In The Know: Stitt to participate in Medicaid event in D.C., mental health commissioner resigning, 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

Together Oklahoma plans State of State and tax meetings: Together Oklahoma has slated an event in Lawton Feb. 3 to help link residents to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s annual State of the State address. The event is one of two events planned in early February; Feb. 10, the grassroots organization will hold a forum on earned income tax. [The Lawton Constitution]

(Capitol Update) Proposed bill would address needed alternatives to school suspensions: Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D-Sand Springs, has introduced SB 1367 dealing with school suspensions, one of the more vexing issues facing education in Oklahoma. Most educators will tell you suspension doesn’t work for the children. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

In The News

Stitt to participate in Medicaid announcement in Washington, D.C.: Gov. Kevin Stitt will participate in a federal Medicaid announcement Thursday in which he is expected to unveil his health care plan. National news outlets have reported federal officials will use the event to outline their plan to overhaul Medicaid by letting states receive Medicaid funds in the form of controversial block grants. [The Oklahoman] Stitt, who spoke to members and guests at a luncheon of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City, said it is his hope the plan will so impress Oklahomans that they’ll turn down State Question 802 in a vote to be held sometime this year. [The Journal Record ????] OK Policy has examined the use of Medicaid block grants, which has been found to threaten access to care while also attracting lengthy and expensive legal challenges. OK Policy has provided information and resources to better understand the issue.

Terri White resigning as commissioner of mental health: Terri White, the long-serving commissioner of mental health and leader of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, will be stepping down from her post Feb. 1. The agency distributed an email announcing White’s departure, which had been rumored for months. White has served as commissioner of mental health since 2007, having joined the agency in 2001. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma’s prison population dips to level not seen since 2009 but remains overflowing: The state’s prison population has dipped below 25,000 people for the first time in more than a decade, but the system remains overcrowded despite using more than 2,000 temporary beds. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections weekly population count for Jan. 21 listed 24,992 people incarcerated by the state. [Tulsa World] OK Policy analysis showed key elements that should be taken into account as Oklahoma takes steps to address its outdated criminal code.

Speaker McCall on tribal gaming: ‘In my opinion, the compact has renewed for another 15 years’: House Speaker Charles McCall believes the state’s tribal gaming compacts automatically renewed Jan. 1, he said Tuesday. “In my opinion, the compact has renewed for another 15 years,” said McCall, R-Atoka. [Tulsa World]

‘Caught in the middle’: $130 million in education funding embroiled in tribal gaming clash: As Gov. Kevin Stitt faces a court battle with Oklahoma gaming tribes, about $130 million in education funds hang in the balance. The state received $148 million in tribal gaming fees in fiscal year 2019 — 88 percent of which was designated for Oklahoma public schools. [The Oklahoman]

Wayne Greene: Oklahoma’s teacher pay isn’t highest in the region, despite what politicians say: Oklahoma does not have the highest teacher pay in the region. Gov. Kevin Stitt, state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and others say we do, but to get to that conclusion you have to accept a ridiculous set of assumptions. [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World]

Early classes for Oklahoma high schools common despite health risks: For what is likely a majority of Oklahoma high school students, start times for school days are earlier than what medical experts and researchers say is best for their academic performance and their chances of avoiding physical and mental health problems. [Oklahoma Watch] OKC district considering overhaul of school start time. [The Oklahoman]

TPS to host public meeting on proposed Indian Education Program reductions Thursday evening: Tulsa Public Schools plans to host a public meeting Thursday evening to discuss a controversial proposal eliminating federally funded positions within its Indian Education Program. [Tulsa World]

Legislation filed to create the Oklahoma Commission on Race and Equality: Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City, filed Senate Bill 1286, which would create the Oklahoma Commission on Race and Equality. If passed, the commission would advise state agencies, communities, businesses and organizations that request help on equality issues relating to racial discrimination and bias. [Pawhuska Journal Record]

Bill requires law enforcement officers to keep body cams recording while dealing with public: One state representative wants it to be illegal for a law enforcement officer to not turn on their body cam while interacting with the public. Police organizations are pushing back. [KFOR]

Gathering for “Max’s Law” draws attention to changing station needs: A recent event drew attention to the need for universal changing stations in restrooms that allow for older children and adults who need their attendants to attend to their personal hygiene needs for them during the workday to be able to do so with cleanliness and dignity. [Free Press OKC]

Effort to reverse inadvertent omission in seat belt law has met unanticipated resistance: Efforts since 2016 have been stalled by legislators who have contended that voters in their districts see this as an infringement by government. AAA’s poll contradicts this, showing 81 percent of those surveyed support this legislation. [The Shawnee News-Star]

Oklahoma leaders hope to push for more LGBTQ rights in 2020: Leaders in conservative Oklahoma say they are looking for more legislative progress for LGBTQ people this year after notable strides in 2019. [KTUL]

‘Shamports’ and taxes targeted by wind power bills: The state of investment in Oklahoma wind power has renewable energy advocates “optimistic” about the upcoming legislative session, although two issues could affect wind power’s progress in the Sooner State. [The Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma perspectives on water rule changes cover a full, complicated, range: While many Oklahoma politicians applauded the announcement last week of the final phase in rollbacks on Waters of The United States rules, the issue remains complicated for conservationists. [Skitaook Journal]

Clarity sought for hotel tax event funds: Members of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Commission want clarification from the city regarding how the city’s hotel tax event sponsorship funds can be used to “promote Oklahoma City outside of Oklahoma City,” said Mike Carrier, president of the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. [The Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma flu numbers higher than expected: With an unexpectedly high number of flu deaths this season, and more expected to come, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma State Medical Association and county health departments are working together to mitigate the virus’s impact. [The Journal Record ????]

Quote of the Day

“I think what that shows is we can do as much as we can on the back end in terms of policy reforms and reforms within the Pardon and Parole Board … But if we don’t change what’s happening on the front end, we’ll never catch up.”

-Adam Luck, a member of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, speaking about Oklahoma’s incarceration rate, which is among the highest in the world [Tulsa World

Number of the Day

$28 million

Total amount lost by low and middle income families since Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was made nonrefundable in 2016.

[Source: OK Policy]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

States can help lower income families save, starting with the Earned Income Tax Credit: More short-term economic stability makes it easier for people to save more. Families need some predictability of their incomes to make them breathe a little easier. They then can focus more easily on their future, knowing, for example, that their basic expenses are covered. The general policy implication is to make it easier for people to get help from programs such as the earned income tax credit (EITC), for instance, through a partial refund of the EITC during the year. The payoff will not only be more economic security now, but also in the future. [Forbes]

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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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