In 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.
Today In The News
Senate votes to tighten Medicaid eligibility limits: The Oklahoma Senate approved legislation Monday that could eventually lead to tighter Medicaid eligibility requirements, ultimately blocking thousands of people from receiving aid under the federal program. Senate Bill 1030 by state Sen. Josh Brecheen would order the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to ask the federal government’s permission to lower the eligibility level for parents and caretakers who are able to work so fewer people would qualify [NewsOK]. 2018 Policy Priority: Stop Proposed Medicaid Work Restrictions [OK Policy].
Waiting game begins for possible legislative action on teacher, state worker pay raises: With pressure mounting, there didn’t appear to be a lot of negotiating between House Republicans and Democrats regarding a pay hike for teachers and state employees. The two groups have said they will walk out April 2 if raises aren’t forthcoming. They have taken their concerns to social media, the statehouse and to school boards. Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said productive discussions are taking place, but he put the responsibility squarely in the House, where revenue-raising measures must start and obtain a supermajority vote [Tulsa World]. ‘Not enough urgency’ from Oklahoma lawmakers following teacher strike threat [NewsOK]. The Lawton Board of Education received a standing ovation after they approved a statement of support for educators if a walkout occurs [Lawton Constitution]. Edmond School Board Votes To Support Teacher Strike [News 9].
Oklahoma House votes to ban punishment for asking others what they get paid: If House Bill 1530 becomes law, employees could ask each other about wages without fear of punishment from their employer. The measure was conceived to promote gender equality in the workplace and help close the wage gap, which in Oklahoma is 27 cents on the dollar. Author state Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, acknowledged there is a misconception that laws encouraging equal pay, including those that strengthen punishments for pay discrimination, is detrimental to an employer [NewsOK].
Bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana dies in Senate amid concerns over upcoming state question: Concerns about preempting a vote of the people contributed Monday to the death of a bill that would have legalized and regulated medical marijuana. But Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, could bring his bill back to life after he held it on a procedural motion to reconsider the vote. The measure, Senate Bill 1120, got 21 yes votes but needed 25 to secure approval [Tulsa World]. State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy]
Oklahoma Secretary of State submits resignation: After spending less than a year as a member of Gov. Mary Fallin’s Cabinet, a high-profile Oklahoman is stepping down. In March of 2017, Gov. Fallin announced that Dave Lopez would become the secretary of state. In that role, Lopez served as a senior adviser to the governor on policy, economic and legislative issues [KFOR].
Legislators warm to teacher walkout: As more districts endorse the Oklahoma Education Association’s walkout plan and teachers continue organizing on social media, the push seems to be gaining a foothold in the Legislature. In a special meeting on Monday, Edmond Public Schools passed a resolution announcing it would help teachers with a walkout. Edmond is the state’s third-largest district, encompassing nearly 25,000 students. The two largest districts, Oklahoma City and Tulsa public schools, have already made similar declarations, as have more than a dozen smaller districts [Journal Record]. 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]
Constitutional issues raised by proposal to tap trust funds for Oklahoma teacher bonuses: Scrounging for a way to give teachers pay raises or bonuses without raising taxes, some state lawmakers have set their sights on a $2.4 billion pot of money managed by the Commissioners of the Land Office. About $1.7 billion of that $2.4 billion is held in trust for common schools [NewsOK].
Metro organizations preparing for teacher walkout: Preparing for a teacher walkout is no easy task for organizations working to take on the responsibilities associated with caring for students. As Oklahoma teachers draw nearer to the April 1 deadline for a walkout, the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City is one of those organizations. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has numerous licensing requirements that must be met by organizations [KOKH].
Private prisons are bad policy, but they’re not to blame for Oklahoma’s incarceration problem: Private prisons have a very bad reputation among criminal justice reformers, and it’s well deserved. These claims have merit, and no one seeking a fairer, more effective justice system should advocate for more private prisons here or anywhere else. But blaming private prisons for Oklahoma’s deep incarceration problems is misguided, and limited resources should be focused on the important opportunities for progress we have in the current legislative session [OK Policy].
Gay rights group launches campaign to stop adoption bill: Gay rights advocates in Oklahoma are launching a campaign to stop a bill they say will codify the ability of religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to adopt. Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson said Monday the bill is unnecessary and would deny children the right to a loving family [AP].
PSO, Walmart reach Wind Catcher agreement: Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Walmart on Friday reached a settlement agreement on the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project. In the agreement with Walmart, PSO made additional guarantees beyond those initially offered, which, according to the company, include new reporting requirements, a lower cost cap on project construction costs, and an assurance Oklahoma customers will at a minimum receive the same benefits afforded to sister company Southwestern Electric Power Co.’s customers [Enid News].
Quote of the Day
“It’s just a matter of how much can pass out of the House.”
– Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat, predicting that the $10,000 teacher pay raise over 3 years demanded by the Oklahoma Education Association could pass the Senate (Source)
Number of the Day
Median age in McIntosh County, the oldest county in Oklahoma (2016).
Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute
Trump’s hidden war on Medicaid: A dozen states are applying for or entertaining work requirements and other restrictions on Medicaid — putting the lifeline for millions of poor Americans at risk. The story of Medicaid so far has been of gradual expansion, from the absolutely most vulnerable Americans to a broader social safety net for all Americans in or near poverty. But now, under Trump, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have signaled that they are open to unprecedented policy changes, most notably requirements that many Medicaid beneficiaries either work or look for work [Vox].
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.