In 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
Policy Matters: Census vitally important to Oklahoma: The U.S. Constitution calls for a census every 10 years to determine the number of people living in the country. By using the count to determine political representation at the federal level, the Constitution’s framers transformed the census from an accounting exercise into a tool of political empowerment for the governed over their government. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record] Learn more about what you or your organization can do to assist the Census by visiting TogetherOK.org.
In The News
Lawmakers move ahead on Gov. Stitt’s wish to build Rainy Day Fund: The state legislature has taken the first step toward fulfilling Gov. Kevin Stitt’s request to raise the cap on deposits into Oklahoma’s rainy day fund. The Rules Committee advanced a measure on Wednesday to double the cap on annual deposits from 15 percent of the prior year’s certified general revenue funds to 30 percent. [Public Radio Tulsa] Tulsa World editorial: In a tight budget year, lawmakers must make sure money is going to true priorities. [Tulsa World / Editorial] OK Policy: Oklahoma should prioritize investments in crucial services; the state started the current budget year in July 2019 with a record $1.08 billion in savings, which included the Rainy Day Fund, the Revenue Stabilization Fund, and the Rate Preservation Fund.
State budgets revenue from tribal gaming operations: Oklahoma state officials continue to include anticipated exclusivity fee revenue from tribal casinos in state budgets, despite Gov. Kevin Stitt arguing in federal court that the gaming operations, themselves, are now illegal. State budget estimates presented to Oklahoma’s Board of Equalization Tuesday included projections that the state’s Education Reform Revolving Fund will receive $131.5 million in exclusivity fees from tribal casinos during the current fiscal year and $133.32 million next fiscal year. [Oklahoman]
Oklahoma’s tribes unite against a common foe: Their Cherokee Governor: When Kevin Stitt campaigned for governor of Oklahoma, he said his identity as a citizen of Cherokee Nation gave him “firsthand” knowledge of the clout Native American tribes wield in the state. But since his victory in November 2018, the tribal nations have been teaching Mr. Stitt lessons in the politics of Indian Country. [New York Times]
1 in 4 rural hospitals is vulnerable to closure, a new report finds: The states that have experienced the most rural hospital closures over the last 10 years (Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri) have all refused to expand Medicaid through the 2010 health care law. [Vox] Since 2010, 120 rural hospitals have closed, with states in the south faring worst, with Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma leading the way. [The Guardian]
Tulsa World editorial: Stitt wants Medicaid expansion as soon as this summer. Good: The Stitt administration is now talking about expanding Medicaid for working poor Oklahomans as early as this summer with or without potential nuances such as block grant funding, a work requirement or copays. Good. That’s what Oklahomans have been paying for and what they deserve. [Editorial / Tulsa World] OK Policy has called on the state to set a date for voters to decide SQ 802, which includes straightforward Medicaid expansion. TogetherOK has an online petition urging lawmakers to set an election date for that vote.
Oversight agency cites 21 policy violations at state juvenile facility following teen’s death: Employees at a Tecumseh juvenile facility failed to properly supervise an 18-year old who died after a suicide attempt there, though she had been placed on suicide precautions several times before her death, a state oversight agency’s investigation has found. [The Frontier] An OK Policy analysis recently noted that Oklahoma must continue to reduce juvenile incarceration to minimize disruption to youths’ lives.
