In The Know: Gov. signs budget bills with $347M in tax cuts | Managed care is not silver bullet for healthy outcomes | 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

Managed care isn’t a silver bullet: Improving Oklahoma’s health outcomes requires multi-faceted investments: High rates of uninsurance, cancer and cardiovascular deaths, infant mortality, and physical and mental distress —caused in large part by outdated and ineffective health policy — have all contributed to Oklahoma’s abysmal health rankings. Fortunately, Oklahoma has the tools at its disposal right now to begin prioritizing the health of our friends and neighbors. The answer, despite recent claims, is not outsourcing the administration of our Medicaid program, also known as SoonerCare. Rather, we must look at the factors that actually impact health and increase our investment in the mental, physical, and economic well-being of all Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Lawmakers expand private school scholarship tax credits (Capitol Update): Getting a “nose under the tent” is an expression used regularly at the legislature when a new idea or program is proposed. The expression refers to an alleged Arab proverb that if a camel is allowed to get its nose inside of a tent, it will be impossible to prevent the rest of it from entering. A small, seemingly innocuous act or decision will lead to much larger, more serious, and less desirable consequences down the line. The expression seems especially useful if the new idea or program involves ideologically differing objectives. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Three years ago lawmakers raised taxes. Now, tax cuts are coming: Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, was a teacher and coach at Owasso High School the last time Oklahoma received a major influx of federal stimulus funds that flowed into the state to offset the financial crunch of the Great Recession. Tax cuts from the late 1990s had a ripple effect through the early 2000s, and in 2014, Republican legislators and Republican Gov. Mary Fallin cut taxes again. But within a few years, state revenues dried up, coinciding with a downturn in the oil patch on which the the state budget is heavily reliant. “We’ve done this before,” Dossett said. “I was in the classroom before. It hurt before. My class sizes got bigger. My friends left the profession.” [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a package of bills on Friday to cut the corporate and top individual income tax rates and to restore the refundability of the earned income tax credit. The bills were part of a budget agreement announced with Republican legislative leaders last week. [AP News] Sen. Dossett, said the state has cut its revenue sources in the past and underfunded important things such as education. A tax cut is incredibly difficult to restore, he said, because Oklahoma law requires a supermajority of votes in both legislative chambers to raise taxes. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s Legislature fast tracks multi-million budget bill, again: It didn’t take long for arguably the most important bill of the 2021 session to work its way through the often-times tedious and laborious legislative process. A week and three hours after Gov. Kevin Stitt and Republican leaders announced the framework of the state’s $8.8 billion spending plan, the annual budget bill passed the Legislature Thursday on its way to the governor’s desk. The budget, along with companion bills that include hundreds of million in tax cuts, passed largely along party-line votes in the GOP-controlled House and Senate. But in sailing through the Legislature as the session enters its final, the public largely was left out of the debate. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma’s budget deal includes a boost for education following COVID cuts [KOSU]

Details are scarce on how Oklahoma’s plan to privatize Medicaid will affect mental health services: Behavioral health providers in Oklahoma are concerned about potential cuts to mental health services for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents under a plan to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. The company that won the exclusive contract to oversee Oklahoma’s Medicaid program for kids in the child welfare system has said it plans to cut the use of in-patient treatment by offering more preventative care, but won’t release details. [The Frontier] “Just the fact that behavioral health will be reduced is very alarming,” Verna Foust, CEO of Red Rock Behavioral Health Services, said. The Frontier says there could be up to a 20-percent decrease in mental health services for kids in DHS custody under managed Medicaid. [KFOR]

  • Oklahoma lawmakers drop attempt to block Stitt’s plan to outsource Medicaid program [Public Radio Tulsa]

No complaints of Oklahoma schools teaching critical race theory, Department of Education says: Despite nationwide political fervor surrounding critical race theory, the Oklahoma State Department of Education has not received any complaints of districts teaching the ideology in local schools. None of the department’s regional accreditation officers, attorneys, or other agency officials who take complaints from educators and parents have heard reports of any schools teaching the subject. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial News

Interstate 244: ‘It took the heart out of Greenwood’: Tulsa photographer Donald Thompson took the last images of business buildings rebuilt from the ashes of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre just before they were bulldozed to make way for Interstate 244. There were a smattering of Black-owned businesses along Greenwood Avenue. It was 1967, and the district was going through an economic slump. [Tulsa World]

What the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre destroyed: The New York Times created a 3D model of Greenwood, home of “Black Wall Street,” as it was before a white mob set it on fire 100 years ago. [New York Times]

Vernon AME’s historic Book of Redemption now restored: ‘People who refused to quit’: Oklahoma first lady Sarah Stitt toured the church during Juneteenth celebrations last year and took special interest in a worn-out book, the pages cracked and mildewed. “The Book of Redemption,” the congregation calls it at historic Vernon AME. It’s a ledger recording donations from hundreds of Tulsans who helped pay off the debt incurred by rebuilding the church after the 1921 Race Massacre. [Tulsa World]

