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
- Rebuilding Oklahoma: Policy recommendations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen our state for the long term: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has evaluated legislative and administrative actions — both state and federal — that will best prepare the state for a long-term recovery that benefits the health and well-being of all Oklahomans. [OK Policy]
- Ask OK Policy: How the pandemic has impacted unemployment in Oklahoma (video): Economic Opportunity Analyst Courtney Cullison fields questions about unemployment insurance and how the pandemic has impacted Oklahomans. [OK Policy / YouTube]
- Ask OK Policy: Pandemic worsened Oklahoma’s eviction crisis (video): Ryan Gentzler, Director of Open Justice Oklahoma, answer questions about the state’s growing eviction crisis and how the May 18 re-opening of Oklahoma courts could make the problem worse. [OK Policy / YouTube]
- Reopening Oklahoma’s courts must be done thoughtfully to avoid a public health disaster: How Oklahoma deals with eviction cases safely will determine whether thousands of residents will become homeless. Lacking a statewide solution to address the issue, these questions will be mostly left up to the discretion of each county. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]
- Oklahoma schools should use federal Education Stabilization Funds to mitigate learning loss for low-income students: Oklahoma has received millions of dollars through the federal CARES ACT to address educational issues that have arisen in the pandemic’s wake. This analysis outlines areas in which those funds could be invested to support all Oklahoma children. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]
- Child care provider support needed to get Oklahoma economy running: Oklahoma child care providers urgently need assistance. Licensed child care is the backbone of our state’s economy, and providers are playing an especially vital role during the pandemic. While many states took swift action to provide support, Oklahoma’s response has been inadequate. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]
- Drafting a budget during uncertain times (Capitol Update): Given the substantial information gap under which legislators were operating, they did a good job of writing and passing the state budget last week. The budget reflects tremendous work by the appropriations committee members — especially the respective chairmen, Sen. Roger Thompson and Rep. Kevin Wallace and their subcommittee chairmen — during the period legislators were marking time at home waiting for the session to resume. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]
- Legislature rebuilds barriers to voting immediately after the Supreme Court knocked them down: Many votes in the coming elections will likely be cast from home, as Oklahomans opt to use absentee ballots in order to maintain social distancing guidelines. A recent Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling would have made this easier and safer by removing the requirement that absentee ballots be notarized. Within 72 hours, lawmakers reinstated those barriers. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]
- Policy Matters: Restoring confidence in state government: Oklahoma’s executive and legislative branches remain locked in a “he said, she said” media battle over the budget with little resolution in sight. Oklahomans deserve for our elected officials to work together to address our state’s very real needs rather than expending energy in needless squabbling. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]
Weekly What’s That
Sine die is a term for the adjournment of an assembly for an indefinite period, from the Latin “without day”. In March 1989, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 620, which provided that regular legislative sessions begin on the first Monday in February and adjourn sine die not later than 5:00 pm on the last Friday in May. Special sessions are also adjourned sine die but there is no set date for their adjournment.
Quote of the Week
“Let’s get past who was in the room, who was locked out of the room, who was right, who was lying, who was wrong. The people of Oklahoma deserve better than that. It is the democratic process, but if I were someone who was watching I would say, ‘God, I just wish they would get it together.’”
–House Minority Leader Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaking about the budget disagreements between Gov. Stitt and the Legislature [NonDoc]
Editorial of the Week
The word ‘hoax’ has no meaning with virus
The COVID-19 pandemic is serious, indeed, so it’s difficult to understand how anyone could deny its existence or cover over the fact that many have died. Were it not grounded in reality, officials of all political stripes would be decrying it. It’s true that politicians have different responses to it, and some think the damage to the economy through widespread business closures will be worse than the effect on public health. The same is true for the public. But even though President Trump initially called the virus a “hoax” – inaccurately – he’s singing a different tune now that some in his administration have contracted it.
Social media is a bastion of ignorance and self-serving lies, and it has encouraged a number of naive people – and those not well-read in terms of science and other matters – to accept an unlimited string of conspiracy theories as fact. Yes, some conspiracy theories do turn out to be rooted in some facts, albeit ones that have been warped and exaggerated beyond measure.
Numbers of the Day
- 17% – Oklahoma state employees make an average of 17 percent less than their private counterparts, which makes retirement and other benefits are thus often a vital tool to recruit and retain highly-skilled employees.
- 1,777 – Eviction cases filed in Oklahoma courts since March 15, when Oklahoma entered a state of emergency, as of May 14, 2020.
- 15% – Estimated percentage decrease in college enrollment nationwide in fall 2020 due to COVID-19, which could lead to a substantial loss of revenue for institutions of higher education.
- 44% – The percentage of child care programs that have lost income because they are reimbursed using attendance rates rather than enrollment for child care subsidy. Child care providers have asked DHS to reimburse based on enrollment rather than attendance during the COVID-19 crisis.
- 30 – The number of people (including jail staff and incarcerated individuals) diagnosed as infected with COVID-19 at the Comanche County Detention Center in Lawton since the outbreak began. The state health department is now testing all jail staff and 345 people incarcerated there.
- 1,622 – Eviction cases filed in Oklahoma courts since March 15, when Oklahoma entered a state of emergency (as of May 11, 2020)
- 68,237 – Number of new unemployment claims filed in Oklahoma the week ending May 2, a 30 percent increase in new filings from the previous week. Part of the reason for the jump in new claims was the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission opening up its site for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds.
What We’re Reading
- ‘Truly the last safe haven’: Libraries serve vulnerable communities during the pandemic [PBS]
- Cancel the rent [The New Yorker]
- The class divide: Remote learning at two schools, private and public [New York Times]
- A state-by-state look at coronavirus in prisons [The Marshall Project]
- In the middle of a pandemic, Oklahoma pursues a Medicaid funding cap [Health Affairs]
- The $600 unemployment booster shot, state by state [New York Times]
- How COVID-19 conspiracy theorists are exploiting YouTube culture [MIT Technology Review]