In The Know: Lawmakers consider expanding health coverage; Medicaid ballot initiative filed; options for education budget…

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.

In The News

Lawmakers wrestle with expanded health coverage plan: State leaders are meeting daily on a plan to expand health coverage to 100,000 uninsured low-income Oklahomans. “We know how to pay for it with existing funds,” said Sen. Greg McCortney, the author of Senate Bill 605. “The big question now is can it be ready for this session or will we have to wait until next year?” [NewsOK] Take Action: Tell your legislators to expand coverage now.

Oklahoma Medicaid expansion ballot initiative filed: Attorneys with Crowe & Dunlevy today filed a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative Friday on behalf of two Oklahomans, one from Tulsa and one from Oklahoma City. The ballot initiative would make a change to the Oklahoma Constitution, thus requiring 177,958 signatures for it to make the ballot. [NonDoc]

Lawmakers mull options for education budget: State lawmakers are being pulled in two different directions as they look to give teachers a pay raise and provide more cash for textbooks, classroom supplies and other support for schools. While House members have shown favor on a plan to give teachers a $1,200 across-the-board pay increase, the Senate seems more intent on adding about $120 million into the mix of funding provided for education and then letting individual school districts decide how to spend their fair shares. [Journal Record] A small raise will do little to address the conditions teachers have endured over the past decade of lost support staff, rising class sizes, and cuts to important school programs.

Legislature leans heavily on copy-paste legislation: The Oklahoma Legislature has one of the highest rates of introducing and passing copy-paste bills, largely written by conservative and corporate entities pushing similar legislation across the country. Oklahoma’s Legislature is second in the country for introducing and passing so-called “model legislation,” according to a two-year investigation by USA Today, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. [NewsOK ????]

A state bond sale raised dollars the Oklahoma Conservation Commission will use to match other dollars to rehabilitate dams: About $5.1 million raised through a recent bond sale will be used along with federal and previously appropriated state dollars to strengthen four dams that were built to protect Oklahomans in rural and urban areas. [NewsOK]

Concurrent resolution filed with Legislature asks for information before additional cuts: Cuts announced nearly two years ago by Oklahoma’s Cooperative Extension Service to both its program and the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system have gotten the attention of some lawmakers. The resolution introduced April 10, HCR 1003, asks that Oklahoma State University’s regents and extension service officials provide the state’s top lawmakers, agriculture secretary and governor with information about how those planned cuts would affect the state’s communities before proceeding further. [NewsOK]

Senate Bill 446 to address mental health in schools: A bill aimed at improving mental health resources for schools passed through the house, and could soon be moving to the Governor’s desk. Now, teachers are calling for action from the state. Senate Bill 446 directs the state department to provide information, training, and resources to teachers and administrators to address mental health in schools. [KJRH]

Legislators hit Tulsa area liquor stores — but not for the reason you might think: Three first-year Tulsa legislators spent Friday at liquor stores, but it wasn’t because Capitol shenanigans have already driven them to drink. It was because they just didn’t know how to vote on a measure that would affect how retailers — as well as bars and restaurants — get their alcoholic beverages. [Tulsa World]

Industrial hemp bill signed into law by Gov. Stitt: ‘Farmers in western Oklahoma are very excited,’ legislator says: A bill opening the way for commercial production of industrial hemp was signed Thursday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Senate Bill 868, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to take develop and administer a production program under the 2018 federal farm bill. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa World editorial: Aw, shucks! The Legislature is magically transforming innocuous bills late in the game to deal with more controversial topics: It’s late in the legislative session and time for a little shucking. Shucking is a smelly but completely legal legislative trick in which a relatively innocuous piece of legislation is completely rewritten (and its original language is shucked) to deal with something more controversial. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Tulsa World editorial: The Oklahoma Legislature is close to fixing a broken system of fines, fees and probation for criminal defendants: A bill to bring rational reforms to fines, fees and probationary sentences for Oklahoma criminal defendants is close to final legislative consideration. Current law is filling the state’s jails and prisons with people who should be working to support their families. We can fix this. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Still Waiting: Oklahoma rarely paroles violent offenders: Juvenile life without parole prisoners resentenced to life are still unlikely to win release in Oklahoma. The state rarely paroles violent offenders. In fiscal year 2018, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted favorably to recommend parole just 6.3 % of the time in violent offender cases. Between 2018 and 2016 fiscal years, the board voted in favor of parole for violent offenders just 3.56 percent of the time on average. [The Frontier]

Several events reject OKC due to hotel rates: Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau Commissioner Robert Lewter wanted to know why the city has missed out on hosting certain conferences and events. He posed the question this week during a meeting of the OKC-CVB. [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Traditionally, the Pardon and Parole Board have always looked at the question why should this person be let out, but we are now being asked to look at why should these individuals stay in. I think it’s a pretty big shift.”

-Adam Luck, CEO of the homeless housing nonprofit City Care and a recent appointee to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board by Gov. Kevin Stitt [Source: The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Total population increase in Oklahoma from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018.

[Source: U.S. Census]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Georgia latest state to legalize needle exchange to stop HIV: Such clinics may become more widespread in Georgia after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law Tuesday legalizing needle exchanges. While opponents have historically criticized needle exchange programs as condoning drug use, many experts disagree, saying these initiatives help contain the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases that sometimes linger in used syringes. [AP News]

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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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