In The Know: Bill to end pregnancy care won’t be heard; teen voter registration passes Senate; House to hear marijuana regulations…

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

Carly Putnam: A funding promise we can count on: This year, legislators have an opportunity to address a critical need in Oklahoma by accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Oklahoma’s uninsured rate is the second-highest in the United States — surely not a category in which we want to be a top 10 state. This leaves hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans unable to see a doctor or fill a prescription, and puts hospitals and other care providers at risk across the state. [Carly Putnam / NewsOK] Expanding health coverage is one of our 2019 policy priorities. 

Group seeks criminal justice reform: An Oklahoma-based education and advocacy group is hosting a forum Thursday in hopes of encouraging Oklahomans to take action when it comes to criminal justice reform. “Our goal is to motivate people to act,” Together Oklahoma Norman chapter leader Deborah A. Hill said. “It really hurts the state to have so many people that are incarcerated.” [Norman Transcript] Learn more about Together Oklahoma’s upcoming Criminal Justice Forum on the Facebook event page.

In The News

Bill to eliminate pregnancy program that covers undocumented women will not be heard: A controversial bill that would have eliminated a state pregnancy program that covers undocumented women will not get a hearing, said Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud. Smalley is chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee where Senate Bill 40 is assigned. Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan, generated headlines when he filed the bill that would have eliminated the Soon-to-be-Sooners Program. [Tulsa World]

Bill would allow teens to pre-register to vote: Oklahomans who aren’t quite old enough to vote will be able to pre-register up to six months before their 18th birthday under a bill that has sailed through the Senate. The Senate voted unanimously this week for the bill that extends the pre-registration period from 60 days to six months. [AP News]

House set to hear proposed regulations on medical marijuana: Legislation that would provide a framework for the regulation of medical marijuana in Oklahoma could be heard on the House floor as soon as next week. The proposal sets guidelines for medical marijuana testing, tax collections, seed-to-sale product tracking, packaging and employment restrictions. [AP News] Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish, a cannabis industry lawyer, said banking remains the biggest challenge for those who grow marijuana and for state dispensaries, which the new bill does not address [Journal Record ????]

House passes railroad fine bill by large margin: The bill authored by Speaker Charles McCall was passed 92-5 last week, with four representatives excused from the vote. The bill will now head to the state Senate. [Norman Transcript]

Bill would make turnpikes free for disabled Oklahoma veterans: State Rep. David Smith, R-Arpelar, said his measure, House Bill 1271, would allow approximately 56,600 Oklahoman veterans, who are at least 60 percent disabled, to drive private vehicles on the state’s turnpike network without paying any tolls. [CHNI]

Oklahoma Cabinet secretaries say ideas matter more than politics to Gov. Kevin Stitt: Gov. Kevin Stitt is an “apolitical” chief of state who is more interested in bottom lines than elections, three members of his Cabinet told the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Friday. “Gov. Stitt is completely apolitical. I mean completely,” said Sean Kouplen, the Bixby banker Stitt tapped as an unpaid secretary of commerce and workforce development. [Tulsa World]

Stitt gets ideas from other governors at DC conference: Oklahoma’s new governor sat in the ballroom of a Washington hotel Saturday morning listening to experts explain the bipartisan importance of criminal justice reform. It was one of many panels and meetings that Gov. Kevin Stitt attended during the weekend — covering topics including infrastructure, trade and the economy — as part of his first National Governors Association winter meeting. [Gaylord News]

OKC schools chief preaching benefits of closure plan as vote nears: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel believes so strongly in a plan to help students by closing and consolidating schools that he’s inviting families that have left the district to return and be part of something special. [NewsOK ????]

Editorial Board: Legislature finally moving forward on accepting more than $1 billion in federal funding to help Oklahoma’s poorest citizens: A Senate committee unanimously passed a plan Tuesday to offer Medicaid-funded private health care coverage to thousands of poor Oklahomans. After years of denial and political posturing, the 9-0 Retirement and Insurance Committee vote on Senate Bill 605 is the first time an Oklahoma legislative committee has OK’d a straightforward effort to accept “Obamacare” money and use it to improve the lives of the poorest Oklahomans. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Editorial Board: Do the right thing by expanding state’s health care access: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our state is next to worst nationwide in residents without health coverage. (Thanks, Texas!) By refusing Medicaid expansion, the Oklahoma Legislature has essentially cut funding for rural hospitals and reduced competition in our state’s insurance market. [Editorial Board / Enid News & Eagle]

Editorial Board: Finally! Real budget growth at the state Capitol: The Oklahoma Legislature will have nearly $575 million more to spend in the next fiscal year than it had for this year. After years of budget holes and failures, there’s no way that is not excellent news. Here’s to the good times! [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Wayne Greene: Per-pupil spending isn’t equal in Oklahoma school districts. One gets $30,922.45 per student: The premise of equalization is that every child has equal value. Who could argue with that? And so, a child in a poor school district should have the same educational opportunities as a child in a rich district — or at least as close to equal as you can get with money as your tool. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]

Ginnie Graham: Changing attitude at Pardon and Parole hearings: A little more than 15 years ago, I attended an Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board meeting where a member turned his back to an inmate who was asking for another chance. The member was making a statement, whether of disgust, boredom or disrespect was unclear. But the majority’s philosophy was unmistakable: Do your time and do most of it. Rarely, did anyone receive a pardon, parole or commutation. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Susan Esco: Building a better future through criminal justice reform: After over a decade of hard work and study, criminal justice reform has bipartisan support across the state. Over 70 bills have been filed this legislative session to address excessive sentences, community supervision, pretrial detention, and more. But, with all the talk of needed policy reforms – all of which is important – let’s remember that these changes would affect real people. [Susan Esco / Journal Record]

Open records are worth the money for journalists, public interest: The Tulsa World went to court a few weeks ago. With long-time attorney Schaad Titus representing us, we argued that the public had a legal right to court records that explained the outcome of a controversial case against four young men from Bixby. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma to get $2.2 million from emissions lawsuit settlement: The state of Oklahoma will receive more than $2.2 million from a settlement with two companies caught in a vehicle emissions scandal. Fiat Chrysler and Robert Bosch GmbH agreed to pay tens of millions to Oklahoma and 49 other U.S. states and territories that joined a multidistrict lawsuit. [NewsOK]

Data entry error caused $2.1 million shortage at Chickasha Public Schools: It appears a simple data entry error caused Chickasha Public Schools to be shorted more than $2.1 million in property tax revenues over a three-month span, state auditors have determined. An employee of the Grady County treasurer clicked the wrong line on a drop down menu on a computer screen, said State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd. [NewsOK ????]

Quote of the Day

“By refusing Medicaid expansion, the Oklahoma Legislature has essentially cut funding for rural hospitals and reduced competition in our state’s insurance market. … The excuse that the money would dry up with a change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue did not materialize. What sense is there in paying taxes to support expanded health care services nationally and getting zilch in return?”

-Enid News & Eagle Editorial Board [Source: Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma City’s ranking among the 100 largest metros for friendliness to remote workers, based on average Internet speed and median home cost.

[Source: Zillow Research]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Many older Americans are food insecure but less likely to seek help: Who do you picture when you think about food insecurity? A child relying on the free breakfast and lunch her school provides? A family using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (aka,food stamps) at the grocery store? A homeless man in line at a soup kitchen?Those people are undoubtedly food insecure, which means they lack consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life — not necessarily that they’re going hungry. But food insecurity also affects many people we don’t normally think about, especially older adults. [PBS]

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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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