In The Know: White House task force: ‘Immediate action’ needed to address virus | Gov., lawmakers ask for Epic audit | State last for voter participation

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

OK Policy announces Angela Monson as Outreach and Legislative Director: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has announced it has hired former Oklahoma lawmaker Angela Monson to help engage Oklahomans and elected officials with its work to make our state a place where everyone can thrive. As OK Policy’s Outreach and Legislative Director, Monson will advance OK Policy’s priorities by maintaining and strengthening relationships with elected officials statewide, as well as with connecting state residents through the organization’s Together Oklahoma advocacy group. Monson started her new role on Nov. 2. [OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Census numbers require 99.9% more context: Community advocates have been driving home the message that the census, which wrapped up in October, is vitally important to our communities because its resulting data drives decision-making on distribution of about $890 billion of federal funds. In celebrating the end of the 2020 census, state officials touted that Oklahoma had a 99.9% completion rate. That number, however, requires more context. Many factors resulted in a census operating on a shortened deadline with unnecessary systemic problems that likely resulted in a “complete” count, but one that isn’t as accurate as it could have been. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

White House task force: COVID-19 in Oklahoma is ‘unyielding,’ ‘unmitigated’ and requires ‘immediate action’: COVID-19’s spread in Oklahoma is unyielding, unmitigated and requires immediate action, with all indicators worsening as hospitalizations hit record numbers, according to the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma hospitalizations due to coronavirus shatters record [AP News] | [Tulsa World] | [The Frontier]
  • Tulsa’s hospital bed capacity is sufficient, officials say one day after no ICU beds were available [Tulsa World]
  • Despite pressure, Stitt sticks to ‘personal responsibility’ on masks [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma officials continue to push ‘personal responsibility’ as experts say vaccine is months off [The Frontier]
  • As hospitals and ICUs fill, Stitt administration assures Oklahomans, “We do have a bed for you.” [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • Doctors make impassioned plea for Oklahomans to wear masks [The Oklahoman]
  • Change in public attitude led to Jenks’ mask mandate, mayor says [Tulsa World]

Stitt: Legislature may need to fund COVID testing in 2021: At a Tuesday press conference, Stitt noted a potential pending conundrum for Oklahoma and other states: the Dec. 31 functional expiration of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding. For months, states have used CARES Act money to make COVID-19 testing free to the public, but uncertainty exists about how state tests will be paid for in 2021. (The CARES Act also included money for insurance companies to cover additional COVID testing.) [NonDoc]

Epic Charter Schools fallout: Governor says he will work with lawmakers who want audit of Oklahoma Department of Education: Gov. Kevin Stitt is vowing to heed a call by 22 GOP lawmakers Wednesday to seek an investigative audit into state education officials’ oversight of public school cost accounting. [Tulsa World] Citing failed oversight of Epic Charter Schools, 22 Republican legislators called on Stitt to initiate a forensic audit of the agency. They said on Wednesday an audit would determine whether other school districts are misusing funds undetected. [The Oklahoman] They said the Epic audit notes the agency didn’t properly monitor a statewide school expense reporting system at the center of millions of dollars auditors identified as misspent by the charter school. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma still last in the nation in voter participation despite recent registration surge: Despite a record vote total this fall and rising registrations in recent years, Oklahoma had the nation’s lowest overall voter participation rate in the 2020 general election, according to statistics maintained by University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Vaccine supplies to be limited at first: Vaccines to protect people against COVID-19 may be available by next month, but supplies will be limited at first and Oklahomans should continue to take all precautions to slow the spread of the highly contagious illness. [The Journal Record] Oklahoma has a thoughtful and well-organized plan that was developed over several months to provide the vaccine to residents in a “cascading fashion to address immunity and protection for our highest risk and most vulnerable populations first,” said Dr. David Chansolme, INTEGRIS Health medical director of infection prevention. [Tulsa World]

  • State Senate Health Committee Chair expresses concern over COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Vaccine will be safe and end pandemic, head of Oklahoma research institute says [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma House members sworn in, solidifying historic GOP majority: Members of the Oklahoma House were sworn in at the state Capitol on Wednesday, cementing a historic Republican supermajority in the chamber. [The Oklahoman] The Republicans’ super majority gained five more seats in the lower chamber, bringing the total to 82 members out of 101 seats. The House Republicans added 13 new members, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said. [Tulsa World]

Government bodies to resume in-person meetings, spurring coronavirus concerns: Oklahoma government bodies will return to meeting in person next week after a temporary law that allows for virtual meetings expires Sunday. The state’s top legislative leaders have no plans to call a special session to extend the deadline of a law that allows government bodies to meet entirely over videoconferencing or teleconferencing platforms. [The Oklahoman]

State general revenue beats expectations but not prior year: Deposits to Oklahoma’s general fund exceeded expectations in October but fell below those for the same month a year ago, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said Tuesday. [Tulsa World] General Revenue Fund collections in October totaled $524.7 million, which was $18.7 million, or 3.7%, more than the monthly estimate. [The Journal Record]

State representatives talk what’s next for Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion funding following SQ814 failure: State Question 814 would have funded about a third of that, around $50 million. But Rep. Hilbert said luckily, the legislature will not have to start from scratch. [KFOR] OK Policy: Oklahoma lawmakers have nearly $600 million of available options that can fund Medicaid expansion

State’s pension funds remain healthy, solvent: Cost-of-living adjustments that added cash earlier this year to pension checks received by state retirees have had measurable effects on pension funds, but they remain overall healthy and solvent, state experts said. [The Journal Record]

