In The Know: Public health emergency extended for Medicaid | Funding needs a century later | Oklahoma voters deserve choices on the ballot | 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: Oklahoma voters deserve choices: A quick quiz: Do you feel your values are reflected in the votes of your state and local lawmakers? If your answer is yes, then continuing the status quo may be a good option for you, and you can probably stop reading here. If you answered no, however, then this week could be crucial for changing Oklahoman’s current trajectory. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record

Oklahoma News

Around 200,000 Oklahomans will remain insured for 90 days after public health emergency extended: Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OCHA) says around 200,000 Oklahomans will maintain their health coverage for another 90 days, thanks to the Federal Health and Human Services’ latest extension of the COVID-19 public health emergency. [KFOR] Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Wednesday the Public Health Emergency’s continuous coverage created in 2020 for certain Medicaid members is has been extended, effective April 16, 2022. [KSWO]

Recently from OK Policy: It will be vital that states thoughtfully approach the end of the public health emergency by taking steps to ensure that all eligible individuals stay enrolled in Medicaid. A successful public health strategy would ensure that ineligible individuals are connected with options to mitigate coverage gaps.

‘History repeats itself’: Norman mental hospital still fights for funding a century later: The 900 block of E Main Street in Norman — a mix of decades-old dilapidated buildings and newer up-to-date state facilities — is a fitting reflection of Oklahoma’s foremost attempt to seriously address mental health illness, an issue that has plagued the state before it even officially became one. [The Oklahoman

How property tax protests are hurting Oklahoma schools: It’s at least an $80 million problem. That’s how much money a late-2021 estimate says is sitting in escrow as bigtime property owners in rural Oklahoma protest their assessed value — and therefore their ad valorem tax bill. [State Impact Oklahoma

State Government News

Bartlesville Sen. Julie Daniels under fire for not hearing PTSD benefits bill for first responders: The head of the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police is crying foul after the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to hear a bill that would have given workers’ compensation benefits to first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. [The Oklahoman] Post-traumatic stress disorder is a growing problem for law enforcement officers, but it’s not covered by workers’ compensation benefits in Oklahoma. [News 9

Pinnell: State will amend Swadley’s Bar-B-Q contract: Amid mounting concerns from lawmakers and a criminal investigation, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department will be amending its contract with a Swadley’s Bar-B-Q affiliate, according to Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who serves as Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of tourism and has an advisory role with the agency. [NonDoc

As Oklahoma and Idaho enact abortion restrictions, Black women will suffer the most: On April 12, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill that makes it a felony—punishable by up to 10 years in prison—to perform an abortion, excluding cases where there is a high risk of pregnancy-related death. The bill is just the latest example of the steady rise in restrictive measures across the U.S. that limit women’s access to abortions, especially for Black women, who are five times more likely to have an abortion than their white counterparts. [Fortune

  • Factbox: Restrictions vs protections: How states are taking sides on abortion [Reuters

Freedom Oklahoma condemns bill that forces schools to out gay students: Oklahoma’s House State Powers Committee passed SB 615 on Tuesday, requiring schools to make sensitive information about a student’s sexual orientation available for review by a parent or guardian. [The Black Wall Street Times

Federal Government News

White House launches national effort to rebuild crumbling public schools: Months after passing the largest infrastructure investment in U.S. history, the White House has launched efforts to improve public schools nationwide. Those efforts include honoring districts already building healthy schools, while committing $500 million to help more districts improve. [The Black Wall Street Times

Tribal Nations News

Native American economy leads rural communities: A new series running on the website Indian Country Today found that tribal businesses and governments are often the largest economic contributors in their regions, and this is especially true in rural areas. From health care to green energy, the profile of the Native economy goes far beyond casinos and fossil fuels. [NPR]

Voting and Election News

Stitt to face primary challengers as filing period opens: Four years ago, Kevin Stitt walked into the Oklahoma state Capitol and filed for governor as a relative unknown. On Wednesday, the Republican governor’s arrival to file for a second and final gubernatorial term was accompanied by much handshaking and media attention. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Donald Trump to host fundraiser for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt at Mar-a-Lago: Former President Donald Trump will host a fundraiser Thursday for Gov. Kevin Stitt. The governor said Wednesday he was looking forward to spending more time with the former president during his inaugural visit to Trump’s club. [The Oklahoman

Ousted Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman barred from running again: Ousted Oklahoma County District Judge Kendra Coleman won’t be on the ballot this year after all. Coleman was elected in 2018 and ousted in 2020. She attempted Wednesday to file for reelection to her district court seat. [The Oklahoman