Race Massacre Symposium speakers say reckoning is overdue: At a law symposium held today to commemorate Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre, speakers called for examination and reparations. Reverend Dr. Robert Turner criticized the idea that governments in the United States can’t be criminally charged. Turner was reacting to the recently given opinion of former Tulsa judge Robert William Kellough. [Public Radio Tulsa]

How Tulsa’s Greenwood Massacre echoes today: Until recently, the memory of what happened in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood had been buried with its victims. Today, exhuming the city’s past also means confronting its present. [60 Minutes / CBS]

Health News

New COVID-19 cases plummet to lowest levels since last June: New coronavirus cases across the United States have tumbled to rates not seen in more than 11 months, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are stemming both severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus. [The Oklahoman]

  • Nine charts that show how Oklahoma is handling the spread of COVID-19 [Tulsa World]

Expanding Medicaid to holdout states could add jobs beyond health care: A report came out Thursday from the Commonwealth Fund and George Washington University that says if the 14 states that still have not expanded Medicaid did so, more than a million new jobs could be created in 2022. The latest COVID relief bill, signed in March, offered those holdout states extra incentives to expand Medicaid, which provides health coverage to low-income people. Twelve states have not decided to expand Medicaid, and Oklahoma and Missouri have adopted expansion plans but not implemented them yet. How exactly does expanding Medicaid add jobs in a state? [Marketplace]

Officials: 5,800 Oklahomans with disabilities still waiting for home services: For years, thousands of Oklahomans suffering from disabilities have been waiting to receive the help they need. In fact, there are 5,800 Oklahomans currently on the state’s waiting list for Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Services. The services allow people with disabilities who need long-term care to receive those services at home rather than in an institutional setting. [KFOR]

How rural school counselors confront life in a ‘mental health desert’: About 100 miles west of Oklahoma City on Interstate 40, Elk City is home to nearly 12,000 residents whose financial stability ebbs and flows with the volatile oil and gas industry. The nearby North Fork Correctional Facility brought some families to town to be close to a loved one. And students face rates of poverty, special needs and suicide higher than the state average. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

NonDoc Monday Minute: The Final Countdown: Like exhausted parents at 11 a.m. the morning after hosting their kid’s slumber party, watchers of the State Capitol have a simple message for the children of the Oklahoma Legislature: Go home. Of course, a couple of big questions are yet to be answered this week ahead of the constitutionally required adjournment no later than 5 p.m. Friday, May 28. If all goes smoothly, however, lawmakers could adjourn the year’s regular session a day or two early. As always, check the House and Senate floor agendas for daily updates on what bills might run when [NonDoc]

  • Capitol Insider: Legislature heading into final week [KGOU]

House leadership moving forward with multicounty grand jury recommendations from Epic Charter Schools investigation: Leadership in the Oklahoma House of Representatives is moving forward with legislation based on the extraordinary and urgent call to action by the multicounty grand jury probing the Epic Charter Schools saga. House Bill 2966 is scheduled to be introduced on the floor and voted on by the House of Representatives on Monday. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma signs into law deluge of anti-abortions bills, as U.S. Supreme court set to hear case challenging Roe v. Wade: As Oklahoma lawmakers usher in some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws, a case heading to the U.S. Supreme Court could have far-reaching effects in Oklahoma. Justices aren’t expected to make a decision on the case until next year, but activists and advocates on both sides of the abortion divide worry — or hope — the case could significantly curtail reproductive rights across the country. Gov. Kevin Stitt this year has signed more anti-abortion bills into law in a single session than a governor has in at least the last five years. [The Frontier]

Gun-free park events OK under new legislation; police HQ to be demolished: The governor signed legislation that could enable Scissortail Park, the new MAPS 3 park in downtown Oklahoma City, to exclude guns from large gatherings such as concerts on the Great Lawn. Under previous law, the city had to allow guns into the September 2019 grand opening performance by the band Kings of Leon, which drew 28,000 concert-goers. Under House Bill 2645, events excluding guns must be secured by fencing with entrances staffed by police officers and equipped with metal detectors. [The Oklahoman]

Public Health Lab director’s resignation latest bump in road in move from Oklahoma City to Stillwater: The state’s relocation of the Public Health Lab from Oklahoma City to a refurbished building in Stillwater with a newly created Oklahoma Pandemic Center hit another road bump with the resignation of the project’s director only four months in. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma could be ‘epicenter’ of hydrogen fuel industry: Grand River Dam Authority CEO Dan Sullivan said during an April 29 meeting of a joint legislative task force on the state’s largest public power utility that he has “signed several” nondisclosure agreements over the past six months with companies that are considering relocation to or expansion within Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park, to which GRDA provides electricity. [NonDoc]

