In The Know: Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured continues to decline

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

Study: Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured continues to decline: A new federal study shows the number of Oklahomans without health insurance has fallen by 6 percent since 2010, but the state still has one of the highest percentages of uninsured residents in the country. The study released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau shows 13.9 percent of Oklahomans went uninsured in 2015, down from 18.9 percent in 2010. The decline means an additional 192,000 Oklahomans received health insurance coverage over the five-year period [Associated Press].

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister urges caution for schools’ use of newly released state dollars: School districts across Oklahoma will learn this week what their share of $40 million returned from the state’s excessive budget cuts will be. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is urging caution amid still-tenuous economic conditions. The money, which could be available to schools across the state by mid-October, is from the fiscal year that ended June 30 [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: A win for schools and students: Recently I wrote about the decision by some 150 Oklahoma school districts to move to four-day school weeks as a consequence of the state’s misguided tax cuts and the resulting budget shortfalls. One fewer day at school is especially troubling for the hundreds of thousands of children whose only reliable and nutritious meals each day may be provided through the schools’ free and reduced lunch and breakfast program. There is, however, also good news about school nutrition [David Blatt / Journal Record]. The Community Eligibility Provision can help make Oklahoma schools hunger-free [OK Policy].

Thinking twice about SQ 776: A group of people unhappy about what they’re calling a sneaky attempt to inject the death penalty in the state constitution have created a campaign called ThinkTwiceOK that opposes State Question 776, which will appear on the November ballot. To be fair, SQ 776 does seem a bit confusing [Editorial Board / Stillwater News Press]. Read our fact sheet on SQ 776.

Quirky law causing some Oklahoma municipalities problems: A number of municipalities in Oklahoma are uneasy about what voter approval of a 1-cent sales tax increase might mean for them in the years ahead. Yet making their concerns known to their residents is proving to be problematic. Chalk it up to a quirky state law. Voters in November will decide State Question 779, which seeks to increase the state sales tax rate to 5.5 percent, from its current 4.5 percent [Editorial Board / NewsOK]. Read our fact sheet on SQ 779.

Candidates for State Senate District 37 and State House District 66 speak at open forum: Candidates for State Senate District 37 and State House District 66 spoke at a Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce forum this week. Sand Springs Chamber President Kristen Valentin said 36 people attended the forum at Sand Springs’ Tulsa Technology campus. House District 66 candidate Dianna Phillips spoke about how the state’s budget woes could have been prevented [Sand Springs Leader].

Oklahoma election officials warn of email phishing scam: Oklahoma election officials say emails designed to look like communications from state or county election boards are being fraudulently sent to some Oklahoma voters. Officials warned voters to be cautious Wednesday after some reported receiving emails indicating their voter information had been changed or needs verification. Officials say the emails contain a link to a malicious website and should not be opened [Associated Press].

Money to burn: OSU study could improve firefighting costs: New Oklahoma State University research could help a fire training facility save money and reduce waste. OSU’s Fire and Emergency Services Training Center helps businesses and government agencies learn how to fight petroleum-fuel-based fires. Training Center Manager Bryan West uses specially blended fuel designed to produce less smoke. After fires are extinguished, unburned fuel and water run off into a concrete basin [Journal Record].

Audit shows OK GOP committee misstated finances: The Oklahoma Leadership Council, the federal campaign account of the Oklahoma Republican Party, misstated some of its financial activity during the last presidential race, according to a Federal Election Commission audit. Pam Pollard, the state GOP chair, said the irregularities were due to record-keeping errors on the part of staff members responsible for accounting [NewsOK].

Governor appoints judge to Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals: Gov. Mary Fallin has appointed District Court Judge Barbara Swinton of Oklahoma City to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. Fallin announced the appointment Wednesday. Swinton fills a vacancy created by the Sept. 2 retirement of Judge Bill Hetherington. Swinton has served as a district court judge since 2002 and served as a special judge in Oklahoma County for six years before that [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“As we watch the sales tax continue to decline, and certainly, the price of oil, we had better plan for another budget failure this year. Those two indicators alone tell us this is exactly where we were last year.”

-Union Public Schools Superintendent Kirt Hartzler, explaining why his district will be cautious in spending its portion of the $40.2 million that will be returned to schools by mid-October (Source)

Number of the Day


Total voting age population in Oklahoma (2014)

Source: U.S. Census

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation: Their daughter was sick and they needed family around to help care for her, so JoAnne and Maanaan Sabir took an unexpected detour. They had spent years blowing past mileposts: earning advanced degrees and six-figure incomes, buying a 2,500-square-foot Victorian with hardwood floors. Yet here they were, both 37, moving to a corner of town pocked by empty lots, cramming into an apartment above Ms. Sabir’s mother, in the very duplex that Ms. Sabir’s grandparents had bought six decades earlier [New York Times].

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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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