In The Know: Gov.’s veto prevents Oklahomans’ access to health care; COLA increase for state retirees signed into law; 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. 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

Gov. Stitt turns his back on thousands of Oklahomans who need health insurance due to pandemic: Thousands of Oklahomans lost their health care when they lost their jobs during this pandemic. Gov. Stitt recognized the enormity of their losses, then turned his back on them by vetoing a bill that would have brought much-needed health care to them. We find it darkly ironic that the Governor’s own statement supporting his veto calls out the urgent need for health care coverage for Oklahomans, yet uses that need as a reason to reject pursuing an appropriate remedy. [OK Policy]  

Online Census Trivia Night with Together Oklahoma: Calling all Oklahomans — Join us for an online Census Trivia Night! Anyone can compete as an individual and represent their Oklahoma quadrant, so make sure to invite your friends. We will have cash prizes for 6 winners. No sign-up required. Tune in Friday at 6 PM for a live stream on Together Oklahoma’s Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter account. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Gov. vetoes hospital fee for Medicaid expansion: Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed SB 1046, a bill that would increase a hospital fee to raise an estimated $134 million to help pay for whichever version of Medicaid expansion is ultimately implemented in the state. With the Stitt administration previously filing a state plan amendment as well as a waiver to implement what he calls SoonerCare 2.0, his veto strikes down more than 80 percent of the money lawmakers had authorized for Medicaid expansion’s implementation. [NonDoc] The governor appeared to waffle on expanding Medicaid at all due to skyrocketing unemployment caused by the economic fallout of coronavirus pandemic. Stitt did not specify what he wants legislators to do next. He also did not indicate if he still wants to expand Medicaid on July 1. [The Oklahoman] Stitt wants to take advantage of a block-grant-style Medicaid expansion offered by the Trump administration that would give states more control over Medicaid in exchange for a limit on how much the feds kick in. [AP News]

  • Legislature back in session Friday morning: At 10 a.m. this morning, both the House and Senate are set to reconvene the 2020 regular session and take up a series of veto override motions. Including ceremonial activities in the House, the day’s actions are expected to conclude the Legislature’s 2020 work. [NonDoc]

Thousands of Oklahomans facing eviction: Thousands of Oklahomans face eviction in the coming days as courts statewide begin to sort through a backlogged docket filled with people who have fallen behind on their rent payments. In all, Oklahoma landlords have filed 2,300 eviction cases since March 15 — the day Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties, said Ryan Gentzler, director of Open Justice Oklahoma, which has been tracking filings during the COVID-19 pandemic. [CNHI via The Ada News] OK Policy: Evictions could pose a potential public health disaster.

Guymon processing plant linked to 440 COVID-19 cases: Mass testing has revealed 440 active cases of COVID-19 traced to a pork processing plant in Guymon. According to information provided by the company, after receiving calls for broader testing at the facility from employees and health officials, Seaboard tested more than 1,600 processing plant employees who displayed no COVID-19 symptoms. Health officials have said conditions at meat processing plants, where employees often work in close proximity to one another, add to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. [The Journal Record] Eahart told FOX 25 that as they got results over the weekend, any workers that tested positive were told to stay home. [FOX25] As of Tuesday, Guymon, Oklahoma has the second-highest amount of COVID-19 cases in the state. [FOX25] Texas County reports 29 additional COVID-19 cases increasing total to 822 [ABC7]

142 CCDC inmates sent to state prisons temporarily; jail below authorized limit for first time in several years: The state Department of Corrections reported transporting 142 healthy inmates from the Comanche County Detention Center (CCDC) to state prisons on Wednesday and Thursday. The transfers included 141 men and one woman, according to Justin Wolf, the DOC’s director of communications. [Southwestern Ledger] The prison system is trying to separate the county jail’s healthy prisoners from those who have tested positive for COVID-19. [KOSU]

Retired public pensioners to get first pay raise in 12 years: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday signed into law a bill giving most retired school teachers, firefighters and other public workers their first pension increase in 12 years. The bill gives a 4% cost-of-living allowance, or COLA, to about 85% of public retirees. [AP News] Those retired for between two and five years will see increases of 2%. Those who have been retired for less than two years will not receive an increase. [The Journal Record] OK Policy analysis showed that the COLA will provide an economic boost to the state without impacting the state budget.  

