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All articles by Courtney Cullison

Bipartisan Senate farm bill is a better way forward for families that struggle with food insecurity

Last month, we shared our concerns about the farm bill proposal being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill proposes deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that could put 97,000 Oklahomans at risk of going hungry.  While that bill did not pass, 198 members of Congress, including all members of the Oklahoma delegation, did vote for it, and it could still be reconsidered very soon. But there’s good news as well: the Senate has proposed their own version of the farm bill, and it’s much better!

continue reading Bipartisan Senate farm bill is a better way forward for families that struggle with food insecurity

Denying immigrants access to the safety net would have terrible consequences for us all

Most Americans agree that it’s important to have a social safety net.  Bad luck and hard times can hit any of us, and when that happens there should be something there to keep us from falling into destitution while we work to get back on our feet. That’s what the safety net does – it helps people avoid extreme deprivation and produces long-term benefits, especially for children. But recent moves by the Trump administration could create holes in the safety net, allowing many working families to crash straight through.

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Progress is being made, but there’s still a long way to go in reforming occupational licensing in Oklahoma

by | May 31st, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (2)

We’ve been talking a lot about occupational licensing lately and that’s because it’s a big deal for economic opportunity. Requiring a state license to practice certain occupations began with good intentions –  to protect the public from the harm that can come from someone practicing a profession in an unsafe or incompetent manner.  But today nearly 30 percent of the American workforce needs a license to do their job, and those licenses do not always have a clear connection to public health and safety.  In 21 states, for example, you need a license to be a travel guide.  In Louisiana, you need a license to be a florist

While many occupational licensing requirements have no public safety benefit, the do have clear drawbacks: they restrict entry into many professions by adding expense and imposing restrictions on who can practice the profession.  For too many individuals, onerous requirements push licensed professions out of reach for reasons that have very little (or nothing at all) to do with public health and safety.

continue reading Progress is being made, but there’s still a long way to go in reforming occupational licensing in Oklahoma

The Weekly Wonk: Five things we already know about the 2018 elections

by | May 10th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Want a recap of the recently concluded legislative session? Check out our end of session wrap up. Executive Director David Blatt also recounted some of the measures that showed a tough but ill-advised stance on poor people, crime, same-sex families, and guns – the hot button issues received more than their share of attention. But raising the revenue desperately needed to fund core services was more difficult than it should have been – Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update told us all about it.

Blatt shared five things we know about the 2018 elections based on candidate filings. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison warned us about the proposed farm bill that will be considered soon by the U.S. House of Representatives – if passed, it will result in more Oklahomans going hungry. Spring Intern Aaron Krusniak explained that internet access still a significant barrier for many Oklahomans, making it difficult (if not impossible) to verify and report hours worked in order to receive public benefits.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with Vox about the funding package for the recently passed pay raises for teachers and state workers. Blatt was the featured guest on KWGS’ Studio Tulsa and OETA’s News Report discussing the recently completed legislative session. An OK Policy piece about the harm that will result from work requirements for Medicaid recipients was used by The Oklahoman. OK Policy data made an appearance in NonDoc and Oklahoma Watch.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Five things we already know about the 2018 elections

Proposed changes to SNAP won’t put people to work – but they will result in more people going hungry

USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

More than 800,000 Oklahomans need help putting food on the table every year, and they get that help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). In Oklahoma, SNAP provides help purchasing groceries for children, seniors, people with disabilities, and the working poor. SNAP also boosts the Oklahoma economy, bringing back $890 million to our grocers in 2017. But now these important benefits to individuals and Oklahoma are under attack.

Last month, the House Committee on Agriculture approved a proposed farm bill that will make significant changes to SNAP, including radical changes to the program’s work requirements. It would require more families to meet stricter requirements, and to do so more often.  Most adults with children would be required to work at least 20 hours each week, and to prove that they’re meeting this standard every month. This will be a tall order for many workers and those trying to find work, and it will likely mean a reduction (or a total elimination) of food assistance for many of them.

continue reading Proposed changes to SNAP won’t put people to work – but they will result in more people going hungry

In The Know: New budget won’t offset decades of cuts for some state agencies

by | May 7th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

New budget won’t offset decades of cuts for some state agencies: Armed with a record $7.6 billion state budget and $474 million in new taxes and revenue hikes, Oklahoma lawmakers voted this year to boost spending for some agencies that have spent years cutting staff and services. [The Oklahoman] The FY 2019 Budget: Been down so long this looks like up [OK Policy]

Oklahoma Legislature wraps up 2018 session, heads home: The Oklahoma Legislature has wrapped up the 2018 legislative session, heading home early after a year that included two special sessions, massive teacher protests and a last-minute flurry of emotionally charged proposals. The House and Senate both adjourned late Thursday, three weeks earlier than required under the state Constitution. [AP]

