In The Know: A day without taxes; high black maternal deaths; Stitt picks veterans secretary…

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.

New from OK Policy

(Capitol Update) How much longer will Oklahoma pass up the benefits of health care expansion? Word is beginning to circulate around the Capitol about a possible expansion of Medicaid services in Oklahoma. I don’t know what form this would take, but hopefully, it will be broad enough to take full advantage of the 90 percent funding available to the state through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

A day without taxes… I’m not a fan of tax day. Who is? After several tortuous weeks of determining whether I have excess distributions from my 529 plan and deciding how much I owe to the two states I lived in last year, I’m in line at the post office to send all these forms and too many checks to too many different governments. I’ve had it. Why can’t we make society work without taxes? I’m willing to try, I think, as I doze off… [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

In The News. 

United Voice: Oklahoma lawmakers address high black maternal death rate: Despite recent technological advances in medicine, pregnancy-related complications are killing twice as many women now than 25 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rates are even worse in the black community. Oklahoma state legislators are working with advocates to reverse the trend with new legislation. [News9]

Stitt taps Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Military: Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Monday a U.S. Air Force veteran and president of an aerospace consulting company to serve as his Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Military. Filling out his cabinet, Stitt tapped retired Brig. Gen. Ben Robinson to advise him on veterans and military issues. [NewsOK]

Stitt abandons effort to force shift of dollars into classrooms: Gov. Kevin Stitt has abandoned a 2017 effort by the state to push schools to funnel more dollars into the classroom or risk consolidation. Stitt on Friday renewed 29 executive orders from previous administrations. An executive order by former Gov. Mary Fallin addressing classroom spending was not among them. Under state statute, orders not renewed automatically terminate 90 days after a new governor’s inauguration. [Oklahoma Watch]

What will it cost to rebuild Oklahoma’s schools? Across Oklahoma, superintendents from the smallest districts to the largest continue to contend with an ongoing teacher shortage that shows no signs of slowing. More than 30,000 teachers have left the profession in Oklahoma since 2013, according to the 2018 Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Teacher Supply and Demand report. [Public Radio Tulsa]

No mention of TIFs in school funding rebalance proposal: A proposed rebalancing of Oklahoma’s state aid formula for school district funding has missed a variable that’s allowing schools in larger cities to benefit at the expense of smaller city districts, Meridian Technology Center Superintendent Doug Major said. [Journal Record 🔒]

Lawmakers, criminal justice reformers looking at how to lessen hurdles for offenders to successfully re-enter society: State lawmakers are evaluating a suite of reforms to ease burdens faced by offenders re-integrating into society. House Bill 2218 features several avenues for reducing or waiving fines, fees and court costs for low-income individuals or those seeking education or workforce training. [Tulsa World] Our research has found that excessive criminal fines and fees are trapping Oklahomans in justice system without increasing state revenues.

6 bills could help fix Oklahoma’s high incarceration rate: It’s no secret that Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate in the country. Now, some lawmakers and criminal justice reform activists are one step closer to improving the situation. Six bills remain this legislative session that would address the issue. [KTUL]

Former Owasso Sen. Rick Brinkley discusses his highly public fall from grace, future: Rick Brinkley’s fall from grace was fast, hard and highly public. “My life literally imploded in a matter of days,” said Brinkley, 57. Brinkley was released from the federal prison in El Reno in October after serving 30 months and spending 62 days in a halfway house for embezzling $1.8 million from his former employer, the Better Business Bureau in Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Rape kit bills advance through House: Two bills intended to address the state’s backlog of rape kits and prevent such situations in the future passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday with only one “no” vote between them. Senate Bill 967, by Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, would direct the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to develop a statewide tracking system for the kits. [Tulsa World]

Lauren’s Law supporters stay hopeful after bill fails to pass Oklahoma House: After Lauren’s Law failed to pass in the Oklahoma House, its supporters look to the future for hope for sexual assault victims. Lauren’s Law, or House Bill 1007, failed to pass in the Oklahoma House on March 13. The goal of the bill was to require schools to provide consent education and healthy-relationship education every year. [OU Daily]

