In The Know: Lawmakers deliver historic override of Gov.’s budget vetoes; state moving forward with reopening despite testing issues; 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Restoring confidence in state government: Oklahoma’s executive and legislative branches remain locked in a “he said, she said” media battle over the budget with little resolution in sight. Oklahomans deserve for our elected officials to work together to address our state’s very real needs rather than expending energy in needless squabbling. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

In historic rebuke, Republican-controlled Oklahoma Legislature overrides Gov. Stitt’s vetoes of general appropriations bill, funding measures: In a historic rebuke, the Oklahoma Legislature overrode Gov. Kevin Stitt’s vetoes of the fiscal year 2021 general appropriations bill and three other budget-related measures Wednesday night, just hours after he issued them. [Tulsa World] Stitt vetoed four separate budget bills, including the general appropriations bill that outlines the Legislature’s $7.7 billion spending plan. The other bills temporarily divert payments to the state’s public pension systems and to a fund for road and bridge improvements. [AP News] Democrats and Republicans alike blasted Stitt for being disconnected from the budget process and making “misleading statements” through the media. [NonDoc] Looking ahead to the fiscal year 2022 budget, Stitt said this year’s budget bill backs the state into a financial corner. The governor previously criticized what he said was an over-reliance on one-time funds to fill a large part of a likely revenue shortfall. That could leave the state in a worse position when the next budget cycle comes around, he said. [The Oklahoman]

State to begin next reopening phase despite testing issues: The state remains on track to begin the next phase of business reopenings later this week even as hospitalization numbers spiked Wednesday and health officials worked to resolve testing accessibility problems. The state Department of Health reported a nearly 15 percent increase in the number of Oklahomans hospitalized with COVID-19. Statewide, 218 Oklahomans were hospitalized with the deadly virus, up from 190 the day prior. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Senate passes two measures for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Medicaid expansion: The Senate on Wednesday passed two measures to fund Gov. Kevin Stitt’s version of Medicaid expansion. Senate Bill 1046 would cap the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program (SHOPP) fee at 4% and dedicate 1.7 percentage points to pay for Medicaid expansion under Stitt’s health care proposal. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma reverses course, releases coronavirus equipment supplier information: A day after releasing redacted documents that kept hidden the identity of suppliers of personal protective equipment and other materials, the state on Wednesday reversed course and released the information to The Frontier. [The Frontier] In a little over a month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health ordered more than $42 million in personal protective equipment, records show. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

State launching platform for cities, counties to apply for relief funds: Businesses of all sizes have been affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic, and so have local governments of all sizes. The loss of municipal and county sales tax revenues will be felt far and wide, and in some cases it already has been. [NonDoc]

Legislature approves bill protecting health care workers: Nurses, doctors and others who work in health care and encounter workplace violence on a day-to-day basis may feel a little better knowing the Medical Care Provider Protection Act has passed in the Oklahoma Legislature and may be signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Journal Record 🔒]

Bill could make Oklahoma first state to implement marijuana breathalyzer: Marijuana users could have a new reason to think twice before getting behind the wheel. A bill making its way through the Oklahoma legislator would approve marijuana breathalyzers to be used throughout the state. [KTUL]

DUI victims’ impact panel bill moves to Governor: A bill strengthening the role of victims’ impact panels in helping to stop DUI offenses in Oklahoma and to reduce the number of repeat offenders passed the state Senate on Wednesday and now awaits the governor’s signature to become law. [CNHI via Woodward News]

Bill allowing delivery of alcohol advances: The bill would allow businesses with a retail spirits license, including liquor stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants and bars, to continue delivery and curbside service of sealed alcohol. [The Journal Record 🔒]

Proposed bill may change processing and inspection of meat in Oklahoma: The proposed bill will allow state food inspectors to have new ways to inspect meat, such as video calls to get the meat to market faster for sales in-state only. Owner of Callison Beef in Ada Nikki Callison is thankful the state is wanting to help ranchers, but said ranchers need more help, since COVID-19 has caused meat processors to be booked up. [KXII] Oklahoma Meat Consumer Protection Act heads to governor’s desk. [KTUL]

Lawmakers approve drone development bill: A bill aimed at capitalizing on momentum built by tribes in Oklahoma and communities involved in unmanned aerial vehicle research and other advanced transportation technologies has advanced to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk. [The Journal Record 🔒]

Unemployment fraud wreaks havoc: Fraudulent claims are just one of the many reasons nearly 60,000 Oklahomans are currently stuck in limbo waiting for approval of their unemployment claims. [The Oklahoman]

Department of Public Safety working toward limited July 1 launch of REAL ID: The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety intends to move forward with a limited public roll out of REAL ID by July 1. The agency on Wednesday hosted a media event in which reporters from different outlets showed up at predesignated times to obtain a REAL ID. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma must replace health commissioner amid pandemic as phased reopening continues: Oklahoma may be without a health commissioner as the state enters its fourth month of a pandemic after legislators declined to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointee and the governor has no replacement under consideration. [Tulsa World] In a farewell letter, outgoing Health Commissioner Gary Cox wrote that he is leaving the state Health Department in a better position than when he began last year. “Many lives of Oklahomans have been saved with the collective effort of all Oklahomans,” he wrote Gov. Kevin Stitt in the letter dated Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Republicans in U.S. House oppose new $3 trillion relief bill: Oklahoma Republicans in the U.S. House have come out strongly against the latest financial relief bill, saying Democratic leaders are using the pandemic to push for a “liberal wish list.” The House is expected to vote Friday on the measure, which has an estimated price tag of $3 trillion. [The Oklahoman] U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe would prefer to wait until at least July to decide on another round of coronavirus relief, he said Wednesday, but he acknowledged that there is pressure to do something sooner. [Tulsa World]