New state jobless claims down for the week but remain higher than usual: Oklahoma’s initial jobless claims fell to a two-month low last week but remain unusually high, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said Thursday. [Tulsa World] For the week ending May 16, unadjusted initial claims in Oklahoma totaled 23,880, a decrease of 15,199 from the previous adjusted week of 39,079, revised up 6,285 from the initially reported total of 32,794. [The Journal Record] The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said payments for the week ending May 23 will be delayed because the holiday affects banking operations. [The Oklahoman]

Five more deaths reported as cases rise by 148 across Oklahoma: More than 300 people have died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in Oklahoma, and cases continue to rise. State health officials reported Thursday five additional deaths from the disease, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health data. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State Government News

Gov. Stitt signs bills allowing for the delivery of alcohol and the increase of retirees’ benefits: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill on Thursday that allows for curbside pickup and delivery of alcohol in sealed original containers to those 21 years old and older. The legislation, Senate Bill 1928, applies to wine, beer and spirits. Stitt also signed House Bill 3350, which provides a cost-of-living adjustment to first responders, teachers and state employees. [Tulsa World]

Stitt snuffs out medical marijuana program reforms: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed a bill containing medical marijuana program reforms this evening. During floor hearings, HB 3228 had been pitched to legislators as featuring changes largely requested by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. [NonDoc]

Governor’s veto saves popular business incentive: A popular business incentive was saved by a gubernatorial veto on Thursday, but that same veto may mean many of those not benefiting from the program will lose their eligibility for it. Senate Bill 1595 would have given existing participants in the manufacturing ad valorem tax exemption a year’s grace from meeting the qualifying payroll level, but it would have also blocked any further applications for the incentive. [Tulsa World] “I want the world to know Oklahoma is open for business,” said Gov. Stitt. [FOX25]

Governor signs Juvenile Justice Protection Bill: On Monday, Gov. Stitt signed the Juvenile Justice Protection Bill into law. This bill would protect children 12 years of age or younger from being placed in a state juvenile detention facility, unless all alternatives have been exhausted and the child is charged with an offense that would be classified as a felony if committed by an adult. [FOX25]

Gov. Stitt signs Riley Boatwright Act into law: Legislation requiring school districts across the state to provide emergency medical services at athletic events and school activities was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [Guthrie News Leader]

2020 session ends, rural broadband veto, absentee ballot challenge & more (audio): This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses about the decision by lawmakers to end the legislative session two weeks early, Gov. Stitt vetoes a bill on rural broadband and lawmakers pass a bill giving a Cost of Living Adjustment for State Retirees. The panel also discusses a constitutional challenge to the new law requiring notarization of absentee ballots and remembering Oklahoma City Republican Sen. Brooks Douglass. [KOSU]

Health News

State readies plan for opening nursing homes, but industry skeptical: State health officials are developing a plan that could allow visitors back into nursing homes. But facility managers and industry advocates point to complications with testing and a shortage of protective equipment as signals that Oklahoma isn’t ready to reopen the homes. [Oklahoma Watch] Tulsa County sees spike in COVID-19 cases as testing ramps up in nursing homes [Public Radio Tulsa] New COVID-19 cases in Stephens County also connected to some nursing home settings. [Duncan Banner]

Opinion: Oklahoma’s other health crisis — the mental health crisis: Long before the onset of the current pandemic, statistical data from Mental Health America ranked Oklahoma as the 41st least healthy state in the nation. Compared to other states, we had a higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care. In a separate study by America’s Health Rankings, Oklahoma ranked nearly the highest in the nation for “frequent mental distress.” [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

10 dead at Joe Exotic’s prison from virus outbreak: A COVID-19 outbreak at Joe Exotic’s prison in Texas has killed 10 inmates, more than any other facility or halfway house in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. More than 600 inmates have tested positive at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth since the pandemic began, according to the bureau. [The Oklahoman]

What’s the science behind a THC breath-test getting a $300k pilot program in Oklahoma?: A bill that would dedicate $300,000 toward a THC breath test pilot program in Oklahoma was signed Thursday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. The pilot program, pushed by Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, in House Bill 4161, would be used by state and local law enforcement to inform future policy [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

