In The Know: Legislative updates on mental health parity, needle exchange, abortion, 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) Leadership change at Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs: It was a surprise to see that Steve Buck is moving on from his job as Executive Director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) with secondary duty as Secretary of Human Services. During his tenure, he insisted the best chance of success in a young person’s life, at the least cost to taxpayers, is early intervention with evidence-based or evidence-informed services. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

In The News

Oklahoma Senate bill would require mental health parity in health insurance: Oklahoma lawmakers are working to ensure organizations offering health insurance cover mental health treatment the same way they do medical treatment. Federal law already mandates mental health parity from group health plans and insurance companies, but Senate Bill 1718 would require it of any entity offering health coverage and regulated by the state insurance department. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Senate passes school suicide awareness training: The state Senate passed a bill requiring Oklahoma school districts to adopt suicide awareness and training programs for grades seven through 12. Senate Bill 266 by Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, who is also a mental health professional, is the first step in preventing suicide among Oklahoma’s children, she said. [KJRH]

Tulsa World editorial: Needle exchange proposal would fight drug addiction, prevent the spread of disease and protect first responders: The Oklahoma Legislature should pass Rep. Carol Bush’s needle-exchange program for drug-addicted Oklahomans. Last week, on a 7-5 vote, the House Public Safety Committee approved Bush’s House Bill 3028, which would allow the state health and mental health departments to buy hypodermic needles with private funding. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Senate passes nurse independence compromise: The Oklahoma Senate unanimously passed legislation Monday to expand the authority of nurse anesthetists. The yearslong dispute between Oklahoma nurses and doctors resulted in what Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, called a compromise between all parties involved. [The Oklahoman]

Bill to ban abortion if fetal heartbeat or brain waves are detected advances to Senate floor: A bill that seeks to ban abortions when the fetus is about 6 weeks old is headed to the Senate floor. Senate Bill 1859, by Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan, passed the Health and Human Services Committee on Monday by a vote of 7-4. [Tulsa World]

‘Shepherd’s Law’ moves through the legislature in hopes to regulate Oklahoma midwives: A bill that would regulate Oklahoma midwives for the first time is moving through the legislature. SB 1823, called Shepherd’s Law, was named after a child who died almost immediately after he was born. [KFOR]

Senate Committee approves legislation to raise minimum age on tobacco: The Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee voted in favor of legislation increasing the age to buy or use tobacco products from 18 to 21. Senator Greg McCortney, chair of the committee, is the author of Senate Bill 1423. [FOX25]

Bill prohibiting smoking, vaping of marijuana in public places moves to full Senate: The Senate Health and Human Services approved Senate Bill 1296 to add marijuana to the list of products that cannot be smoked or vaped in public places. [KTUL]

‘Desperate need’: Tax credit bill for new farms advances: House Bill 3294, authored by state Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, advanced through an appropriations subcommittee on a unanimous vote Monday. If it passes into law, it would provide for tax credits for people just getting started in farming or ranching in Oklahoma. [The Journal Record????]

‘Designated gunslinger’ bill to allow guns in restaurant bars passes Oklahoma House: Legislation (HB 1111) one Tulsa lawmaker dryly called the “designated gunslinger” bill advanced off the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday despite doubts about its enforcement. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House bill ‘Ida’s Law’ supporters lobby to create tribal liaison for missing, murdered indigenous women cases: An Oklahoma House bill (HB 3345 or “Ida’s Law”) that would create a tribal liaison within the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will be considered soon — the bill is dedicated to Ida Beard, a missing member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. [OU Daily] Native Americans rally at State Capitol. [News9]

Bill increasing penalty for distributing private images without consent for financial gain passes Senate committee: A bill that would make it a felony to distribute private images without approval for financial or personal gain passed the Senate Public Safety Committee Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Area legislators discuss Medicaid and priorities for the year: The Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the first Legislative Focus gathering of this session Friday, when area lawmakers visited Go Ye Village to discuss their priorities during the legislative session and answer questions from the public. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Area lawmakers prioritize public education funding. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Luttrell, Walke to co-chair House Native American Caucus: Two Cherokee Nation citizens have been named co-chairs of the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Native American Caucus. [Cherokee Phoenix]

‘A source of hope’: Oklahoma teachers learn impact of child trauma at state summit: Dr. Bruce Perry , a renowned psychiatrist and child trauma expert, spoke to an arena full of teachers, school counselors and nonprofit workers for the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s third-annual trauma summit. [The Oklahoman]

State brand website tweaked over Land Run reference: Oklahoma’s new state branding website was updated over the weekend to better account for the state’s indigenous history after outrage on social media. [The Oklahoman]

Catoosa school board votes to cut positions ahead of anticipated budget shortfall: Parents, administrators, and teachers alike crammed into the Catoosa schools cafeteria Monday night to finally get some confirmation on the rumors they’ve been hearing for a few weeks. [KTUL]

Tulsa school board expected to vote tonight on job cuts: The Tulsa Public Schools Board is expected to vote tonight on a restructuring plan that would result in layoffs July 1. The board took up the plan in a special meeting Thursday but held off on voting. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tulsa offers amnesty for some traffic citations; $1.2 million in fines owed: In an effort to recover more than $1.2 million, city officials are offering amnesty for some unpaid traffic citations. The amnesty offered by Tulsa’s municipal court will allow individuals to pay outstanding traffic tickets without late fees or warrant fees, according to a news release. [Tulsa World]

OU student delegation advocates for higher education, proposes increased budget: OU students traveled to the state capitol last week, where they met with several state legislators to advocate for increased higher education funding. [OU Daily]

Analysis: Oklahoma No. 2 in US for number of dispensaries: If you think Oklahoma has a lot of marijuana dispensaries, you’re right. Verilife, a dispensary with locations in six states, looked at brick-and-mortar dispensaries across the U.S. and found Oklahoma has more than 600 by their count. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“It’s something that we need to go in and have an actual conversation about – not go to Washington, D.C., and be a guinea pig for whatever we have coming out. We’ll be the first state in the nation to try this if we do it. Oklahoma doesn’t need to be a guinea pig.”

State Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah, speaking about the Governor’s proposed Medicaid expansion proposal [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Number of the Day


The percentage of state and local government employees nationally who say they would be more likely to leave their jobs if retirement benefits were cut.

[Source: National Institute for Retirement Security]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Recruiting and retaining high-quality state and local workers: Do pensions matter? Better retirement benefits make it easier to recruit high-quality government workers. The study suggests states should be cautious as they cut their pension benefits. [Center for Retirement Research] Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and state workers have not had a retirement benefit increase since 2008

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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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