,000 so far this year in what is already one of the most expensive mayoral races the city has seen. Holt’s 2018 campaign upped the total by transferring $25,000 to the 2022 committee. [The Oklahoman]

How Black Wall Street should be reconstructed as a global epicenter of Black tech interests: While many were struck by the horror of seeing Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed onto George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, the image that haunts many in the African American community is the cold indifference in his eyes and the air of impunity radiating from his posture. [Tulsa World]

KOCO journalist publicly resigns, citing racism in the newsroom: A journalist at KOCO 5 News in Oklahoma City has publicly resigned, saying the television station mishandled racist incidents and discriminated against reporters of color. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Black Americans experiencing collective trauma, grief: Many Black Americans are facing a collective sense of grief and trauma that has grown more profound with the loss of each life at the hands of police in America. Some see themselves and their children reflected in the victims of police violence, heightening the grief they feel. That collective mourning is a great concern to experts and medical professionals who consider the intersectionality of racism and various forms of trauma impacting communities of color a serious public health crisis facing America. [AP News]

Quote of the Day

“Our overall homeless count is definitely going down. However, the number of people we have experiencing first-time homelessness is going up. We have what we would call an in-flow problem — more people being displaced.”

-Becky Gligo, the city of Tulsa’s former director of housing policy who now leads Housing Solutions, a nonprofit that coordinates a wide array of efforts to address homelessness in Tulsa [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of evictions filed by the 53 most frequent plaintiffs in Tulsa County, 2019-2020. These landlords accounted for over 2 out of every 5 eviction filings during the period.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

Policy Note

Preliminary Research Shows Evictions Contribute to Spread of COVID-19: In simulated scenarios, higher eviction rates increased infection levels and deaths due to the epidemic. A monthly eviction rate of 0.25% of all renter households led to infections in an additional 1.5% of the population compared to a no-eviction baseline, and a 2% per month eviction rate led to infections in an additional 13%. In all the scenarios studied, higher eviction rates led to increases in disease prevalence. [National Low Income Housing Coalition]

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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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