Concurrent resolution filed with Legislature asks for information before additional cuts: Cuts announced nearly two years ago by Oklahoma’s Cooperative Extension Service to both its program and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system have gotten the attention of some lawmakers. [Tulsa World]

Bill that would open public lands for hunting guide operations goes to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk: A bill that would direct the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to create a system for hunting guides to operate in public hunting areas narrowly passed the state House on Monday. [Tulsa World]

Golf course beer sales could rebound after governor signs revisions into law: Parks Director Doug Kupper says Oklahoma City golf courses have seen a drop in beer sales since new regulations on serving alcohol took effect last year. A quirk in the law essentially killed the city’s ability to sell beer at the clubhouse for consumption on the course. [NewsOK]

Tulsa World editorial: Whose interests are legislators representing when they copy cut-and-paste legislation? An impressive effort by USA Today, the Arizona Republic and Center for Public Integrity shows that special interest groups were behind at least 10,000 pieces of “model legislation” nationally in the past eight years. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Letter to the Editor: Tulsa schools need to do a better job of serving students with special needs: Teachers in Tulsa Public Schools need to receive more training when dealing with disabled students. Teaching students with mental disabilities is not an easy task. It takes a person with patience and qualifications to handle the students correctly. [Gracelyn Davenport / Tulsa World]

Comanche County wants in on state opioid lawsuit: Oklahoma’s lawsuit against the nation’s major opioid manufacturers took another twist Monday when an Oklahoma City law firm said it will seek to join the action on behalf of Comanche County. In a news release, Fulmer Sill said it and two other firms will ask Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman to allow them into the case in order to “protect the interests” of Comanche County. [Tulsa World]

Olivia lives: Norman sculpture restored after vandalism: The artist who sculpted “Olivia” in Norman’s Lions Park completed restoration of the statue Sunday, almost two weeks after the child’s head had been vandalized with spray-paint and neo-Nazi hate speech. [Gaylord News]

OKC marijuana business thrives near jail: In a yellow-lit room inside an echoing 10,620-square-foot warehouse, grower Som Kiani tends to 385 pungent cannabis plants. Instead of soil, the plants flourish in cubes made of spun volcanic rock, fed with water and nutrients by snake-like plastic tubes. [Gaylord News]

Boeing OKC secures $14.3 billion commitment from Air Force: The Department of Defense has approved a $14.3 billion contract to Boeing Co. for work on B-1 Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft in Oklahoma City. The contract will be for modification, modernization, engineering, sustainment and tests of the bombers’ weapons systems. [NewsOK]

NRA sues OKC advertisement agency Ackerman McQueen: The National Rifle Association is suing its longtime advertising and marketing representatives at Oklahoma City-based Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of withholding billing information and breaching their contract. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“Five to 10 years ago, when you had an elementary teaching position, you’d have a stack of applications 3 inches tall. You almost grit your teeth because you have so many good applicants, who do you choose? Now, you’ve seen those applicant numbers dwindle and the applicant pool gets smaller. You start going, ‘we just need to find one good one.’ Instead of having that stress of who you pick, you’re just trying to find one.”

-Cache Public Schools superintendent Chad Hance [Source: Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day

82

Number of reported flu deaths in Oklahoma since Sept. 1, 2018

[Source: Oklahoma Health Department]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Housing vouchers can save people from homelessness. But landlords may not accept them: In California, more than half of tenants struggle with unaffordable rent. Tens of thousands bed down on the streets at night. Vouchers are one of the federal government’s most powerful weapons to fight both problems, but low-income households can wait more than 10 years just to get one — and, increasingly, they can’t find a landlord willing to take it. [LA Times]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. Born in Tamaulipas, Mexico, she immigrated to Oklahoma with her family at a young age and obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma, a community organization dedicated to advocating and empowering immigrant youth in the state.

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