In The Know: Managed care faces Senate showdown | SB 334 would be step back for justice reform | Budget transparency in Oklahoma

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

State budget actions tell us how well our democracy is working: Forty-seven states must pass state budgets this year. The majority of them have introduced budget bills and are debating them in public, often inviting participation from citizens. Many will devote months to an open, public discussion of the state’s service and fiscal priorities. Oklahoma, by contrast, is one of few states where there is currently no introduced budget and limited discussion of budget priorities. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

New law provides academic, behavioral supports for students in need (Capitol Update): Third-year Representative Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, has been on a mission to provide for the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to address the core academic and non-academic needs of all students in Oklahoma public schools. During the 2020 interim Conley, a former teacher and administrator, hosted a study examining the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress on children’s behavior in the classroom and efforts schools can make to help avoid suspension. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Dueling Medicaid proposals face showdown in Oklahoma Senate: The governor’s plan to outsource the state’s Medicaid program hit a roadblock this week after the Republican-controlled House refused to rubberstamp it, instead passing its own alternative with bipartisan support. The dueling measures, which envision different paths to delivering state insurance, are poised for a showdown in the state Senate. The House measure, Senate Bill 131, creates Oklahomans Caring for Oklahomans Act. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Bill that rolls back vital criminal justice reforms of State Question 780 passes in Oklahoma House: Kris Steele, executive director with Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR), released the following statement in response to the recent passage of Senate Bill 334 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives: “Oklahoma lawmakers have taken a step backwards on criminal justice reform today by passing Senate Bill (S.B.) 334, sending the bill back to the Senate.” [The City Sentinel]

Data: Oklahoma has 5th-fewest new COVID-19 cases per capita: University researchers say Oklahoma has the 5th fewest new COVID-19 cases per capita over the past two weeks, university researchers reported Sunday. According to Johns Hopkins University researchers, Oklahoma has had 3,745 new cases over the past 14 days, or almost 95 new cases per 100,000. [AP News]

  • Rolling average of coronavirus cases declines in Oklahoma [AP News]
  • COVID hospitalizations drop 80%, pointing to vaccine campaign’s success [The Oklahoman]
  • Small number of Oklahomans so far have contracted COVID-19 after vaccination in 137 ‘breakthrough cases’ [Tulsa World]
  • At least one COVID death in Oklahoma after vaccination [AP News]
  • Are movies safe? Restaurants? What one expert says as more Oklahomans get the COVID-19 vaccine [The Oklahoman]

Promised Land recap: How the McGirt ruling is affecting legal matters in Oklahoma: Since last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, journalists have been covering the details, legal questions and uncertainties in the wake of the landmark court decision. Complicated and delicate in nature, the affirmation of Indian Country reservations and ongoing developments constitute an important storyline for the state of Oklahoma and the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations. [NonDoc]

Health News

Voices: Pandemic trauma takes its toll on medical professionals: What are often thought to be symptoms that present in combat veterans and survivors of terrorist attacks are now increasing among medical professionals. [The Frontier]

UCO researchers working to reverse ‘alarming’ veteran suicide trends in Oklahoma as part of Governor’s Challenge: University of Central Oklahoma researchers are trying to better understand Oklahoma’s “alarming” veteran suicide metrics while developing new strategies to reverse long-term trends. [Tulsa World]

In remembering OKC bombing victims, experts see lessons for grieving COVID losses: “One of the biggest similarities between COVID and the Oklahoma City bombing is that they both have a high risk for complicated bereavement,” said Robin Gurwitch, a professor at Duke University Medical Center. “It’s not that you don’t feel sad or don’t feel loss, it’s just the circumstances around the death keep interfering with the grieving process.” [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Stitt vetoes bills on broadband council, agency fees, abstractors and vision screening: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed his third and fourth bills of the 2021 legislative session this afternoon, announcing his nullification of measures expanding the membership of a broadband council and exempting the Legislature and the judiciary from certain fees charged by other state agencies. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma governor signs bills to limit storm utility costs: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a pair of bills Friday to mitigate the skyrocketing storm-related utility costs from a February winter storm. The bills were among two dozen measures that Stitt signed into law. [AP News]

Updates from the state Capitol – Protesters, political squabbles underscore tensions during deadline week: The past week at the state Capitol was one of the busiest and most contentious this session, filled with political squabbles, impromptu protests and the last large legislative deadline. [The Frontier]

