In The Know: Medical providers defend Medicaid expansion; stripped-down health plans; Stitt blocks agency lobbyists…

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Meet OK Policy: Open Justice Oklahoma Director Ryan Gentzler: To give you a better idea of who we are and what we all do, we are running an OK Policy Blog series highlighting our staffers. For this edition, here’s Open Justice Oklahoma Director Ryan Gentzler. [OK Policy]

In The News

Medicaid expansion would cut uninsured rate, keep hospitals open, Oklahoma medical providers say: Expanding Medicaid would reduce Oklahoma’s high rate of uninsured people and furnish “critical funds to keep hospitals open and health care staff employed,” Oklahoma health care providers told the state Supreme Court. Defending an initiative petition filed to put Medicaid expansion on a statewide ballot, the medical professionals predicted the petition would be supported by a majority of Oklahomans. [The Oklahoman]

A boon for the uninsured or a path to financial crisis? Cheaper, stripped-down health plans could soon see a resurgence in Oklahoma, potentially reducing the number of uninsured while leaving policyholders with unexpected medical bills. A pair of recent moves by the Trump administration and state lawmakers will allow consumers to buy short-term, limited-duration insurance plans for up to 36 months – an expansion six times longer than the current six-month limit. [Oklahoma Watch]

Governor orders state entities not to use lobbyists without permission: State entities paid outside lobbyists nearly $1.5 million in fiscal year 2019, according to information released by Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office. Stitt hopes to put a stop to such spending. The governor in January issued an executive order saying that for the duration of the fiscal year, no more lobbyist contracts could be issued without the permission of cabinet secretaries. [Tulsa World]

Economic activity, state revenues grew in May, McDaniel reports. Weather impact not yet measured: Gross Receipts to the Treasury, an indicator of current economic activity in Oklahoma, continued to grow in May. This transpired in spite of devastating floods in large portions of the state, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced (June 7). [CapitolBeakOK]

Medical marijuana sales soaring in Oklahoma, top $23M in May: Medical marijuana sales are continuing to climb in Oklahoma, topping $23 million in May and marking the eighth straight month of growth for the new industry. Figures from the Oklahoma Tax Commission show the state collected more than $1.6 million in May from the 7% excise tax on marijuana. Another $2 million was collected in state and local sales taxes. [AP News]

Legislature approved three workplace safety laws this year: A coalition led by an Oklahoma company has produced a guide to help employers across the nation guard against workplace violence. The coalition led by Paycom, a payroll and human resource technology provider based in Oklahoma City, also led to three new laws passed this year by the Oklahoma Legislature meant to improve workplace safety. [Journal Record ????]

McCall appoints LOFT Committee members: House Speaker Charles McCall has appointed members to the oversight committee for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, a recently created legislative office to evaluate agency budgets and programs for lawmakers. Speaker McCall named House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, as co-chair of the LOFT Oversight Committee. [Journal Record ????]

Who missed the most votes during the legislative session? Lawmakers cited a number of factors that caused them to be among those who missed the most votes in a session that ended last month. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, led the upper chamber in missed votes. He missed 62.93% of the votes in the session that began Feb. 4 and ended May 23. [Tulsa World]

Once teachers and pharmacists, new lawmakers look back on their first session with satisfaction: For new lawmakers, the 2019 legislative session was not exactly the baptism by fire others have gone through in recent years. There were no protracted fights over abortion or gun rights, no soul-searching votes on tax increases. For once, the session involved deciding how to spend more money on needed government services instead of how to scale them back. [Tulsa World]

New DHS director faces ‘significant learning curve’: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointment of a local businessman to lead the Department of Human Services could be the ultimate litmus test for the governor’s push to run government like a business. Justin Brown, whom Stitt tapped last week to lead the state’s largest agency, will bring a fresh set of eyes and a new approach to perhaps Oklahoma’s most challenging state government entity. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma state regents say higher education key to state growth: Oklahoma’s higher education leaders agree next year’s $25 million budget increase is better than a cut, but most feel it isn’t nearly enough for the state’s network of 25 colleges and universities. “The state needs to start supporting higher ed if the state is to grow,” said Jay Helm, chair of the State Regents for Higher Education. [The Oklahoman]

