In The Know: Making business case for Medicaid expansion; looking at life in Oklahoma after COVID-19; 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. 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: The business case for Medicaid expansion: Absent a post-session change of heart, it appears Gov. Kevin Stitt’s health care proposal – which was supposed to start July 1 – will be delayed or maybe even withdrawn due to a lack of agreement on how to fund it. There could not be a worse time for tens of thousands of newly unemployed Oklahomans to be without health care coverage. This leaves State Question 802 as the only path for many Oklahomans to gain access to much-needed health insurance. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Medicaid expansion campaign kicks off with ads, tour: The drive to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma kicked off this week with a major television advertising campaign and a tour of Oklahoma towns by supporters of the June 30 ballot question. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy has provided information and resources to better understand SQ 802.

Rebuilding America: How will life in Oklahoma look after COVID-19? In a new project from The Oklahoman and the USA Today Network, journalists from The Oklahoman spotlight how the coronavirus has affected every part of the state, from tourism and retail to food and entertainment. The paper also examines what changes we might see in places like movie theaters, restaurants and school campuses as the pandemic continues. [The Oklahoman] ‘Rebuilding America’ chronicles the reopening of the US after coronavirus pandemic closures [The Oklahoman]

Mask wearers facing partisan divide: The growing partisan divide over facemasks was on full display in the Legislature last week. On one side of the chamber, Democrats stood out — their mouths and noses covered by a wide variety of masks meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In stark contrast, many of their Republican counterparts chose to adopt the Legislature’s pre-pandemic style — no face coverings. Some observers say the decision to wear facemasks is shaping into a partisan issue. GOP and Democratic leaders are starkly divided over whether personal freedoms and comfort should trump medical experts’ recommendations on how to slow the progression of the deadly virus. [CNHI]

Coronavirus in Oklahoma daily update: 92 new cases; 4 new deaths: Oklahoma’s number of positive COVID-19 cases now stands at 6,229 , according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [The Oklahoman] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State Government News

Shelley Zumwalt tapped to lead state employment office: The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission has named Shelley Zumwalt as the agency’s interim director. Zumwalt will lead the agency, which oversees unemployment claims. She replaces Robin Roberson, who resigned last week amid a statewide economic crisis and personal health issues. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma AG paid D.C. firm $200,000 for help on Creek case: Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office spent just over $200,000 for outside legal help this year on a high-stakes case before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Muscogee (Creek) Nation land in eastern Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Doing the math on cheap gas and the petroleum recession in Oklahoma: The reduction in Oklahomans driving and filling up their cars results in the state of Oklahoma getting $142.8 million less in a year. If you think of state budgeting as an action and reaction process, that all would work out to roughly $142.8 million less for transportation funding. It will actually mean less money available for schools, cops and everything else the state does over the long term. [Opinion / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Policies, union contracts among significant factors in limiting police misconduct, expert says: Ten policy points can make a big difference in controlling excessive force by law officers, a national analyst said during a teleconference with the annual John Hope Franklin symposium. The points range from ending arrests for some low-level offenses to curtailing what’s become the militarization of particular departments, but he concentrated on two: use of force policies and accountability structures. [Tulsa World]

Norman officer disciplined for sending inappropriate images: An internal investigation found that a Norman police officer violated policy “regarding prohibited speech, expression and conduct” when he sent images from the movie “Django Unchained” of Ku Klux Klan members wearing hoods and carrying torches during an email discussion about the wear and maintenance of department-issued face coverings. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma U.S. Attorneys select coordinator for murdered and missing indigenous persons cases: Oklahoma’s three U.S. Attorneys have named a coordinator to ensure effective and timely responses to missing and murdered Native Americans in Oklahoma. [CNHI]

Op-Ed: Driver gets lesson in Oklahoma fines and fees: Some Oklahoma communities have municipal budgets utilize “taxation by citation,” which is what happens when local governments issue tickets to raise revenue rather than solely to protect the public. A new report from the nonprofit Institute for Justice, published April 30, focuses on state laws that enable and even encourage taxation by citation. Oklahoma ranks 10th worst in the nationwide analysis, “Municipal Fines and Fees: A 50-State Survey of State Laws.”  [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Op-Ed: SNAP is key to fighting hunger, boosting economy during COVID-19: Oklahoma is the fifth-hungriest state in the nation. The COVID-19 pandemic combined with a slumping energy industry has put even more Oklahomans in economic peril and in need of food assistance. [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman] OK Policy: SNAP is a critical piece of our pandemic response, and Congress needs to give it a boost.

