In The Know: Oklahoma Senate stops bill to cut 111,000 from Medicaid

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Senate stops bill to cut 111,000 from Medicaid: A plan to remove about 111,000 Oklahoma residents with dependents from Medicaid to free up money for other health care needs has been derailed in the Oklahoma Senate. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 5-3 on Monday against the bill by Republican Sen. Brian Crain of Tulsa. The bill would have eliminated Medicaid eligibility for any non-pregnant, able-bodied adult younger than 65. Most would be single parents with preschool-age children [KTUL]. The proposed cuts had lawmakers thinking the unthinkable [OK Policy].

Boren says penny sales tax will easily make November ballot: University of Oklahoma President David Boren says supporters of a proposed 1-cent sales tax for public education already have gathered tens of thousands more signatures than they need to place the proposal on the November ballot. The former Oklahoma governor and U.S. senator said Monday that he’s deeply concerned about the state of public education in the state and that Oklahoma voters who are signing the petition share those concerns. Boren was at the state Capitol to support the nomination of Tulsa business executive Phil Albert to a seven-year term on the OU Board of Regents [KOCO]. Boren is hoping that supporting education will be a central part of his legacy [Tahlequah Daily Press]. Read our statement on the proposal here.

A few of the Oklahomans who the Legislature is trying to kick off SoonerCare: The state budget crisis has legislators thinking the unthinkable in an effort to balance the state’s books. One such proposal would eliminate SoonerCare coverage for “able-bodied adults.” Over 111,000 Oklahomans would lose SoonerCare benefits if Rep. Doug Cox’s (R-Grove) HB 2665 succeeds in eliminating Medicaid benefits for non-pregnant able-bodied adults younger than 65. If signed into law, the measure would go before federal regulators, who are unlikely to approve it [OK Policy].

Expanding Medicaid would help 71,000 Oklahomans with mental illness, Obama administration says: As Oklahoma prepares to cut off thousands of people from mental health services, the Obama administration said Monday that expanding Medicaid could provide coverage for 71,000 people in the state and reduce by 12,000 the number of Oklahomans experiencing depression.  Oklahoma’s severe budget crisis means more than 73,000 people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders will lose access to state services soon [NewsOK]. That’s one of the ways expanding Medicaid would be a good deal for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Former Gov. Henry To Lead Expert Panel Examining Death Penalty Procedures: A dozen Oklahoma attorneys and business leaders are donating their time to independently review Oklahoma’s capital punishment practices. Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry is co-chairing the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission. “Oklahoma has an opportunity to lead the nation by being the first state to conduct extensive research on its entire death penalty process, beginning with an arrest that could lead to an execution,” Henry said in a press release. Former Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and Assistant District Attorney of Canadian County Reta Strubhar and Andy Lester, a former U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma, chair the commission with Henry [KGOU].

Where’s the teacher? Maybe waiting in line at the food pantry: Underpaid and underappreciated, Oklahoma school teachers appear near the breaking point. The latest evidence of that came recently in a stunning story by Tulsa World reporter Andrea Eger and an equally startling op/ed column by Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist. Eger’s story showed that TPS teacher absences are growing at an alarming rate — a 63 percent jump in the past five years — making the district increasingly dependent on substitute teachers or less [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Dozens of school districts shorted by state for 22 years suing Oklahoma for back pay: Leaders of nearly 50 school districts are suing the state to recoup state aid funds that were erroneously paid to other school districts every year from 1992 through 2014. Ponca City Superintendent David Pennington, who discovered the state’s error, has said the total impact of the calculation error could be upward of $300 million. “We simply believe that what has happened to our children and our taxpayers is unfair and deserves to be remedied,” Pennington said Monday at an afternoon news conference. “The diversion of funds violated state law, is unfair to the children and taxpayers in the local school districts and deserves to be remedied” [Tulsa World].

Ada shortens school year to combat budget problems: Ada City Schools announced last week it will be cutting days from this school year to help with next year’s budget cuts. Parents we spoke with said it is unfortunate that these sacrifices have to be made, but they understand the schools are doing the best that they can. Ashley McCortney has three children who attend Ada schools [KXII].

Human Activity Increases Risk of Big Quake in Oklahoma and Kansas, Experts Say: The risk of a damaging earthquake in the next year is as great in parts of north-central Oklahoma and southern Kansas, where oil and gas operations have set off man-made quakes for about five years, as it is in high-hazard parts of quake-prone California, federal seismologists said Monday. Experts at the United States Geological Survey issued the warning as the agency released its annual map of earthquake risks, a document that included for the first time the prospects for human-caused quakes. “By including human-induced events, our assessment of earthquake hazards has significantly increased in parts of the U.S.,” the chief of the agency’s Natural Seismic Hazard Mapping Project, Mark Petersen, said in a news release [New York Times].

State question opponents challenge intent of ‘Right to Farm’: A proposed state constitutional amendment set for the November general election ballot is a Trojan horse for corporate agriculture interests, opponents of the measure said Monday. “If a legislative proposal, especially a proposal to amend the constitution, is called ‘Right to Farm,’ the one thing I’m sure of is that it’s not about the right to farm,” Oklahoma City University law professor Art LeFrancois told about 125 people at All Souls Unitarian Church. State Question 777 is a legislative referendum that would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to prevent future laws, regulations or local ordinances from governing agricultural activity, except in cases of “compelling state interest” [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Today’s report shows that Medicaid expansion is an important step Oklahoma can take to address behavioral health needs, including serious mental illness and opioid and other substance use disorders.”

-Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, whose agency released a report that shows 71,000 Oklahomans will receive improved access to mental health services if the state accepts Medicaid expansion funding (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of potential marketplace population in Oklahoma who have selected a marketplace insurance plan, the 9th lowest in the US

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Unauthorized Immigrants Pay More of Income in State and Local Taxes Than Nation’s Top Earners: Unauthorized immigrants pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than the nation’s top earners, and immigration reform would improve state and local finances across the country, a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows. Unauthorized immigrants pay sales taxes when they buy goods and services; property taxes (mostly passed along through their rent); and income taxes from withholding through their paychecks — even those who don’t file income tax returns, although as many as three-quarters do [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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