In The Know: Rally for health coverage; consent education law signed; boosting online sales taxes…

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

Houses divided: Two decades ago, I spent three years working at the Oklahoma Legislature as a Senate staffer. Each session, bitter conflicts would flare up between the Senate and House of Representatives, even though Democrats held large majorities in both chambers. I was new to the state, and I remember being sure that there was something peculiar to Oklahoma Democrats that prevented them from working together. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

Friday is the deadline to apply to be OK Policy’s next executive director: Find more about the position and how to apply here.

In The News

Supporters of Medicaid expansion rally at Capitol, urge lawmakers to act: Hundreds of people supporting expansion of health care coverage rallied Wednesday at the state Capitol. “You have the power to make this happen,” said former lawmaker Angela Monson. “It is not going to happen without you.” [Tulsa World] A Republican lawmaker who also spoke at the rally, Rep. Marcus McEntire of Duncan, said people shouldn’t be mistaken in thinking that lawmakers don’t care about the issue or that they haven’t tried to fix problems. [Journal Record] Take action by urging your legislators to expand health coverage using this online form.

On Medicaid expansion, the Legislature can lead or get out of the way: Increasingly, Oklahoma taxpayers are wondering why they pay the same federal taxes to support “Obamacare” as the rest of the nation but aren’t able to see its benefits. Oklahoma has the second highest adult uninsured rate in the nation. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] Time for health care expansion is now. Oklahoma lawmakers’ stubborn refusal to accept federal money to expand Medicare has driven up the costs of uncompensated car, and broken the safety net of resources stretched too thin without funding. [Editorial Board / Muskogee Phoenix]

New law requires schools with sex education to include consent: Governor Stitt signed Senate bill 926 into law, requiring schools with sex education to include information about consent. “The fact that we haven’t been teaching our kids they have the right to say no, is kind of scary,” said Sydney Friedrichs, Education Coordinator at DVIS (Domestic Violence Intervention Services). [KJRH]

Change to online sales tax collections could boost state revenue: SB 513 removes language in the law that would give internet merchants an option either to collect and remit Oklahoma tax or to elect to notify customers that tax is due and also to report sales to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. If Gov. Kevin Stitt signs the bill into law, remote sellers meeting an annual Oklahoma “sales threshold” would be required to collect, report and remit taxes on all state sales. [Journal Record ????]

Efforts to tighten regulation of state’s wind power industry fizzle: After seeing a handful of bills calling for stricter regulation of the state’s wind power industry, wind power advocates said this year’s legislative session mutated into a slow period for issues affecting the industry. Many of those bills have either failed to make it to committee or couldn’t get out of committee for a vote on the House or Senate floor. [Journal Record ????]

Bill linking teacher pay raises to school calendars approved by Oklahoma House of Representatives: Legislation to raise teacher pay while limiting four-day school weeks survived a bruising Wednesday afternoon and evening on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, setting up a potential game of truth or dare between legislative leaders and education interests during the final weeks of the session. [Tulsa World]

State Senate passes new transparency reporting requirements for virtual charter schools; bill headed to Gov. Stitt next: New restrictions on virtual charter schools sailed through the Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday, in a similar fashion to the state House of Representatives’ vote on the measure last month. Since the bill passed the House 95-0 on March 13, the 41-0 vote by the Senate on Wednesday means House Bill 1395 by Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa, heads next to Gov. Kevin Stitt for enactment. [Tulsa World] Skyrocketing student growth over the past seven years means that virtual charter schools receive a growing share of state funding, and concerns center around how these public dollars are used and their impact on student outcomes.

OKC district improves some suspension numbers: Oklahoma City Public Schools is suspending fewer students, but the district continues to disproportionately discipline black students, officials said Monday night. In 2017-18, students missed 21,216 days of classroom instruction compared to 39,299 days in 2014-15. During the same four-year period, the number of long-term suspensions for “serious offenses” — between 11 and 45 days — dropped from 326 in 2014-15 to 79 in 2017-18. [NewsOK]

Two Oklahoma County officials trade accusations during meeting over jail trust: A new Oklahoma County commissioner on Wednesday again accused the sheriff of mismanagement, saying at a meeting the jail was improperly being used as a “cash cow” to fund other operations. “We’re giving ‘X’ amount to the sheriff’s office and they’re not spending it on the jail,” Commissioner Kevin Calvey said. “Numbers don’t lie.” [NewsOK]

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum proposes 2020 budget: A look at how the mayor wants to spend taxpayer money: Mayor G.T. Bynum’s proposed $846 million fiscal year 2019-20 budget includes funding for a big pay raise for new police officers and new firefighters, a big increase in the city’s Rainy Day fund, and a bold effort to address vacant and abandoned properties. [Tulsa World] Mayor Bynum included $100,000 in his budget proposal for Phase 1 of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre mass graves investigation. [Tulsa World]

First Equality Indicators meeting on racial and gender disparities set for June 26: More than a year after a group of local residents called for public meetings on the city’s 2018 Equality Indicators Report, city councilors Wednesday scheduled the first one for June 26. The topic of discussion will be racial and gender disparities in police arrests of juveniles. [Tulsa World]

Judge recommends approval of plans for Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. to acquire AES Shady Point: An administrative law judge at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is recommending elected commissioners approve a stipulated agreement between Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., the commission’s Public Utility Division and the Attorney General’s office on a plan the utility has to buy a coal power plant and another generating asset to meet its capacity needs. [NewsOK]

GOP’s 2020 offensive in Oklahoma congressional race underway: The Republican campaign to unseat deep-red Oklahoma’s lone Democrat in Congress is officially underway after a GOP state lawmaker Wednesday jumped into the fray for a seat both parties expect to work fiercely to win in 2020. State Sen. Stephanie Bice said she planned to take back the seat Democrat Kendra Horn won in one of the midterm elections’ biggest upsets. [Associated Press]

Quote of the Day

“If people would recognize that it’s not just, ‘My neighbor who has no insurance, it’s their problem.’ But, ‘My neighbor has no insurance it’s my problem too, because it affects what I pay,’ then I think people would be more willing to say we must do something to change this.”

-Former State Senator Angela Monson, speaking at a rally calling on lawmakers to expand health coverage in Oklahoma [Source: NewsOn6]

Number of the Day


Estimated amount of local economic activity generated for every dollar spent on the Earned Income Tax Credit.

[Source: Brookings]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Lethal Plans: When Seniors Turn To Suicide In Long-Term Care: Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course. But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline and disconnectedness — and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home. [Kaiser Health News]

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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