In The Know, Weekend: Rural broadband council at heart of budget feud, sources say; state fines, fees, ticket sales cratering; and 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  

Oklahoma News

Budget feud caused by anger over bill to create rural broadband council, sources say: Oklahoma House Republican leaders cut funding for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s program to upgrade state government’s digital operations because the administration was unsupportive of their proposal to create a council to oversee broadband expansion, sources close to the budget negotiations say. [The Oklahoman]

State agencies struggle as fees, fines and ticket sales crater during pandemic: The coronavirus is taking a toll on some state agencies that rely on fees and ticket sales, including the Oklahoma Lottery Commission, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, and the Department of Public Safety. [Tulsa World]

Who is and isn’t running for Oklahoma’s Legislature – what you should know: The unofficial kickoff to election season occurred last week when candidates filed to run for state and federal offices. All 101 seats in the Oklahoma House and 25 seats in the Senate and one Corporation Commission seat are up for election this year. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is up for re-election and so are Oklahoma’s five U.S. Representatives. [The Oklahoman] For a complete list of those who have filed for federal, state and legislative offices in Oklahoma, visit the Oklahoma State Board of Election website.  

Editorial: Free press important amid COVID-19: Amid this pandemic, it is perhaps more important than ever that the press be unfettered, and thus able to question public officials and hold them to account, or simply to report on efforts undertaken to curb the spread. [The Oklahoman Editorial Board] Journalists and citizen activists must be the watchdogs who keep in check the legislative and executive branches of state government and ensure the members of each act within constitutional and ethical constraints set for them. [Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board]

Death toll goes up by six across Oklahoma; cases rise to 1,868 [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Economy & Business News

Nation’s truck delivery network under strain of increased risk of pandemic: A literal “HELP – MAYDAY – 9-1-1” was issued in a letter to the president by a leading trucking association last week as the strain of the pandemic continues to hit drivers trying to maintain critical distribution networks while facing their own concerns about personal safety. [The Oklahoman]

Pawn shops playing role in economically distressed COVID-19 environment: Providers of fast money, pawn shops have taken on an enhanced profile in this cash-strapped, COVID-19 economy. They are a barometer of the financial climate, said the president of the Oklahoma Pawnbrokers Association. [Tulsa World]

Waytable serves two causes with one mission: When the coronavirus threat delayed plans for a nonprofit restaurant concept called Waytable, the entrepreneurs behind it wasted little time using their foundation to raise funds for local restaurants and those on the front lines of the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Working through various SBA relief options: While the Small Business Administration is here to help you overcome the challenges created by this health crisis and offer multiple funding options for those seeking relief, local financial advisors both caution and encourage locals about applying. [Woodward News]

Tulsa World editorial: Essential businesses decide to close anyway … a brave decision that deserves our future patronage: Some businesses deemed essential have taken a hard look at their own operations, the potential dangers to their customers, employees and the public, and have decided to close voluntarily. That’s a move that risks economic failure and one that can’t be made lightly. [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

Education News

Early childhood support continues in COVID-19: Social distancing and school closures have forced thousands of children to learn at home, including Oklahoma City’s youngest. Early childhood programs supporting low-income families have made similar adjustments as school districts across the state. Organizations have closed early childhood classrooms and instead rely on take-home bundles of food, supplies and lesson packets to ensure children are fed and learning. [The Oklahoman]

Point of View: Now is the time for innovation in public education: It is extremely important that public education is a part of this conversation about innovation and modernization, because the shortcomings of today’s system are glaringly obvious and holding back our kids. [Robert Ruiz Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Health News

Wife of Oklahoma’s first fatal case speaks: ‘By the time we knew it was COVID-19, his lungs were already compromised to the point of no return.’: In her first interview, Carrie Dry described the shock of learning that the COVID-19 pandemic had arrived here and how quickly it turned lethal for her husband, whose general health had been good before she rushed him to the hospital on Sunday, March 15. [Tulsa World]

General News

Tribes push for census completion during pandemic: Oklahoma’s tribes have spent the last decade to ensure their members are better counted by the U.S. census. But the coronavirus pandemic is making that harder. [The Oklahoman] Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s advocacy program, is working with groups across the state to get residents to complete the Census, which has huge implications for our state. 

Commentary: Caregivers need to find a way to cope: As I ponder the list of things that are missing from my daily routine, I can’t help but think of the caregivers out there who are struggling to maintain their sanity when they’ve lost the one thing that gave them a brief reprieve from the endless demands of caring for a loved one who depends on them day-in and day-out.[Enid News & Eagle

Oklahoma Local News

  • COVID-19 cases rise in Garfield, Grant counties [CNHI]
  • 3 new Cleveland County COVID-19 deaths reported, 247 confirmed cases in county [Norman Transcript]
  • Tulsa Area COVID-19 Response Fund established for area nonprofits [Tulsa World]
  • Portable buildings to relieve strain at Wagoner hospital [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Norman agencies, organizations brace for room tax fund shortfall [Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“I’ve always said we bank the unbankable… If something came up, say they had a doctor’s bill or they broke an arm and had to go to the emergency room, they couldn’t go to their bank and say, ‘Hey, look, I get paid on the first, but I need 250 bucks right now because this emergency came up.’ Banks don’t do those type of loans.”

-Phillip Church, president of the Oklahoma Pawnbrokers Association [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans annually lifted above the poverty line by the social safety net 

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Easing access to the safety net, and why we need to do it now: The economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic is making benefit programs more important than ever. It’s critical to get information to people who need it and simplify application processes. In light of the $2 trillion economic rescue plan, now is the time for policymakers to break down the barriers to accessing critically needed safety net programs. [Governing]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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