In The Know: Medicaid expansion enrollment reaches nearly 100,000 in first week | States passing record budgets | 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.

Oklahoma News

Nearly 100,000 newly-eligible Oklahomans have enrolled in Medicaid during first week of expansion: More than a decade after the Affordable Care Act’s passage made it possible, Oklahoma opted into Medicaid expansion last summer when voters passed State Question 802. Enrollment opened last week. In the seven days since, 98,079 working adults have submitted applications and qualified for SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program. [KOSU]

States rebound from bleak forecasts to pass record budgets: In Oklahoma, pandemic uncertainties last year prompted lawmakers to trim $1.3 billion from their anticipated general revenue. That resulted in across-the-board cuts for public education and most state services. This year, the new budget is up nearly 18%. That includes money to reduce class sizes in kindergarten and first grade, funding for a new children’s behavioral health center and new incentives for businesses to make movies in Oklahoma. The Republican-led Legislature also set aside money to cut individual and corporate income tax rates and expand tax credits for a school choice program. [AP News]

Health News

White House vaccinations coordinator Dr. Bechara Choucair speaks with KWGS about vaccine ‘sprint’: The Biden administration on Wednesday declared June a “national month of action” for COVID vaccination, with a goal of getting 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. As of Tuesday, that number was 64% nationally and 54% in Oklahoma, which has for weeks been consistently placing near the bottom of national rankings. White House vaccinations coordinator Dr. Bechara Choucair spoke with Public Radio Tulsa’s Chris Polansky about the vaccine goal. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State & Local Government News

State may face long legal battle with Hunter: Former Attorney General Mike Hunter may have locked himself – and the state of Oklahoma – in a long, drawn-out battle even messier than the one he attempted to avoid with his resignation and subsequent decision to drop charges against a member of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet. With further legal proceedings pending, the only certainty in the matter is that it will not be resolved anytime soon. [The Journal Record]

Legislators, law enforcement focused on black market marijuana and rural concerns: Though it might seem that medical marijuana with a low barrier to program access would put illegal drug traders out of business, Oklahoma’s black market marijuana industry continues to thrive, causing headaches for law enforcement, undercutting some legitimate business owners on price, and raising concerns about labor trafficking. [NonDoc]

New law aims to attract teens to law enforcement careers: House Bill 1026 allows Oklahoma’s Department of Career and Technology Education to partner with the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, to offer a slate of new law enforcement and criminal justice programs aimed at giving teenagers exposure to policing to see if it’s a career path they’d want to pursue, said state Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, who authored the bill. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Mayors of Oklahoma’s largest cities reflect on the challenges of responding to a politically charged pandemic: With no statewide mask mandate, mayors, city councils and county governments were left to determine which safety measures were put in place and deal with the political consequences. [The Frontier]

‘It’s not a level playing field’: Norman’s female politicians describe inequities, challenges of the job: With three of Norman’s five state legislators being women, Norman residents would appear — on the surface — to have become more progressive in being comfortable with seeing women in positions of power. But that’s not always the case, experts said. [Norman Transcript]

OKC budget passes despite questions, criticisms: The OKC City Council approved its Fiscal Year 2022 budget today, but it didn’t come without some objections over policy ideas, funding for mental health and general transparency of the budget process. [NonDoc] Despite reform advocate pleas, the Oklahoma City Police was approved for a $1.3 million increase. [KOSU] The Council also approved a significant federally-backed loan to the First National Project downtown, and amended service agreements with the Oklahoma City Blue and the Oklahoma City Thunder pro basketball teams. [OKC Free Press] The vote was 7-2 with council members JoBeth Hamon and Nikki Nice opposed. [The Journal Record]

  • OKC’s attack on fees in panhandling case relies on bad math, civil rights lawyers say [The Oklahoman]

Crews start excavating possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims: Workers on Tuesday began excavating remains of possible Tulsa Race Massacre victims, removing them from a cemetery where searchers so far have found 27 bodies, according to Oklahoma State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck. [AP News] Researchers said Tuesday that they have now uncovered 15 more burials in an Oaklawn Cemetery mass grave since an October test excavation revealed 12 in their search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims, bringing the total to 27 presumed sets of remains with still more “very likely” to be discovered. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Returning to Black Wall Street: Tulsa Race Massacre descendant continues family legacy through coffee shop [KOSU]

Fort Sill to gain its own power grid: Public Service Co. of Oklahoma received limited approval from regulators on Monday for a project that would ensure the Fort Sill Army post, just north of Lawton, always has power regardless of what happens to the rest of electricity grid. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma delegation seeks millions for community projects: For the first time in a decade, lawmakers representing Oklahoma have submitted requests to the House Appropriations Committee for specific projects in their districts. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole has the most expensive wish list at $88 million. Cole is a veteran member of the House Appropriations Committee, the panel that collects all of the information and works on the bills that include the projects. [Gaylord News / The Lawton Constitution]

