In The Know: Lawmakers urged to overhaul state’s bail bond system, Medicaid expansion’s impact on tribes, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

(Capitol Update) Agency reforms maintain vital role for board oversight: During the last legislative session, Governor Stitt’s signature program was wresting authority from boards and commissions for the hiring and firing of agency directors. The Legislature agreed, and passed bills giving the governor that authority for five major agencies. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

In The News

‘Deeply Flawed’: Lawmakers urged to overhaul state’s bail bond system: Lawmakers at the Oklahoma Capitol heard the tragic stories of the deaths of Khalid Jabara and Trooper Nik Green as part of an interim study on the state’s bail bond system, a system described by many as deeply flawed, expensive to the point of being unsustainable and past due for an overhaul. Also shared were stories of people jailed simply for being accused of crimes, misfortunate enough to not be able to make bail, who ended up losing jobs, homes and more. [Journal Record] Open Justice Oklahoma, an OK Policy program, has found that the current bail system harms the state’s most vulnerable communities and keeps thousands of citizens incarcerated each year because they can’t afford to bond out.

Some Medicaid costs avoided with Native American population, but that may not be enough to sway stakeholders: When the U.S. government signed treaties with tribes over a century ago, providing health care was written in the agreements. But funding for tribal health care has never fully covered costs, so a tribal advocate says Medicaid expansion could help. But the impact of Medicaid expansion on the state’s Native American community is just one piece to a complicated expansion debate centering around the state budget, the politics of welfare and improving the state’s poor health outcomes overall. [The Oklahoman]

Will state expand Medicaid?: Oklahoma is closer than ever to expanding Medicaid. For nearly a decade, one persistent political question in Oklahoma was if the state would expand Medicaid. Now, the question appears to be how it will expand Medicaid. The Oklahoma recently took a look at what Oklahoma’s health and financial picture could look like if the state expanded Medicaid. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy supports SQ 802, an initiative petition to expand Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma to low-income adults. 

Oklahoma interim legislative study examines how to combat contraband cell phones in prisons: Combating the problem of contraband cellphones in prisons will require a multifaceted approach, Department of Corrections officials told state lawmakers Monday. Corrections officials across the country have pushed for the ability to jam the signals of cellphones that are smuggled into prisons, saying it’s the best way to stop the problem, but federal law prohibits the use of such technology by state agencies.  [The Oklahoman]

Lawyer says action by Horse Racing Commission bolsters argument that tribal gaming compacts automatically renew: Two Indian gaming experts say recent action by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission bolsters the position of the tribes that their gaming compacts with the state will renew automatically. The compacts currently provide from 4% to 10% to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to offer specific casino games. The state’s share amounted to more than $139 million last year. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Public Schools asked community members how to slash $20 million from the budget. Here’s how they responded: Tulsa Public Schools has released a report detailing the community feedback collected during a series of public meetings and through an online survey about the 2020-21 budget redesign effort. Tulsans consistently named teacher compensation, class sizes and social-emotional learning and behavioral supports as the areas they value most. They also indicated that they were most willing to make budget reductions related to student transportation and bell times, teacher leadership opportunities, building utilization and central office services. [Tulsa World]

Higher-ed talks not focused on bringing four-year public university to Tulsa, mayor says: More than a year ago, a contingent of Tulsans returned from a visit to Columbus, Ohio, sold on the belief that a four-year public university could play a major role in spurring Tulsa’s economy. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he has been taking part in meetings with leaders of Tulsa’s universities to discuss how to “better coordinate the higher ed experience in Tulsa.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma abortion law argued before Supreme Court referee: A law restricting the use of dilation and evacuation abortions after 14 weeks of pregnancy would place an “immediate and extremely harmful” burden on Oklahoma women if allowed to go into effect, the attorney for a Tulsa clinic argued Monday to an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee. The Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic has asked the state Supreme Court to review the July ruling of a district judge who upheld the law. [The Oklahoman]

