In The Know: U.S. House panel: Oklahoma ignored virus recommendations | SQ 805 set for Nov. 3 vote | Medicaid turns 55 today

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: Celebrating Medicaid’s 55th anniversary: Today, the nation’s Medicaid program celebrates its 55th anniversary. For those who have never needed it, Medicaid exists mostly as a vague concept. For those who rely on it, however, Medicaid is an essential program that can mean the difference between life and death. Operating as SoonerCare in Oklahoma, Medicaid serves as a crucial lifeline for more than 860,000 Oklahomans every month, including low-income parents and children, people with severe disabilities and pregnant women. As a result, it is a key component to our state’s public safety net, which is needed now more than ever. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Together Oklahoma hosts a Medicaid Virtual Day of Action: Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s grassroots education and advocacy program, is hosting a virtual day of action today in celebration of Medicaid’s 55th anniversary.  Events include a legislative discussion with Reps. Emily Virgin and Marcus McEntire about Medicaid expansion and a live conversation at 6 p.m. with health care experts and Oklahomans from across the state. Learn more at

Oklahoma News

U.S. House panel says Stitt ignored White House guidance to stop coronavirus spread: The leader of a U.S. House subcommittee said Wednesday that Gov. Kevin Stitt ignored recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force to stop the spread of the virus and asked him to produce documents about guidance his administration received. [The Oklahoman] House COVID oversight panel demands documents from four states. Gov. Stitt disputed the state had any “red zones” — a classification determined by the White House task force — because they had created their own COVID-19 risk alert map that included the White House’s “initial methodology.” [AP News] Governor Stitt issued a response to the letter and said, “leveraging the White House’s initial methodology, OSDH deployed a similar version of a COVID-19 risk alert map to empower local leaders to make critical decisions based on the unique dynamics in their counties.” [News9]

COVID-19: 14 new deaths reported with 848 more cases across Oklahoma: The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 848 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, along with another 14 deaths from the virus. The death toll is 523, with 34,623 infections confirmed since March, according to state data. None of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours. [Tulsa World]

  • COVID-19 test results taking longer as state sees ‘fairly dramatic increase’ in demand in recent weeks [Tulsa World]
  • COVID hospitalizations down slightly from record as total cases near 35,000 in Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OU Medicine chief COVID-19 doctor says infection rate will be sign of mask mandate effectiveness [The Oklahoman]
  • Editorial: When protection isn’t enough reason to mask up, threat of shutdowns is a motivator [Editorial / Tulsa World]

State question to end repeat sentence penalties for nonviolent crimes qualifies for November ballot: An initiative petition seeking to end the use of sentence enhancements for repeat, nonviolent offenses is eligible for Oklahoma’s November ballot. State Question 805 cleared a 10-day period without being challenged. Supporters gathered around 260,000 signatures and had more than 248,000 counted, well in excess of the roughly 178,000 required. [Public Radio Tulsa] The last scheduled statewide election this year is the Nov. 3 general election. Gov. Kevin Stitt has until Aug. 24 to announce that the question has been placed on the Nov. 3 ballot. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Ten residents dead At Claremore Veterans Center: Ten residents at the Claremore Veterans Center have died since July 1 after testing positive for COVID-19. However, Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Director Joel Kintsel says they might not have died as a direct result of contracting the respiratory disease. [KOSU]

  • COVID outbreak at Claremore VA prompts state aid [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • City of Claremore, health officials react to COVID-19 outbreak at Veterans Center [KTUL]
  • Mullin, Inhofe, Lankford: COVID outbreak at Claremore Veterans Center extremely concerning [Claremore Daily Progress]

State Government News

Oklahomans still frustrated by unemployment system: Even as employment rates begin to recover in Oklahoma, thousands of residents with unemployment claims remain trapped on a roller coaster of issues that can take weeks or months to resolve. [NonDoc]

House, Senate announce 2020 interim studies: For the interim of 2020, Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat announced approval of 39 study requests of the 64 submitted by Senators while House Speaker Charles McCall announced approval of 74 interim studies of 92 requests received from Representatives. [Duncan Banner]

Funding for roads, bridges to be studied: Funding for city and county roads and bridges, and “responsibilities and powers” of county commissioners, will be the focus of interim studies this summer and fall in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate. [Southwest Ledger]

Environmental concerns now issue in wake of Creek ruling: In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision that Congress never dissolved the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation, tribes and the state of Oklahoma have been examining the impact the case could have on regulatory issues within Indian Territory. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Health Department seeks comments for WIC: State health officials are soliciting comments from individuals regarding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Input is needed for the State Plan of Program Operations for the 2020 Federal Fiscal Year. [OSDH / The Express-Star]

Federal Government News

U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern on stimulus: ‘We just need to keep getting jobs open’: First District Congressman Kevin Hern said Wednesday it’s imperative that the government perfect a playbook to effectively deal with the financial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

City council evaluates Norman Police transparency, FOP contracts: The Norman City Council examined police transparency policy and union contract law Tuesday after a local group suggested the topic for discussion. [Norman Transcript]

