In The Know: Oklahoma may consider Medicaid block grant, Oklahoma County begins court reforms, 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

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In The News

Stitt considers Medicaid block grant for Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt believes he has found a solution to Oklahoma’s health care problems. “The solution for Oklahoma is a block grant,” he said during a recent radio interview in response to a question about his health care plan. A Medicaid block grant, which would require approval from the federal government, would completely overhaul how Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, is funded. [The OklahomanOK Policy recently examined Tennessee’s Medicaid block grant proposal, noting that it threatens access to health care and rests on shaky legal ground. Visit our information and resources on SQ 802 and straightforward Medicaid expansion. 

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County work to reform court system: Recent economic turmoil prompted the state to rely on fees to fund the criminal justice system. Since, the burdens that created have been well documented by stories of high offender debt, continued cycles of incarceration, jail overcrowding and reform efforts. In Oklahoma County, the municipal and district courts are attempting to address those issues by revising how they handle those who can’t make payments. [The Oklahoman] Learn more from OK Policy about how excessive fees lock Oklahomans into the criminal justice system.

Historic week for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma: The mass release of more than 450 nonviolent offenders this week was an important and historic step for criminal justice reform in Oklahoma, but in many ways, the action marked just the first step, state leaders and re-entry workers said. Nonprofit groups said the real work begins now as communities help those who were released overcome re-entry challenges and reintegrate back into society. Meanwhile, state elected officials, including lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, said there’s more work to be done in the arena of criminal justice reform and pledged to build on momentum created by the commutations. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy analysis has shown that Oklahoma’s incarceration rate should prompt an evaluation of the state’s criminal justice system. 

Tulsa to focus ‘multi-faceted approach’ on high eviction rate: Facing nearly 1,200 eviction cases a month, Tulsa won’t find one magic-bullet solution to what the mayor’s office has described as an epidemic. Before the end of the year, City Hall will announce a series of initiatives to reduce Tulsa’s eviction rate, Becky Gligo, the city’s director of housing policy, told the Tulsa World last week. The city has averaged 14,315 cases a year over the past decade, and Tulsa’s eviction rate ranked No. 11 in the country last year, according to data from Eviction Lab, a nationwide research project based at Princeton University. [Tulsa World] An analysis by OK Policy found that low-income Oklahomans, especially poor women of color with children and victims of domestic violence, are the most vulnerable to eviction. 

(Audio) Capitol Insider: A second look at last week’s commutations: In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley discuss what the media missed when more than 500 people were released last week from Oklahoma prisons, signs of a slowing economy, and more. [KGOU]

State, municipalities increase use tax collections: Oklahomans are buying more stuff online these days, but thanks to an important U.S. Supreme Court decision and action by the state Legislature, “use tax” that may not have been collected on internet sales in the past now represents an increasingly important and fast-growing revenue stream for the state and its cities and towns. [Journal Record ????] OK Policy examined taxing online sales following the Supreme Court decision. 

Tribes say no to arbitration on gaming compact renewal: Oklahoma tribes with casinos have refused the state’s offer to go into arbitration over a dispute about renewal of their gaming compacts. The impasse continues despite a recent meeting between tribal leaders and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. [Tulsa World]

Court order would allow abuse victims to testify by video. Will attorneys object?: Advocates and attorneys across the state say victims would be more willing to testify from a remote location where they don’t have to face their abuser. A little-known ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in December gives district judges the power to make that call. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health officials create state plan to reduce obesity: Oklahoma has been one of many states to see a steady rise in obesity rates over the last two decades. The Oklahoma State Department of Health began a year-long process to convene partners from across the state to develop a State Obesity Plan. With more than 30 partners from a variety of agencies contributing, a plan is being created to address the rise in obesity across the lifespan. [Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma abortion clinic takes on ‘physicians only’ laws: An Oklahoma City abortion clinic filed a lawsuit Friday challenging longstanding state laws that allow only physicians to perform abortions in Oklahoma, marking the sixth time in five years that the state’s abortion restrictions have ended up in court. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the Trust Women clinic, contends that such laws are unconstitutional because they restrict access to abortions without any valid medical basis. [AP News]

Tourism officials hope to use bond money for parks rather than a new building: State tourism officials are hoping to fund park improvements with $9 million in bond funds that were originally slated for a new building. Legislation in 2007 authorized $9 million in bonds for a new headquarters, either in the form of new construction or purchase, for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. [Tulsa World]

Communities rally to repair dams as year of flooding worsens or creates problems: Oklahoma ranked 29th among states that have dams with poor ratings as of 2017, the latest year compiled by The Associated Press in an examination of dams nationwide. An updated list for Oklahoma still shows 13 dams with poor ratings. [Tulsa World]

Illinois River watershed committee holds first meeting, eyes water quality credit program: The Illinois River Watershed Steering Committee’s first public meeting allowed the committee’s members and the public to hear updates on how implementation of the agreement signed by Oklahoma and Arkansas last November is progressing, what issues still need worked out, and what ideas for water quality improvement are on the table. [The Frontier]

Farmers bankruptcies climbed year-over-year, report shows: Farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma and across the nation continue to feel the effects of inclement weather and reduced trade opportunities, data published last week by the American Farm Bureau Federation shows. Chapter 12 farm bankruptcies nationwide were 24% higher in the 12 months ending September 2019 than they were the previous year, the farm bureau’s report stated. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma banking remains ‘strong’ despite challenges: Oklahoma’s banking industry is vastly different from when Roger Beverage took over the Oklahoma Banking Association in 1988, but despite ongoing challenges to smaller institutions, he describes the industry as strong and stable. [The Oklahoman]

TU faculty group schedules confidence vote on administrators: The University of Tulsa’s recently organized chapter of the American Association of University Professors has called a vote for Wednesday on the leadership of President Gerard Clancy and Provost Janet Levit. The votes will be an expression of faculty opinion and not binding on the university but could be significant in higher education circles. [Tulsa World]

‘Here to stay’: Oklahoma students walk out for DACA: Hundreds of students in the Oklahoma City area roared in support of undocumented immigrants Friday morning. Their voices projected across school grounds at three high schools and two college campuses. Their chants were part of a nationwide day of student walkouts advocating for the continuation of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. [The Oklahoman] ‘Home is here’: DACA walkout features love for Oklahoma. [NonDoc

Quote of the Day

“Many folks who have been involved in the system at some point hope that their inability to pay doesn’t land them back in prison, but also assume that they will die still owing fines and fees.”

-Nicole McAfee, director of policy and advocacy for the Oklahoma ACLU. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma inmates commuted on the largest single commutation docket in American history which occurred on November 1, 2019.

[Source: Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How housing wealth transferred from families to corporations: Just as high-priced condos in expensive cities have become a new kind of asset for large companies and wealthy foreigners, so too have larger and larger numbers of single-family homes been turned into investment vehicles for large corporations. For a growing number of families, the American Dream of owning their own home and the wealth and financial security that comes from it have given way to renting a place to live from a mega-corporation. [City Lab]

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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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