In The Know: ‘Returned mail’ rule approved; Senate passes budget; Stitt signs optometry bill…

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

OKPolicyCast 48: Quick takes on the budget (with David Blatt and Paul Shinn): In most years, the budget is the single most important thing done by our lawmakers, and in the year to come, this budget will decide what Oklahoma invests to operate our schools, provide basic health care, maintain our roads, and so much more. To get more insight into the budget deal, I spoke with OK Policy’s Executive Director David Blatt, as well as our new senior policy analyst covering budget and tax issues, Paul Shinn. [OK Policy]

In The News

OHCA reluctantly approves ‘returned mail’ rule: After about an hour of what the chairman of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board described as “painful” discussion, members of the board voted on Tuesday to do something that most clearly did not want to do – adopt a federal policy that may result in thousands of Oklahomans losing access to health care. The so-called “returned mail” policy was adopted in response to a directive communicated to the OHCA by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma Senate passes $8.1 billion state spending plan: The Oklahoma Senate gave final legislative approval Tuesday to an $8.1 billion spending plan that includes teacher pay raises, pay bumps for state employees and builds on the common education funding increase the Legislature appropriated last year. [The Oklahoman] The measure, House Bill 2765, passed by a vote of 37-11. Two Republicans joined nine Democrats in voting against the measure. Stitt is expected to sign the budget agreement, which has pay raises for teachers, correctional officers and state employees. [Tulsa World] In a statement, we shared that the budget brings welcome progress in a few areas but also includes many missed opportunities.

Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board: State budget needs revisions: There’s a lot of crowing at the State Capitol about the proposed budget lawmakers will be voting on during the coming days. Admittedly there are parts of it worth crowing about — there is a little more money for public education, some wage increases for underpaid corrections officers, and less reliance on fines and fees. Other parts, not so much. [Editorial Board / Muskogee Phoenix]

Coming into focus: Optometrists given right to practice in retail establishments: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a Senate Bill on Tuesday that will allow optometry offices in retail establishments. The bill allows retailers to sell frames and lenses, as well as lease space to licensed optometrists. The provision is similar to what was proposed under State Question 793, which was voted down by Oklahomans in November, but it contains several key differences. [The Oklahoman] Senate Bill 100, by Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is a peace treaty between optometrists and “big box” retailers that allows the latter to slowly incorporate eye care clinics into their stores while maintaining protections for independent optometrists and patients. [Tulsa World]

Senate approves bill protecting state revenues from oil and gas volatility: A bill strengthening safeguards to state revenue from oil and gas volatility was approved by the state Senate Tuesday. Authored by state Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Senate Bill 1072 would amend the existing Revenue Stabilization Fund, which the state draws from in the event of a revenue failure. [Journal Record ????]

Senate approves LOFT bill: The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday approved legislation creating the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, an office that would provide independent data to lawmakers and the public on state agency budgets and program performance. Senate Bill 1 goes to the House for consideration and, if approved, would go to the governor’s desk. [Journal Record ????]

Governor signs revised pharmacy choice bill: A second pharmacy choice bill was signed into law Tuesday, three weeks after Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed the first one. House Bill 2632 prohibits restrictions on a patient’s right to choose a pharmacy provider without paying a penalty and calls for an advisory committee to review complaints and administer fines. [The Oklahoman] State Chamber speaks out after Gov. Stitt signs pharmacy bill. [KFOR]

Attorneys, judge work on logistics, details as trial start date nears: As the state’s civil lawsuit against two groups of opioid manufacturers draws near, both sides are working to hammer out details surrounding the case. The trial will begin in District Judge Thad Balkman’s Cleveland Cuonty courtroom on May 28, and Balkman said his goal is to have final arguments wrapped up by July 26. [Norman Transcript]

Chuck Spicer: Health care access a priority for Oklahomans: To improve Oklahomans’ quality of life, we know that more of our citizens need access to health insurance. At OU Medicine, we are involved in conversations about providing health insurance to more people. Discussions with legislative leaders have been promising this spring, and we know they will continue throughout the summer. [Chuck Spicer / The Oklahoman]

Community-led research teams present recommendations for addressing trauma in Tulsa schools: North Tulsa activists unveiled a series of recommendations for addressing trauma in schools and other important issues during a community meeting Tuesday evening. Hundreds of people attended the second annual Building Wakanda Summit to hear about the Met Cares Foundation’s proposals for driving positive change on the city’s north side. [Tulsa World]

After seven days, OKCPS says network “fully operational” after attack: After a full seven days of efforts by district staff and third-party contractors to recover from a crippling ransomware attack, Oklahoma City Public Schools has declared their network to be “fully operational.” Staff and contractors continued to work over the weekend to clean over 11,000 devices that could have been infected. [Free Press OKC]

Ground broken on Tahlequah medical school campus: Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences leaders gathered this week to break ground on the 84,000 square-foot OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation. The new, accredited medical school campus will be located on the W.W. Hastings campus in Tahlequah. It will be the first tribe-affiliated medical school in the United States built on tribal land. [Cherokee Nation / Muskogee Phoenix]

Cherokee Supreme Court to hear Walkingstick’s disqualification appeal Friday; more complaints filed against attorney general, Hoskin-Warner campaign: David Walkingstick has given formal notice that he will appeal his disqualification from the Cherokee Nation principal chief race, while more election complaints have been lodged against an opponent of his and the tribe’s Attorney General’s Office. [Tulsa World]

Creative workers future of manufacturing, alliance leader says: Oklahoma is close to experiencing a generational gap in the manufacturing sector, with more than 20,000 unfilled jobs over the next five years, said Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance President Dave Rowland. The problem, he told members of the Oklahoma City Rotary Club on Tuesday, is that Oklahoma’s demographics won’t fill the gap. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“There are too many real needs that have been placed on the back burner due to successive revenue failures and mismanagement of funds at some state agencies to be giving the governor what amounts to a $19 million slush fund.”

-Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board, objecting to lawmakers’ appropriation of $19 million to the Quick Action Closing Fund, which has little accountability and a poor track record of improving the state economy [Muskogee Phoenix]

Number of the Day


Percentage point increase in voter turnout in Oklahoma from the 2014 to the 2018 mid-terms.

[Source: Pew Trusts]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

No strings attached: More opioid addicts get meds without talk therapy: More than 40,000 people die from opioid-related overdoses each year. A million people or more need access to addiction treatment they aren’t getting, according to federal data, and public health experts have made access to addiction meds a top priority. Proponents of this new approach argue that more patients would take the meds if they were easier to access. Making life-saving medications contingent on showing up for counseling appointments or meetings, they say, increases risk of overdose. [The Marshall Project]

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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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