In The Know: Virtual school board member related to Epic co-founder | Oklahoma Top 10 for new virus cases | Voters should focus on facts

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: Focus on facts when considering SQ 805: In a country growing increasingly partisan, there are still opportunities to find common ground. In Oklahoma, this cooperation has been especially noticeable around criminal justice reform. The organizations and individuals who compose the Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform coalition – which includes the Oklahoma Policy Institute – span political ideologies. Yet, many of these groups and individuals recognize that Oklahoma’s punishment-first approach to justice isn’t working. [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]

Oklahoma News

Statewide Virtual Charter School Board member is relative of Epic co-founder: The lone member of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to vote no on termination proceedings against Epic Charter Schools this week is a family member of one of the school’s two co-founders who have reportedly become millionaires through their deal to manage the school. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma ranks top 10 in weekly cases, positivity rates as U.S. averages trend up, White House report says: Oklahoma’s rankings show improvement in the past two weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports, but that isn’t necessarily good news. The state remains in the country’s top 10 for weekly new cases and test positivity rates, but the nation’s averages are increasing. [Tulsa World] “Community spread continues in Oklahoma in both rural and urban areas,” according to the task force report released Wednesday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [AP News]

  • White House recommends Oklahoma increase COVID mitigation efforts or risk ‘increased fatalities’ [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19: 13 more deaths, 1,121 new cases reported in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma Hospital Association: ICU space scarce [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Researchers say Oklahoma lags far behind in Coronavirus testing, contact tracing [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Cherokee Nation pushes for statewide mask mandate [KOSU]
  • Cancel trick-or-treating? ‘Oh, heck no,’ health department director says weeks ahead of Halloween [Tulsa World]

State Government News

September GRF collections mark second month above estimate: General Revenue Fund collections in September totaled $562.8 million, which was $9.5 million, or 1.7%, more than the monthly estimate. Collections for the month were $8.5 million, or 1.5%, above collections in September of 2019. Total GRF collections through the first three months of the fiscal year that started July 1 totaled $1.8 billion, which was $82.3 million, or 4.8%, above the estimate, and $286.4 million, or 19%, more than collections for the first three months of the previous fiscal year. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma’s authority to regulate oil and gas activity is in question after McGirt decision: A question of whether Oklahoma can regulate oil and gas activities inside Indian Country is working its way through the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s administrative judicial process. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa city councilors ask for special legislative session to extend option for virtual meetings: Tulsa city councilors want Gov. Kevin Stitt to call a special session of the state Legislature to vote on extending the time period during which government entities can hold meetings virtually. [Tulsa World]

State lawmakers attend redistricting training as they’re poised to draw new districts: In Oklahoma, districts for the state House, the state Senate and Congress are drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers will base the new lines off the 2020 Census. On Monday, the National Conference of State Legislators outlined for local lawmakers what they have to follow, what could change and recent court cases. [KOCO]

State lawmakers from both parties question Stitt’s move on state health lab: Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are both expressing concern over Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s announcement last week that the state’s public health lab will be moved from Oklahoma City to Stillwater, using a combination of state funds and federal coronavirus relief funding. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

Pittsburg County Judge: Choctaw Nation reservation never disestablished: A Pittsburg County judge ruled Wednesday that Congress never disestablished the reservation status of the Choctaw Nation. District 18 Associate District Judge Tim Mills made the ruling in two cases remanded back to Pittsburg County District Court for evidentiary hearings by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix]

Criminal Justice News

SQ 805: Oklahoma voters asked to reduce prison sentences for ‘nonviolent’ offenders: Criminal justice reform is on the ballot this November for Oklahoma voters in State Question 805. If passed, it would reduce the amount of time some prisoners spend behind bars by restricting judges from using past crimes to extend sentences. [Fox 25] OK Policy has published a non-partisan fact sheet for SQ 805 available at

State officials say Oklahoma is on track to resume executions: It’s now been more than five years since the state of Oklahoma carried out an execution. Since 2015, state officials have explored new execution methods and battled lawsuits that challenge Oklahoma’s death penalty procedures. They’ve also struggled to find suppliers willing to provide the drugs necessary to carry out executions. [Oklahoma Watch] Executions probably won’t begin until next year because of legal proceedings, a state House of Representatives panel was told, but operationally the Department of Corrections is ready to carry them out at any time. [Tulsa World]

Attorney for Oklahoma death row inmate claims new evidence: An attorney for an Oklahoma death row inmate testified Wednesday that he has found new potential witnesses who might be able to help his client’s case but who would be prevented from testifying by a state law because his client’s appeals have been exhausted. [AP News]

Economy & Business News

OKC sending help to minority-owned businesses: The city of Oklahoma City is targeting small business relief efforts toward minority-owned businesses that have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council approved a plan to add another $2 million to the city’s Small Business Continuity and Payroll Reimbursement program, and $500,000 to the Small Business Technical Assistance and Business Retrofits Program to create a Minority Small Business Program. [The Journal Record]

Electronic tracking coming to medical marijuana businesses: A new “seed-to-sale” inventory tracking system mandated for use by medical marijuana businesses in Oklahoma will add some to their costs, but it also will benefit businesses and consumers, the interim director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority said. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Funding available for school buses, other diesel vehicle projects: The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced last week the availability of funding from two programs that could benefit school districts needed help with transportation and their buses. [The Duncan Banner]

Norman school administrators address community COVID questions: Norman Public Schools administrators addressed school safety, building re-openings and the district’s need for community support during a Wednesday morning question and answer session. [The Norman Transcript]

General News

Into the Black Creeks pushing for tribal citizenship: Black people helped shaped the Muscogee Creek Nation. Now, they’re fighting to be recognized as citizens of the tribe again. [NBC News]

1921 graves core sampling and second test excavation to begin Monday Oct.19th: On Mon., Oct. 19, the City of Tulsa will begin the second test excavation and core sampling for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation with members of the University of Oklahoma – Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS) and the 1921 Graves Physical Investigation Committee at Oaklawn Cemetery. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Two Oklahoma voters discuss masking and voting during COVID: Health experts have repeatedly recommended the use of face coverings, to go along with social distancing and other guidelines meant to stunt the spread of COVID-19. But those measures have become politicized. [KOSU]

  • Oklahoma Engaged: How negative campaign ads appeal to voters’ fears [KGOU]
  • Criminal justice reform, education top the topics in District 34 Voter Forum [Stillwater News Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Walmart to pay $40,000 in disability lawsuit at distribution center north of Tulsa [Tulsa World]
  • In midtown Tulsa, pandemic changes a Halloween tradition to honor Oklahoma’s dead [Tulsa World]
  • Norman city attorneys: Petrone recall did not total enough signatures [The Norman Transcript] | [The Oklahoman]
  • At Luther Town Board, a secret meeting … about The Chicken Shack [The Luther Register]
  • Preparing for early voting: Absentee ballots go out, voting site moved in Stillwater [Stillwater News Press]

Quote of the Day

“To preserve the system, we’re just begging the public to take the precautions necessary to prevent cases.”

-LaWanna Halstead, vice president of quality with the Oklahoma Hospital Association [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Number of the Day


Percentage of households with children that lacked sufficient food in last seven days. 

[Source: CBPP analysis of Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Food Insecurity and Health: Addressing Food Needs for Medicaid Enrollees as Part of COVID-19 Response Efforts: One area of growing need due to the COVID-19 pandemic is access to food. Many people are facing increased challenges accessing food as they lose jobs and income, and many children have lost access to meals through schools due to their closure. The majority of people reporting food insufficiency say it is due to inability to afford food, versus inability to go out to get food or lack of supply of food. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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