State Chamber: Probe into Epic’s finances could discourage business: The State Chamber of Oklahoma on Wednesday stepped into the fray between the state auditor and inspector and Epic Charter Schools, filing an amicus curiae brief in court in support of the argument made by the school. [The Journal Record]

PPP loan forgiveness may be challenging: For those businesses that have not applied for relief under the Paycheck Protection Program, it’s not too late. More than $40 billion is still available under the federal program, and in Oklahoma City, local officials are still working to create new opportunities for businesses. [The Journal Record]

More layoffs hit Oklahoma including shutdown of aerospace plant: While Oklahoma’s energy industry has endured thousands of layoffs in the coronavirus pandemic and the oil crisis, so have other industries including chain stores in the state. The latest to be told their jobs will soon end are employees of a Dillard’s store in Lawton and an aircraft manufacturing plant in Tulsa. [OK Energy Today]

Oklahoma beef producers facing coronavirus disruptions head on: Meat plant closings, market disruptions and the slow recovery in cattle prices this spring – largely attributable to the coronavirus pandemic – have hit beef producers hard, with those in the Oklahoma Panhandle being among the most significantly affected. [OSU News & Information]

Gov. Stitt amends Executive Order, allows Agriculture Department to assist plants: On May 12, Governor Stitt issued a sixth amendment to Executive Order 2020-13 to allow OK Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to assist with livestock processing facility disruptions. [FOX25]

Education News

For first time, Oklahoma reports per-pupil spending by school: The public can now see the dollar amount each school spent educating a child, an important metric for stakeholders for determining equitable funding. Per-pupil funding has now been added to each school’s state report card. It’s newly required under federal law and Oklahoma is one of about 30 states that has begun displaying the data available for the 2018-19 school year. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma will now screen early elementary students for dyslexia: Oklahoma will now screen for dyslexia, the most common learning disability. House Bill 2804 was signed by Governor Kevin Stitt on Tuesday. The measure will require dyslexia screening for students reading below grade level in kindergarten through third grade. [KOSU]

General News

Oklahoma City now nation’s 25th largest city: Oklahoma City is now the 25th largest city in the United States, according to the latest annual population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The new figures show Oklahoma City has moved up six spots in the population rankings from the 31st spot it occupied in 2010, when the last 10-year census was done. [The Oklahoman]

Project to examine COVID-19 impact on immigrant communities in Tulsa: How COVID-19 is impacting immigrant communities in Tulsa, domestic violence cases across Oklahoma and couples expecting during a pandemic are among the topics that will be examined by the newest members of The Coronavirus Storytelling Project. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa mayor reflects on city’s resiliency as city and county march onward through pandemic reopening (Video) [Tulsa World]
  • OKC: MAPS 4 citizens advisory board named [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma County’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council discusses CARES Act funding [Free Press OKC]
  • City of Norman seeking federal funds for business relief program [Norman Transcript]
  • OSDH reports 10 new Cleveland County COVID-19 cases [Norman Transcript]
  • Officials announce 40th death in Tulsa County, more COVID-19 updates (Video) [Tulsa World]
  • Despite pandemic, Catoosa High School to hold in-person graduation for crowd of up to 1,200 [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • University of Tulsa Likely to Require Masks for Fall Return to Campus [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Muskogee city manager unveils plan to address declining revenue [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Grove City Council to reopen aquatics in June, Parks, playgrounds, basketball courts also to reopen for public use [Grand Lake News]
  • Police, fire officials in Lawton want further details on revenue before agreeing to cuts [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“It just seems like what he is creating here is another year of prolonged negotiations with urban and rural hospitals. I was hoping that we had all of this put to bed and agreed upon.”

-Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, speaking about the Governor’s veto of SB 1046, which was the primary funding mechanism for his health care proposal [NonDoc]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of Oklahomans who would be uninsured at 15% unemployment rate. The estimated number rises to 133,00 at 20% unemployment. 

[Source: Urban Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the COVID-19 recession could affect health insurance coverage: More than half of the newly jobless will obtain Medicaid coverage in states that expanded Medicaid, while only about one-third will receive Medicaid coverage in the states (like Oklahoma) that have not expanded the program. Less than a quarter of these workers and their dependents in expansion states will become uninsured, while about 40 percent in non-expansion states will become uninsured. [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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