In The Know: Details on Gov.’s health care proposal; lawmakers change Open Meeting Act; COVID-19 updates; 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

COVID-19: The Legislature should take a break to focus energy on the pandemic: The State Legislature made a good first step on Monday to limit access to the Capitol to elected officials, credentialed media, and essential personnel. Our lawmakers should take the next step and suspend the current session. They need to maintain focus only on critical legislation directly pertaining to this health emergency or the budget. This move would be in the best interests of public health. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Protecting employees during uncertain times: During the past few days, nearly all public and private organizations have had scramble and adapt in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. I am appreciative that our organization has in place people-first policies that support our employees, especially in times of crisis. However, as our recent paper “Valuing Work” noted, too few Oklahomans — especially low-wage workers — have protections like paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

In The News

New details on Stitt’s health plan spell out work rules, premiums, projections: Oklahoma has quietly released details of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Medicaid expansion plan, with the state’s own report saying the plan “will likely depress enrollment” by thousands of Oklahomans compared to a traditional Medical expansion plan. As state and federal leaders focused their attention on the coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority posted on its website Monday the state’s waiver application and a notice of the start of a 30-day public comment period. [Oklahoma Watch] OK Policy has put together the website so residents can learn more about the proposal, as well as have their voices heard about the governor’s proposal during the 30-day comment period.

Open Meeting Act changed to expand teleconferencing: An effort temporarily expanding public bodies’ ability to teleconference and videoconference under the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act became a full-day affair at the state Legislature. While lawmakers ultimately struck an agreement on the “extraordinary” COVID-19-containment measure, an initial bill advanced by the Senate after one question and no substantive debate around 9:30 a.m. stalled when it reached the other side of the Capitol. House members, media and watchdog groups raised concerns over scope, time period and transparency requirements. [NonDoc]

COVID-19 is spreading in Oklahoma. But testing is still limited: Hours after the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus increased by seven, bringing the state total to 17, the department stated that at least for now, it would have to start further limiting who was tested for the virus. The reason? A national supply shortage of testing kits and the key chemicals needed to process tests, also known as reagents. [The Frontier] For the third straight day Oklahoma showed a significant increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 while also announcing the number of tests in the state was dwindling. [The Oklahoman]

Health department ‘limited on supplies,’ will begin coronavirus test rationing for now: As Oklahoma officials announced on Tuesday that the number of positive COVID-19 cases had almost doubled in the state, from 10 on Monday to 17 early Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Health Department said it would have to start rationing supplies for the time being. In a news release Tuesday morning, the OSDH said “testing materials remain in short supply.” [The Frontier]

Lawmaker: State may face $100 million shortfall: Closures of casinos across Oklahoma will have a significant impact on the flow of money to schools, but that’s just one way the state’s revenue stream will be affected by the coronavirus and a general slowdown in the economy. According to the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the loss of “exclusivity fees” paid to the state by tribes will only add to concerns related to recent declines in sales tax and other revenues. [The Journal Record]

Revenue from oil and gas production expected to dive: With the price of crude oil reaching $26.95 Tuesday, the state budget will feel the price drop in coming months with declining gross production tax collections. Between July and the end of February, gross production taxes made up $631 million, about 9%, of the state’s total collections of $7.1 billion. Of GPT collections, crude oil was the largest contributor at $447 million. Natural gas collections should be stable while oil collections will continue to be down dramatically, said Robert Dauffenbach, director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Economic and Management Research.  [The Journal Record]

Gov. Stitt urges residents to help ‘flatten the curve’ as some Oklahoma Senate personnel tested: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday urged residents to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. During a Capitol news conference with health officials to provide an update on COVID-19, the governor also asked residents to avoid discretionary travel and use drive-thru and delivery pickup services to support local restaurants. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19: Oklahoma Senate staff member tests positive: A staff member of the Oklahoma Senate has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email distributed today and others with knowledge of the situation. Senators and Senate personnel have been asked to remain in their offices “and await a visit from a health professional.” [NonDoc]

Officials issue orders to try and prevent further spread as more Oklahoma COVID-19 cases are confirmed: As confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus spread throughout Oklahoma, city, state and tribal officials are ramping up efforts to slow the virus’ spread by closing offices, cancelling events, ordering the temporary closure of some businesses and issuing warnings against public gatherings. [The Frontier]

In Monday phone call with mayors, Stitt reiterates ‘business as usual’ stance: By Tuesday, Stitt had reversed course, saying during a press conference that he “strongly recommended” following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that advised avoiding areas with groups of more than 10 people, avoiding discretionary travel and using pickup options to “continue supporting our restaurants.” [The Frontier]

State to child care centers: Please don’t close: As cities move to shut down public spaces, bars, restaurants and workplaces in response to COVID-19, and schools have been shuttered for at least three weeks, daycare centers are one of the few businesses to receive the opposite message: Please stay open. In a letter sent to child care providers across the state on Sunday, Oklahoma State Department of Human Services Director Justin Brown said the child care industry is a vital element of a community’s ability to respond to a health threat such as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. [Oklahoma Watch]

Electric companies suspend nonpayment disconnections: A local power company and power cooperatives are suspending disconnections due to nonpayment. Oklahoma Gas and Electric, East Central Electric Cooperative, and Lake Region Electric Cooperative are all taking similar measures to ensure people don’t go without power while missing work. [Muskogee Phoenix]

