In The Know: Virus cases dropping as deaths climb | Gov. proposes state budget | Legislative session begins

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

Oklahoma’s COVID-19 drop is real this time, but mitigation and vigilance must remain, epidemiologist says: COVID-19’s downward trajectory in Oklahoma isn’t a data mirage, but to maintain the trend, mitigation measures must stay and people have to remain vigilant, according to the state’s former epidemiologist. [Tulsa World]

  • Epidemiologist: Oklahoma COVID deaths to continue rising [AP News]
  • New COVID case averages and hospitalizations keep falling, but 38 more reported dead [Public Radio Tulsa] | [Tulsa World]
  • What’s behind Oklahoma’s drop in coronavirus infections? [KOSU]
  • House Democrats hold memorial for Oklahomans killed by COVID-19 [Public Radio Tulsa]

Stitt presents $8.3 billion budget plan: Stitt’s proposed budget is a little more than last year’s $7.8 billion budget, but spends less than the funds available to the Legislature while investing in targeted economic development incentives and squirreling away more savings as a hedge against the future’s uncertainty. [The Journal Record]

  • Editorial: Gov. Kevin Stitt says the state is strong; it could be stronger with better leadership [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall talks about start of session: Political Analyst Scott Mitchell talks with Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) about the start of the 2021 Legislative Session. [NewsOn6]

  • Listen Frontier: A new legislative session begins [The Frontier]

State tourism department reports data breach; no social security, financial data compromised: The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department on Tuesday said it recently received notice that an unknown individual was claiming to have stolen data from and related websites. [Tulsa World]

Sales taxes to both the state and a tribal nation? Oklahoma Supreme Court says Okmulgee grocery store argument should be before Tax Commission: The Oklahoma Supreme Court sent a sales tax dispute involving an Okmulgee grocery store back to district court on Tuesday with instructions to dismiss the case. The high court determined that Warehouse Market Inc.’s argument over to whom it owed sales tax should be before the Oklahoma Tax Commission and not the courts. [Tulsa World]

State Senate and House Redistricting Committees to participate in joint meeting: A Senate and House Redistricting Committees joint meeting will be held Wednesday and will be live streamed. The meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. in room 535 of the State Capitol. It’s open to all legislators and members of the public. The live stream can be viewed at [KFOR]

Senate Committee advances bill to limit Governor’s ability to oust Education Board Members: One of the first bills passed out of a state legislative committee this session seeks to limit the governor’s power to remove members they appointed to the State Board of Education. [Public Radio Tulsa]

OK Capitol: Busy session as bills held over from last year are brought back: Last year, due to COVID, only about 137 bills actually got signed by the governor. Two-hundred and ten bills that didn’t make the cut last year are being reintroduced this session, meaning legislators will have to work quickly to get it all done. [FOX25]

‘I shouldn’t have to justify how I exist’: Rep. Mauree Turner on being boxed in by identity: The first Muslim and non-binary person to to be elected to Oklahoma state legislature explains why they refuse to put their identity up for debate. [The Guardian]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma senators split on Buttigieg confirmation: Oklahoma’s senators split their votes on Tuesday on confirming Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary, while both opposed the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Homeland Security Department. Sen. Jim Inhofe supported Buttigieg’s nomination, while Sen. James Lankford voted against. [The Oklahoman]

  • U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford joined a large majority of Senate Republicans Tuesday opposed to the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to join the Department of Homeland Security. [Tulsa World]

Rep. Stephanie Bice criticizes President Joe Biden’s energy policies: Freshman Rep. Stephanie Bice traveled to Houston on Tuesday to blast the Biden administration’s energy policies, saying they were “decimating” the oil and gas industry. Bice, R-Oklahoma City, participated in a press conference with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other House Republicans at the Port of Houston. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma OB-GYN explains why pregnant, nursing women should get COVID-19 vaccinations: Health care professionals now recommend that the COVID-19 vaccine not be withheld from pregnant or nursing women and that they be placed among the top tiers in terms of priority. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Criminal justice reform absent from Oklahoma Gov. Stitt’s address: In his speech marking the start of the year’s legislative session on Monday, Governor Kevin Stitt didn’t mention ongoing efforts to reduce the state’s prison population and overhaul the criminal justice system. Kris Steele with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform says Stitt’s State of the State address was a disappointment. [KOSU]

Cleveland County field-to-fork program benefits inmates, community: An agricultural program adjacent to the Cleveland County Detention Center will bring an opportunity for fresh produce and benefits to people working through the judicial system, Cleveland County Sheriff Chris Amason announced recently. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

CARES Act money allows after-school program to stretch to full day, helping parents with distance learning: With Tulsa Public Schools largely staying in distance learning since spring, it has partnered with the Opportunity Project to stay open all day to provide a safe, supervised space for students while their parents are at work. [Tulsa World]

Rural America needs high-speed internet for more than just Netflix: Donald Trump won two-thirds of the vote in rural areas in the last two presidential elections — highlighting what some see as a growing divide between rural and urban America. Now, a Washington, D.C., based think tank suggests the Biden administration look to expand broadband internet access in rural areas to help bridge the economic divide. [KOSU]

Education News

Tulsa Public School board sets meeting to consider and potentially vote on return to in-person learning: Tulsa Public Schools students could be one step closer to returning to the classroom. “We will be adding a special meeting to the calendar on February 16th that will allow for discussion and voting regarding students returning to in-person learning on February 22nd,” said President Stacey Wooley at a Monday board meeting. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Editorial: TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist fights back against Gov. Kevin Stitt’s attacks [Tulsa World]

Op-Ed: Oklahoma should focus on improving all public schools: A complementary Christian ethic advocating for the sanctity of life should push us to improve the quality of life for all of God’s children, regardless of where they reside in Oklahoma. Over 700,000 children, over 90% of our total school-age population, attend their local public school. Public schools are an integral part of the bedrock of communities across the state and are the single most efficient way to widely educate our kids. Tragically, because of where a kid grows up in Oklahoma, many public education choices available to kids in the suburbs are not available to those in rural or urban areas. [Clark Frailey Op-Ed /The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC City Council handles business so swiftly activists miss comment time [OKC Free Press]
  • SD 22 GOP primary: Legislative aide faces man who says COVID created to defeat Trump [NonDoc]
  • Democratic candidates look to buck GOP dominance in SD 22 [NonDoc]
  • Osage County school’s superintendent suspended over state, federal sanctions [Tulsa World]
  • Jenks mayor expects expired mask ordinance to be extended when City Council meets [Tulsa World]
  • Early voting in Norman begins Thursday at Cleveland County Fairgrounds [Norman Transcript]
  • City of Lawton sets partial reopening of facilities [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“As long as we continue to behave as we are right now as a society, we’ll expect these numbers to keep coming down. If people on the converse say, ‘Hey look, we’ve got a decrease we can stop masking and we can start enjoying parties’ — all these types of things, go back to pre-COVID behavior — we will actually see another surge of cases.”

-Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, OU College of Public Health professor and former state epidemiologist [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Median family income among Oklahoma’s Black households with children. Median income for Oklahoma’s white households with children was $76,000, or about about 90% greater than the median family income for Black households with children.

[Source: KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

Amid National Reckoning, Americans Divided on Whether Increased Focus on Race Will Lead to Major Policy Change: A series of high-profile incidents of police violence against Black Americans in recent months, including the killing of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake, have sparked nationwide protests, renewed calls for the removal of Confederate symbols and produced public condemnations of systemic racism from lawmakers, corporations, sports leagues and others. Yet many Americans are skeptical that this moment of racial reckoning will lead to major changes in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center survey. [Pew Research Center]

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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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