Tribal Nations News

Muscogee Nation citizens will vote on free press protections: The Muscogee Nation approved legislation last week to add a ballot question that could strengthen the tribal nation’s free press protections. The ballot question asks citizens of the Muscogee Nation if they want to make free press protections permanent. [KGOU]

Cherokee Nation files 1,000th case, as influx from Supreme Court ruling continues: The Cherokee Nation announced on Monday that it has filed its 1,000th case in tribal court following last year’s McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling. Before the McGirt decision, Cherokee Nation officials say they filed around six cases per month. Over the past five months, they have filed 1,000. That’s a 3,233% increase. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

The Frontier is suing to find out how a man in the throes of a mental health crisis died in an Oklahoma jail: For more than a year, jail officials in Pottawatomie County have denied The Frontier access to records from one man’s death after a struggle with detention officers. So The Frontier filed a lawsuit on Monday against the public trust that oversees the jail. The lawsuit seeks to force the Pottawatomie County Public Safety Center Trust to release surveillance video and other documents in connection with the death of Ronald Gene Given. [The Frontier]

OKC police chief ‘disgusted’ by social media posts during protests, Nazi symbol probe: Amid protests here and across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, and during the deeply divisive 2020 presidential race, Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley warned the department that social media posts by former and past staff presented a danger to officers as well as a public relations disaster, according to an email obtained by The Oklahoman. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma death row inmate loses appeal, eligible for execution date: An Oklahoma death row inmate convicted of beating a Choctaw man to death with a hammer became eligible for an execution date on Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma economy recovering, May revenue rises 34% from 2020: The Oklahoma economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic downturn with revenue collections in May 34% higher than May 2020, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Tuesday. The state collected $1.24 billion in May, $314.7 million more than the same month a year ago, according to McDaniel. [AP News] State Treasurer Randy McDaniel said sales and use tax collections in May were up 26% from May 2020, and people buying things is a sign of improved economic activity. [Public Radio Tulsa] Combined receipts from the past 12 months are at an all-time high, McDaniel reported, though they remain partially inflated by collections late coming in after the income tax filing deadline was extended last year. [The Journal Record] “At this time last year, unemployment was high, numerous businesses had significantly reduced operations, and many people were quarantined in their homes,” McDaniel said in a press release. “Today, pent-up demand has been unleashed and the economy is performing quite well.”  [Tulsa World]

Experts: Worker shortage needs new thinking: Business experts say overcoming the current workforce shortage will require employers to think outside the box and do things differently coming out of the pandemic. Business models that worked before COVID-19 shut down much of the economy need a complete reevaluation, Chad Warmington, president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, said during the June 4 JR/Now webinar. [The Journal Record]

Education News

$414M Tulsa Public Schools bond package passes comfortably: Voters approved a five-year, $414 million bond package for Tulsa Public Schools in Tuesday’s election. [Public Radio Tulsa] According to unofficial returns released by the Oklahoma State Election Board, each proposition received at least 70% of the votes cast. State law requires a 60% supermajority for school bonds to pass. [Tulsa World]

Legislating against critical race theory: In Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt said in a video on Twitter that he supported his state’s anti-divisive concepts legislation because “I firmly believe that not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex. That is what this bill upholds for public education.” In response, Oklahoma City Community College suspended a fully enrolled summer course on race and ethnicity that was required for some respiratory therapy students. The college initially said that the new law “revokes any ability to teach critical race theory, including discussions of white privilege, from required courses in Oklahoma.” [Inside Higher Ed]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“(W)e obviously need you, we need those voices, we need people at the table where those decisions are being made … you face hardships that other people wouldn’t face. But the only way that we combat that is by getting more women elected and by making the legislature look more like the population as a whole.”

-House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, about her message to encourage women to run for office [Norman Transcript]

Number of the Day

5.5 million

The number of children lifted above the poverty line in 2018 by the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit [CBPP]

Policy Note

Congress Should Adopt American Families Plan’s Permanent Expansions of Child Tax Credit and EITC, Make Additional Provisions Permanent: Key tax credit provisions in President Biden’s American Families Plan would provide significant help to all but the highest-income families with children and to low-paid working adults without children. The plan would extend through 2025 the American Rescue Plan Act’s Child Tax Credit expansion and make permanent the Act’s provision making the full credit available to children whose parents have low or no earnings. It would also make permanent the Act’s expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for adults not raising children. Congress should adopt these proposed changes, which would result in reductions of child poverty and provide income support for millions of people. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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