DPS grants extension for license expiration during pandemic: Driving permits and licenses that expired during the pandemic will be granted an extension, state public safety officials said Tuesday. The extension is undefined, as is the end of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, officials at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety granted an extension for licenses that expired 30 days prior to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s emergency declaration. [Tulsa World]

State agency urges claimants to file unemployment insurance claims via internet: To help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) is encouraging claimants to use the internet to file Unemployment Insurance claims. Information about Oklahoma’s Unemployment Insurance system can be found on the agency website at [Tulsa World]

ODOC announces free phone calls for inmates: Friday, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections suspended all visitation and volunteer access to facilities to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19. To lessen strain on inmates and their families, ODOC officials have established an agreement to provide each inmate with two free five-minute-long phone calls each week starting Wednesday. [McAlester News-Capital]

Oklahoma City Public Schools Board declares state of emergency: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel was granted emergency powers as the district forms a plan to limit the spread of COVID-19. In a meeting Tuesday morning, the Board of Education declared a state of emergency and discussed how the district would respond to long-term closures. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Private and parochial schools across Tulsa area announcing closure plans amid COVID-19 response: A day after public schools across Oklahoma were ordered shut down, leaders of Tulsa-area private and parochial schools began communicating their own decisions for suspending operations. [Tulsa World]

How the teacher walkout gave OKC schools a blueprint for COVID-19 plans: As Oklahoma City Public Schools prepared for a two-week closure, administrators realized they had an unexpected blueprint. The 2018 teacher walkout, though a drastically different situation, was the last time school districts across the state shut down for an extended length of time while classes were scheduled to take place. [The Oklahoman]

Rush on guns and ammo amid coronavirus outbreak ‘doesn’t make a lot of sense’ from supply side: A rush on firearms and ammunition apparently kicked off Friday after coronavirus-related announcements sent some consumers out to hoard ammo, not unlike the rush on toilet paper. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19: A buzz kill for state’s bars and restaurants: Bars and restaurants will be closed in Oklahoma’s largest cities as the world navigates the seemingly endless tumult created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to help slow the spread of the virus, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt ordered all food-serving establishments in the city to close by 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, March 18. Venues without food, such as bars, were ordered to close by 5 p.m. [NonDoc]

‘Heartbreaking’: Some OKC, Tulsa businesses ordered to close doors: Oklahoma’s two largest cities, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, moved Tuesday to shut down bars, theaters and gyms and restrict restaurants and coffee shops to takeout only. “It is heartbreaking to make these announcements today,” Mayor David Holt said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference held at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department in Oklahoma City. [The Journal Record]

Norman, Stillwater close businesses in effort to slow virus: After becoming the first city in Oklahoma to declare a state of emergency on Friday, the city of Norman doubled down in its fight against the coronavirus on Monday, closing bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses where large numbers gather. Meanwhile, Stillwater announced on Tuesday that the city is placing similar restrictions on local businesses starting on Wednesday as well, and lasting through April 5. [The Journal Record] In emergency proclamation, Stillwater mayor declares bars, restaurant dining rooms and other business closed starting Wednesday. [Stillwater News Press]

Federal court officials continue most hearings due to virus concerns, while courthouse, clerk’s office remain open to public: Tulsa federal court officials on Tuesday indefinitely postponed all in-court civil and criminal matters before a judge, as well as grand jury proceedings, amid concerns about the COVID-19 virus. The order includes trials, but keeps the downtown courthouse at 333 W. Fourth St. open to the public. [Tulsa World]

Tribal gaming lawsuit: Judge pushes back deadlines, hearing date, citing pandemic: Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge has extended a filing deadline by two months and indefinitely postponed a hearing in a lawsuit over the status of tribal gaming compacts. Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti issued the order Tuesday in the lawsuit filed by several Oklahoma tribes against the state of Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

University of Oklahoma getting involved in COVID-19 vaccine research, OU Medicine officials announce: OU Medicine officials announced Tuesday that they are engaged in vaccine research for COVID-19. Dr. Jason Sanders, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center senior vice president, spoke at a news conference about two efforts under way at the university amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Saying we’ll cut off (Medicaid) coverage if people don’t pay a symbolic premium when all of the bars are closing and all the restaurants are eliminating their wait staff right now, is just incredibly tone deaf.”

-Carly Putnam, Policy Director and Health Care Analyst for OK Policy, discussing the release of Gov. Stitt’s health care proposal during a national health emergency [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


The recommended threshold for gatherings, according to new White House guidelines intended to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 transmission

[Source: White House]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Work requirements are catastrophic in a pandemic: For families who do receive assistance, states routinely instruct them to take the first available minimum wage job to comply with the work requirement, instead of helping them enroll in education and training so they that can develop skills to allow them to advance economically. [Washington Post]

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Details on Gov.’s health care proposal; lawmakers change Open Meeting Act; COVID-19 updates; and more

  1. Shouldn’t something be said about forthcoming courses that might be dropped? I have been getting lodging recompense for as far back as 14 months, and I am at present enlisted in classes for spring/summer, however the semester might be dropped. Does this mean I won’t have any salary until fall?

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