Domestic-abuse punishments escalate tensions between victim advocates, justice reform supporters: Legislation to change the status of domestic abuse charges is already receiving strong support from many lawmakers early in the session. At the same time, criminal justice reform advocates are pushing a state question that would limit sentences for some repeat offenders – part of a years-long effort to reduce the state’s prison population. [Oklahoma Watch]
Stitt requests reports on state vehicle fleet: Gov. Kevin Stitt may be looking to thin the state’s fleet of vehicles. On Feb. 11, Stitt signed an executive order asking for an update on nearly all state-owned vehicles, saying it would help him in making an informed decision about the fleet. [Oklahoman]
Over 430 DOC employees may see a pay raise they missed out on last year: The intent of last year’s pay-raise legislation was to give a boost to all employees who have contact with inmates. But a classification error left hundreds off that list. Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, authored House Bill 2896, which would not only give a raise to the group of missed Corrections Department employees but extend it to probation officers, as well. [Oklahoman]
Lawmakers want voter approval to tap state’s tobacco trust money: At least two measures moving through the Legislature seek to ask voters to make substantial changes to the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust. Voters in 2000 created TSET and put the funds in a lockbox. The trust receives 75 percent of the state’s annual payment from the 1998 master settlement agreement with tobacco companies. [Tulsa World]
Senate Education Committee approves Teacher Retention Act: A bill to encourage and retain Oklahoma’s top educators has cleared its first legislative hurdle. Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, is the author of Senate Bill 1127, the Teacher Retention Act of 2020. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. [Sandite Pride News]
Bill to expand definition of child abuse approved by legislation: Senate Bill 1773, authored by Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, was unanimously approved by legislation on Feb. 19. SB 1773 is a bill which would expand the definition of child abuse to better protect Oklahoma children and hold abusers accountable. [FOX25]
Senate panel scraps effort to bar non-citizens from voting: Oklahoma’s Legislature will not advance a proposal to tweak the state’s constitution to make more clear non-U.S. citizens are not allowed to vote. Oklahoma does not allow non-citizens to vote, but the constitution does not explicitly exclude non-citizens from voting, Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, said in a Senate Rules Committee hearing Wednesday. [Oklahoman]
Bill would allow snow cone stands to open year round: A bill extending snow cone stand service hours passed a House committee Tuesday, and one Oklahoma-City based service provider is excited for the possibilities that change could bring. [Oklahoman]
Education funding: Catoosa Public Schools approves cutting seven positions: Citing statewide funding cuts to education and a decline in enrollment, the Catoosa Public Schools district is eliminating several staff positions. During a meeting Monday night, the school board voted to approve the recommendations made by Superintendent Alicia O’Donnell. [Tulsa World] State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister addresses cuts at two Green Country school districts. [KTUL]
Epic Charter Schools lawsuit against state senator dismissed: A judge on Wednesday dismissed Epic Charter Schools’ libel and slander lawsuit against a state senator. Epic was seeking at least $75,000 from Sen. Ron Sharp, who has been an outspoken critic of the virtual charter school system, which is the largest in the state. [Oklahoman]
Dove Charter Schools sued after sending mailers to 107,000 students: Dove Charter School officials are being accused of illegally accessing confidential student information to send recruitment mailers to 107,000 fifth and sixth graders in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Department of Education made the accusation in a lawsuit Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court. [Oklahoman]
Tulsa pastor Jon Odom: ‘Imagine that’? Yes!: I enthusiastically support the efforts of Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and the state’s recent “Imagine That” rebranding campaign. Would it have been better if an Oklahoma firm had spearheaded the rebranding? Sure. But that’s a footnote in a bigger story. We must not lose the narrative. Oklahoma is moving forward. [Tulsa World / Opinion]
Political odd couple Lankford and Matthews tell Tulsans to be ready for Race Massacre centennial: U.S. Sen. James Lankford keeps telling Tulsans the city is going to be asked a very pointed question in about a year, on the centennial of the 1921 Race Massacre, and it had better be ready. [Tulsa World]
State to introduce curriculum for Tulsa Race Massacre ahead of centennial: Students across Oklahoma will learn the same things about the Tulsa Race Massacre ahead of its centennial. While state law requires instruction on it, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said facts about the massacre have not been taught as they should have been. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Quote of the Day
Since 2010, 120 rural hospitals have closed, with states in the south faring worst, with Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma leading the way. The analysis found that hospitals located in states that have not adopted the expansion of Medicaid – a public insurance program that provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals – have a lower average operating margin, putting them at greater risk of closing.
Number of the Day
The year Oklahoma elected its first Black legislator, Representative A.C. Hamlin of Logan County — just one year after becoming a state. Following his election, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that effectively limited black voters through voter registration requirements. The amendment was finally declared unconstitutional in a 1915 court case. #BlackHistoryMonth
[Source: Tulsa World]
Black History Month Note
Black History Month: Notable Oklahomans and state history: February is Black History Month, and the Tulsa World is publishing stories to honor notable Black Oklahomans, including Olivia Hooker, Dr. A.C. Jackson, A.C. Hamlin, John Hope Franklin, B.C. Franklin, the next generation of Black leaders, and many more. [Tulsa World]
February is Black History Month — a time to celebrate and reflect on contributions Black men and women have made to American history and the struggle for freedom and equality. To commemorate Black History Month, we will be highlighting relevant content in our Number of the Day and Policy Note sections during the month. #BlackHistoryMonth
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