Point of View: Type 1 diabetes hits close to home: The emergency room started to spin last week when the doctor told my wife and me our 7-year-old son had Type 1 diabetes — an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. [Ben Felder / The Oklahoman]

The Oklahoman Editorial Board: A worthwhile licensing change in Oklahoma: We are among those who had hoped the Legislature would take greater strides in criminal justice reform this session. But some progress is better than none, and lawmakers accomplished that with a bill that figures to help ex-convicts find work. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

After the death of a 16-year old, a judge has ordered new procedures for juveniles at Oklahoma County jail: After the death of a 16-year old detainee in May, a judge has ordered speedier processing for juveniles held at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. A new order issued Thursday by Oklahoma County Presiding Judge Thomas Prince requires an assessment for all minors charged as youthful offenders held at the county jail within three days. [The Frontier]

Criminal justice reform advocates plan second commutation campaign: Criminal justice reform advocates who helped 30 Oklahomans secure an early release from prison last year are launching another commutation campaign with hopes of helping hundreds more who are serving what the group considers excessive sentences. [The Oklahoman]

After years of debilitating teacher shortages, some districts are seeing progress in hiring, retention: Many Tulsa-area school districts hope improvements in employee recruitment and retention are pointing toward a light at the end of the tunnel for Oklahoma’s chronic teacher shortage. Education officials credit recent state-funded teacher pay raises as a primary reason for why it’s suddenly become much easier to staff their schools for the coming year. [Tulsa World]

Group holds Wear Orange event to honor those affected by gun violence: As Oklahoma lawmakers considered a permitless carry bill earlier this year, Jenny Birch was part of a group that flocked to the state Capitol to talk to legislators, deliver a petition against the measure and listen to debate on the issue. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Housing Policy Director named: Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Becky Gligo will serve as the Housing Policy Director for the City of Tulsa beginning Monday, June 10. Gligo will be responsible for working with city and state housing agencies, non-profit entities, philanthropic organizations and developers to achieve key outcomes of neighborhood revitalization and affordable housing preservation and development. [Public Radio Tulsa]

After voting error, Oklahoma Democrats elect new chairwoman: Oklahoma Democrats approved a new party leader Sunday after a tabulation error spurred confusion about the election results. For the second and final time, Democrats approved Alicia Andrews to lead the Oklahoma Democratic Party through the 2020 elections. [The Oklahoman]

2020 election season begins to heat up: Candidate filing for 2020 legislative races won’t officially take place until April 8 through 10. But at least 37 candidates have already filed with the state’s ethics office ahead of the 2020 election, a number that is likely to grow in the months to come. [The Oklahoman]

Federal disaster relief bill signed into law: With the support of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, a much-delayed $19.1-billion disaster relief bill finally won final congressional approval and was signed into law by President Donald Trump. [NonDoc] The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the state’s request for disaster assistance for seven Oklahoma counties hit hard by flooding, tornadoes, severe storms and straight-line winds. [KFOR]

Quote of the Day

“People in my district are going to be the ones buying this product, and they are going to get hurt or sick and they are going to go the hospital and find out they don’t have that type of coverage. This is affordable because it’s not quality health insurance.”

-Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, speaking about a bill approved by the Legislature this year to expand stripped-down health plans that go around consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Net migration into Canadian County over the 12-month period ending in July 2018, the most of any county in Oklahoma.

[Source: Governing]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Having a library or cafe down the block could change your life: Americans who live in communities with a richer array of neighborhood amenities are twice as likely to talk daily with their neighbors as those whose neighborhoods have few amenities. More importantly, given widespread interest in the topic of loneliness in America, people living in amenity-rich communities are much less likely to feel isolated from others, regardless of whether they live in large cities, suburbs, or small towns. Fifty-five percent of Americans living in low-amenity suburbs report a high degree of social isolation, while fewer than one-third of suburbanites in amenity-dense neighborhoods report feeling so isolated. [CityLab]

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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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