In The Know: Senate passes bill that would undo some SQ780 reforms, House advances managed health care bill, 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.

New from OK Policy

Now is the time to fund the School Counselor Corps: Students in Oklahoma experience trauma at higher rates than students in any other state. School-based counselors can help, but there currently are not enough to reach all students in need. Oklahoma is not meeting the recommended ratios of students-to-counselors, students-to-social workers, or students-to-psychologists. [OK Policy]

In The News

Senate passes bill targeting parts of SQ 780, increasing penalties for drug possession near schools: On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Senate passed a bill increasing the penalty for possessing or selling drugs near schools. Senate Bill 1674 would turn the possession or sale of meth, heroin or cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school — about the length of three football fields — from a misdemeanor into a felony. This reverses sections of State Question 780, which, among other things, reduced the penalty for drug possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor after 58% of voters approved the state question in 2016. [The Oklahoman] The bill’s passage upset proponents of State Question 780, a citizen-led initiative in 2016 that reduced the penalties for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. [AP News] OK Policy: Smart justice reform in Oklahoma would modernize Oklahoma’s sentencing based on national best practices that makes investments in treatment rather than incarceration

Oklahoma House passes bills on managed care: An Oklahoma lawmaker said Wednesday that state interests should be at the center of any managed care strategy that might be pursued as part of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s SoonerCare 2.0 plan to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma. State Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, said that while he supports managed care as an element in the governor’s plan, it would be preferable for managed care to be administered by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority rather than by some vendor potentially from out of state. McEntire, authored two bills this session that could affect the implementation of SoonerCare 2.0. Both measures have passed in the House and are awaiting action in the Senate. [The Journal Record ????] Oklahoma has unsuccessfully proposed privatized managed health care solutions in the past, but these measures negatively impact the ability for Oklahomans to get the coverage they need.   

House OKs merger of Department of Mental Health with Health Care Authority; Mental Health Association protests: Legislation, HB 4064, merging the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services into the Oklahoma Health Care Authority won House approval on Wednesday, touching off a furious response from mental health professionals who say they weren’t consulted or even alerted to the bill. “These are human lives,” said Oklahoma Mental Health Association chief Mike Brose. “It’s wildly irresponsible.” [Tulsa World]

House approves bill to level playing field for rural hospitals: A bill that could help to revive financially struggling rural hospitals in Oklahoma was passed Wednesday in the House of Representatives. House Bill 2870, referred to as the Small Oklahoma Hospital Survival Act, would mandate that insurance companies treat rural hospitals the same way they treat urban ones, especially when it comes to reimbursement payments made to cover costs of medical care provided to patients. [The Journal Record ????]  

Oklahoma Senate passes bill redirecting marijuana tax money for schools: A bill that redirects medical marijuana tax revenue dedicated to education from Oklahoma’s General Fund has passed the Senate. Senate Bill 1758 by Sen. Gary Stanislawski sends the money into the State Public Common School Building Equalization Fund, which helps smaller districts improve facilities. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Future uncertain for rural school funding program: Federal education officials have temporarily backed off enforcing a rule change that would have cut federal funding to some rural schools this year, but the program in question may soon be transformed. Even if the Rural Low-Income Schools program is updated by Congress, a recent White House budget request could absorb it into a larger block grant program and nullify any changes. [Daily Ardmoreite]

Jails and prisons across Oklahoma are looking to prevent, prepare for COVID-19: Jails and prisons in Oklahoma are ramping up their screenings of incoming inmates, identifying areas for quarantine and urging staff to stay home if they feel sick in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in detention facilities. [The Frontier] CDC awards Oklahoma $6.9 million for COVID-19 response. [The Journal Record ????]

Loosening gun regulations may put more firearms in Oklahoma classrooms: HB 2336 considered by the state Legislature would change training requirements for armed teachers, paving the way for more guns in schools. Republican Sen. David Bullard, one of the bill’s authors, said customization would mean more teachers could be armed and their training would be more relevant to their unique communities. [StateImpact]

In reversal, House bans marriage for minors younger than 16: The Oklahoma House on Wednesday passed legislation to prohibit minors under 16 years of age from getting married. The House’s vote reversed actions the chamber took earlier in the week to kill a different version of the bill. Under the proposal, minors ages 16 and 17 would have to get parental and court approval for marriage. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Department of Securities accused of negligence in class-action lawsuit: A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Oklahoma Department of Securities over a massive December 2018 data breach that allegedly caused the names, Social Security numbers and other personal information of more than 300,000 people to be published to the internet. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma reduces cap on natural gas production: For the first time since 1997, Oklahoma has changed its cap on natural gas production. The decrease comes amid a glut of resources and concerns about low oil and gas prices. Journal Record editor Russell Ray explains what the industry’s big players are saying about the change. [KGOU]

EPA denies state’s request to regulate wastewater: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has denied Oklahoma’s request to regulate the disposal of wastewater from oil and gas operations in the state. The state Department of Environmental Quality requested in December 2018 to take over the permitting process, submitting additional supporting material in November. [The Journal Record ????]

Bar association recommends censure for DA’s office supervisor who oversaw unlicensed non-attorneys: Every case worked on by unlicensed interns at the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office between 2017 and 2018 is potentially voidable, a lawyer for the Oklahoma Bar Association testified in a disciplinary hearing Wednesday. [The Frontier]

Stitt appoints Tulsa lawyer to Oklahoma Appeals Court: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday appointed a northeast Oklahoma lawyer to the state Court of Civil Appeals. Stitt announced the appointment of Stacie Hixon of Owasso to replace Judge Jerry Goodman, who has retired. [AP News

“Max’s Law” bill to give more access to state buildings passes House: A bill that would establish the installation of variable-height changing tables for adults and children in publicly-funded buildings passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday 74-16. [FreePressOKC]

Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes caps 14 years, says ‘support’ marginalized students: To close out 14 years of service on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, Chairwoman Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes did not want a public party. [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“Our state has an incarceration crisis, and we are not going to solve it by increasing prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, something the people of Oklahoma said they do not want.”

-Kris Steele, executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$9.3 billion

Amount in federal funding Oklahoma has received through 55 federal programs guided by 2010 census data.

[Source: Oklahoma Senate]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

If you care about your federal student loans, take the census: This will likely be the first year that many young college students, who were too young to participate of their own accord in the last decennial census, take part in the tradition. Experts are worried that a lack of awareness of what the census does could deter students from taking part in this year’s count before the deadline by which the Census Bureau must report apportionment counts to Congress and the president. At risk are myriad federal obligations and billions of dollars that depend, directly or indirectly, on census data that is supposed to accurately reflect the student population. [Teen Vogue]

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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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