In The Know: Legislators can protect health care in Oklahoma | Everything is bigger in Texas, including tax burdens | 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. 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

Legislators must protect Oklahomans’ health care: As the Governor and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) quickly attempt to privatize part of the state’s Medicaid program, also known as SoonerCare, legislators, health care providers, and members of the public have raised concerns about negative impacts on patients, providers, and taxpayer dollars. Privatizing Medicaid isn’t supported by any definitive evidence. In fact, it could potentially cost the state up to an additional $904 million per year. It will also likely hamper access to care for many Oklahomans. From rural residents to those with mental health needs, privatized managed care will have uniquely negative impacts for some Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Everything is bigger in Texas, including tax burdens: Texans like to brag that everything is bigger in Texas. And when it comes to financial issues, that’s certainly true: Property taxes, state sales tax, tax burdens on low-income residents, and corporate tax breaks. All are bigger in Texas. Yet, our state leaders regularly look south and want to emulate Texas’ two biggest tax benefits: no corporate income tax and no personal income tax. Oklahoma lawmakers this session are again talking about eliminating these revenue sources to attract new business and industry. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

A bill to roll back aspects of Oklahoma criminal justice reform advances: A bill that would modify State Question 780, a 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative that reclassified several drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and has helped reduce Oklahoma’s prison population, has advanced past committee and is eligible for a Senate vote. Senate Bill 334, sponsored by Sen. Lonnie Paxton, R-Tuttle, would increase penalties against certain larceny offenders. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma virus deaths increased to conform with CDC count: The number of Oklahoma deaths due to the illness caused by the coronavirus jumped by about 2,500 Wednesday as the state health department began using the count reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control. [AP News] Average for cases drops to 6-month low; CDC death toll now the reporting norm, Oklahoma officials say [Tulsa World]

Health News

Biden order leads to surge in Oklahomans buying health insurance: Nearly 3,800 Oklahomans purchased health insurance on the federal exchange after the Biden administration opened enrollment in mid-February to anyone needing coverage. [The Oklahoman]

Chickasaw Nation expands vaccine eligibility to educators and their families: The Chickasaw Nation has begun offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments to educators and their families, regardless of tribal citizenship. The Oklahoma State Department of Health recently credited the joint effort of the state, tribes, the IHS and the Veterans Administration for Oklahoma surpassing 1,000,000 doses of vaccine administered. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Gov. Kevin Stitt praises Texas governor for lifting mask mandate, business restrictions: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday praised Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for lifting the state’s mask mandate, despite health officials urging states to continue COVID-19 mitigation efforts. [The Oklahoman] Read Gov. Stitt’s opinion piece in the Daily Caller.

House Republicans pass bill to keep churches from being closed during emergency like COVID pandemic: Oklahoma House Republicans passed a bill on Wednesday to prohibit any government entity from closing churches during an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. House Bill 2648 would deem such orders a “substantial burden” on religion, an attempt to render them unconstitutional. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma House approves bill allowing police to use telemedicine for those in mental health crises: The Oklahoma State House approved a bill Wednesday that attempts to phase police out of some mental health crisis transports and allow officers to use telemedicine in the field. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Rogers County judge dismisses over 100 criminal cases, citing McGirt ruling: The district attorney in Rogers County expressed concern Wednesday regarding a recent court ruling that had the effect of dismissing over 100 state criminal cases involving Native Americans because of jurisdictional issues. [Tulsa World]

‘No mercy’ for Julius Jones, Oklahoma County district attorney tells pardon and parole board: Top prosecutors are urging the state Pardon and Parole Board to show “no mercy” when it meets next week to consider the commutation of Julius Jones, the Black death row inmate convicted of first-degree murder in the 1999 killing of Paul Howell, a white Edmond businessman. [The Oklahoman] Jones is scheduled for a phase one commutation hearing next week before the five-member parole board. If approved, the case would move to a more in-depth hearing that could ultimately lead to a commutation recommendation to the governor, who has the final say. [AP News via Public Radio Tulsa]

Opinion: Oklahoma City Police Dept trying to Portlandize OKC summer protests: By releasing a carefully edited official video depicting the May 30-31, 2020 protests against police violence at NW 23rd Street and Classen Boulevard and in front of their headquarters, Oklahoma City Police Department is attempting to write its own version of history. [Opinion / OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

Editorial: Workers braving dangerous weather to aid homeless people deserve award: As area temperatures dropped to deadly depths, a team of Tulsa workers hit the streets to save lives. About 40 homeless outreach workers and specialists braved the weather to find as many people possible and get them to shelter. They represent the best of humanity, putting aside their own needs to ensure the safety of others. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Manufacturing survey shows strong economic growth continuing across region including Oklahoma: A regional economic indicator shows strong growth continuing in a nine-state area that includes Oklahoma. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index hit 69.6 in February, its highest since October and second-highest since April 2004. Numbers above 50 on the 0–100 scale indicate economic growth. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Spring Creek Coalition sues state over handling of poultry feeding operations: Another lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s handling of poultry feeding operations was filed Wednesday in Delaware County District Court, echoing a past challenge that the state lost. The Spring Creek Coalition, a nonprofit citizens’ group that defends the environmental standing of a creek recognized as one of the state’s most pristine, argues that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry fell short in its obligation for oversight of poultry operations by issuing permits for dozens of new facilities with hundreds of new mega-houses, all built without advanced notice to neighbors or nearby communities. [Tulsa World]

Education News

While seeking open records exemption, OU Foundation set to absorb university’s entire fundraising operation: The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents is set to vote Friday on a proposal to move OU’s entire fundraising and “university advancement” operation under the OU Foundation. A nonprofit entity founded in 1944 for the sole purpose of supporting the university, the OU Foundation argues it is independent and not subject to the state Open Records Act. Others disagree. [NonDoc]

Legislation to modify teaching exam requirements: The Senate has approved legislation to modify teaching exam requirements and better support nursing mothers in Oklahoma schools. Senate Bill 51, by Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, removes the requirement for the completion of the Oklahoma General Education Test (OGET) for all pathways to certification. [Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Angry Broken Arrow residents call mayor a ‘communist’ after City Council narrowly passes resolution encouraging masks [Tulsa World] [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • New Oklahoma City Jail Trust subcommittee begins developing jail improvement ideas [OKC Free Press]
  • Lawton citizens committee to help direct spending of CIP funding for at-risk youth [Lawton Constitution]
  • State legislators fight to convert the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center (SWOJC) in Manitou into group homes [Lawton Constitution]
  • Comanche County voters approved extending the county sales tax for 10 years and to shift a portion of its proceeds from industrial development to operation of the county jail [Southwest Ledger]

Quote of the Day

“It’s clear that the people of our state understand that a person battling mental illness and addiction ought to be viewed as a patient, not a prisoner.”

-Kris Steele, executive director of The Employment and Education Ministry and former House speaker, said legislative efforts to modify State Question 780 go against the will of the people. [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s corporate income tax is the 11th most business-friendly

[Source: Tax Foundation]

Policy Note

Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut is Not Trickling Down: The evidence from the first two years suggests that corporate tax cuts are draining revenue from the U.S. Treasury while doing little that would ultimately benefit U.S. workers. [American Progress]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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