In The Know: Cost of living adjustments, mental health needs, and more

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

Policy Matters: No good Medicaid expansion alternative: When considering strategies to make Oklahoma healthier, lawmakers would do well to examine how straightforward Medicaid expansion positively impacts health outcomes. Straightforward Medicaid expansion – the basis for State Question 802 – is the only tried and tested way to help Oklahomans who otherwise cannot afford to see a doctor or fill a prescription. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Working together: Next week Together Oklahoma will be hosting a panel discussion about working Oklahomans and potential legislation to put more money into their pockets. The event will consist of a series of questions to the panelists along with local workers sharing their own personal experiences. [The Ardmoreite] To learn more about this event and others across the state, visit

In The News

Lawmakers to weigh COLA proposals for retired public employees: House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said increasing pay for retired state employees remains a priority in the House, where legislation was passed last year to give state retirees their first COLA in a dozen years. The governor’s suggested blueprint for spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1, however, made no mention of specific plans for COLAs. [The Journal Record ????] OK Policy has identified cost of living adjustments for state retirees as a focus for the upcoming Legislative session. In a recent analysis, OK Policy found that COLAs are a smart investment in Oklahoma’s future.

For those struggling with addiction or mental health, Oklahoma jails can be deadly: For years, a lack of resources and funds have plagued both the prevention and crisis treatment sides of Oklahoma’s mental health and substance abuse system, experts and advocates say. By default, many who need treatment end up in the state’s jails. [The Frontier] OK Policy research has shown battling substance abuse disorders requires drug court reforms, as well as investment in all forms of treatment.

Oklahoma: Where do we stand on criminal justice reform?: Gov. Stitt’s proposed priorities in criminal justice reform include consolidating different departments within the Department of Corrections, expanding targeted treatment for opioid addiction and substance abuse, and ensuring recently released incarcerated people have the opportunity to reintegrate. While these are steps in the right direction, they are far from enough. [The Next 100]

Still no date set for Medicaid expansion ballot initiative: Supporters of a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid are still waiting on a date for the vote. More than 300,000 signatures were submitted in October 2019 to put the issue of Medicaid Expansion before the voters, but Governor Kevin Stitt still hasn’t set a date. [KOSU] OK Policy supports SQ 802 and has provided information and resources to better understand the issue.

Bisbee: Meeting the health needs of rural Oklahoma: Oklahoma ranks 47th in the United Health Foundation’s list of healthiest states, but that state ranking doesn’t tell the whole story. Health outcomes in Oklahoma vary widely by county and community, and parts of rural Oklahoma see the greatest health disparities. [Julie Bisbee / The Journal Record]

Lawmaker proposes state question to raise cap on state’s Rainy Day Fund: Oklahoma residents could vote on a proposal to increase the amount of money that goes into the state’s savings account. Senate Joint Resolution 30 by Sen. Joe Newhouse, R-Broken Arrow, seeks to let voters consider increasing the cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund to 30 percent from 15 percent of the amount certified for the prior fiscal year’s General Revenue Fund. [Tulsa World]

Stitt wants fewer regulations to help grow Oklahoma: In an executive order, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered all state agencies to begin a comprehensive review of thousands of rules and regulations. Before a state agency can create any new restrictive regulations, it must eliminate two, according to the order. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Tulsa World editorial: Stitt’s budget short-changes public schools: On Sunday, we said the state’s first legislative priority should be adequate funding of public education. It appears Gov. Kevin Stitt prioritizes private schools and obsessive saving. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

How Oklahoma’s identification of gifted Native students could serve as a national model: A study found that millions of students are left out of gifted programming across the country. Most states don’t discover gifted Native American students but Oklahoma has been able to buck that trend. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Why Oklahoma’s gaming compact dispute never went to arbitration: If you spend enough time listening to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the leaders of three tribal nations that sued him New Year’s Eve over the Model Tribal Gaming Compact, both parties often repeat some version of the same statement: We offered to sit down and work this out. [NonDoc]

Will state accept casino gaming fees amid federal lawsuit with tribes?: Gaming fees are due by the 20th of the next month, meaning fees from January gaming are due in a little more than two weeks. The problem, though, is Gov. Kevin Stitt is arguing to a federal judge that the tribes’ gaming agreement expired at the end of 2019. [KOCO] Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby: Gaming dispute is about renewal, not rates [CNHI]

Strangulation bill passes committee: A bill that would classify strangulation during a domestic violence incident as a violent crime and increases the punishment for the offense passed the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday with a vote of 16-0. [The Journal Record ????]

Bill filed to create minority business hub: State Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, has filed Senate Bill 1267, which would encourage the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to use appropriated money to support minority entrepreneurship within the state. [The Journal Record ????]

Immigration legislation passes Judiciary Committee: State Rep. John Pfeiffer’s House Bill 3195 passed through the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation would direct all sheriffs, jailers and deputies to comply with any request made in an immigration retainer request provided by the federal government. [The Journal Record ????]

Perryman files railroad safety bill: State Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, has filed legislation to help protect the public from railroad-related accidents in Oklahoma. House Bill 2874, currently pending in the House Transportation Committee, would require all freight trains running in Oklahoma to be operated by a crew that consists of at least two people. [The Journal Record ????]

Operators of vertical wells hold pre-session briefing for Oklahoma legislators: A group representing Oklahoma vertical well operators are reminding Oklahoma House and Senate members they continue to back legislation that would protect legacy vertical well owners from frack hits. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma moves into top tier on assessment of states’ readiness for public health emergencies: Oklahoma is one of the states better-prepared for a public health emergency. Oklahoma moved up one tier from last year on the “Ready or Not” report from the Trust for America’s Health and is now considered in the report’s “high performance” tier. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘Astonishing’: State leads nation in number of cannabis dispensaries: Oklahoma has the most licensed cannabis dispensaries of any state and ranks second in the nation in dispensaries per capita, according to reports issued by firms serving the national cannabis industry. Of the top 30 cities with the most dispensaries per capita, nine cities on the list were from Oklahoma, more than any other state. [The Journal Record ????] Medical marijuana licensing, revenue exceed first-year expectations. [Cherokee Phoenix]


Nearly 100 years after Tulsa Massacre, city plans to search cemetery for victims: In one of the worst instances of racist violence in American history, a group of white people slaughtered black residents of Tulsa. For decades, city leaders rarely acknowledged it in public. [New York Times]

Quote of the Day

“You’re asking sheriffs in rural counties who operate these jails to take care of, essentially, individuals who have untreated mental illness while they’re in their jail with almost no resources.”

-Mike Brose, CEO of Mental Health Association Oklahoma [The Frontier

Number of the Day


Total number of Black-owned businesses in Oklahoma in 2012.

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2012 Survey of Business Owners]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

#BlackHistoryMonth Note

Black history is Oklahoma history: “In 2003, when I was doing my externship at the U.S. State Department in Washington D.C., I had to work hard just to convince my friends that there were actually Black people in Oklahoma. However, not only does Oklahoma have a rich history involving Black People, but Oklahoma’s Black history is among the most interesting in the nation. I can prove it.” [Damario Solomon-Simmons / OK Policy]

February is Black History Month — a time to celebrate and reflect on contributions Black men and women have made to American history and the struggle for freedom and equality. To commemorate Black History Month, we will be highlighting relevant content in our Number of the Day and Policy Note sections every Thursday throughout the month. #BlackHistoryMonth

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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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