In The Know: Obamacare repeal could put Native American health care at risk

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.

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Today In The News

Obamacare repeal could put Native American health care at risk: Native Americans, Alaska Natives and a bipartisan group of their allies are worried that repeal of the Affordable Care Act will also eliminate a non-controversial portion of that law that commits federal funding for tribal health care around the country, a move that the National Indian Health Board warns would be “catastrophic.” Chickasaw Nation operates one of the largest tribal hospitals in the country, and Keel said the current relationship with the federal government is “working very well for us.” [USA Today]

Rep. Dan Kirby suspended from chairmanship for refusing to meet with investigatory panel: House Speaker Charles McCall on Tuesday suspended Rep. Dan Kirby from his chairmanship of the Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee. In a press release, McCall, R-Atoka, said the suspension was pending the findings and recommendations of the House Special Investigation Committee after Kirby publicly wavered on whether he would meet with the panel. McCall declined a request for an interview on the suspension, and Kirby did not immediately respond to a request for comment [Tulsa World].

Some legislators concerned about automatic income tax-cut trigger: In light of recent billion-dollar budget shortfalls and revenue failures, some Oklahoma legislators want to block a trigger mechanism that automatically drops income tax rates. The rate drop could save taxpayers an average of $56, but could cost the state nearly $100 million for fiscal year 2018. In 2014, lawmakers adopted a bill that allowed revenue projections to activate incremental cuts to the highest income tax rate. Revenue projections would have to show $100 million in growth. The first cut would drop the rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, and the next would further decrease the rate to 4.85 percent [Journal Record]. The Legislature set itself up for another ill-timed income tax cut [OK Policy].

An Oklahoma Horror Story: The final six days in the life of 37-year-old Army veteran Elliott Earl Williams read like a table of contents in some ghoulish law enforcement manual about how not to treat a mentally ill person in jail. Or maybe a horror movie would be a better metaphor, since his final hours inside the David L. Moss Detention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were recorded on surveillance tape, portions of which will be shown next month to jurors in a federal courtroom there. The panel of citizens will decide in a civil rights trial beginning February 21st whether Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office executives strayed from their constitutional obligations to Williams in October 2011 and how much, if anything, the county should pay for those fatal transgressions [The Marshall Project].

Senate Republicans To Present 2017 Legislative Agenda: Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz and members of the Senate Republican Caucus will hold press conferences in Tulsa and Oklahoma City on Thursday, Jan. 26, to release a legislative agenda. “The legislative agenda of the Senate Republican Caucus represents the bold ideas we believe will build a stronger Oklahoma. Our agenda encompasses the ideas that will help us address the biggest challenges of today and set Oklahoma on a path of even greater success and prosperity,” said Schulz, R-Altus [The Okie].

Focus on unfinished work, Oklahoma policy group says: A nonpartisan group that for decades has offered ideas to Oklahoma lawmakers has reintroduced several of its unfulfilled proposals. Before the Legislature convenes Feb. 6, the Oklahoma Academy will deliver 37 proposals in the areas of criminal justice, mental health, education, the economy, tribal relations, governance, health care, transportation and the state budget. The policy ideas were adopted in the group’s statewide town hall meetings, some dating back 14 years [NewsOK].

Report: Oklahoma failing in efforts to reduce tobacco use: A new report from the American Lung Association gives Oklahoma mostly poor grades for its efforts at reducing tobacco use. Oklahoma’s leaders “failed to do enough to implement proven-effective tobacco control policies that would save lives,” states the 15th annual “State of Tobacco Control.” The report, released Wednesday, evaluates tobacco control policies on state and federal levels and assigns letter grades based on how well the laws protect residents [Tulsa World].

Report: Oklahoma tribes paid state $1.123 billion since 2006: Tribes have paid the state more than $1.123 billion in exclusivity fees since 2006, according to a report on the financial impact of tribal gambling in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association released the report publicly on Tuesday at the state Capitol. It outlines the impact that tribal gambling and related industries have had on Oklahoma communities. Among other things, the report says tribal gambling output in the state was $4.75 billion in 2015, representing 3 percent of private production in the Oklahoma economy [Associated Press].

Panel sends governor 3 names for Oklahoma’s highest court: Oklahoma’s solicitor general who litigated many of Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s legal attacks against the federal government is among three finalists for a vacancy on the state’s highest court. A native of Atoka, Patrick Wyrick of Oklahoma City has served as Pruitt’s top litigator since joining the office in 2011. Also nominated by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission to serve on the Oklahoma Supreme Court are Bryan County District Judge Mark Campbell and LeFlore County District Judge Jonathan Sullivan [Associated Press].

NSU College of Education steps up amidst Oklahoma teacher shortages: In the face of declining numbers of Oklahoma teachers, the Northeastern State University College of Education is helping to provide solutions. COE administrators meet regularly with regional professionals, including the Second Century Advisory Committee, a group of area school superintendents and principals. Together, they discuss what can be done to address the growing teacher shortage on a local level. On a state level, administrators are also part of a task force created by Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Turnpike Authority to issue $480 million in bond debt: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will issue bonds before the end of January to pay for a round of projects officials say will alleviate Interstate 35’s congestion and could save lives in the northeastern part of the state. Those improvements fall under the Driving Forward plan, a billion-dollar strategic program the agency kicked off in 2015. The debt issuance is expected to raise $480 million, communications director Jack Damrill said. It will be the first of three bond issuances for the projects. The money will be used to build a new turnpike east of Oklahoma City, expand other existing turnpikes to six lanes and modernize decades-old toll plazas [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“Even if our economy does recover, it’s going to be very anemic for several years, as the oil and gas industry recovers from this latest catastrophe. We cannot afford a tax cut. We just realize we don’t have the money to pay for core, essential services.”

-State Senator Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, on the need to ensure that another income tax cut doesn’t go into effect (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahomans who smoke tobacco, 2016

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Obamacare repeal jeopardizes mental health, addiction coverage: Sherri Reynolds’ son Qual has been drug free for 16 months, thanks in large part to treatment he got through Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Reynolds knows firsthand what can happen when people can’t get coverage: Her 20-year-old stepson, Jarvis, suffered from mental illness and killed himself in 2010 after he couldn’t get medical treatment. He bounced in and out of foster care and the juvenile justice system. “I really hope they don’t dismantle Obamacare and I don’t understand why they would dismantle something which is credited for saving so many lives,” says Sherri Reynolds [USA Today].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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