In The Know: Fate of revenue cuts pending in the Senate | ‘COVID is still here’ | A need to revisit SQ 640

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

(Capitol Update) SQ 640 continues limiting lawmakers, needs to be revisited: House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has introduced a plan to lower and eventually eliminate the state corporate income tax and to lower the state personal income tax rate. Acknowledging the difficulty of raising taxes in the future because of State Question 640, Speaker McCall has written the proposal using tax credits to produce the same effect as a tax cut. SQ 640 was passed on March 10, 1992, and placed in the Oklahoma Constitution the requirement of a vote of the people or a 75 percent majority of the legislature to pass a tax increase. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Countdown to Care Kickoff Event: Oklahoma will expand Medicaid coverage this summer. Join OK Policy on Wednesday, March 24, as we count down to this important milestone that will connect thousands of Oklahomans with much-needed health care. This live online event will feature Oklahomans sharing how Medicaid expansion helps our state, why Medicaid coverage will be life-changing, and how to raise awareness in your communities. [Register Today]

Oklahoma News

Fate of $530 million in tax cut bills uncertain in Oklahoma House and Senate: An agreement between the House and Senate on two huge tax cut bills is in limbo. Earlier this month, the House sent the Senate bills to phase out the corporate income tax and reduce the state’s personal income tax. Both bills were authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. House Bills 2041 and 2083 would phase in a set of tax credits and deductions that effectively would eliminate the state’s corporate income tax by 2026 and result in an average tax benefit of $81 a year to those filing individual returns. [Tulsa World] OK Policy Statement: Half-billion dollars in corporate and individual tax cuts is irresponsible, shortsighted and dangerous.

‘COVID is still here:’ Officials watch Oklahoma’s cases for signs of spring break bump: Health officials are keeping a close eye on Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases in case of a possible surge after spring break. Several factors make it hard to say whether Oklahomans should expect to see an increase in cases after spring break, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer. [The Oklahoman]

  • Increase in Oklahoma virus cases, deaths trending downward [AP News]
  • 1 in 5 Oklahoma counties at highest risk of COVID transmission as rates keep falling [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Mass COVID-19 vaccination events to begin next week through eastern Oklahoma tribes [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Viruses don’t respect tribal citizenship’: Tribal nations expand vaccine availability [KOSU]
  • Muscogee (Creek) Nation offering vaccines to Oklahoma adults [AP News] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Cherokee Nation latest, largest Oklahoma tribe to offer COVID vaccine to anyone who wants one [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Saint Francis launches COVID-19 vaccine scheduling portal [Tulsa World]

State Government News

With Legislature’s session less than half over, most pre-filed legislation has been cast aside: Six weeks into Oklahoma’s four-month legislative session, 70% of the pre-filed bills and joint resolutions are no longer in play. One way or another, they failed to make one of two procedural deadlines, the second on March 11, to keep them going when the House and Senate resume work on Monday. [Tulsa World]

(Audio) Capitol Insider: Legislators head toward session midway point: The week of March 15th was an abbreviated week for Oklahoma legislators due to spring break. The House of Representatives took off on Wednesday and Thursday; the Senate did not work on Thursday. Typically, Friday is a regular day off for legislators until the final month of the session. Lawmakers have an ambitious schedule ahead of them with eight weeks down and ten weeks to go. [KGOU]

Back to Work: You’re back in the (virtual?) office, and lawmakers are back in the State Capitol. This week, committee work will resume with House bills receiving Senate hearings and Senate bills receiving House hearings … if they’re lucky. Budget discussions are ongoing, and the ground-floor Health Nut Cafe has a solid cheeseburger. We’ll let you know if anything changes on either of those fronts. [NonDoc]

(Audio) Governor’s pandemic response, partially privatized Medicaid, Deb Haaland & more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the 9,000 correspondences to Governor Stitt from citizens and businesses regarding lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic and the state’s response to a lawsuit over its plan to purse managed Medicaid care without input from the legislature. [KOSU]

Bills affecting Oklahoma’s transgender community stall: Several legislative measures affecting the state’s transgender community have stalled in the Legislature. Allie Shinn, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, which advocates for LGBTQ2S+ Oklahomans — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and Two-Spirit — said there has been positive movement in all corners of America, including Oklahoma, but at the same time there were multiple bills filed that would have been setbacks for the LGBT community, in particular transgender Oklahomans. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Stitt says ‘MEAT ALL WEEK’ after state lawmakers resolve it ‘just tastes good’: “MEAT ALL WEEK.” In a Facebook post on Saturday, Gov. Kevin Stitt said that’s what he wants to see beginning Monday. “While Governor Polis in Colorado declared today a ‘meatless holiday,’ next week in Oklahoma is ‘MEAT ALL WEEK,’ the governor wrote. “Do what you can to buy and eat protein. I can’t wait to have a big juicy ribeye — and I will always stand with our farmer and ranchers!” [Public Radio Tulsa]

Bill would place 2-year cap on medical marijuana licenses: While the Oklahoma medical marijuana industry has soared to new highs in recent months, a new state bill could limit its continued growth for two years. The Oklahoma Cap on Medical Marijuana Businesses of 2021, or House Bill 2272, would place a cap on the number of active medical marijuana commercial licenses. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • (Audio) Pot probs podcast: A sober discussion of the bambalacha [NonDoc]

