In The Know: Virus cases continue surging in state | No ICU beds available in Tulsa | Expiring federal funds may slow state testing

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

SQ 805’s defeat doesn’t signal end of justice reform efforts (Capitol Update): Supporters of criminal justice reform are surely feeling the sting of defeat after Tuesday’s 61 percent to 39 percent loss of State Question 805. The measure would have banned enhancing penalties for a second or subsequent conviction for nonviolent offenses. Opponents cast the vote as a public safety issue in a time when civil unrest and polarization was top of mind for voters. Some opposed SQ 805 on the basis that domestic violence inexplicably had not been listed as a violent crime by statute. They remained unconvinced by arguments that domestic violence penalties could be enhanced by other means. A little history should give criminal justice reformers reason to take heart. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

‘Nothing off the table’: Oklahoma officials consider new restrictions as coronavirus cases surge: State officials are considering new restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19, as Oklahoma grapples with a record number of new infections and hospitalizations. Oklahoma reported 4,507 new infections on Saturday, the largest single-day increase yet, sending the state’s seven-day moving average of new cases to nearly 2,050 new cases per day. [The Frontier]

Expiring federal coronavirus funds may pose threat to broad COVID testing in Oklahoma: With federal coronavirus relief funding set to expire at the end of the year, COVID-19 testing in Oklahoma could be in for a big change. State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye said Monday if the state isn’t receiving money to conduct surveillance testing, the costs will shift to health insurers, who may not cast as wide a net. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Rural Oklahomans facing eviction lack legal resources: Thousands of evictions have been filed in Oklahoma since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. While a CDC moratorium protects people with evictions filed against them until the end of the year, some rural areas lack legal resources. Some experts say there needs to be more protections to keep people in their homes. [KOSU

State Government News

Oklahoma plans to use Rekor’s AI to track down uninsured drivers, despite discrimination concerns: Rekor, which provides controversial license plate-scanning technology, announced that the state of Oklahoma will use its software to spot uninsured motorists on the road. Oklahoma’s Uninsured Vehicle Enforcement Diversion Program encourages uninsured drivers who are cited to avoid court appearances by acquiring insurance and paying a $174 fee. [Venture Beat]

Lawmaker charged with manslaughter in fatal turnpike wreck: Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, on Monday was charged with manslaughter in Lincoln County. The charge stems from an automobile accident May 22 on the Turner Turnpike during inclement weather. [Tulsa World] Ikley-Freeman was severely injured in the May 22 collision, which occurred just west of the Stroud exit in the westbound lanes of the turnpike. [NonDoc]

OG&E getting pressure from OKC state legislators over ice storm response: Even though OG&E’s power service area goes far beyond Oklahoma City, the metro is its largest municipality and population it serves. And, that population is up in arms more than usual after some residents have been without power now for up to 14 days. [Free Press OKC]

Capitol Insider: GOP registers election gains in deep red Oklahoma: As results rolled in on Election Night, November 3rd, Oklahoma Republicans scored more big wins and solidified their hold on the state’s politics. President Donald Trump completed another 77-county sweep, the fifth straight presidential election in which the Republican nominee won every county on his way to gaining the state’s seven electoral votes. [KGOU]

House oaths of office to take place Nov. 11: The representatives-elect of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature will take their oaths of office beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. [The Duncan Banner]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma AG to file brief with Supreme Court challenging change to Pennsylvania mail-in ballot deadline: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday said he intends to file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging a court decision rewriting Pennsylvania’s absentee ballot deadline. The brief argues that under the Constitution, state legislatures must choose the point to stop receiving absentee ballots and start counting votes, not state courts such as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. [Tulsa World]

Mullin the loudest as Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation speaks out about Presidential election: Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation have all spoken out, to varying degrees, about the apparent election of Joe Biden as President. But none more so than Rep. Markwayne Mullin. [The Frontier]

Criminal Justice News

County Commissioners still processing CARES funds to Jail Trust: In a short but spirited special meeting of the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) on Monday, the Board voted to transfer nearly $9 million of CARES Act funds to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust). [Free Press OKC]

Education News

‘Somebody has to step up’: Board of Education asked to issue school mask mandate: The State Board of Education is being lobbied by a community coalition, made up of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, the Oklahoma Education Association and other organizations, to enact a statewide school mask mandate to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. [NonDoc]

  • Teachers protest at contentious OKC school board meeting [The Oklahoman] | [NonDoc]
  • TPS pre-K, kindergarten students return to the classroom Monday [Tulsa World]
  • Hilldale Schools and Fort Gibson secondary schools go to distance learning through month [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • More than half of Oklahoma’s school districts have reported COVID-19 cases [KOSU]

Union school board votes unanimously to drop mascot and team name: Nearly a century after choosing the team name to honor Native American players, Union Public Schools will quit using a well-known mascot that had come to be seen as an insult rather than a tribute. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

COVID-19 vaccine announcement boosts Oklahoma energy stocks, oil prices: Markets soared early Monday after Pfizer said its coronavirus vaccine may be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. The price of oil also surged about 10% early Monday, pulling shares of a lot of Oklahoma energy companies along for the ride. [The Oklahoman]

The ‘California Project’: Strategy helps Oklahoma land more business: Under current restrictions related to COVID-19 in California, Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizárraga’s concert could not take place in Los Angeles at this time – but it can in Oklahoma. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration wants California businesses to know they can do in Oklahoma what they would not be allowed to do right now in their home state. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Muskogee Councilors reject three mask options [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Stakeholders grow weary of river studies, meetings [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Unite Stillwater submits recall petition for city councilors [Stillwater News Press]
  • Duncan alliance pushes for temporary mask mandate; Mayor set to proclaim November as ‘Stop the Spread Month’ [The Duncan Banner]

Quote of the Day

“Politically convenient speeches about freedom and personal responsibility are not preventing our ICUs from being maxed out.”

-Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum imploring the state and neighboring communities to take actions to slow COVID-19 spread [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Number of available ICU beds in Tulsa on Monday following record number of COVID-19 cases reported in Oklahoma during recent days

[Source: Oklahoma Regional Medical Response System via the Tulsa World]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Tracking the COVID-19 recession’s effects on food, housing, and employment hardships: The unemployment rate is very high and millions report that their households did not get enough to eat or are not caught up on rent payments. We are able to track the extent of this hardship thanks to nearly real-time data from several sources on the unfolding economic crisis. The impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout have been widespread, but are particularly prevalent among Black, Latino,[1] Indigenous, and immigrant households. These disproportionate impacts reflect harsh, longstanding inequities — often stemming from structural racism — in education, employment, housing, and health care that the current crisis is exacerbating. [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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