In The Know: Health care expansion bill up for a vote; committee won’t hear abortion bill; time running out for bipartisan redistricting…

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

Bill Watch: Optimism and caution on the health care front: In previous years, health care legislation has often come with a sense of existential crisis, as budget cuts and efforts to take away coverage have loomed large. But this year, with a new administration and a healthier budget, lawmakers have a chance to reverse course and offer more readily accessible quality health care in Oklahoma. [OK Policy]

Bill to expand access to health insurance up for a vote today: This year, Oklahoma lawmakers have the opportunity to bring Oklahomans the health care they need. SB 605, authored by Sen. McCortney, represents an important first step in the discussion about expanding access to health insurance in Oklahoma. SB 605 is up for a vote in the Senate Retirement and Insurance committee TODAY at 10am. [Together Oklahoma] Expanding health coverage is one of OK Policy’s 2019 legislative policy priorities.

In The News

Oklahoma Senate committee leader won’t hear bill to criminalize abortion: A bill that would criminalize abortion in Oklahoma won’t be brought up for a committee vote this year, according to the chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “We are not going to hear it because I am opposed to it as it is written,” said Sen. Jason Smalley, the chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services committee, which has been assigned the bill. [NewsOK ????]

New bill would punish medical providers who fail to report rape: A bill that would punish health care providers who fail to report statutory rape passed in the state House of Representatives. House Bill 2591 would withhold Medicaid payments for five years for any provider who is convicted of failing to report the statutory rape of a patient. It passed easily in the House of Representatives, but critics say it’s a solution without a problem. [News9]

Clock is ticking on efforts to overhaul redistricting: Time is running out for efforts to have a bipartisan, citizen-led commission redraw Oklahoma’s legislative and congressional boundaries – a move that would take the process out of the hands of the Legislature. A citizen-led group called Represent Oklahoma and a Democratic state lawmaker are pursuing separate paths to place a state question on the ballot that would allow voters to decide whether to overhaul the state’s redistricting process. [Oklahoma Watch]

State retirees could see cost-of-living increase: With complaints mounting among retirees, lawmakers are considering if the state’s public pension systems are finally healthy enough to give tens of thousands of retirees their first cost-of-living-adjustment in over a decade. Advocates for the adjustment say living and health care costs have soared over the past decade, and many retirees are now quietly struggling to survive on their meager pension checks. [CHNI]

OKC Senate race most expensive; McCall biggest spender: An open Senate seat race in Oklahoma City was the most expensive legislative contest last year, though House Speaker Charles McCall easily led all legislative candidates in spending. Candidates spent $651,381 on the Senate District 30 race, won by Democrat Julia Kirt in what had long been a Republican area. Kirt spent just over $215,000, while her Republican opponent spent about $210,000, according to reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. [NewsOK ????]

Bill would abolish ABLE Commission: The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission has its eyes on more than 70 bills that could affect the agency, though not all the bills are related to alcohol. Senate Bills 495, 290, and 33 would create regulations on the vaping industry. House Bill 1432 would change the legal purchasing age from 18 years old to 21 years old. [Journal Record ????]

State Sen. Bice proposing several Oklahoma liquor law changes: More liquor law changes are on tap for Oklahoma this session from State Sen. Stephanie Bice. One will solve a problem parents have faced for years. Senate Bill 820 would allow adults of drinking age to bring children under 12 into liquor stores with them. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Breezing through committee: Bills establishing stricter regulation of wind power move forward: Three measures that would tighten regulations on the state’s wind energy industry cleared a legislative committee on Thursday and are headed to the full Senate for review. The bills’ authors said the added oversight is needed to ensure public safety and deal with aging equipment. Wind power advocates, however, said the legislation is unnecessary. [Journal Record]

Bill could reimburse millions to Okla. counties: A bill that could bring millions of dollars back into Comanche County is currently working its way through the state legislature. The Oklahoma Constitution says if you are a 100-percent disabled veteran you are exempt sales and property taxes, which leads to lost money for the county. Senate Bill 657, authored by Senator John Michael Montgomery, would allow the counties to be reimbursed for the lost property tax dollars. [KSWO]

Wildlife Commission opposes bevy of bills: This year’s battles over wildlife legislation has begun. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing body for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, issued a position statement at its Monday meeting opposing more than 20 bills that have been filed this legislative session in the state Senate and House of Representatives. [NewsOK]

Commission seeks line notifications: Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission aims to map out where temporary lines that support ongoing oil and gas operations are getting used. The commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division is working on developing a rule that, if codified, would require energy operators to notify the agency of their plans to use temporary lines to transport produced, treated water from recycling or holding reservoirs to well drilling and completion locations. [NewsOK]

Sentence commuted for Oklahoma woman featured in reporting on female incarceration rates: Board member Allen McCall said this week he believed Robyn Allen’s sentence was excessive. At one point he and other pardon and parole board members wondered if they were looking at the right paperwork. [The Frontier]

