In The Know: Lawmakers divided over managed care | Bill proposes changes to state audit process | Addressing gender inequity

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

Policy Matters: Addressing gender inequity: When the next generation looks back on today, I hope they see our current gender inequalities with the same abject horror we feel at such anachronisms as “Whites Only” drinking fountains and other open displays of inequity. During this Women’s History Month in March, many are celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments of women in all aspects of life. The best way to honor the women in your life is by making gender inequity a relic of the past. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

State lawmakers divided over managed care in Medicaid expansion program: Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Tulsa, has been pushing managed care for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program even before the expansion was approved, according to a press release from June 18, 2020. Managed care is an implementation system in which Oklahoma’s medicaid provider, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), contracts with private insurance companies to provide coverage for Medicaid-qualified individuals. Opponents of managed care contend that involving both the OHCA and private companies creates an unnecessary middleman. [County Wide News] Oklahoma lawmakers are responding to the Medicaid managed care contracts awarded to health care companies without legislative input by passing legislation to regulate those contracts. [Journal Record] OK Policy: Managed care is a bad investment for Oklahoma, but could be especially harmful for patients, providers, and Indigenous communities.

Epic co-founder’s audit recommendations make it into legislation: An Epic Charter Schools co-founder’s recommendations for how State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd’s office operates found their way into a bill that passed the Senate floor on Tuesday evening. On Oct. 1, Byrd’s office issued an audit highly critical of Epic’s handling of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, but Epic has denied criminal wrongdoing and branded the state’s investigative audit report as an attack on school choice. The next day, on Oct. 2, Epic co-founder Ben Harris and his wife Elizabeth VanAcker each gave maximum campaign donations of $2,800 allowed per election cycle to state Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, according to public records from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. [Tulsa World]

Stavian Rodriguez shooting: 5 OKCPD officers charged with manslaughter: Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed first-degree manslaughter charges Wednesday against five Oklahoma City Police Department officers who fatally shot 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez in November. [NonDoc] TV news video appears to show Rodriguez outside a gas station, dropping a gun. The boy raises his hands, then lowers them before being shot. [AP News] The five officers remain on paid administrative leave. [The Oklahoman] A sergeant who fired a less-lethal weapon was included in the investigation but was not charged. [Free Press OKC] Charging documents filed by the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office claim the police did not need to fire lethal rounds. [KOSU] A medical examiner’s report showed that Mr. Rodriguez had been shot 13 times in the head, the chest and other parts of his body. [New York Times]

  • ‘Are we going to let that be OK?’: OKC community reacts to Stavian Rodriguez videos [The Oklahoman]
  • Videos of fatal OKC police shooting released [The Oklahoman]

Ellen Niemitalo, Tulsa Health Department Manager, speaks with KWGS about equity in vaccine efforts: Ellen Niemitalo, clinical services manager for the Tulsa Health Department, spoke with Public Radio Tulsa’s Chris Polansky by phone on Tuesday about the department’s new COVID-19 outreach initiatives to minority communities in partnership with the Oklahoma Caring Foundation / Oklahoma Caring Van. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Oklahoma: People who are incarcerated not yet eligible for COVID vaccine [Black Wall Street Times]
  • (Audio) Why blind Americans have faced barriers while seeking the covid vaccine [Big If True]
  • Oklahoma tops 430,000 coronavirus cases, 21.2% vaccinated [AP News]
  • COVID-19: 818 new cases confirmed; CDC reports 7,336 deaths in Oklahoma [Tulsa World] | [KOSU]
  • Editorial: How many Oklahomans have died of COVID-19? It depends on who’s counting [Editorial / Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma House votes to give governor more control over Tulsa, Oklahoma City health departments: Legislation essentially giving the Governor’s Office veto power over the selection of Tulsa and Oklahoma City city-county health department directors narrowly passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday evening. [Tulsa World]

State lawmakers pass bill that would allow sitting governor to fill vacant U.S. Senate seat: The Oklahoma Senate late Tuesday passed a bill that would allow the governor to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat. Senate Bill 959, by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, would also move the special election for the U.S. Senate seat to the next regularly scheduled statewide general election. [Tulsa World]

(Video) Oklahoma House considers proposal to let school employees carry guns: Oklahoma House Bill 2588 would allow a public board of education to authorize school employees to carry a handgun onto school property if the person possesses a valid handgun license and meets other requirements authorized by the school board. [Tulsa World] The bill would do away with a requirement of 240 hours of training for teachers armed in a classroom from Oklahoma’s Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET). [KOSU] Instead, school boards would decide how much training an armed school employee would need to carry a firearm. [KGOU]

(Video) Oklahoma bill would protect firearms rights of law-abiding citizens: An Oklahoma House bill that directs courts and law enforcement agencies to protect certain firearms rights of law-abiding citizens passed Tuesday night. [Tulsa World]

