The Weekly Wonk: Additional federal relief | Installment loans | Justice reform | Shared sacrifices

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Federal relief funds help Oklahomans in need: Last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt turned heads when he said Oklahoma did not need additional federal virus relief funding. His rationale was that it would be premature to ask for more money until the state distributed the $1.2 billion of the initial CARES Act funding, which is mostly under his control. So far, only about 30% of Oklahoma’s initial federal funds have been spent. Oklahoma’s needs are enormous, especially for those who have been hardest hit including our communities of color and low-wage earners. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record

Installment loans not the answer to financial hardship: Changes taking effect this month in Oklahoma will offer higher dollar loans, but at a significant long-term cost. Starting August 1, 2020, payday loans (short term loans of $500 or less) can no longer be issued. Instead, these lenders can now offer longer-term loans in higher dollar amounts — up to $1,500 with terms of up to 12 months. Oklahoma consumers should be aware of the potential dangers of these new installment loans. Just like the payday loans they replace, they are designed to trap borrowers in long-term debt. [Courtney Cullison / OK Policy]

Burglary reclassification is another measurable win for criminal justice reform: SB 786 reduced sentencing guidelines for many second-degree burglary charges by creating a less severe third-degree burglary category. Our analysis suggests that this reform resulted in a substantive decrease in second-degree burglary charges and fewer prison sentences in the months following its November 2018 implementation. As Oklahoma continues efforts to reduce our prison population, this analysis reinforces how legislative reform can create swift and durable change. [Emily Mee / OK Policy]

Providing legal representation could begin to fix Oklahoma’s broken eviction process: Even before the pandemic, Tulsa and Oklahoma City already had some of the highest eviction rates in the nation. While we cannot legislate away the pandemic, we can better structure and operate our justice system to ensure that every tenant knows their rights and understands the process. [Frederick Drummond / OK Policy]

Much to consider in reform movements for criminal justice and police (Capitol Update): There are two movements going on today that are related but not the same thing. One could generically be called police reform, and the other is criminal justice reform. There is much to be considered in both police reform and criminal justice reform. Both are worthy of a fair hearing and action by policymakers. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Weekly What’s That

Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT)

The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), created by SB 1 in 2019, is a division within the Legislative Service Bureau intended to provide greater legislative oversight of state agency budgets. Duties of the Office include gathering information related to proposed agency budgets; evaluating the extent to which each agency fulfills its statutory responsibilities; determining the amount of revenue available to the agency from various sources; comparing current budget information to prior agency requests; and conducting an investigation of any agency as needed to fulfill its responsibilities. The Office is also authorized to conduct performance evaluations and independent comprehensive performance audits.

A 14-member bipartisan legislative committee appointed by the Speaker and the President Pro Tempore was established to oversee the LOFT’s operations. The Legislative Service Bureau was appropriated $1.7 million to fund LOFT in FY 2020. 

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“We have a couple of bills out and in play in Congress right now, and they’ve been caught in partisan bickering. And the people who get lost in that are families, small businesses, and children. And right now there’s funding that is desperately needed in education… A second round of stimulus is something that we need all Oklahomans really making sure that our representatives in Washington, D.C., know that we expect for the grownups to get down to business, solve their differences, and get a second round of stimulus out.”

-Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist [Public Radio Tulsa]

Editorial of the Week

Share sacrifice to battle pandemic

At the beginning of the (virus’) first wave, the United States took the surge prevention seriously. If we had continued to show discipline, we would be in a better situation now.

We never had a true lockdown because too many people were still out doing things, and too people were refusing to wear masks. Not enough people have adhered to best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If more adults did what we had to do, more kids could go back to school this fall. Businesses would not be discussing closing down. The uncertainty is increasing pressure on workers and employers.

Our leaders need to prevent further division of the middle and lower classes. Higher-income earners typically have more flexible jobs and often are able to work remotely. Many minimum-wage employees work shifts.

[Full editorial at Norman Transcript]

Numbers of the Day

  • 29% – Percentage of households with children report being behind on last month’s rent, compared with 16 percent for childless households. 
  • 204% – Oklahoma’s maximum annual percentage rate (APR) allowed for a $500, six-month installment loan, the nation’s second highest maximum APR for such loans behind Mississippi’s 305 percent APR. The national median APR for this loan is 38.5%.
  • 48% – The share of federal tax dollars that goes to Social Security, Medicare and other health insurance programs.
  • 16.4 – A recent Centers for Disease Control study showed a COVID-19 hospitalization rate for Latinx children of 16.4 per 100,000. The rate for Black children was 10.5 per 100,000, and for white children it was 2.1 per 100,000.
  • 35% – Among people who were unarmed and killed by police during 2017, Blacks accounted for 35 percent of those deaths. This rate is nearly three times higher than the nation’s overall Black population, which is about 13 percent. 

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Expanding Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit would benefit more than 10 million rural residents, strongly help rural areas [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Payday lenders have embraced installment loans to evade regulations – but they may be even worse [The Conversation]
  • Perspectives from Main Street: The Impact of COVID-19 on Low- to Moderate-Income Communities and the Entities Serving Them [U.S. Federal Reserve
  • Masks mandates have major impact, study finds [MIT News]
  • Report on Police Reform and Racial Justice [U.S. Conference of Mayors]


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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