In The Know: Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Senate reconsiders, passes maternity leave bill: Legislators were almost evenly split when they voted on a maternity leave extension bill last week, which failed then, and the measure has outsiders split as well. On Monday, the senators reconsidered the bill and passed it with a 31-8 vote after striking the title, giving the Senate an opportunity to vote on it again once it has gone through the House. State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, pitched Senate Bill 549, which would increase unpaid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. Federal law requires any organization with more than 50 employees to give women 12 weeks [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Legislature takes up criminal justice reform measures: A bill that would allow some nonviolent state inmates to be eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of their sentences sailed through the state House of Representatives Monday and is now headed for the Senate. House Bill 2286 passed the House 81-3 without debate. If the Senate approves the bill, it still must come back to the House for final consideration because the title was removed. The bill, authored by state Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, is part of a package of approximately a dozen criminal justice reform measures the Oklahoma Legislature is expected to take up this week [NewsOK]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Northeast OKC braces for another round of school closures: Educators and residents in northeast Oklahoma City are bracing for another round of school closures, a process that has plagued the predominantly black neighborhoods for generations and left abandoned schools scattered throughout the community. Superintendent Aurora Lora told The Oklahoman this month the district is considering the closing of several schools in an effort to address state budget cuts. An announcement could come as soon as Monday, multiple sources with the district said [NewsOK]. 

Even Oklahomans have reservations about ‘repeal and replace’ health care bill: Oklahomans, on the whole, never professed much affection for the Affordable Care Act. They may not like the current repeal-and-replace bill any better. Policy experts say the American Health Care Act doesn’t do much to improve Oklahomans’ health care, and in some cases is likely to make it more expensive and harder to get. That opinion was shared, to various degrees, across the board, from the conservative, free-market Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs to the left-leaning Oklahoma Policy Institute, and by health care providers and advocates [Tulsa World].

House Republican health bill would devastate Oklahomans’ access to care: Congressional Republicans finally have the opportunity to make good on their longstanding promise to repeal and replace the health law. In campaign rhetoric, they promised they could bring better, more affordable health care to Americans. Unfortunately, the replacement they’ve developed, known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), doesn’t live up to that rhetoric. In reality, it would decimate historic health coverage gains in Oklahoma, leave the state on the hook for millions in Medicaid funding, and effectively double the uninsured rate by 2026. Here’s how [OK Policy].

Rural Oklahoma hospitals need reprieve from cuts: Rural hospital administrators say they need a reprieve from years of consecutive cuts. Shrinking rural communities, Oklahoma’s decision not to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, and cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates have created a financial crisis for many of the state’s smaller hospitals, The Oklahoman reported. Medicaid reimburses Oklahoma hospitals about 99 percent of costs, which causes Oklahoma hospitals to lose money on patients using Medicaid [Associated Press]. Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Greater transparency for Oklahomans: My first bill cleared a major hurdle in passing the House of Representatives, and I could not be prouder of the measure itself. I believe deeply in letting Oklahomans know about the implications of tax changes, and this bill does just that. House Bill 2209 is a tax transparency bill that directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to produce a tax incidence report for any proposed legislation attempting to increase, decrease or redistribute taxes by more than $20 million. The goal of the tax incidence report is to inform the citizens of Oklahoma how a tax change will affect them annually in real dollars according to their income brackets [Rep. Marcus McEntire / Duncan Banner].

State justice system feels the crackdown on immigration: One of President Donald Trump’s prominent campaign platforms was to crack down on illegal immigration. The Oklahoma criminal justice system is already feeling the effects. A source told The Transcript, on condition of anonymity, that immigration holds are being placed on persons who are booked into the F. Dewayne Beggs Detention Center on suspicion of committing crimes, more frequently than before. An immigration hold, or detainer, allows the Department of Homeland Security to detain incarcerated persons who it suspects of having illegal residency in the United States [Norman Transcript].

