In The Know: Transparency vital to evaluating hospital capacity | Lawmakers urged to take active role in economic recovery | State considers outsourcing Medicaid care

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

Public health officials evaluating COVID-19 impact say transparency is critical to determine hospital bed capacity: Oklahoma has broken the overall COVID-19 hospitalization record seven of the past 10 weekdays the state has reported that data. COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations also are at an all-time high in the state. But Oklahomans don’t know what the specific numbers are within each hospital or hospital region because the state doesn’t publicly release that data. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high [AP News]
  • COVID-19: 796 more cases, 3 more deaths in state reported Sunday [Tulsa World]
  • Four Tulsa County ZIP codes are in red, and contact tracers can’t determine reasons because people are staying mum [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma sees gains in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past week, OSDH data shows [Enid News & Eagle]
  • State ends week with record number of Oklahomans in ICU with coronavirus [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Faulty state data prompts change in Tulsa Health Department COVID-19 hospital reporting, THD says [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • El Reno tops COVID-19 hotspots as hospitalizations hit record [Oklahoma Watch]
  • With new case counts, hospitalizations trending upward, still no COVID-19 intensive care unit beds [The Oklahoman]

State lawmakers warned there’s work to do with v-shaped recovery off the table: A former fiscal director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives told state lawmakers in an interim study this week they’ll need to play an active role in a long recovery from the coronavirus-driven economic downturn. Oklahoma Policy Institute Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst Paul Shinn said while corporate income will likely return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, unemployment numbers may not get there until 2030. Same goes for oil prices. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma takes first step to outsource care for most Medicaid recipients: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority on Thursday took initial steps toward privatizing health care for many of the state’s poorest residents. The agency that oversees the state’s Medicaid program published two requests for proposals seeking for-profit companies to oversee medical and dental spending for 773,794 of the state’s nearly 1 million Medicaid recipients. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Managed care is a bad investment for Oklahoma.

Public Health Lab employees shocked to find out lab is moving to Stillwater: Gathered around a computer during a lunch break, employees of the state’s public health laboratory were some of the last to learn the future of their jobs. On Oct. 7, Gov. Kevin Stitt and state officials had just concluded a news conference announcing the move of the public health laboratory to Stillwater. [The Oklahoman]

As Census closes, Oklahoma among least self-reporting states: The state’s 99.9% response rate was the same as the rest of the nation: All states were given the same mark in the Census Bureau’s final tally. But federal data shows Oklahoma needed more help, potentially putting the state and local communities at risk of losing out on federal funds, than most states to get there. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Mulready approves filing to lower workers’ comp premiums for Oklahoma employers: Commissioner Glen Mulready and the Oklahoma Insurance Department have approved a 9.6 percent decrease in workers’ compensation insurance loss costs for 2021. This will mark the 10th year in a row that average workers’ compensation loss costs have decreased. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

James Huber appointed new Tulsa County district judge: Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed James Robert Huber as a district judge for Tulsa County. Huber, a University of Tulsa College of Law graduate, has been a Tulsa County special judge since 2019, evaluating domestic and family law disputes. [Tulsa World]

Election News

‘It’s in the past:’ In Oklahoma, those who’ve regained the right to vote after a felony conviction look forward to a return to the voting booth: Oklahoma is one of a number of states that requires convicted felons to finish their full sentence before returning their voting rights. In some states, convicted felons are barred from voting for life. [The Frontier]

State Question 805: Pros, cons weighed: Sonya Pyles believes in redemption and second chances. The 45-year-old Tulsa woman said prosecutors used her four or five arrests to enhance her criminal sentence. After failing to complete probation, Pyles, who struggled with addiction and mental health issues, was sent away to prison for nearly three years for nonviolent offenses. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 805 available at  

SQ 814: Less money for TSET, more money for Medicaid?: On Nov. 3, voters will consider State Question 814’s proposal to amend the Oklahoma Constitution and change how future funds received annually from a 1998 tobacco lawsuit settlement will be distributed. Approval of SQ 814 would send less money to the corpus of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust and more money to legislative appropriations for Oklahoma’s Medicaid programs. [NonDoc] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 814 available at

Capitol Insider: Oklahoma Republican Party touts freedom in 2020 races: Already sporting a 270,000 registered voter lead over Democrats in Oklahoma at the beginning of 2020, the state GOP has seen a big surge in registrations heading into the Nov. 3 General Election. [KGOU]

Law enforcement, policing divides Norman Senate candidates: Two candidates vying for a state Senate seat in Norman are deeply divided on law enforcement and policing issues. In Senate District 15, former Norman City Councilwoman Alex Scott, a Democrat, is challenging Republican Sen. Rob Standridge. [The Oklahoman]

HD-83 has flipped often but Branham works to keep Roberts from taking it: Oklahoma House District 83 is considered an important seat to flip for Republicans during this election cycle. The district was Republican-controlled for decades until current Democratic incumbent, Chelsey Branham, won in 2018 against Jason Reese. [OKC Fress Press]