How long does it take workers to earn the equivalent of a $1,200 stimulus check?: There’s no doubt the $1,200 stimulus check has helped us keep finances afloat in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. But the money especially has been a lifesaver for those who work in traditionally lower-paid occupations. [The Oklahoman]

Food bank assisting those who test for COVID-19: The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma announced Wednesday that it has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide emergency food boxes to individuals who test for COVID-19 at health departments in 28 Oklahoma counties. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

OSU survey targets best ways toward economic recovery for Oklahoma: OSU Extension specialists and researchers with the OSU Department of Agricultural Economics are conducting a survey of Oklahomans – including farmers and ranchers, agricultural companies and other business operators, and heads of households – to take the pulse of current opinions on the economy and comfort level with group meetings. [CNHI]

Future remains at arm’s length for hospitality industry: No one in the industry believes there is an easy fix or a one-size-fits-all solution on the horizon, but to map a road to recovery will require federal funding, modified business models, and the wherewithal to recognize sustainable practices on the fly for safe-keeping. [The Oklahoman]

Banking slows overall, but more are going mobile: While mobile banking was already an option for many bank customers before the coronavirus pandemic, restrictions on business operations and personal choices to remain distant from others triggered an uptick in the number of people going online to handle their money. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Stitt posts picture of himself with Tesla CEO Elon Musk: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday posted a picture of himself and Tesla CEO Elon Musk on social media. “Today’s NASA Space X #LaunchAmerica has been postponed until Saturday due to the weather. If only there was something Elon Musk and I could talk about to pass the time …” the caption read. The Associated Press recently reported that Tulsa and Austin, Texas, were finalists for Tesla’s new Cybertruck factory. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Local support will drive effort to rebuild Oklahoma: We’ve said it before and now it’s time to put our dollars behind it — “Support Local” is more than a slogan. Supporting local is what will bring tax dollars back to our state and money back into services. Back into our schools. [Opinion / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Here’s what school could look like for Oklahoma students next fall: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has issued a series of guidelines for schools. Local school boards will ultimately be the decision makers. District leaders are scrambling to figure out how exactly to deal with the situation. And the summer will be a critical time in  making those decisions. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma schools ‘likely’ to have disruptions this fall, officials say: The 2020-21 school year is “likely to include short-term disruptions” because of the coronavirus, the Oklahoma Education Department has warned. The state agency advised school districts they could see “possibly even long-term disruptions in the fall.” State education officials released updated recommendations on May 13 for schools to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman] Tulsa Public Schools to release survey to hear community’s thoughts on returning to school in fall [Tulsa World]

OU parent sues for fee refund: The father of a University of Oklahoma student has sued the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to recoup fees for campus services that were suspended because of COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Grant program to help in COVID-19 fight by increasing frontline access to patient data: A new grant program will give more of the state’s front-line health care workers real-time access to patient information, including COVID-19 test results. [Tulsa World]

General News

Local sports leaders are game to play, safely: The OSSAA earlier this month unveiled a multi-phase plan to bring high school sports back, beginning June 1. But what was once considered normal likely will be a thing of the past, at all levels of sports around the state. [The Oklahoman] School sports restart plans begin to take shape [Muskogee Phoenix]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Frontline Tulsa Transit employees to get bonuses as part of CARES Act funding [Tulsa World]
  • Some Tulsa County dockets temporarily moving to Family Justice Center [Tulsa World]
  • Sales tax collections up in Tahlequah, down in Cherokee County [CNHI]
  • McAlester mayor says ‘better things ahead’ in State of the City address [McAlester News]
  • Pontotoc County COVID-19 cases remain relatively low [CNHI]

Quote of the Day

“We don’t know if social distancing will be required in the fall, but what we have to do now is be prepared for those scenarios while we have this gift of time to prepare. It’s really a time that we can’t underscore enough the significance of the learning loss that has occurred.”

-Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaking about school plans for the fall semester [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of Oklahoma school children who lack home internet access [StateImpact Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America’s next crisis is already here. State and local governments are being hit hard by the pandemic: The dollars that state and local governments rely on to support public services are withering. Closed shops and offices, empty streets, and the obliteration of the travel and entertainment industries threaten nearly every source of state and local revenue. The loss of essential services hurts a community’s health, safety, and quality of life. It is also politically dangerous. When governments fail to protect their constituents during a pandemic and cut back on social services in its aftermath, they can sour their constituents on democracy and help fuel political extremism. [The Atlantic]

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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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