Criminal Justice News

More than 200 Oklahoma convicts were arrested again after 2019 ‘historic’ mass prison release: Drug offender David Ray Bowen Jr. was released from prison on Nov. 4, 2019, after Gov. Kevin Stitt reduced his prison time from eight years to one. He joined more than 400 other convicts who got out early that day in what was hailed as the largest mass commutation in the nation’s history. [The Oklahoman

Hogue’s case points to larger picture of Oklahoma incarceration: Rebecca Hogue’s prosecution, conviction and sentence fit into a larger pattern of how Oklahoma incarcerates women and people in general, experts say. Hogue was convicted Nov. 3, 2021 in Cleveland County District Court of first-degree murder under Oklahoma’s failure to protect law, which states a parent or guardian can be convicted of child abuse if they knew or reasonably should have known about the abuse. [The Norman Transcript]

New OK County Jail Trust oversight board formed, subcommittees chosen:  A new Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) for the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) held their second meeting on Wednesday morning. [Oklahoma City Free Press

  • (Audio) Long Story Short: Let the Campaigning Begin, A New Jail Proposal, No Traction for Race Commission [Oklahoma Watch

Economic Opportunity

Jones wants OCCC to meet state’s workforce needs: After about a month on the job, Oklahoma City Community College President Mautra Staley Jones, the 2020 Journal Record Woman of the Year, is still acclimating to her new setting, although she is a veteran when it comes to leadership roles in higher education. At OCCC, that service is focused on the 17,000 or so students.  [The Journal Record

Economy & Business News

Thanks to PGA Championship, Tulsa projected for largest month of tourism in history: Tulsa Regional Tourism says we’re already starting to see its impact on hotels booked from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. “It’s the largest month for tourism in the history of Tulsa,” said Ashleigh Bachert, Tulsa Regional Tourism interim senior VP. [KTUL

(Audio) Tulsa World Newsroom podcast: Why are businesses spending $130 million to be in Owasso?: Owasso Reporter Editor Art Haddaway talks about a story he wrote with Staff Writer Rhett Morgan about the $130 million in development announced in Owasso in just the last two months. [Tulsa World

Education News

Upping college degree attainment in state critical for future, higher ed chancellor tells Tulsa consortium: With the number of critical occupations requiring college degrees projected to increase in the state, it’s more important than ever to help more Oklahomans attain them, the state’s higher education chancellor said Wednesday. [Tulsa World

Oklahoma Local News

OKC carving up $85.4M budget surplus: Higher-than-expected revenues pouring into Oklahoma City coffers require a budget adjustment of the best kind. With only three months remaining, it looks like the city will have $85.4 million more to allocate than was budgeted for fiscal year 2022. [The Journal Record

Public housing development paused again as city council delays approving funds requested: A public housing development in northeast Oklahoma City has been pushed back again after the city council voted Tuesday to defer approving funds for the project for at least two weeks. [The Oklahoman

With first agreement canceled, Edmond pursues new indoor sports complex plan: The City of Edmond has canceled an agreement signed 10 years ago with Summit Sports Partners LLC and other developers to build an indoor sports complex on the northeast corner of the intersection at I-35 and Covell Road, but the city is still committed to building a similar complex, city attorney Stephen Murdock told the Edmond City Council at a meeting Monday. [NonDoc

Quote of the Day

“It’s funny how history repeats itself, because I’ve seen letters from Dr. Griffin and Dr. Donahue to the governors of Oklahoma, asking for more funding and asking for more investment. They were saying, ‘We could really make a difference here if we could just get enough funding to get people off the streets.’ That struggle continues today, and we’re as short-staffed as anyone else.”

– Jeff Dismukes, director of communications at the Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department, describing how the struggle for adequate funding has continued for decades [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

– 41%

Since 2009, higher education in Oklahoma has seen 41% fewer state dollars.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

New from OK Policy: State leaders have overseen the shrinkage of the state budget, due in large part to tax cuts and growing tax expenditures. A smaller budget has had negative impacts on Oklahomans, particularly through smaller agency budgets, when adjusted for inflation. 

Policy Note

School’s In: Tackling College Affordability Through State Tax Codes: For decades, postsecondary education has been described as a path to a better life and a stronger economy. But the exorbitant cost of college makes it out of reach for far too many people, especially people of color. Given that a sweeping federal solution to the college affordability crisis does not appear to be on the immediate horizon, it is even more important that states take whatever steps they can to expand college access and affordability. Specifically, states could restructure their higher education tax policies to be more equitable and effective by creating tax policies that make college more accessible for families with more modest incomes. [Insitute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

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Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

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