Misused lottery money digs Oklahoma in deeper budget hole: Unconstitutional spending last year means state lawmakers will have to pay the lottery millions before it begins to set the state’s education budget. The Board of Equalization determined last month the state supplanted the education budget with $10 million from the lottery. Under law, lottery money may only be used as a sort of bonus on top of education funding. It may not take the place of regular funding [KFOR]. For the first time, lawmakers were found guilty of supplanting lottery funds for schools [OK Policy]. The Legislature needs to get to the bottom of $10 million lottery ‘supplanting’ mistake [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Grants tomb: Community development money eliminated from Trump budget: About 10 years ago, the Classen Ten Penn neighborhood was one of the city’s roughest. The police department compiled crime statistics into a map, and the area near Classen Boulevard, 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue stood out. “This one square mile in the city just lit up,” said the city’s planning director, Aubrey McDermid. Oklahoma City used some of its federally issued Community Development Block Grants for programs in the neighborhood, as it does in underprivileged areas throughout the city [Journal Record].

Kids using tanning beds? Not for long if proposal passes: The Oklahoma State Senate this week is expected to take up Senate Bill 765, which would bar minors from using tanning beds. Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, is the author. Yen is a cardiac anesthesiologist who gained attention for his legislative efforts to increase the state’s immunization rates by reducing exemptions to school-mandated vaccinations. “It shall be unlawful for any person under 18 years of age to use any tanning device of any tanning facility in this state,” according to the measure [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Sen. Ralph Shortey to resign, attorney says: State Sen. Ralph Shortey will resign, his attorney said Monday night. Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, is charged with three felonies — engaging in child prostitution, engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church and transporting a minor for prostitution. He has hired Oklahoma City attorney Ed Blau, a former prosecutor, as his defense attorney [NewsOK]. The FBI confirmed that it is investigating Shortey [Associated Press].

Oklahoma state rep leaving seat for Norman Chamber: State Rep. Scott Martin will resign his seat in the House to lead the Norman Chamber of Commerce. Martin said he will remain in office during session, which lasts through May. In a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin and House Speaker Charles McCall, Martin said his resignation is effective May 31. The chamber approved his hiring at a meeting Monday [NewsOK].

Burying Their Cattle, Ranchers Call Wildfires ‘Our Hurricane Katrina’: Death comes with raising cattle: coyotes, blizzards and the inevitable trip to the slaughterhouse and dinner plate. But after 30 years of ranching, Mark and Mary Kaltenbach were not ready for what met them after a wildfire charred their land and more than one million acres of rain-starved range this month. Dozens of their Angus cows lay dead on the blackened ground, hooves jutting in the air. Others staggered around like broken toys, unable to see or breathe, their black fur and dark eyes burned, plastic identification tags melted to their ears. Young calves lay dying [New York Times].

Fallin taps former Commerce secretary for cabinet: Gov. Mary Fallin has named former Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez as the next secretary of state. Lopez served as secretary of the Commerce Department 2011 to 2013. He will oversee the agency that handles business and nonprofit registrations. The office also receives initiative petition requests and certifies certain legislative and gubernatorial actions [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“It’s death by a thousand cuts that are not that big, but you put them all together and they are significant. Populations are declining in rural areas and folks in rural communities tend to be older, poorer and sicker than their urban counterparts.”

-Andy Fosmire, vice president for Rural Health at Oklahoma Hospital Association. Nine rural hospitals in the state have filed for bankruptcy since 2011 (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of children in Oklahoma (ages 18 and under) as of 2015, 26% of the total state population.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A day in the life of a poor American under Trump’s proposed budget: The first thing you notice when you wake up is that it’s cold. It’s unseasonably cold for March, sure, but it’s also colder in the house than it should be. The winter was long and heating oil is expensive — and although the government used to provide assistance with the heating bills, that support ended when the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program was cut. The house could use better insulation, too, to hold in the heat, but an upgrade like that is expensive, and the government program to assist with weatherization was cut, too. You’d happily move, but affordable housing is in short supply and cuts to a federal affordable-housing program means that you’re not moving up the Habitat for Humanity wait list anytime soon [Washington Post].

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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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