Voter guide: Republican Hiett and Libertarian Hagopian face off in Oklahoma Corporation Commission election: A Libertarian who champions markets free of governmental interference and a Republican, incumbent Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, are on November’s ballot to fill a seat on the three-person board for the next six years. [The Oklahoman]

Mullin, Lucas, Cole look to re-election with attention focused on Congressional District 5 race: Tulsa-area congressmen Frank Lucas and Markwayne Mullin find themselves in similar and not unfamiliar circumstances this general election season. Each is up against underfunded opposition in far-flung districts that combined account for about three-fourths of Oklahoma’s square mileage. [Tulsa World]

Broyles outraises Inhofe, while Bice edges Horn in latest quarter: Democratic Senate candidate Abby Broyles outraised Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe in the third quarter, while Republican state Sen. Stephanie Bice’s three-month fundraising total topped that of Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

Energy votes, effect on Oklahoma jobs playing big in heated race between Horn, Bice: Facing a barrage of ads accusing her of betraying Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry, U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn has worked to counter the narrative by arguing that none of her votes to limit exploration on public lands has affected home-state companies. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

14% of Tulsans are Black compared to 8% of Tulsa police. Why are minorities underrepresented in law enforcement?: Minorities are underrepresented on three of the largest law enforcement agencies in the Tulsa area, according to a Tulsa World survey, while smaller agencies say their size is a challenge in recruiting a force representative of the community. [Tulsa World]

  • Heartland police realize diversity is an issue, work to make changes [The Courier]

Oklahoma County DA questions legality of new ICE policy at jail: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has issues with a 2-1 vote by county commissioners requiring the jail to fully cooperate with immigration officers. [The Oklahoman] In a lawsuit, Commissioner Kevin Calvey is making an attempt to cut District Attorney David Prater out of any decision on whether the Oklahoma County Commissioners can compel the Jail Trust to allow ICE officers full access to the jail. [OKC Free Press]

A brief history of executions in Oklahoma: Between 1915 and 2014, the Sooner State executed 192 men and three women, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Eighty-two died by electrocution, one was a federal prisoner who died by hanging, and 112 were lethally injected. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

More than half of Oklahoma experiencing drought conditions, could affect planting: Oklahoma is in another flash drought — a drought that appears and spreads rapidly like a flood. This could affect farmers trying to plant crops, ranchers trying to feed cattle and increase wildfire danger across the state. [KOSU]

‘Our heart is in it:’ Black Oklahoma farmers work to keep ancestral legacy alive: There are fewer than 1,800 Black farmers in Oklahoma, and many are working second jobs to make a living. But Oklahoma once had a thriving agricultural community. Harvest Public Media’s Seth Bodine explains how things have changed and visits one farmer trying to keep his ancestor’s legacy alive. [KOSU]

Education News

The week in coveducation: Epic updates, mask mandate, OKCPS teachers surveyed: Next week Oklahoma City Public Schools will be welcoming back pre-K and kindergarten students to in-person classes on an A/B schedule, and the State Board of Education will hold its regular monthly meeting providing a semblance of normalcy. This past week, however, Oklahoma education news has been dominated by updates in the ever expanding story of Epic Charter Schools. [NonDoc]

  • TPS school board to continue discussing whether secondary students should return to school [Tulsa World]
  • Moore Public Schools releases COVID-19 update [The Norman Transcript]
  • State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says new $2 million grant will help mental health, safety in Oklahoma schools [KFOR]

Education policy leaders from state Senate, House reflect on Epic Charter Schools audit findings: Most said the need for additional legislation was made clear — and none gave any credence to Epic’s claims that State Auditor Cindy Byrd’s findings were politically motivated or rooted in opposition to charter schools or parent school choice. [Tulsa World]

General News

Tulsa digs again for victims of 1921 race massacre: A second excavation begins Monday at a cemetery in an effort to find and identify victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and shed light on violence that left hundreds dead and decimated an area that was once a cultural and economic mecca for African Americans. [AP News]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Court grants challengers’ request for attorneys’ fees in OKC panhandling case [The Oklahoman]
  • Will COVID-19 stop downtown Tulsa’s revitalization? [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa’s historic Greenwood District to get a Black Lives Matter mural [Tulsa World]
  • Stillwater group gets go-ahead to collect petition signatures to recall City Council [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“Turning to managed care — which has shown to be infeasible in Oklahoma — is merely an expensive solution in search of a problem. Gov. Stitt and the OHCA administration would be better served carrying out the will of Oklahoma voters by putting their full energies into implementing Medicaid expansion as quickly as possible.”

-OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoman expected to gain health care coverage following vote to expand Medicaid.  

[Source: Urban Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Missouri, Oklahoma Should Quickly Implement Medicaid Expansion Amid COVID-19: Missouri and Oklahoma policymakers should follow the lead of other states and quickly implement their Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which their voters approved this summer. By moving quickly, policymakers will not only provide coverage to more than 600,000 people in the two states (see figure), but they also will leverage Medicaid’s critical role in addressing COVID-19 and the deep recession. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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