Federal Government News

Arkansas, Oklahoma senators introduce bill to designate U.S. Route 412 as future interstate: U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), introduced a bill on Friday to designate U.S. Route 412, from I-35 in Noble County, Oklahoma, to I-49 in Springdale, Arkansas, as a future interstate. [KFOR] “Our interstate system is the lifeblood of Oklahoma’s economy and provides the network for companies to bring materials into our critical industries, for businesses to locate in areas convenient for consumers and for commuters to get to work and school safely and reliably,” Inhofe said. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma prosecutor argues that McGirt is not retroactive: An Oklahoma court has agreed to consider a prosecutor’s assertion that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state lacks jurisdiction for certain crimes on land within tribal reservations is not retroactive. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday granted Pushmataha County District Attorney Mark Matloff’s request for a stay of court proceedings in the case of Clifton Parish and directed Matloff and defense attorney Debra Hampton to file briefs in the case. [AP News] In a brief order issued Friday, the court put on hold a case involving a Native American inmate convicted of second-degree murder on the Choctaw Nation’s reservation and gave District Attorney Mark Matloff and the inmate’s attorneys 20 days to file written arguments. [The Oklahoman]

Navajo Nation becomes largest tribe in U.S. after pandemic enrollment surge: The Navajo Nation already had its own police academy, universities, bar association and court system, plus a new Washington office near the embassies of other sovereign nations. And during the coronavirus pandemic the Diné, as many prefer to call themselves, gained an important distinction: the most populous tribal nation in the United States. [New York Times]

Complicated story behind ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ needs to be told, some Osage people say: Although the production of Scorsese’s star-studded, reportedly $200 million movie has brought excitement to Osage County — the recreation of local landmarks from bygone days as facades and set pieces, the glimpses of stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Native American actress Lily Gladstone in period garb, the spreading of dirt on the part of Kihekah Avenue that has been transformed to resemble 1920s Fairfax — the real-life history behind the film is tragic and traumatic for the Osage people. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Southwest Oklahoma DA picked to investigate ex-state judge: The state has chosen the district attorney of four southwestern Oklahoma counties to consider sexual misconduct charges against a former judge. The state attorney general’s office appointed Jason Hicks on Friday after he agreed to take on the case against former Oklahoma County Judge Tim Henderson, The Oklahoman reported. [AP News]

An Oklahoma death row inmate staved off execution for years. Then the pandemic came to his prison: Convicted murderer Nicholas Alexander Davis was among death row inmates moved off of the most restrictive unit in prison after the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma threatened to sue. That transfer turned out to be fatal. [The Oklahoman]

  • How many COVID-19 cases, deaths have there been in Oklahoma prisons? [The Oklahoman]

Project Trust’s field trip finale reveals greater understanding of police for local youths: Six weeks ago, the students were as clammed-up and nervous as one might expect them to be when meeting a group of law enforcement officers from area agencies for the first time. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa Police Department considering new program to recruit disadvantaged youths of color [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economic Opportunity

Broadband program to help rural communities: Oklahoma State University agricultural economics professor Brian Whitacre’s studies in recent years have focused on the value of broadband connectivity to rural communities. Last year brought that research into stark contrast. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Agencies resilient in aiding homeless despite COVID-19 struggles: When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt in March 2020, the leaders of Oklahoma City’s agencies dedicated to helping those experiencing homelessness had no choice but to push forward. The number of people served by those programs fell from 10,171 in 2019 to 9,874 in 2020, according to the city’s Homeless Management Information System. The decrease in services rendered was due in large part to the reduction in services available during the pandemic. Closures and capacity reductions meant fewer people were able to receive services. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

6 charts that show how the economy is performing in Tulsa and Oklahoma: See how unemployment has changed over time, plus how small businesses are doing in our community, and more economic indicators with these regularly updated Tulsa World charts and maps. [Tulsa World]

10 charts that show the state of the real estate market in Tulsa: How have home sales changed over time? Which ZIP codes are the hotspots for buyers and sellers? Find out with these Tulsa World charts and maps, updated weekly. [Tulsa World]

Seaboard Foods fails in attempt to delay U.S. hog slaughter limits: A U.S. judge has denied Seaboard Foods’ attempt to delay a federal court decision that would force the nation’s second-biggest pig producer to slow the speed of hog slaughtering at a massive Oklahoma pork plant, according to court records. [Reuters]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa ends civil emergency declaration as COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases drop toward pandemic lows [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa ransomware attack update: No ransom was paid, police body cameras not in use [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“I’m very concerned with where we are on the budget now. There’s one-time funds. There’s a lot of federal spending, and just last year, we were at a $1.1 billion deficit. To think that everything is turned around and this will bring in revenue, I do think it’s shortsighted.” 

-Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, one of three Republican senators to vote against a corporate income tax cut. A tax lawyer, Howard said the corporate income tax cut was politically motivated and warned the decision could have state lawmakers in the same position they were three years ago when they had to raise taxes. [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day

11-year delay

There’s an average delay of 11 years between the onset of mental illness symptoms and treatment in Oklahoma. Integrated care is ideal for improving access to behavioral health care in our state. #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth

[Source: Healthy Minds Policy Initiative]

Policy Note

Mental Health Issues Snapshot: Healthy Minds has released a simple overview of systemic issues relating to mental health and substance use disorders in Oklahoma. As the COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, so do the cases of mental illness and addiction. Going into the 2021 legislative session, it is critical to keep a finger on the pulse of the state of mental health and addiction in Oklahoma. [Healthy Minds Initiative] Note: May is national Mental Health Awareness Month.

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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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