Attorneys for ‘The Innocent Man’ defendant claim city, police did not disclose hundreds of pages of evidence: Attorneys for Karl Fontenot, one of the defendants serving a life sentence for the 1984 murder of Denice Haraway in Ada, are asking a federal judge to sanction the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, Ada City Attorney Frank Stout and Ada Police Chief Mike Miller after hundreds of pages of “exculpatory evidence” were apparently found in the Ada Police Department. [The Frontier]

Tulsa World editorial: Exorbitant court costs incentivizes collections, not justice: Oklahoma’s use of exorbitant court fees and fines is keeping our jails full of people who should be on the street, on the job and working to support their families. In short, our Legislature’s unwillingness to fund the court system properly has turned our jails — which are meant to hold dangerous people and those at risk of fleeing to avoid prosecution — into debtor’s prisons. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Tulsa World editorial: Oklahoma Health Care Authority drops cruel plan to check Medicaid eligibility by mail: We applaud the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s decision to drop consideration of a new Medicaid rule that would hurt some of society’s weakest members. The rule would have checked eligibility of Medicaid patients by sending them letters by mail. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] We previously covered why this proposal rests on bad assumptions and would disrupt needed medical care for low-income families.

County ‘Stepping Up’ to help the mentally ill: On Monday, Cleveland County became one of a handful of Oklahoma counties to pass a Stepping Up resolution to commit to reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail. According to the Stepping Up website, Cleveland County may be only the third in the state to adopt this resolution, with the other two being Grant and Tulsa counties. [Norman Transcript]

Pell Grant pilot program for prisoners extended for 2019-20: A pilot program that helps inmates pay for college behind bars will be extended for a fourth year. The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday it renewed the Second Chance Pell initiative through 2019-20. The initiative provides need-based Pell Grants to people in prisons through partnerships with 65 colleges, including three in Oklahoma. [NewsOK]

OKC schools leader revisited parts of closure plan Outcry prompted McDaniel to reconsider school conversion: Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel has retooled several components of the district’s proposed restructuring project as the deadline for selecting the final option nears. McDaniel will recommend an option for closing and reconfiguring schools at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. [NewsOK ????]

‘Best-kept secret’: Area districts with virtual school option consider promoting their programs as Epic continues to grow: As enrollment at Epic Charter Schools continues to soar, local education leaders are thinking twice about keeping their own virtual programming out of the spotlight. The rise of virtual juggernauts like Epic triggered a whirlwind of frantic discussions about how to make traditional school districts more appealing to students. [Tulsa World]

Plan to cut back higher education spending in Oklahoma raises questions about what’s next for local college: A plan by the state of Oklahoma to cut back on higher education spending has Carl Albert State College in Poteau trying to figure out what to do next. In November 2017 then Gov. Mary Fallin directed the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to develop a plan that would possibly consolidate universities and colleges. [5News]

Oklahoma community colleges tackle multiple missions: Of the 222,000 students in Oklahoma’s public higher education system, 42 percent attend a community college. At Oklahoma’s 14 community colleges, the student bodies can include high school students getting an early jump on college credits and displaced workers seeking a certification for new skills. The majority are part-time students. The average age is about 25. [NewsOK]

Employees at Oklahoma hospital still waiting for paychecks as legal fight continues: In the middle of a big lawsuit, employees at an Oklahoma hospital say they aren’t getting paid, and now their healthcare is in jeopardy. A hearing in federal court is scheduled for Tuesday. The hospital is open, but employees did not get paid Friday. [KFOR]

Gun questions dominate Stillwater legislative forum: Although hot-button topics dominated the questions during a legislative forum hosted Friday by the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce, the legislators elected to represent Payne County appear hopeful, excited by the challenge of serving their constituents and ready to get down to business. [Stillwater News Press]

Trooper pleads not guilty in bribery case: Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Troy D. German pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges that he attempted to extort the commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety for a promotion or political appointment. [NewsOK]

Kevin Calvey: ‘Please pray’ for brother jailed in Russia: Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey has requested prayers on Facebook this morning for his brother, Michael Calvey, who has been ordered to jail for two months by a Russian court. Michael Calvey has been a prominent U.S. investor in Russia for more than 20 years, and he was detained Friday on allegations of fraud, according to the Washington Post. [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“In Oklahoma we have (one of) the highest incarceration rates in the world. You know, it’s not like that for no reason. It’s because stuff like this happens way more often than it should.”

-Joseph Norwood, an attorney for Robyn Allen whose 20-year sentence for a first-time drug offense was commuted by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board after receiving national media attention [Source: The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma prison inmates assessed with a need for substance abuse treatment who did not receive it in Fiscal Year 2018.

[Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Progressive Revenue-Raising Options: Americans have long wanted progressive taxes but few, if any, lawmakers publicly backed this view. What’s happening now isn’t a shift in public opinion, rather it’s Washington finally catching up with the American people. Progressive Revenue-Raising Options outlines seven tax-policy options for Congress to pursue, including a wealth tax and strengthening the estate tax. [ITEP]

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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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