In The Know: Court moves Medicaid expansion effort forward; lobbyist spending nears record levels; OKC Council approves fine amnesty…

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

SQ 802: Court moves Medicaid expansion effort forward: Whether proponents would get to circulate an initiative petition for the 178,000 signatures needed to place Medicaid expansion on the 2020 general election ballot in Oklahoma came down to a question of gists and digits. [NonDoc] The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to an initiative petition seeking to let Oklahomans vote on expanding Medicaid in the state. [Tulsa World] “We believe the language of the gist is clear,” the court said in a brief opinion issued just hours after the court heard oral arguments in the case. [The Oklahoman]

Point of View: Expanding Medicaid will make us healthier, help rural hospitals: Last week, a coalition of patients, nurses, doctors and families across the state launched a campaign to give voters the chance to decide whether Oklahoma should expand Medicaid. After years of inaction on this issue, the emergence of this campaign and its broad-based support is a game changer that will dominate much of the debate over the next year. [Jay Johnson / The Oklahoman]

Lobbyist spending nears record levels: Lobbyists seeking to influence elected officials in Oklahoma continue to spend some of the highest amounts ever in spite of rules intended to curb their practices. Recently filed state Ethics Commission reports show that lobbyists spent about $473,500 on meals, beverages and gifts for lawmakers and other state officials during the first five months of this year. The spending, which covers this year’s legislative session and the month leading up to it, is a 34% increase over the amount lobbyists spent during the same period last year. [Oklahoma Watch]

OKC Council approves amnesty program for fines and warrants: A new amnesty program approved by the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday could help the city’s municipal courts resolve more than 116,000 outstanding warrants and collect over $17 million in fines over a nine-month period. Brought forward by the Judiciary Committee, the measure would allow offenders who failed to meet court dates the opportunity to pay a reduced fine or have the fines excused entirely if it is ruled they are unable to pay. [Journal Record]

Meet the members of the Criminal Justice Reentry, Supervision, Treatment and Opportunity Reform (RESTORE) Task Force: The 15-person task force will be led by the Gov.Kevin Stitt’s Secretary of Public Safety Chip Keating and includes a designee made by the attorney general, the speaker of the House and the president pro temp of the Senate, according to a press release. [Tulsa World]

The Oklahoma Editorial: Oklahoma task force should open its doors: Gov. Kevin Stitt last week announced the creation of a website that offers real-time data on state expenses. Stitt noted it creates “a level of accountability and transparency within Oklahoma’s government that is unprecedented.” The next day, the administration provided the names of those who will serve on a criminal justice reform task force — and said the group would hold its meetings in secret. What gives? [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

Permanent DOC leader to face plethora of challenges: Oklahoma’s governor said it will be an easy task to find someone to permanently fill the leadership void left at the Department of Corrections, but others aren’t so sure. Employee advocates say the next leader will inherit a plethora of challenges, including overcrowded and understaffed prisons, underpaid and overworked employees and crumbling infrastructure in dire need of repair. [CHNI]

Tulsa World Editorial: With Allbaugh’s departure, Gov. Kevin Stitt gets full responsibility for what happens next in Oklahoma’s prison system: Oklahoma Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh resigned abruptly last week, leaving political responsibility for the state’s overcrowded, underfunded prison system squarely in the lap of Gov. Kevin Stitt. Allbaugh deserves the state’s thanks for 3½ years of work in a largely thankless task. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Stitt signs bill focused on early reading in public schools: Governor Kevin Stitt reportedly recently signed Senate Bill 601, which focuses on the Reading Sufficiency Act. The measure was co-authored by State Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Tulsa. Specifically, Senate Bill 601 requires students enrolled in kindergarten in public schools in the state to be screened for their reading skills using standards adopted by the State Board of Education in the beginning, middle and end of each school year. [Sand Springs Leader]

“Kids Count” ranking shows improvements in Oklahoma: The latest national report on the well-being of children by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Oklahoma has improved its economic, health, education and social factors for children, although the state remains in the bottom 20 percent of the rankings. [AP News] Read more about Oklahoma’s ranking in the 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner discusses opioid-related deaths: Oklahoma’s chief medical examiner read out loud the investigatory narratives from about three dozen Oklahoma opioid-related overdose deaths Tuesday as the human tragedy of the state’s opioid epidemic came into sharp focus. [The Oklahoman]

Follow a trail to fish! Pinnell announces Oklahoma Fishing Trail as boost for tourism: One of the best ways for Oklahoma to become a Top 10 tourist destination is through the great outdoors, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell said Tuesday at an official launch for the Oklahoma Fishing Trail. [Tulsa World]

New partnership poised to impact HIV in Oklahoma: Oklahoma has been identified by the US Department of Health and Human Services  as one of 7 rural states with the highest rates of HIV infection. In 2017 nearly 300 new diagnoses were added to the 6,000 individuals living with HIV in Oklahoma. [Edmond Sun]

OKC use tax collections $10M above projection: City officials said Tuesday use tax revenue is $10 million above what was projected for fiscal 2019, thanks to legislation passed last year requiring online vendors to collect taxes on their sales. City Manager Craig Freeman said while the city originally projected to collect about $50 million in taxes on out-of-state goods, an uptick in taxes collected from online sales through companies such as Amazon has helped bring in a total of $60 million. [Journal Record]

Councilor offers alternative to mayor’s police monitoring proposal, wants OSBI to follow up on Internal Affairs investigations: City Councilor Connie Dodson will ask her colleagues on Wednesday to consider an alternative to Mayor G.T. Bynum’s proposed independent police monitoring program. Dodson said that although she believes the mayor’s heart is in the right place, she’s not quite as confident about how the powers of the proposed Office of the Independent Monitor would be wielded by future administrations. [Tulsa World]

Public discussion on Equality Indicators finally gets underway with City Council taking comments Wednesday and Saturday: The long-awaited public discussion about the results of the city’s Equality Indicators reports gets underway Wednesday, and City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper knows exactly what she wants the talks to deliver. [Tulsa World]

Former OU vice president now facing sexual battery lawsuit: Already under criminal investigation, a former University of Oklahoma vice president is now being sued, as well. A former OU student, Levi Hilliard, is seeking actual, compensatory and punitive damages from Tripp Hall, a former vice president of development. [The Oklahoman]

HUD awards state tribes $13.1 million: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded 17 Native American tribes in Oklahoma $13.1 million to improve housing conditions and stimulate community development. The money allocated to Oklahoma tribes was among $63 million HUD awarded to 85 Native American communities nationwide. [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“What you see here is a deliberate effort to deny Oklahoma voters from having a say and to slow the momentum behind our campaign to help save rural hospitals and to make affordable health care a reality for nearly 200,000 Oklahomans. It will not work.”

-Oklahomans Decide Healthcare Spokesperson Amber England, speaking about a court challenge to the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. The challenge was rejected by the Oklahoma Supreme Court yesterday, opening the door for signature collection to begin. [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank out of all 50 states for child well-being, based on metrics related to the economy, education, health, and family and community.

[Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Seven facts about tipped workers and the tipped minimum wage: As debate continues on a referendum to raise the tipped minimum wage in Washington, D.C., to the minimum wage for nearly all other workers, we wanted to take a few minutes to set the record straight on the facts about tipped worker wages and incomes. Currently, eight states do not have differential treatments of the tipped workforce in terms of the minimum wage. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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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