In The Know: Foot dragging over Medicaid expansion | Using relief funds to address evictions, homelessness | 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. 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

Policy Matters: Foot dragging over Medicaid expansion: Want to know how a friend or loved one can apply for health care coverage when Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion takes effect this summer? You are not alone. And the Oklahoma Health Care Authority – the folks who hold the keys to the application process – aren’t saying. For Capitol watchers, this is just more of the same as OHCA, Gov. Stitt and other state officials have been seeking to limit enrollments in this vital program. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

  • Countdown to Care: Resources to help advocate and raise awareness for Medicaid expansion [Learn More]

A SoonerCare success story: As the nation’s largest health care program and an important driver of improved health outcomes, Medicaid is always an important governmental investment. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the state and the nation, hurting the economy and increasing racial and economic disparities, Medicaid is more important now than ever in providing critical coverage to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to see a doctor or fill a prescription. As Oklahoma moves to implement Medicaid expansion in July 2021, some 200,000 newly eligible Oklahomans will gain access to affordable health care, and the state will see significant economic returns. Medicaid provides a pathway to coverage for nearly one in four Oklahomans, and the state and federal governments must protect this access to care. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

With fewer than 100 days to Medicaid expansion, think tank recommends starting enrollment now: Oklahoma now has fewer than 100 days until voter-approved Medicaid expansion takes effect, and a think tank has recommendations for implementing it. Oklahoma Policy Institute Health Policy Fellow Emma Morris said the main recommendation is to start enrollment now. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority currently plans to wait until July 1. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma hopes coronavirus relief money will help slow a coming tide of evictions, homelessness: Since March 27 last year, a federal moratorium has been in place that is intended to prevent landlords from evicting tenants who have been unable to pay rent because of the pandemic, though some landlords in Oklahoma have found ways to get around the moratorium. Since the start of the pandemic, over 28,000 evictions have been filed in Oklahoma, according to Open Justice Oklahoma, which has been tracking evictions. Only 11,000 evictions have been granted. [The Frontier]

  • Watch Frontier: What Oklahomans need to know as the eviction moratorium nears its end [The Frontier]
  • ‘We really must do better.’ Downtown Oklahoma City fire highlights costs of homelessness [The Oklahoman]

Virus cases declining; experts fear public getting lax: It’s getting better but it’s not over, said a group of health care leaders during a videoconference held Tuesday. Declining cases of COVID-19 and rising vaccination rates are a reason to rejoice but not to get lax about continued efforts to slow the spread. [The Journal Record] The seven-day rolling average of new cases in Oklahoma dropped by 41.1% during the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, from 633 new cases per day on March 8 to 372.7 on March 22. [AP News]

  • New State COVID Data Reporting Schedule Giving Some Experts Headaches [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma City councilmen propose ending mask mandate a month early [The Oklahoman]
  • (Video) City of Tulsa COVID-19 restrictions to remain in place as officials gauge spring break’s effect on case numbers [Tulsa World]
  • (Video) Tulsa mayor asked about mask mandate easement for those with vaccine [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa Health Department calls on residents to encourage each other to get vaccinated against COVID-19 [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Bill seeking to regulate demonstrations on state Capitol grounds advances through House committee: Legislation that could restrict use of the state Capitol and grounds for demonstrators and other groups took another step through the legislative maze on Wednesday with a House committee’s approval of Senate Bill 119, by Rep. Mark Allen, R-Poteau. The 6-2 vote by the House General Government Committee leaves the measure only a House floor vote away from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. [Tulsa World]

Legislature considering bills on traumatic brain injuries: The Oklahoma House of Representatives advanced Rep. Trish Ranson’s (D-Stillwater) HB 1010 by an 83-6 margin earlier this month. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill would create an advisory council on traumatic brain injuries to provide guidelines and advice to agencies and other entities. [NonDoc]

Community banks ask for limited regulations: Industry advocacy organizations generally will list their legislative agenda for the year, pushing for changes in law they would like to see. Not so for the Community Bankers Association of Oklahoma. When the CBAO leaders visited with lawmakers on Tuesday for the organization’s annual legislative day, it was to ensure that banking was the target of as little legislation as possible. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma state senator fires cousin after questions arise: An Oklahoma state senator hired his cousin to serve as his executive assistant, but then fired her after The Oklahoman inquired about whether the two were related. [The Oklahoman]

New 3,000-pound state seal installed at the Oklahoma Capitol: Workers from The Crucible in Norman installed a brand new, 3,000-pound state seal in the Oklahoma state Capitol on Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Lawmakers frustrated over delay in Census redistricting data: Republican senators expressed frustration Tuesday that data used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts won’t be available until August at the earliest, but the U.S. Census Bureau’s acting director told them the schedule was driven by a goal of releasing complete and accurate numbers. U.S. Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, said the delay was upsetting redistricting plans states had already undertaken, “and that all has to be redone.” [AP News]

  • Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford proposes plan to lower taxpayers cost for U.S. Census [News 9]

