In The Know: Vaccine push renews as cases double | Fewer competitive races expected after redistricting | Pardon and Parole Board | 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

Focus on the Pardon and Parole Board (Capitol Update): Everyone who makes decisions in criminal cases — from judges to prosecutors and defense attorneys to the parole board and the governor — bears the weight of the decisions they are making. They live in apprehension that a wrong decision could cost damage, injury, or life. It goes with the territory. No one in the system is infallible. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Reminder: We’re Hiring! Join the team as a Data Analyst: OK Policy is currently hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Applications for this position close on January 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM (CST). [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Vaccine push renewed as new cases nearly double in a week for Oklahoma: The Oklahoma State Department of Health again is urging residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the new omicron variant spreads in the U.S. and cases here have nearly doubled in only a week. The state’s seven-day average for new cases hit 1,245 on Monday, up 83% from 679 only seven days earlier. The delta wave’s peak reached 2,806 in late August. [Tulsa World]

In Oklahoma, Black families turn to doulas for better births: While the reasons for disparities are complex, Black Oklahomans are turning to doulas as a way to combat the disproportionately high rates of adverse health outcomes among Black Americans. Oklahoma reported the fourth-highest rate of maternal mortality in the country in 2018, and Black women die of pregnancy-related complications at a rate more than 60 percent higher than that of white Oklahomans. The crisis is closely tied to infant mortality. Black infants in Oklahoma are more than twice as likely as white infants to die before their first birthday. [The Frontier]

State Government News

Expect Fewer Competitive Oklahoma Legislative Races After Redistricting: Unlike the fierce debate over Oklahoma’s congressional redistricting map, state lawmakers approved new legislative redistricting plans last month with a near-unanimous bipartisan vote that received little fanfare. With a few exceptions and tweaks, the new state House and Senate plans largely mirror the general layout of old maps. The vast majority of Oklahomans will remain in the district they were in before. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma secretary of transportation tempers expectations for funding boost from bipartisan infrastructure deal: Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz set the record straight Monday on how much federal funding the state can expect from the $1 trillion infrastructure deal signed by President Joe Biden last month. Gatz explained what to expect to state transportation commissioners at their regular meeting. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

First ARPA funds go to broadband mapping, youth mental health care: An effort to map Oklahoma’s broadband network and a project to renovate the emergency department at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital to add 10 pediatric behavioral health beds are set to become the first two recipients of the state’s allotment of American Rescue Plan Act money. [NonDoc]

  • Sheriff to receive $3 million in COVID relief; commissioner asks for more documentation on its expenditure [Public Radio Tulsa]

Unvaccinated state Guard members still receive pay: Unvaccinated Oklahoma Air National Guard personnel were allowed to participate in regularly scheduled drills over the weekend and were paid using federal funds despite an order from U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that would block compensation for hundreds of Guard members who refuse to comply with the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Tribal Nations News

‘Great work and partnership.’ Tribal officers arrest murder suspect wanted by FBI: Authorities have arrested a fugitive wanted by the FBI for his alleged involvement in the shooting death of a man in Okemah last summer. [The Oklahoman]

Investments in Cherokee Nation language immersion program may be a model for national programs: In an effort to preserve and rebuild Native languages, First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Tahlequah, Okla., to tour the Cherokee Nation Immersion School. [KOSU]

Marjorie Tallchief, last of Oklahoma’s ‘Five Moons’ Native American ballerinas, dies: The last of Oklahoma’s “Five Moons” has set. Marjorie Tallchief — one of the five Native American ballerinas from Oklahoma who rose to global fame in the 20th century — died Nov. 30 at her home in Delray Beach, Florida. She was 95. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

OKC’s New Plan For Mental Health Emergencies Still Includes Police: Next month, teams of counselors and emergency medical technicians will join Oklahoma City police in responding to some of the city’s mental health emergencies. Officers will continue to be on scene to respond to criminal activity and safety concerns. But in cases of non-violent mental health emergencies, they will call on a mobile crisis team for support. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma judge stays Jan. 6 execution for competency hearing: A state court judge in Oklahoma granted a temporary stay of execution on Monday for a death row inmate convicted of killing a security guard during a 2004 bank robbery in Tulsa. [AP News]

  • One Oklahoma inmate gets execution stay; one does not [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County commissioners accept new jail plan: The Oklahoma County commissioners voted today to accept a recommendation to construct a new jail, though they are taking a wait-and-see approach on the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for a substantial portion of the proposed project. [NonDoc] The vote signals the commissioners’ intent without making any binding commitments for a new jail estimated by consultants to cost $300 million. [The Oklahoman] The recommendations come from the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) and were recently adopted by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust). [OKC Free Press]

Activists submit signatures to call grand jury about David Prater: This afternoon, a group of activists seeking to remove Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater from office submitted what they say are “well over” 5,000 signatures this afternoon in support of their petition to convene a grand jury for investigating Prater. [NonDoc] Over 7,000 signatures were collected for an initiative petition by the people calling for a grand jury investigation of DA David Prater. Only 5,000 valid signatures are needed to move to the next stage of the process. [OKC Free Press]

Economy & Business News

Report: Inflation causing hardship in Oklahoma: Rising prices for everything from the fuel you put in the tank to the food you put on the table mean a growing number of people in the U.S. are struggling to afford household expenses. The number of people having a “very difficult time” paying for those items increased by 50% from June to October, according to a new report by QuoteWizard that looks at the effects of inflation state-by-state. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Tulsa-area school boards taking up compliance with state’s new open transfer law: Boards of education across the Tulsa area are enacting new policies to comply with a new state law intended to open up greater opportunities for student transfers between districts. Broken Arrow, Jenks and Sand Springs’ school boards on Monday all approved local rules for school officials to follow in determining how many new transfer students could be accommodated, while the Tulsa school board got its first look at a proposal to be voted on at an upcoming meeting. [Tulsa World]

New OU Exchange platform connects athletes, businesses for NIL deals: Lost in the shuffle of Lincoln Riley’s abrupt departure and the University of Oklahoma’s search for a new head football coach was a Dec. 1 announcement that the OU Athletic Department has streamlined the process for student athletes to land name, image and likeness opportunities. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“The Legislature has indicated that they want these funds to be strategically invested to be transformational for our state. We’ve have over $7 billion in requests for $1.8 billion in funding.”

—Melissa Houston, consultant for the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding, speaking to lawmakers about requests for spending Oklahoma’s $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan money [NonDoc]

Number of the Day

1 in 3

Approximately 1 in 3 Oklahoma residents live in rural areas [Rural Health Information Hub]  

Policy Note

Investing in Rural Prosperity: Rural communities throughout the United States are vibrant places with great people, rich culture and heritage, and deep social ties. But many rural communities have been buffeted by the increasing prominence of automation and the knowledge-based economy, along with long-term challenges arising from lower educational levels, remoteness and other factors. As a result, many communities are at a crossroads, wondering which direction will lead to prosperity for all. Investing in Rural Prosperity seeks to help people living in rural areas navigate the challenges and opportunities they face to achieve a prosperous future. [Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

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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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