5 Things That Happened During The 2018 Legislative Session: After two special sessions left over from last year’s budget woes, a teacher protest that lasted almost two weeks and more than a year of struggling to find funds for state services, lawmakers passed a $7.6 billion dollar state budget in April, the largest in state history. Here’s a few more of state lawmakers’ accomplishments this year. [KGOU]

continue reading In The Know: New budget won’t offset decades of cuts for some state agencies

The Weekly Wonk: FY 2019 budget is an improvement after several years of shortfalls and cuts, but there’s still work to do

by | May 4th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Monday was our last Bill Watch post – see what we were looking at during this final week of session. One of those things was, of course, the FY 2019 budget. Executive Director David Blatt mused that, after several straight years of shortfalls and cut, this budget is a step in the right direction. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update remarked on the return of line-item appropriations in this budget. Our full video series on Oklahomans who are under threat by the push to restrict access to SoonerCare is now available.

Liz Waggoner, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, wrote a guest post explaining the importance of pay transparency in shrinking the gender pay gap. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler lamented the passage of a bill that will allow life without parole sentences for juveniles in Oklahoma. Blatt’s Journal Record column paid tribute to Penny Williams, the longest-serving female lawmaker in Oklahoma history and one of very few women to rise to a position of leadership in the legislature.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy’s work advocating against increasing barriers to health care was referenced by the Tahlequah Daily Press. And our work on the negative effects of tax cuts on Oklahoma’s budget made an appearance in The Courier in Waterloo, Iowa.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: FY 2019 budget is an improvement after several years of shortfalls and cuts, but there’s still work to do

The Weekly Wonk: Funding flexibility for school districts will create some tough choices

by | April 28th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Strategy & Communications Director Gene Perry argued that a bill purporting to create funding flexibility for school districts will lead to some very tough choices. Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column warned that the effort to overturn the funding package for teacher pay raises and education funding is politically perilous. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update wondered if the history of SQ 640 is about to repeat itself with the referendum to veto the funding package. Blatt explained what needs to happen next in order to continue the push for increased education funding.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with The Oklahoman about increased funding for most state agencies in next year’s budget.  OK Policy data and analysis made an appearance in stories from NonDoc, Shareblue Media, the New York City Food Policy Center, and Dan Boyd’s editorial in the Journal Record.  

continue reading The Weekly Wonk: Funding flexibility for school districts will create some tough choices

In The Know: Political rivals strike deal on wind power tax

by | April 23rd, 2018 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Political rivals strike deal on wind power tax: Oklahoma House leaders have reached a deal with Democrats for a new tax on wind power. The agreement came after a morning of closed-door meetings on both sides of the aisle. [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers Close To Deal On Wind Energy Tax [News on 6]

In Edmond, SQ 788 debaters try to cut through the haze on medical marijuana: Several minutes into his opening remarks, August Rivera grabbed a dozen bags containing 72 ounces of gummy bears — the quantity of edible marijuana that would be allowed under State Question 788 — and dumped them on the floor in front of his lectern to show the amount residents may soon possess. [The Oklahoman] State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy]

Sanctuary cities standoff sidetracks OKC police grant: Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crusade against so-called sanctuary cities is jeopardizing crime-fighting funds that Oklahoma City has relied on for years. Bogged down by a lawsuit with the city of Chicago, the U.S. Justice Department has delayed the release of federal grants that normally would have been awarded last fall. [The Oklahoman]

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The Weekly Wonk: New reserve fund could siphon new revenue from education

by | April 20th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

In last week’s What’s That?, we failed to note that Oklahoma no longer administers End-of-Instruction exams.  We apologize for the outdated information and appreciate those who called the error to our attention.

This Week from OK Policy

The special legislative session has officially concluded – check out our Special Session FAQ’s for a review of what happened. Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column laid out the accomplishments of the recent teacher walkout – though it didn’t yield great gains at the capitol, the walkout did demonstrate the deep public support for teachers and public education. Blatt also cautioned us about a new reserve fund created in 2016 that could siphon some of the new revenue intended for education spending. 

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler discussed the potential promise of misdemeanor drug courts, and reminded us that a larger investment in substance abuse service will also be necessary. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update gave us a preview of next year’s legislature – it will look quite different due to some members voluntarily stepping down and others being forced out by term limits. And don’t forget to check out our Bill Watch post for a rundown of what we’ll be paying attention to next week.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with the News on 6 about the proposed veto referendum on the funding package for teacher pay raises. Director of Strategy & Communications Gene Perry was quoted by Education Week about the need for those teacher pay raises. And OK Policy data was used by CNHI, the Washington Post, and The Nation in their coverage of the recent education funding package.

Upcoming Opportunities

Just a few days left to apply to join the OK Policy team! We are seeking an experienced and effective operations and development associate to provide support for OK Policy’s day to day operations, donor and grant management, and event coordination. Applications are due on April 23rd – click here for more information or to apply.

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