Bill to eliminate racist federal laws affecting Native Americans clears Senate panel: The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved a bill on Wednesday to eliminate 11 unenforced federal laws that a South Dakota senator called “offensive, immoral and outright racist” in regard to Native Americans. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma joins lawsuit to force resumption of oil, gas lease sales: Oklahoma joined a dozen other states that sued the Biden administration on Wednesday to end a suspension of new federal oil and gas leases on federal land and water and to reschedule canceled sales of leases in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska waters and in Western states. [AP News / The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

OKC attorney suspected in triple murder sentenced in federal gun case: An Oklahoma City defense attorney has been sentenced to federal prison for a firearms violation that came to light during an investigation into a triple slaying in 2019. [The Oklahoman]

Estate of woman who died in city jail sues city, jail operator: The estate of a woman who died in the Tulsa city jail after pleading for days for medical assistance has sued the city, the jail operator and jail workers. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Financing complete for 3 wind power projects in Oklahoma: Chicago-based Invenergy has announced completion of financing for its largest wind energy project to date, the 999-megawatt Traverse Wind Energy Center to be located in north-central Oklahoma. [The Journal Record] Located in Custer, Blaine, and Kingfisher counties, Traverse is the largest of three wind energy projects being developed by Invenergy as part of the 1,485-megawatt North Central Energy Facilities. [Tulsa World]

15 Arvest bank branches to close in state; changing consumer preferences cited: Citing an increase in digital banking because of the coronavirus, Arkansas-based Arvest Bank plans this summer to close 15 branches in Oklahoma, including eight in the eastern part of the state with two in Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Businesses ought to consider Tulsa mayor’s initiative for gender pay equity: Tulsa businesses should take seriously Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s initiative to bridge the pay differences between men and women doing the same work. The gender wage gap isn’t new, but Bynum’s challenge gets society closer to real solutions. The Pay Equity Pledge is a voluntary, employer-led initiative that asks business leaders to examine their hiring, training and pay structures with gender equity in mind. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Tulsa Public Schools programs highlighted at national summit: Officials with Tulsa Public Schools took the national stage Wednesday afternoon to talk about their district’s efforts to address student needs during the pandemic. As part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Safe School Reopening Summit, TPS officials answered questions about the district’s Care and Connect hours and upcoming summer programming as part of its response to social, emotional and academic needs exacerbated by COVID-19. [Tulsa World] TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist and the district drew criticism from local and state leaders for the stop-and-start nature of Tulsa’s reopening plan. But she says it was necessary because of rising case loads in the city. [KOSU

After COVID-19 closed Oklahoma schools, state tests to determine toll of classroom ‘crisis’: The academic damage the pandemic dealt to students isn’t fully understood, but early studies project significant learning losses, especially in low-income and marginalized communities. [The Oklahoman]

Following racists comments during NFHS broadcast, Norman administrator urges OSSAA to be ‘driving force of change’: A Norman public school administrator challenged the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association to “make a difference and make it quickly” in the movement toward a more inclusive and racially sensitive society. [Tulsa World]

General News

1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Exhumation of Oaklawn mass grave expected to begin in June: Researchers expect to begin exhumation of remains believed to be those of people killed in Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre in early June — perhaps a century to the day after they were interred — state archeologist Kary Stackelbeck said Tuesday. [Tulsa World] The remains were found in October in an area of Oaklawn Cemetery where funeral home records indicate 18 Black men who were killed in the Tulsa Race Massacre were buried. [AP News]

Hear poet laureate at Oklahoma History Conference: The Oklahoma Historical Society’s 2021 Oklahoma History Conference will be held virtually April 22–23. This year’s theme, “Perspectives in History,” was designed to encourage presentations sharing the stories of underrepresented groups, lesser-known topics and new points of view, according to a news release. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • No word on award, but Tulsa mayor planning conservative approach to spending American Rescue Plan funds [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Edmond mayoral candidates disagree on masks, avoid positions on developments [NonDoc]
  • Fear, anger left in Oklahoma City’s Asian community after Atlanta shootings: ‘We are worried’ [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Stop Asian Hate’ rally to be held Friday afternoon in Tulsa [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“The biggest number of people in need are those who will be at risk of homelessness as soon as it is legal to evict them. As soon as the (eviction) moratorium is lifted, we expect a very large number of evictions to be filed based on that overdue rent.”

-Marshall Vogts, director of community development with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce [The Frontier]

Number of the Day

$2.5 billion

Estimated new statewide revenue as a result of Medicaid expansion

[Source: National Center for Rural Health Works]

Policy Note

The Economic Benefits of State Question 802, Medicaid Expansion in Oklahoma: The passage of State Question 802 would return $1.35 billion of Oklahoma’s tax money from the federal government in the first year of Medicaid expansion and $8.5 billion over its first five years. In addition to expanding healthcare to nearly 200,000 citizens, this annual infusion of federal dollars would have significant impact on the Oklahoma economy. [National Center for Rural Health Works]

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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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