Hundreds of DOC employees left off pay raise list: Some 432 Department of Corrections employees failed to receive a pay increase that state lawmakers intended for them to get. Now, officials are trying to figure out how to fix the problem. The Legislature provided a $2-an-hour increase effective July 1 to corrections employees who have direct contact with offenders, but some direct contact employees who don’t work “behind the fence” got left off the pay raise list. [Tulsa World] An OK Policy analysis found that low pay is among the reasons Oklahoma’s prisons are dangerously understaffed

Fired police pension head agrees to never work for state again: Prosecutors have dismissed a fraud charge against the former head of the state agency that manages the $2.5 billion pension fund for municipal police officers in Oklahoma. He was charged last year with six felony counts accusing him of submitting to the state false travel claims and fraudulent time sheets. He also was charged with one felony count of illegally using a computer to commit the offenses. [The Oklahoman]

“Perfect choice” of red SUV turned into embarrassment for Oklahoma Department of Public Safety: The grumbling about the purchase of a red Tahoe for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s assistant commissioner grew over the months as more and more state troopers — many driving high-mileage cruisers — became aware of it. The assistant commission has since been fired, leaving the department with how to utilize or sell the vehicle. [The Oklahoman]

Startup founders, investors see serious flaws in Oklahoma: Oklahoma ranks among the worst states to find venture capital, with just one deal for $4 million in the second quarter according to the PwC MoneyTree report. The Walton Family Foundation reported that Oklahoma and 17 other Midwest states, excluding Illinois, captured just 2.5% of national venture capital funding last year. [The Oklahoman]

Bartlesville family copes with questions, loss, following fatal officer-involved shooting: By the evening of June 1, 35-year-old Thomas Goodeyes Gay, a father of three who was in Bartlesville to visit family, would become the 11th person shot and killed by Oklahoma police in 2019. About six weeks after Thomas was killed, both officers involved in the shooting were cleared by Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan. Their names have never officially been released, and all that is known is that one officer is a man and one is a woman. [The Frontier]

Julius Jones’ clemency application draws national attention: Julius Jones, an Oklahoma man currently on death row for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, expanded the national attention his case has received after filing a clemency application Oct. 15. The Oklahoma State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent a letter Monday to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board calling for them to grant Jones’ clemency request. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma ranked 10th-least energy-efficient state: Oklahoma is the 10th-least energy-efficient state in the contiguous United States, according to a recently released study. Oklahoma ranked 39th overall out of the 48 states studied. In individual areas studied, Oklahoma ranked 39th in home energy efficiency, 27th in vehicle efficiency and 43rd in transportation efficiency. [Enid News & Eagle]

Finalists for state Supreme Court seat have public, private experience in eastern Oklahoma: The three judges being considered by Gov. Kevin Stitt for a spot on the Oklahoma Supreme Court have spent their careers in eastern Oklahoma, working in private practice and public service. The Judicial Nominating Commission selected the three from seven applicants. Stitt’s pick, who does not have to be confirmed by either house of the Legislature, will fill the District 2 seat left vacant when former Justice Patrick Wyrick became a federal judge. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“It’s bittersweet seeing other states make advances while we are still sitting back with our hands tied. But really, what we hope will change here is the state and federal government living up to their end of the treaties and honoring those treaties. (Medicaid) expansion will remove the financial burden from the tribes to the proper place — the federal government.”

-Tyler Dougherty, a program coordinator for the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, which helps advocate for Native American tribes. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$435 million

The accumulated state budget savings since 2001 due to a 64 percent decline in youth detention costs.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The opioid epidemic and Medicaid’s role in facilitating access to treatment: As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate many parts of the country, Medicaid plays an important role in efforts to address the crisis. In 2017, nearly two million nonelderly adults had opioid use disorder (OUD) and there were 47,600 opioid overdose deaths in the United States, more than double the number in 2007. Medicaid has historically filled critical gaps in responding to public health crises, such as the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the Flint water crisis. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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