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
- Non-partisan fact sheets on the upcoming state questions: OK Policy has published non-partisan fact sheets about the upcoming state questions to be decided by Oklahoma voters during the Nov. 3 general election. Fact sheets are available for SQ 805 (Criminal History in Sentencing and Sentence Modification Initiative) and SQ 814 (Decrease Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund Payments and Fund Medicaid Program Amendment). Learn more at okpolicy.org/okvotes.
- Policy Matters: Voting story provides much-needed affirmation: In discouraging times, it’s good to be reminded about the powers that we have as Americans, which prominently include the power of our ballot. Voting can change the trajectory of our lives and remove obstacles from the path of our friends and loved ones. [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]
- School meals are a lifeline for Oklahoma families. P-EBT extends that lifeline to ensure children get the food they need: Food insecurity is a major issue in Oklahoma. Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 5 children lived in households where access to food wasn’t always reliable. Now, due to the broad economic impact of COVID-19, it is projected that in 2020, 1 in 3 Oklahoma children will be food insecure. Though schools are working tirelessly to continue to provide these meals, accessing those meals requires caregivers to take time away from work and have reliable transportation, two things many struggling families can’t afford. The good news is that a new program is providing some temporary relief. [Jessica Dietrich, Guest Post / Hunger Free Oklahoma]
- Interim study considers proposed state race and equality commission (Capitol Update): A short interim study was held last week on Senate Bill 1286 that was introduced by Sen. George Young, D-OKC, at the beginning of last session. The bill would have created a 30-member Oklahoma Commission on Race and Equality to serve as a resource and clearinghouse for research and give advice on issues related to racial discrimination and bias to state agencies and employees, communities, organizations, and businesses of Oklahoma that desire it. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
- Announcing OK Policy’s Fall 2020 interns and fellows: An often unsung element of OK Policy’s mission is the opportunity to engage college students and recent graduates into Oklahoma policy work. Our internship program is a paid program that allows college students and recent graduates to be mentored by OK Policy’s professional staff in policy analysis and advocacy, research and data, communication, and other areas of our operations. Our fellowships, meanwhile, are paid, year-long deep dives into a specific policy area. In just the past six months alone, our interns have been deeply involved in helping craft work in areas such as voting rights, health care, education, criminal justice, evictions, economic opportunity, and much more. [OK Policy]
Weekly What’s That
Every State Question, or ballot measure, in Oklahoma must include a ballot title that will appear on every voter’s ballot. Oklahoma law (Title 34, Section 9) specifies that the ballot title must fairly and accurately describe the measure in 200 words or less. In addition, it must be free of jargon, be written at an eighth grade reading level, and clearly represent the effect of a “yes” vote and a “no” vote. The ballot language must always be formulated so that a “yes” vote is a vote in favor of the proposition in question, and a “no” vote is a vote to reject it.
Initiative petitions and legislatively-initiated ballot measures must contain a draft ballot title. When signed copies of a petition are filed, or when a legislative referendum has been submitted to the Secretary of State, the state Attorney General reviews the proposed ballot title and may rewrite the title if he determines that it does not meet legal requirements. Any person may challenge the Attorney General’s proposed ballot language to the Supreme Court, which may rewrite the language.
Quote of the Week
“Every taxpayer, every parent has a responsibility to be involved with their public school district. It’s time that taxpayers in Oklahoma started using their voice and demanding answers.”
-State Auditor Cindy Byrd speaking about results of her office’s investigative audit into Epic Charter Schools. [NonDoc]
Editorial of the Week
Forgive us if we take legislative efforts to “improve” state transparency laws with a grain of salt
Oklahoma legislators are talking about changes to the state’s two most important transparency laws.
While some of the changes being discussed are reasonable, we are deeply concerned anytime lawmakers climb into the Open Meeting Act or the Open Records Act. It’s a concern based on experience. The vast majority of legislative history on those two laws have been efforts to make them weaker and provide illegitimate hiding places for bureaucrats and special interests.
So, when the idea of “improving” either of the laws is on the agenda, the first order of business should be to improve them in actuality.
Numbers of the Day
- 12% – Percentage of Oklahoma children, or about 105,000 children, who live in high-poverty areas in the state.
- 12,137 – Number of evictions filed in Oklahoma courts since March 15, 2020, the day Oklahoma declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (As of Sept. 29, 2020)
- 73.7% – Percentage of uninsured adults ages 18-64 who say they aren’t covered because insurance is not affordable – by far the most common reason for not having coverage. The percentage of uninsured adults who were uninsured because coverage was not affordable increased with age, from 66.8% among those aged 18–29 to 80.9% among those aged 50–64.
- 1 in 7 – Share of adults who reported that their household sometimes or often did not have enough to eat.
- 116,000 – New registered voters in Oklahoma since January 15, 2020. This represents a net increase of more than 34,000 registered voters in the past month.
What We’re Reading
- How Can We Bridge the Partisan Divide and Conquer COVID? [New England Journal of Medicine]
- An eviction crisis is coming, housing lawyers warn [American Bar Association Journal]
- Coronavirus pandemic is closing Black-owned businesses at an outsized rate [MarketWatch]
- Did CARES Act benefits reach vulnerable Americans? Evidence from a national survey [Brookings]
- Dirty Tricks: 9 Falsehoods that Could Undermine the 2020 Election [Brennan Center for Justice]