In The Know: Charter schools and school reform; more urban justices; federal mental health funding…

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

The Give & Take on Medicaid Expansion, The Oklahoma Plan, SB 605, and House Bill 1750: Join us for the next Give & Take Wednesday, March 27  at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to discuss what SB 605 and the Oklahoma Plan propose to do and how it would affect thousands of Oklahomans. The event begins with a tour of the Food Bank at 6:00 p.m. followed by a community conversation at 6:30 p.m. with Susan Savage, Morton Comprehensive Health Services; MaryAnn Martin, Oklahoma Health Care Authority; and Carly Putnam, Oklahoma Policy Institute. [Public Radio Tulsa]

In The News

Epic Charter Schools, school reform and funding needs on the minds of Republicans at Friday event with State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister fielded questions Friday about accountability, implementing new reforms and a statewide virtual charter school that is under investigation by state and federal law enforcement. Hofmeister’s administration spent two years developing a new school report card that de-emphasizes the single-letter grade but still meets requirements under state and federal laws. [Tulsa World]

Proposed Supreme Court district changes could mean more urban justices: The Legislature is poised to redraw Oklahoma Supreme Court districts for the first time in more than 50 years, acknowledging population shifts that have diminished the pool of qualified candidates in rural corners of the state. The proposal, which stalled in the last Legislature, has divided lawmakers, although not along any clear lines. [NewsOK] Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice John Reif plans to retire next month following a 38-year judicial career, including more than 11 years on the state’s highest court. [AP News]

Oklahoma officials hope for quick reauthorization of Federal Mental Health Act: Funding for six comprehensive behavioral health clinics runs out at the end of the month. The Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics are part of Oklahoma’s participation in a two-year federal program to expand access to mental health and addiction treatment services in order to lessen the strain on emergency rooms and jails taking in more and more people with those problems. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Ethics Commission agrees to increase political donation cap: Political candidates in Oklahoma will be able to accept $2,800 from individuals the next time they run. The Federal Election Commission in February bumped up the individual contributions limit $100 to account for inflation. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission followed suit at its regular March 8 meeting. It is the first increase in four years. [NewsOK ????]

For Whom the Bills Tolled: Clock runs out on more than 2000 bills: Talihina is not going to save its veterans’ center. Tulsa and Oklahoma City aren’t getting their public safety districts. Optometrists won’t be moving into a Walmart near you. That’s some of the legislation that went by the wayside, or seemed to, when the clock ran out Thursday on what is sometimes called the third reading deadline in the Oklahoma Legislature. [Tulsa World]

Senate to review cost of living hike in state pensions: A bill to grant a 4 percent cost of living increase to retired participants in six Oklahoma state pension systems passed the House of Representatives last week and is now headed to the Senate for consideration. The proposed hike is double the 2 percent cost of living increase that House Bill 2304 called for when it passed out of a House committee in late February. [NewsOK]

ABLE Commission eyes legislative proposals: There are still more than 40 bills being watched by the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission. During Friday’s ABLE Commission meeting, Deputy Director Steven Barker said after the 2018 house-of-origin deadline, the commission’s 50-bill watch list was down to 16. [Journal Record ????] Measures moving through the Oklahoma Legislature would let liquor stores provide samples of spirits, wine and beer to customers. [Tulsa World]

Bill would give $2,200 tax credit for college grads in IT workforce: Oklahoma lawmakers are considering an attractive tax incentive for new software and cybersecurity employees in a bid to beef up Oklahoma’s tech workforce. Versions of the legislation have easily passed both the House and Senate this year, but lawmakers still have details to settle, including who can claim the income tax credits. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma House poised to consider more than a dozen Senate ‘trailer bills’ for medical marijuana: Although Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an extensive medical marijuana regulatory framework into law on Thursday, lawmakers still have work to do on more than a dozen “trailer bills” addressing different aspects of the industry. [Tulsa World] More on the ‘Unity Bill’ and medical marijuana in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Bill on oil and gas development rights moves to Senate: A bill prohibiting municipalities and counties from adopting policy that would interfere with the use and development of oil and natural gas passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on March 11 and is moving on for consideration by the Senate. [Journal Record ????] Oil and gas industry may challenge Kingfisher County’s revised permit requirements for a temporary line. [NewsOK ????]

Legislation would ease funding challenges for state nursing homes: Advocates for the elderly in Oklahoma have joined with organizations like the Oklahoma Nurses Association and Care Providers Oklahoma to support bills at the Capitol that would provide critical funding increases for state nursing homes. Costs for providing care at about 300 nursing homes in Oklahoma have risen much faster in recent years than funding. That has factored into the closure of a number of homes, especially in rural parts of the state. [Journal Record ????]

Stitt adds two Cabinet secretaries: Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Dr. Kayse Shrum as secretary of science and innovation and Jerome Loughridge as secretary of health and mental health. [Journal Record ????] Loughridge is president of Great Plains Oilfield Rental based in El Reno. [OK Energy Today]

Oklahoma Attorney General Seeks Receiver for OETA Foundation: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is asking to intervene in a legal dispute between the state’s public television network and its charitable fundraiser, and for a receiver to take over the funds of the fundraising foundation. [AP News]

Tulsa World Editorial: If Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma is good for some, why not everyone? Unable to get “Obamacare” Medicaid expansion approved for all Oklahomans, the Oklahoma House has approved a peculiar and creative plan to get it for little bits of the state. Last week, on a 91-3 vote, the House OK’d House Bill 1750, offered by Speaker Charles McCall, to create local hospital districts that could use local sales or property tax money to apply separately for Medicaid expansion. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Howard Barnett and Ray Potts: A lot has changed since 1990, but one thing remains constant: The challenge of properly funding public schools: Some 29 years ago we fought the good fight! Led by then Gov. Henry Bellmon, we were among the business leaders serving on the Task Force 2000 recommending the legislation that became House Bill 1017. It provided for increased teacher salaries, a lower student-teacher ratio in classrooms and increased funding for education in general. [Howard Barnett and Ray Potts / Tulsa World]

NewsOK Editorial: OK County jail must do better: From inmate deaths to plumbing leaks to unsecure locks on cell doors to inmate-on-inmate violence, it seems that if something can go wrong inside the Oklahoma County jail, it will. The latest example is distressing — a man held for nearly eight months without an initial court appearance. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Tribes shut out of ‘Opportunity Zone’ deals: Native American tribes across the country were left out of a major part of a new federal tax incentive for opportunity zones, with their governments unable to pool investments to support projects in some of the nation’s poorest areas. [Oklahoma Watch]

Quote of the Day

“Mental health now has doctors [with] the ability to treat it if we don’t stigmatize it. If we take the individuals and we simply lock them up, we’re not treating it. We’re not helping the individual get better.”

-Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who is pushing for a bill to extend federal funding for comprehensive behavioral health clinics, including six clinics in Oklahoma [Source: Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Percent decrease in Oklahoma state aid funding per student since 2008, accounting for inflation.

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid Expansion continues to benefit state budgets, contrary to critics’ claims: As residents of Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah prepare to vote this November on initiatives to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a large and growing body of evidence shows that Medicaid expansion has produced large gains in health coverage and improved beneficiaries’ physical and financial health. “With dozens of scientific analyses spanning multiple years, the best evidence we currently have suggests that Medicaid expansion greatly improved access to care, generally improved quality of care, and to a lesser degree, positively affected people’s health,” according to the lead author of an analysis of peer-reviewed evidence on the expansion’s impact. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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