Federal Government News

Pandemic relief: CARES Act dollars paid for accelerated job training to return hundreds in NE Oklahoma to workforce in higher-paying jobs: A local CareerTech center thinks a scholarship program it created with federal coronavirus relief funds has been so successful, it could be a statewide model for getting people into better-paying jobs or back to work in Oklahoma’s most in-demand industries. [Tulsa World]

  • City of Tulsa has allocated nearly all $54.6 million in coronavirus relief funds it received [Tulsa World]

New Interior Department leadership taking hands off approach to McGirt fallout: The new leadership at the Department of Interior is in no rush to get involved with any lingering questions about Oklahoma’s post-McGirt legal landscape. At her first media availability since taking office, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland cited advice from Rep. Tom Cole, her co-chair of the 116th Congress’ Native American Caucus, about how to handle the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

Black farmers to receive stimulus aid after decades of USDA discrimination: Black farmers have faced decades of discrimination at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has denied them loans and other aid. A discrimination lawsuit promised vital debt relief, but many didn’t get it. Now, despite some partisan resistance, Black farmers and other disadvantaged groups are getting billions in debt relief and help. [KOSU]

Health News

OSDH launches new program to help end HIV epidemic in Oklahoma: In an effort to battle the HIV epidemic, the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service is launching a new initiative designed to get a person newly diagnosed with HIV into immediate care and treatment, the department said in a statement last week. [The Lawton Constitution]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa residents in crisis ask for $6 million to cover overdue rent in just four days: Indicating how much damage COVID-19 has done to the local economy, more than 2,000 people applied for rental assistance in only the first four days of Tulsa’s new anti-eviction program last week, officials said. Assuming most of the applications are approved, it will take roughly $6 million to pay overdue rent and utility bills for that many Tulsa County residents, officials said. [Tulsa World]

Homeless man who died in subfreezing temperatures on Tulsa street remembered as ‘quiet, cordial gentleman’: The life of a man who died on a downtown Tulsa street during February’s bitter cold remains largely a mystery to those who tried to help him. Not because they didn’t ask. Vaylord Sullivan was simply reserved. [Tulsa World]

OKC’s behind-the-scenes effort to settle panhandling litigation: Going to the U.S. Supreme Court was Todd Stone’s call to make. The Ward 4 city councilman was the fifth vote on a council split 4-4 in December over whether to ask the nation’s highest court to revive a 2015 panhandling ordinance that critics said criminalized poverty. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

OKC sales tax data shows growing consumer confidence: Despite an expected decline in sales tax revenues, shopping surged in Oklahoma City, boosting revenues at the same time COVID-19 cases began dropping. Sales tax collections in the city between mid-January to mid-February jumped 4.4% compared to the same time last year, when Oklahoma City was on the verge of shutting down in efforts to stem the spread of COVID. [The Oklahoman]

Women in agriculture gain recognition: Based on the latest Census of Agriculture and organizational hierarchy charts throughout the industry, it might seem as though women have been stepping into more ag leadership roles in recent years. The truth is, they’ve been there all along, from farm to board room, said Brittany Hukill and other Oklahoma State University alumnae who know first-hand. [Enid News & Eagle]

Optimism abounds around new car sales: After lackluster auto sales in 2020, the outlook for 2021 is positive, said Peter Hodges, president of the Metropolitan Auto Dealers Association. [The Journal Record]

General News

Voices: I thought our time to be discriminated against was over?: The day after a white terrorist killed eight people, six of them Asian, I checked in on some of my closest Asian American friends. Throughout the day, we exchanged links to news articles and screenshots from Twitter about the mass shooting. We asked each other, “How are we feeling?” [Annie Chang / The Frontier]

Column: Why Oklahomans must support the Equality Act: On March 17, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Equality Act. If signed into law, the Equality Act would prohibit employers in all 50 states from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in housing, education, government services and public spaces. As a business owner and philanthropist who strives to honor the dignity of all people and to build a more just and inclusive society, I believe this is a critical moment for our community to mobilize in support of LGBTQ+ rights. [Stacy Schusterman Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Column: Former Cherokee principal chief says we can and must repair damage down to the nation’s sense of community: Community is commonly defined as people living in the same place and sharing characteristics. Those in community have a feeling of fellowship demonstrated by common attitudes, interests and goals. We in Tulsa are “in community” with each other. However, no community is homogenous — there are racial, political, economic and geographical divides. Not everyone shares common attitudes and interests. These differences are causes for concern — but there is reason for hope. [Ross Swimmer Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Muslim imam invited to pray at State Capitol: ‘My heart was pulsating with joy’ [The Oklahoman]
  • Demonstration Opposing Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Planned For Friday In Downtown Tulsa [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Lawton City Council to consider modifying its mask mandate, adding new exemption category [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“If you love me, tell me how you’re challenging prejudice in your own life, in your own family, in your closest circles. Tell me how we can create pressure together to dismantle white supremacy in our society in small and big ways.”

-Annie Chang, a Tulsa resident writing a commentary following recent violence targeting Asian Americans [The Frontier

Number of the Day


Number of uninsured Oklahomans aged 19 to 24 who will gain insurance when the state expands Medicaid on July 1, 2021

[Source: Urban Institute]

Policy Note

Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Medicaid Expansion Is More Important Than Ever, and Young Adults Would Gain the Most: Throughout the pandemic, millions of Americans have lost work, and consequently, millions have lost their health insurance. For many, Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers an option to maintain health insurance, but because the US Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion a state option in 2011, not every state offers it. As of November 2020, 36 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid eligibility. [Urban 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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