The Weekly Wonk: forces shaking Oklahoma politics; plea deals tip scales; public feedback needed

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

This week, we released Episode 33 of the OK Policy Cast, where Strategy and Communications Director Gene Perry talked with Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, about the forces shaking Oklahoma politics. OK Policy Summer Intern Anna Rouw explained how plea deals have unfairly tipped the scales of Oklahoma’s justice system against defendants, and proposed ways judges and lawmakers can reduce the harms of plea deals. 

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update warned us that with rising revenues, we should be wary of ending the discussion on revenue measures unless we want to slip back to the bottom of the barrel. In his weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt responded to a correspondent who lamented our frequent reporting of depressing news and statistics after we released the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book that ranked Oklahoma in the bottom ten for child well-being. 

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Carly Putnam spoke to KFOR about why it is vital that the community participates in the public comment period of the new SoonerCare proposal. You can submit a public comment via our user-friendly form at To learn more about the new SoonerCare proposal and how it could hurt families living in deep poverty, visit our advocacy alert page

Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler spoke with KTUL about medical marijuana and why it is not a big revenue generator. The Stillwater News-Press wrote about Oklahoma’s disappointing ranking in the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Upcoming Opportunities

Race and America after the Civil War: We’re teaming up with Magic City Books to host award-winning scholar Kendra Field, assistant professor of history and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University. Kendra will be in conversation with local author and attorney, Hannibal Johnson, to talk about the masterful and poignant story of her ancestors: three African-American families who journeyed west after emancipation. Find all the details on the Facebook event page

Weekly What’s That

Fiscal Year, What’s That?

A fiscal year (usually abbreviated ‘FY’) is the period used for calculating annual budgets. The state of Oklahoma’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Each fiscal year is named after the calendar year that it ends in. For example, Oklahoma’s fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) covers the period from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

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

Quote of the Week

 “This would be a radical new change in how health care for low-income Oklahomans is administered. We know, if someone’s getting treatment for say bipolar disorder or for asthma and, then, if they can’t fill a prescription, that really affects their ability to parent, to find work.” 

-Carly Putnam, Policy Director for Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking about a proposal to take health care from low-income Oklahomans who don’t report working enough hours every month [KFOR].

Editorial of the Week

Kris Steele: Justice Reform Requires Greater Buy-In

Today, some district attorneys and their allies are trying to discredit the progress made by saying there are no savings to reinvest in alternatives and treatment. The money is there, but it is unfortunately being spent on continuing to incarcerate people who battle addiction. As a former speaker of the Oklahoma House, I can say with certainty that a law isn’t much of a law if the people tasked with implementing it don’t believe in it. As long as prosecutors keep sending people to prison for drug possession, reinvestments in treatment that voters demanded won’t happen [NewsOK].

Numbers of the Day

  • 61.7% – Oklahoma’s labor force participation rate (May 2018)
  • $21.91 – 2017 median wage for Oklahoma kindergarten teachers, lowest in the U.S.
  • 153,000 – Projected number of uninsured people who would enroll in coverage if Oklahoma expanded Medicaid in 2019
  • 7.4 – Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2016, 25 percent higher than the national average.
  • 130,902 – Number of Oklahomans enrolled in health coverage through as of March 2018. Of those enrollees, 95% received a federal subsidy that reduced monthly premiums from $694.25 to $28.79, on average.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • One county thrives. The next one over struggles. Economists take note [New York Times].
  • Finally, some answers on the effects of Medicaid expansion [New York Times].
  • We must take disability and aging support work seriously [People’s Policy Projects].
  • The deadliest drug [Governing]. 
  • Behind bars, mentally ill inmates are often punished for their symptoms [NPR].


Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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