Senate passes abortion measures including felony charge for doctors, heartbeat bill: Tuesday it was the state House, Wednesday it was the Senate passing a slate of bills to effectively ban abortion in Oklahoma. Senate Bill 612 by Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) is almost identical to a near-total ban signed into law in Arkansas on Tuesday. [Public Radio Tulsa] House Bill 1102, by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, would suspend for one year the medical license of anyone performing an abortion, and HB 2441 — a so-called “fetal heartbeat” law — by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, would outlaw aborting fetuses once “cardiac activity” is detected. [Tulsa World]

Medical marijuana enforcement takes center stage in Oklahoma House of Representatives: The state House continued to address on Wednesday what lawmakers said are serious problems with the state’s young medical marijuana industry, moved to further reorganize state government by investing more authority in the executive branch, and looked to alleviate the backlog of driver’s license applications. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

McGirt v. Oklahoma: Supreme Court decision and aftermath: In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation. The decision meant that Oklahoma prosecutors lack the authority to pursue criminal cases against American Indian defendants in parts of Oklahoma that include most of Tulsa. [Tulsa World]

  • Cherokees expanding criminal justice system for larger role after McGirt; $35M needed annually, chief says [Tulsa World]

Tulsa County, city could be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan funding: Tulsa County is expected to be eligible for an estimated $126 million from the American Rescue Plan approved by Congress on Wednesday. The preliminary figure is based on information provided by the National Association of Counties and the legislation itself, county officials said. [Tulsa World]

  • Stimulus package enables 400 American Airlines workers in Tulsa to remain employed, officials say [Tulsa World]

Inhofe, Lankford move to make Daylight Saving Time permanent: U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) joined Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to reintroduce the Sunshine Protection Act, legislation that would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent across the country. [The Lawton Constitution]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma incarceration rate among highest in nation: Oklahoma incarcerates a larger percentage of its population than most other states. Colleen McCarty, policy counsel at Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, says tough-on-crime policies have failed across the nation and Oklahoma is no exception, she told The Center Square [The Center Square]

Advocates: Pandemic made domestic violence worse in Oklahoma: Since January, police have investigated more than a dozen killings in Tulsa, Sand Springs, Muskogee, Chickasha, Bixby and Oklahoma City believed to have been committed by the victims’ intimate partners and family members. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Economic Opportunity

(Video) Tulsa mayor launches pay equity pledge for Tulsa employers: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum celebrated the righting of wrongs Wednesday during the launch of his Pay Equity Pledge. Created in partnership with the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women in 2021, the Pay Equity Pledge is a voluntary, employer-led initiative designed to close the gender pay gap in the city of Tulsa. [Tulsa World] Tulsa County women earn 84 cents to every dollar earned by men. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Commentary: Tulsa food service workers deserve a ‘living wage.’ Let’s give it to them: The pandemic clearly demonstrates the necessity of service industry employees to sustaining restaurant operations and maintaining America’s food supply. Without them, dinner could not be ordered, meals could not be prepared and cocktails could not be energetically shaken. Yet, these workers are crashing through the social safety net at alarming rates. [Elizabeth Frame Ellison / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Small-business strategy for projecting success: How a drive-in theater owner pivoted amid the pandemic: The pandemic created a pair of problems for the Admiral Twin Drive-In, a historic movie theater built in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. [USA Today]

Education News

Oklahoma graduation requirements questioned by former Lone Grove Schools student: Former Lone Grove High School student Kolton Ellis received his high school diploma in the spring of 2020, with more academic credits than required for graduation by Oklahoma state law. Yet he and his family didn’t feel that he was actually ready to graduate. [NonDoc]

General News

John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation to commemorate the 1921 Race Massacre: The 12th Annual Reconciliation in America National Symposium will be held from Wednesday, May 26th to Saturday, May 29th. In recognition of the centennial of the 1921 Race Massacre, the theme for this year’s symposium is “The Future of Tulsa’s Past: The Centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre and Beyond.” [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Human remains may be linked to Oklahoma’s winter storm [AP News]
  • Two more Oklahomans facing federal charges in Capitol breach [AP News]
  • Indian Gaming Association to hold annual conference, trade show in OKC in August [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma City bookstore, Nappy Roots Books, provides resource hub for unsheltered kids [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Communities like the ones in Oklahoma need alternatives to incarceration and meaningful investment in drug and alcohol treatment and mental health care. Having these resources would allow us to be proactive about crime and anti-social behavior. We know long sentences and mandatory minimums do not work, and they are the most expensive policy of all of the options.”

-Colleen McCarty, policy counsel at Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform [The Center Square]

Number of the Day

183 days

In 2018, Rogers County, Oklahoma had a median jail stay of 183 days for people accused of non-violent offenses who couldn’t afford to pay bail. Ellis County has a median jail stay of 171 days, followed by Comanche County with 120 days. These obscene jail stays produce immense harm: family separation, lost jobs, lost homes, entire low-income communities decimated by people being pulled repeatedly in and out of county jails.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

Policy Note

Jail deaths in America: Data and key findings of ‘Dying Inside’: Reuters documented 7,571 inmate deaths at 523 American jails from 2008 to 2019. The mortality rate in those local lockups climbed 8% over the last three years and 35% over the decade ending in 2019. Problem jails are masked by a secretive federal reporting system and scant oversight by local, state or federal agencies. [Reuters]

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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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