In The Know: Why young, healthy people should get vaccinated | Data inconsistency among school districts | Legislative transparency

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

Interim study examines legislative transparency (Capitol Update): Many legislative decisions, large and small, are made in discussions behind closed doors. The public, and even some fellow legislators, never hear about the decisions until it’s too late to make an effective challenge. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Data offered for why young, healthy people should get COVID-19 vaccine: Until a high percentage of the population harbors immunity via natural infection or vaccination, a Saint Francis Health System pharmacist says COVID-19 will circulate broadly in the U.S. and have more opportunities to mutate into other variants. [Tulsa World]

  • With COVID-19 surge in Oklahoma comes redoubled contact tracing efforts [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma Health Officials Say They’re Ready To Give COVID Boosters Once Feds Approve Them [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • State, Local Officials Working To Again Increase Access To Free COVID Testing In Oklahoma [Public Radio Tulsa]

COVID public schools’ impact: Officials cite lack of consistent data among districts: Precise data measuring the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning are not yet available and may never be, the state’s top common education officers said Monday. Speaking separately to a legislative subcommittee, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and state Education Secretary Ryan Walters said that while they’ve made some general observations, the variations among districts and down to individual students is great. [Tulsa World]

The Frontier fact checked claims about unemployment and Oklahoma’s labor shortage: When Gov. Kevin Stitt announced in May that he would cut expanded federal unemployment benefits intended to help workers who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, he said ending the payments would push more people back to work. The additional benefits were supposed to run through Sept. 6, but Stitt chose to end the programs more than two months early in a move he said would help ease labor shortages in the state. [The Frontier]

Health News

It’s a conspiracy: Surveys show faith groups are not exempt from spreading unfounded theories: A local minister was shocked when a TikTok video he posted went viral, but by the time the second one scored exponential social media buzz, he realized that he’d struck a nerve. What drew so much attention to the Rev. Jeremy Coleman’s words? He presented counter-arguments to unfounded conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines. [The Oklahoman]

State & Local Government News

Eliminating Sales Tax On Groceries A Nonstarter, But There’s Some Agreement On Tweaking Tax Credit: Oklahoma is among just 13 states that still levy a sales tax on groceries, but there appears to be some agreement on addressing that. Lawmakers, policy analysts and the Oklahoma Municipal League expressed interest during an interim study in altering a state tax credit established in 1990 to help offset the cost of groceries for low-income families. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Sewer projects, jail population reduction among suggestions for Oklahoma County’s relief funds: Residents offered Oklahoma County Commissioners a few suggestions for use of the county’s $154 million in American Rescue Plan funding during Monday’s commissioners meeting. The commissioners have not made plans for the money. However, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey has suggested using the funds to build a new jail. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Efforts To Shore Up The Electrical Grid Could Mean Moving Power Lines Underground: More power lines could move underground as part of an effort included in the infrastructure bill to update the nation’s energy system, but rural energy providers still worry about the cost of installation and maintenance. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August, includes $73 billion to modernize the electric grid. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says moving power lines underground, a practice called “undergrounding,” may be part of that effort. [KOSU]

Lawton’s housing division has programs to fund house repairs: Federal funding allows the City of Lawton’s housing and community development division to help low-income residents maintain their homes. Three programs are designed to help low-income residents with the repairs or improvements they need to continue living in their homes, with funding provided to those who meet low-income guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. [The Lawton Constitution]

Stephanie Bice’s path reveals opportunities, perils for suburban Republicans: As the Oklahoma Republican Party verged on implosion this summer, GOP Rep. Stephanie Bice donned a hard hat and toured a vocational-technical school under construction here in her district. [Roll Call]

Tribal Nations News

O’Connor files new petitions asking high court to reverse McGirt: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor filed two new petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday seeking the reversal of last year’s decision reaffirming the Muscogee reservation, or at least a ruling that Oklahoma still has jurisdiction over some crimes involving Native Americans in Indian Country. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma sets 7 executions in 6 months; 1st since 2015: Oklahoma scheduled seven executions Monday in what would be the first lethal injections for the state since putting them on hold six years ago following a series of mishaps. Among the men scheduled to die is Julius Darius Jones, even though the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board just last week recommended that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison. [AP News] The board voted 3-1 Sept. 13 to recommend his sentence be commuted to life in prison. If the governor agrees, Jones immediately would be eligible for parole. [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa] | [The Black Wall Street Times]

Action Committee presents report and public comment causes conflict at OK County jail trust meeting: The monthly Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority meeting got off to a fiery start Monday, owing to a clerical error that prevented one member of the public from addressing the trust. [NonDoc] | [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

As evictions loom, concern for landlords: Oklahoma has the 9th highest percentage of renters expecting to be evicted within the next two months, a nationwide survey shows. Yet, a lawmaker is concerned that many Oklahoma landlords are being taken advantage of by renters and the federal government. [The Journal Record]

New grocery store for downtown Tulsa a step closer with sale of PAC Trust parking lot: It has taken a little more than seven years, but the process of converting the parking lot across Cincinnati Avenue from the Tulsa Performing Arts Center into a multi-use project that would include downtown Tulsa’s first grocery store in decades took a giant step forward Monday. [Tulsa World]

  • PAC Trust approves sale of adjacent parking lot for mixed-use project [Tulsa World]

Education News

Pandemic benefits for free, reduced school lunches finally go out: The wait is almost over for Oklahoma families looking for their students’ 2020-2021 Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer benefits. Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Education and Oklahoma Department of Human Services confirmed that electronic P-EBT payments for the 2020-2021 school year have started to go out to eligible families across the state. [Tulsa World]

Masked, Vaccinated and COVID-19 Positive: Why Some Teachers Say This Year’s Precautions Are Still Not Enough: High school librarian Nicci Francis managed to avoid COVID-19 last year. Even after her husband, a teacher in Piedmont, the district where she also works, and her son tested positive in November, Francis managed to avoid the virus. She credits the safety measures taken by her district. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Faculty members ask OU to mandate masks, vaccines [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Eastern Oklahoma County Triple X Road project moves closer to completion [OKC Free Press]
  • Oklahoma City Council approves e-bikes for OKC trails and parks [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa City Council, PSO to host town hall on electric service [Tulsa World]
  • Amid fight with OKC over COVID curfews, defense attorney Frank Urbanic announces mayoral bid [The Oklahoman]
  • Bynum’s new political action committee to support ‘Pro-Tulsa Candidates’ in 2022 City Council races [Tulsa World]
  • Librarian who had idea for ‘The Outsiders’ to become a movie is visiting Tulsa [Tulsa World]
  • ‘We’re Busy All Day Long’: Feral Swine Program Aims To Remove More And More Hogs [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“For more than 580,000 Oklahomans facing food insecurity, a daily meal isn’t a choice between different dishes, it’s a choice between food and essential needs like a prescription, car repairs and childcare.”

-Bailey Perkins, Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma State Advocacy and Public Policy Director [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


The current unemployment rate in Oklahoma, which is nearly back to the record lows of around 3% recorded pre-COVID [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

Policy Note

Where Are All the Workers? When the pandemic-induced recession began 18 months ago, employment quickly plummeted. April and May 2020 produced some of the worst jobs numbers in U.S. and Oklahoma history. But a rapid economic recovery had Oklahoma’s headline labor market figures nearly at pre-COVID levels by summer 2021. Moreover, in July, more manufacturers and services firms in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Tenth District—which includes Oklahoma—reported worker shortages than at any time. This edition of The Oklahoma Economist seeks to identify the extent to which workers still are available in Oklahoma and show how firms are dealing with labor shortages. [The Oklahoma Economist / Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

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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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