Stitt taps new judge for Tulsa and Pawnee counties: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday announced the appointment of Michelle Lee Bodine-Keely as a district judge for Tulsa and Pawnee counties. She replaces Jefferson Sellers, who retired May 1. [Tulsa World]

José Cruz is first Latino to represent southside House District 89: José Cruz, 30, won House District 89’s race by a landslide with over 65% of the vote, making him the first Latino ever to win in the district. [OKC Free Press]

Federal Government News

A Republican senator says Biden should receive daily briefings, and he will ‘step in’ to ensure that occurs: Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican who sits on a key Senate oversight committee, said on a podcast released on Wednesday that he had no objections to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. receiving presidential daily briefings, and that he would take action himself if that did not begin by the end of the week. [New York Times]

  • ‘It’s not a done deal,’ Inhofe says with no specific cause to question apparent Biden victory [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Trump victory in Oklahoma official as State Election Board certifies Nov. 3 results [Tulsa World]

Okmulgee grocery store seeks federal ruling on state-tribal sales tax dispute: A Tulsa-based grocery store chain is asking a federal judge to declare that the state cannot collect sales tax from its Okmulgee grocery store because it is situated on restricted Indian land. [The Frontier]

Criminal Justice News

Early release dates for Oklahoma prisoners just got pushed back: Glen Blake told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board this month that his clients seeking parole were just hit with hard news. A policy that gave Oklahoma prisoners time off their sentences for good behavior and completing reentry programs has been canceled. Reentry programs are designed to help prisoners get ready for life after prison. The Department of Corrections believes the long-standing practice isn’t legal. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma job recovery lagging amid pandemic, Kansas City Fed reports: At least half the jobs lost in the state of Oklahoma at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t been recovered, according to the Kansas City Fed. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19 program to support small businesses helps in retention of more than 2,000 Oklahoma City jobs: In response to a survey, businesses said the city of Oklahoma City’s Small Business Continuity Program, passed and funded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has enabled them to retain 2,169 jobs. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

State Senator-Elect Jo Anna Dossett: ‘2021 is not the time for cuts’: If 2018 was a wave of teacher candidates running for office, 2020 was more like a ripple. Still, the number of lawmakers with education experience grew by two, according to a count by the Oklahoma Educators Association. That means the 2021 “education caucus” will include 10 senators and 17 representatives. [Oklahoma Watch]

How one district does kindergarten in a pandemic: As children learn how to socialize, practice self-control and navigate the world through finger painting, story times and repeatedly reading simple “sight words” such as “we” and “it,” kindergarten in normal times tends to include close interactions and hands-on activities. [NonDoc]

  • Opinions vary on reopening OKC schools [The Oklahoman]
  • Union Public Schools announces students in grades 6-12, Boevers Elementary will transition to distance learning for two weeks [Tulsa World]
  • All Broken Arrow middle schools now moving to distance learning through Nov. 20 [Tulsa World]
  • Sand Springs secondary schools going remote through Thanksgiving amid COVID-19 spike [Tulsa World]

General News

Where is Oklahoma County’s share of pandemic relief funds going now?: Oklahoma County’s elected officials voted 7-1 Tuesday to use up to $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help small businesses, nonprofits and other entities impacted by the pandemic. [The Oklahoman] The budget board that reviews spending items for Oklahoma County’s board of commissioners wants the county to take back more than $25 million in federal coronavirus relief funds it originally transferred to its jail trust. [KGOU] Last week at the regular meeting of the Jail Trust, the Trustees voted to accept a budget of approximately $15 million of the $34 million in CARES funds originally allocated to the Trust, and to return the remainder to the County for other uses. [OKC Free Press]

Conservatives flocking to ‘Parler’ platform: As scrutiny of mainstream social media platforms increases among the Republican demographic, some — including Oklahoma state officials — are flocking to a new platform, experts say. Oklahoma State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, has used his Parler account to share posts from multiple debunked conspiracy theories, including QAnon. [The Norman Transcript]

Column: Athletes, including in Oklahoma, long have called for social justice: The racial protests of summer put athletes on a platform like never before. Some fans weren’t pleased. They want their ballgames without a lecture or a history lesson or a guilt trip. And then you think of Albert Qualls and the summer of 1970. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City leaders miffed at utility over storm outages [AP News] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma City police shoot, kill man after short chase [AP News] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa Police, Fire departments report more than 100 employees in quarantine [Tulsa World]
  • Public survey lets Norman residents give input on city transit service [The Oklahoman]
  • Norman City Council extends mask mandate through March 2021 [KGOU]

Quote of the Day

“The unyielding COVID spread across Oklahoma continues with new hospital admissions, inpatients, and patients in the ICU at record levels, indicating deeper spread across the state. The most recent trends, showing steep inclines across all indicators, need immediate action including mask requirements to decrease severity in morbidity and mortality among Oklahomans.”

White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Oklahoma, Nov. 8, 2020 

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who are hospitalized with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, Nov. 11, which surpasses the previous record of 1,055 set last Nov. 5.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Health via AP News]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

There’s Been a Concerning Lack of Progress for Communities of Color During the COVID-19 Crisis: Since March, more than 8.3 million American have contracted COVID-19, and more than 222,000 Americans have died. The economy lost more than 22 million jobs in March and April and has gained only half those jobs back since then. Data show we’re experiencing a “K-shaped recovery.” This means higher-income households have essentially fully recovered, while lower-income families continue to suffer. And throughout the pandemic and its recovery, people of color have been disproportionately harmed by the “most unequal recession in modern US history.” [Urban Institute]

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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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