Two moms praise ‘Lily’s Law,’ a measure designed to bring solace to grieving families: With Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signing of Senate Bill 647 on Wednesday, grieving parents will have a choice about what happens to their child’s remains, regardless of where they experience miscarriage or stillbirth. [The Oklahoman]

Takeaways from Oklahoma’s new legislative redistricting plan: Oklahoma’s legislative districts are set to look much different for many voters next election season. Republican House and Senate leaders unveiled their proposed legislative redistricting plans this week, setting up potential floor votes on the packages. [Oklahoma Watch]

$1.4 billion question: An obscure task force ponders hiking GRDA bonding capacity: Should the Oklahoma Legislature grant the state’s largest public power utility an additional $1.39 billion in bonding capacity for expansion and improvement projects that could create greater competition with Public Service Company of Oklahoma and OG&E? [NonDoc]

Capitol Insider: Legislating from the minority side of the aisle: Republicans hold an overwhelming super-majority in both houses of the Oklahoma legislature. In the House of Representatives, the advantage is 82-19. Democrats have limited influence, but still play a role in the governing process. [KGOU

State-level Republicans are making it easier to run over protesters: In the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Republican lawmakers are advancing a a number of new anti-protest measures at the state level — including multiple bills that specifically make it easier for drivers to run down protesters. [Vox]

Criminal Justice News

‘Of course, I’m not a terrorist,’ OKC protester says after pleading guilty to arson: An Oklahoma City protester charged twice with terrorism last year said Friday “we have to find a way to actually do this peacefully.” Eric Christopher Ruffin, 27, spoke out after pleading guilty to third-degree arson. In a plea deal, prosecutors dropped both felony counts accusing him of violating the Oklahoma Anti-Terrorism Act. He was sentenced to three years on probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Hotel to Housing program encourages property owners to assist homeless in gaining access to stable residences: A city nonprofit that has used hotel space to address longstanding housing issues is partnering with local landlords and property managers to assist in the effort to provide stability to residents in need. The city and the Landlord Tenant Resource Center were part of a virtual event last week regarding Tulsa’s Housing Solutions’ Hotel to Housing program. [Tulsa World]

  • Opinion: Even with moratorium extension, an eviction crisis looms. Right-to-counsel laws help level the playing field for renters [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

City’s new online COVID impact survey aimed at immigrant, minority communities: While participating in a national effort to gauge the COVID-19 impact on immigrants and minorities, the city of Tulsa hopes the results of a new online survey can also guide local response and recovery efforts. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Podcast: The joy of hassling the Hof(meister): State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is the guest on this week’s episode of Live from the News Dungeon. The state’s top elected education official talks about how she got involved in education, the “fluke” that kicked off her career as a public servant and whether she is considering a run for governor. [NonDoc]

State school board’s vote to settle charter school funding lawsuit was ‘shameful overreach,’ new TPS lawsuit says: Tulsa Public Schools has filed a fresh lawsuit against the State Board of Education over its March 25 vote to settle a longstanding legal challenge over charter school funding. [Tulsa World]

  • Putnam City Schools latest to start legal action against state Board of Ed [OKC Free Press]

General News

Cherokee Nation working to save historic documents and artifacts from ‘state of emergency’: On the last day of December 1838, President Martin Van Buren signed a land title giving the Cherokee Nation ownership of 13.5 million acres in what is now the state of Oklahoma. Beyond the historical significance, the document itself is a work of art with decorative American flags, six-pointed stars, laurels and other symbols. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“(Privatized managed care) means surgeries, medical equipment, mental health, counseling and ambulance trips can be denied by the insurance companies simply so they can stay within their budget while making a profit.”

-Jay Johnson, president of Duncan Regional Hospital and board chair of the Oklahoma Hospital Association. [CNHI via Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults living in households with children aged 0-17 who reported it has been somewhat or very difficult for their household to pay for usual household expenses in the past week.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

Policy Note

The Pandemic Has Wreaked Havoc on Preschoolers. This Plan Could Help Reverse the Effects: Preschoolers and their parents have faced serious challenges during the pandemic. A new plan could help get early education back on track, expanding it to all three- and four-year-olds by 2050. [National Education Policy Center]

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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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