Lawton moving forward with plans for an advisory board: City of Lawton officials are moving forward with plans to create a citizens advisory board to work with the Lawton Police Department. [Lawton Constitution]

Protest leaders surrender at Jail after DA decides to press state charges: Mark Faulk and Jess Eddy, both with years of experience leading protests in Oklahoma City, surrendered at the Oklahoma County Jail Wednesday morning after speaking to supporters who had gathered. [Free Press OKC]

Economic Opportunity

No-cost broadband expansion offered to schools, libraries and health care facilities: The administrator of Oklahoma’s Universal Service Fund announced this week that a provision enabling fund-supported schools, libraries, mental health and healthcare facilities to continue to use increased internet bandwidths without extra costs will be extended through the end of this year. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma Department of Commerce revamps site certification program to lure industry: The city of Norman is the first community to complete certification of a new property under the Oklahoma Department of Commerce’s revamped site certification program. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa metro area unemployment rate dropped to 7.3% in June yet still well above prepandemic levels: Metro and county unemployment rates across the state continued to show improvement in June, yet in most instances they still remained well above pre-pandemic levels, data released Thursday show. [Tulsa World]

Mystery packages seed community with suspicion and risk: Oklahomans are being asked to go against their natural curiosity and green-thumb tendencies, setting aside mail deliveries of mystery seeds from China instead of planting them. [OSU News & Information] More than 20 state departments of agriculture, including Oklahoma, Iowa and Nebraska are warning that the seeds could potentially be harmful. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Teacher groups demand safety measures in classrooms: In a speech to members across the country, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten said if schools don’t protect teachers’ safety and health, “nothing is off the table—not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes.” [FOX25]

Broken Arrow plans for in-person start to school year Aug. 19; masks required for grades 3 and up: The Broken Arrow Public Schools Board of Education on Wednesday approved a plan to start the school year in person on Aug. 19. [Tulsa World]

Epic co-founder claims innocence in new video address amid back-to-school student recruiting drive: One of the co-founders of Epic Charter Schools took to YouTube on Wednesday and addressed parent skepticism of the school because of the still-looming law enforcement investigation and state investigative audit into its use of public funds. [Tulsa World]

General News

COVER Inequality check: Black Americans make up 15 percent of Oklahoma City’s population, but they are 26 percent of the homeless population. Roughly 11,000 OKC residents experience homelessness annually, according to the Homeless Management Information System. [Oklahoma Gazette]

Muscogee (Creek) Nation establishes Mvskoke Reservation Protection Commission: “As the only tribal nation whose lands were directly at issue in the Supreme Court case, we are mindful of our responsibility to play a primary leadership role in ensuring that the Court’s decision results in greater prosperity and safety for all,” Principal Chief David Hill said. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Dysfunction and injunction pauses Kiowa COVID-19 relief efforts: A Court of Indian Offenses (CFR) judge ruled Tuesday that any use of Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma funds, including the $19.7 million awarded to the tribe by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is to be decided by the tribe’s citizens. [Lawton Constitution] Appeals Officer Shannon Edwards with the Code of Federal Regulations Court in Anadarko granted a preliminary injunction against the Kiowa Tribe, barring them from using any of their nearly $20 million CARES Act funds until a budget is passed and approved by the council. [KOSU]

Oklahoma State University took his name off a building, but Alfalfa Bill Murray can still be found across the state: When Oklahoma A&M officials told Alfalfa Bill Murray they wanted to put his name on a university building in 1935, he wasn’t sure it was a good idea. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Midwest City passes mask mandate, effective immediately [KOSU]
  • Arcadia mandates masks [Luther Register]
  • Luther Public Schools proposes mask mandate [Luther Register]
  • Chickasha unveils stimulus program [Southwest Ledger]
  • OESC holds in-person event in Ardmore to help with unemployment claims [KXII]
  • Oklahoma City Community College moves all fall classes online [KOSU]
  • USAO announces fall reopening plan [Express-Star]
  • Looking to revamp history classes, OU regents visit Tulsa’s historic Black Wall Street [Tulsa World]
  • ‘It’s been a moving target’: OSU doctors reacting to changing needs of COVID-19 monitoring for athletes [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“This unpublished report recommends far stronger public health measures than the White House has called for in public or than the state currently requires — including mandating face masks, closing bars and gyms, and strictly limiting gatherings.” 

-Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, in a July 26 letter to Gov. Stitt about the state’s virus response. He referenced a report prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s overall rank among the nation’s healthiest states. 

[Source: America’s Health Rankings]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Understanding Medicaid: A Primer for State Legislators: The National Conference on State Legislatures summarized key elements of the Medicaid program, including basic answers to questions about the design and cost of the Medicaid program, why legislators should care about it, who and what it covers, why the program is costly for states, and what strategies can help improve quality while controlling Medicaid costs. The summary also serves as a useful resource for the general public to better understand this vital program, which celebrates its 55th anniversary today. [National Conference on State Legislatures]

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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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