The Weekly Wonk: Children are Oklahoma’s best investment | An early look at requested House interim studies

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: Children – the best investment we can make: The latest KIDS COUNT report noted that more than 200,000 Oklahoma children, or more than 1 in 5, live in poverty. It showed that while Oklahoma saw a 12% improvement in its child poverty rate between 2010 and 2018, 35 other states made greater progress during the same period. As a result, Oklahoma remained among the nation’s bottom 10 states for children living in poverty. This is indicative of how the state fared in most other indicator categories. In places where Oklahoma made progress, other states made more progress. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Capitol Update: An early look at requested interim studies in the House:  Typical of an election year, there were only 88 interim study requests in the House of Representatives this year compared with 146 last year. The Senate has not published its interim study requests. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

Fall 2020 Internships with Oklahoma Policy Institute: OK Policy is now accepting student applicants for internships in public policy, Open Justice Oklahoma, and communications. These are paid, part-time internships during the Fall 2020 semester. Deadline to apply is 5 p.m., Friday, July 24. [Read More  or Apply]

Weekly What’s That

Interim Studies

Interim studies are studies of legislative and policy issues that may be requested by any member of the House or Senate. They often address issues that have been the subject of legislation that failed to pass in previous sessions, or that are deemed worthy of more in-depth consideration.

Interim studies must be requested by House and Senate members by a deadline set by each chamber. The Senate President Pro Tempore does not approve or disapprove interim study requests but assigns them to the appropriate standing committee. The committee chair then decides which studies will be heard. Traditionally, the House Speaker decides which  studies to approve or disapprove. In some case, House study requests on similar subjects are combined into a single study. Some studies are considered jointly by the House and Senate.

Interim studies are typically held from September to November and usually meet at the State Capitol. A committee may devote anywhere from one hour to several full meetings to each study. Local and national experts may be invited to testify at interim study meetings. Interim studies rarely generate formal reports or recommendations, but their work can guide future legislation.

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

Quote of the Week

“On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. … Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch writing in the majority opinion for a Supreme Court ruling that a large chunk of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation [AP News]

Editorial of the Week

Test! Trace! Isolate! Delays make that impossible

This record-popping resurgence in new COVID-19 cases was predictable, considering the state’s haste to reopen with little regard to guidelines published by the White House.

From the onset of this pandemic, public health experts made clear the importance of testing, tracing and isolating patients and carriers of the novel coronavirus to curb community transmission. But four months after the first known COVID-19 case was reported publicly in Oklahoma, those who get tested today must wait seven to 10 days to learn the results….  

Four months later, the United States leads the world in the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of lives claimed by the disease. Still, there appears to be no plan to do what experts say is necessary — and has been proven to work — to put this crisis behind us: test, trace and isolate. 

[Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 161,029 – Four-week moving average for the number of Oklahomans filing continuing claims for unemployment benefits, week ending July 4. This represents a 4.9% drop from numbers reported the previous week, which was 169,411.
  • $57.02 million – Amount in medical marijuana taxes Oklahoma collected in the months of January through June 2020. By comparison, $54.75 million was collected in all 12 months of 2019. 
  • 56.3% – Percentage of Oklahomans who have self-responded to the 2020 Census, which is below the 61.9 percent national average, as of July 8. Marshall County has the lowest response rate at 27.8 percent, while Canadian County has the highest response rate at 67.6 percent.
  • 3X – Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows.
  • 157,740 – Oklahoma’s continued unemployment claims, which shows the total number of people who are receiving unemployment benefits in a given week, for the week ending June 27. That is down from the previous week’s claims, which hit an all-time high of 182,191.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • A Tale of Two Recessions: Some Americans Thrive as Others Suffer [CNBC]
  • The Coronavirus Economy is Exposing How Easy it is to Fall from the Middle Class into Poverty [The Washington Post] 
  • Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to and Use of Paid Family and Medical Leave: Evidence from Four Nationally Representative Datasets [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]
  • The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus [New York Times]
  • Why Do We Treat Unemployment Applicants as Potential Criminals? [Governing]


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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