Tribal leaders defend new gambling compacts in legal memo: The leaders of two Oklahoma-based Native American tribes defended on Wednesday their recent gambling compacts with the state and urged the U.S. Department of the Interior to approve them. [AP News] Chickasaw Nation casinos to remain closed [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma receives over $10.8 million in COVID-19 relief from HUD: The state of Oklahoma has received over $10.8 million in CARES Act coronavirus relief funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). [KJRH]

Criminal Justice News

Board recommends special medical parole for 12 state inmates: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to recommend special medical parole for 12 inmates determined to be at elevated risk from the coronavirus pandemic. At a virtual meeting of the board on Wednesday morning, Steven Bickley, the body’s executive director, explained how the specific inmates ended up on the docket. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Lockdown in DOC suspends prison education programs: The confinement of inmates to their cells in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 has also meant the pause of classes for thousands of students in Oklahoma prisons who were working on degrees and vocational certificates. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Highway Patrol puts formerly secret vehicular pursuit policy online, with some notable updates: The policy and procedures were updated in February, the 10-page document says. Commissioner of Public Safety John Scully said in a news release that he decided to release the protocol because transparency is a high priority for the agency’s administration. [Tulsa World]

Three states continue push to end ticket quotas: Following a break at the statehouse due to coronavirus concerns, pursuit has been renewed in the Oklahoma House to advance a bill targeting ticket quotas. State law prohibits cities and towns from generating more than half of their revenue through traffic fines. [Land Line]

Economic Opportunity

Proposed affordable housing cuts raise questions about housing security: A House bill sponsored in the House by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, Republican of Bristow, and in the Senate by Sen. Stephanie Bice, Republican of Oklahoma City, seeks to cut tax incentives by 50 percent for the building of affordable housing in Oklahoma. [Free Press OKC]

Economy & Business News

Negative outlook: S&P says 1/3 chance Oklahoma’s bond rating drops: Despite affirming its AA rating on Oklahoma’s general creditworthiness, S&P Global Ratings has revised its judgment of the state’s fiscal picture to a “negative outlook” and says there is a one-in-three chance that Oklahoma’s bond rating drops in coming quarters. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma event organizers consider options as state tries to reopen: As Oklahoma navigates plans to reopen slowly, event organizers must decide whether to hold their functions in person, move them online or cancel altogether. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how some of the state’s most beloved occasions could change in the wake of COVID-19. [KGOU]

Deep dive: April air travel down 90% in OKC and Tulsa: Air travel – a key economic driver in Oklahoma and the nation – took a record-breaking dive last month, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. [The Journal Record 🔒]

PPE, medical supply directory expands as businesses reopen: The Oklahoma PPE & Supply Source Directory now features 87 companies, with 42 being Oklahoma manufacturers or suppliers. The directory was created May 1. [The Journal Record 🔒]

Education News

College remediation rates down, Hofmeister says: Fewer Oklahoma students took remedial college courses in the most recent data released by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Cutting college remediation in half is one of the six goals in the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s 8-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge. [CNHI via Woodward News]

Digital ceremonies, drive-ins and delays mark Oklahoma high school graduation celebrations: The novel coronavirus has changed a lot of graduation plans throughout Oklahoma. Normally, a community’s staple spring event, the global pandemic has altered plans. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Editorial: Virtual education bill inches toward parity between online, traditional schools: Oversight of public virtual charter schools will get stronger with House Bill 2905, which awaits Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature. For years, the state has been plagued with problems unique to public online charter schools, including a lack of financial transparency and loose rules on attendance and grades. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Texas County at 474 COVID-19 cases with additional 50 confirmed [ABC7]
  • Mistaken as a COVID-19 death, Bartlesville woman still yet to figure out source of confusion [The Frontier]
  • Tulsa Public Schools prepares for summer of distance learning [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Hard hit small businesses start receiving financial help from Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC City Council calls for mass-scale coronavirus testing, PPE distribution & federal relief for local community [KFOR]
  • FDA seeks injunction against Atoka company accused of selling colloidal silver as COVID-19 cure [Tulsa World]
  • Woodward to stay in line with Governor on Phase 2 of reopening [Woodward News]

Quote of the Day

“Let’s get past who was in the room, who was locked out of the room, who was right, who was lying, who was wrong. The people of Oklahoma deserve better than that. It is the democratic process, but if I were someone who was watching I would say, ‘God, I just wish they would get it together.’”

House Minority Leader Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaking about the budget disagreements between Gov. Stitt and the Legislature [NonDoc]

Number of the Day

15%

Estimated percentage decrease in college enrollment nationwide in fall 2020 due to COVID-19, which could lead to a substantial loss of revenue for institutions of higher education.

[Source: American Council on Education]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The class divide: Remote learning at two schools, private and public: Some private schools provide online luxury learning during the pandemic. As many public schools struggle to adjust, the nation’s educational gaps widen. [New York Times]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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