The Weekly Wonk: Judges on the ballot, safety net access, and immigrant drivers licenses

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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, 2018 Summer Intern Max West gave us an update on what we need to know about judges on the ballot in Oklahoma. Economic Opportunity Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison described how denying immigrant access to the safety net would have terrible consequences for us all. 2018 Sprint Intern Jacob Tharp pointed out that allowing undocumented Oklahomans to drive legally would improve public safety and insurance rates

On Wednesday, we hosted Black Lives Lost: An Evening with Danielle Allen, where Attorney Damario Soloman Simmons led a fascinating conversation with Danielle Allen, Harvard professor and author of “Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.” While in Oklahoma, Allen sat down with Public Radio Tulsa to talk about her book “Cuz”.

In this week’s Capitol Update, Steve Lewis described the position of director of child welfare services for DHS as the most difficult job in state government. In his weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt detailed the growing momentum for Medicaid expansion, and stated that perhaps Oklahoma may soon be ready to join the growing majority of states committed to expanding health coverage.

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid Expansion

One of the primary provisions of the Affordable Care Act gives states the options to expand their Medicaid eligibility to include people below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,735 per year for one person or $34,638 for a family of four). The costs of expansion were paid for in full by the federal government through 2016, before dropping down (and freezing at) 90 percent in 2020, well above the typical federal match. As of May 2018, 31 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid. Oklahoma has opted not to, leaving billions in federal funding on the table, and roughly 150,000 Oklahomans in a ‘coverage crater’ (too low-income to qualify for subsidies on the health insurance marketplace, too wealthy or not a member of a population group that is eligible to qualify for traditional Medicaid in Oklahoma).

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

Quote of the Week

“As a result of Defendants’ policies, people too poor to pay for their release are jailed for days, weeks, or months. This automatic pretrial detention of poor people has devastating consequences: people who are arrested lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, endure separation from their children and loved ones, and face pressure to plead guilty as soon as possible because that is often the quickest way to terminate their unlawful confinement.”

-A lawsuit against Tulsa County  filed by local and national civil rights organizations, which alleges that the county’s monetary bail system is unconstitutional because it indefinitely holds poor people behind bars before trial [Tulsa World].

Editorial of the Week

Robert L. Kerr: The Oklahoma teacher’s walkout creates a unique opportunity for a new tactic from our next governor

First came this spring’s teacher rallies at the Capitol and national-television audiences coming to know Oklahoma as the place schools can’t afford to stay open all week, and students use duct-taped, Reagan-era textbooks. Then came the anti-tax lobby’s petition to roll back the Legislature’s education funding response. And in a few more weeks, primaries will start winnowing down the crowd of aspiring candidates for the state’s next governor.

Maybe it all brings together a historic opportunity for one of those candidates to hitch his or her wagon to a bold idea for cutting through all the noise and making a real difference in the state’s future.

[Tulsa World].

Numbers of the Day

  • 26% – Percentage of young children in Oklahoma (under age 6) living in families making less than the federal poverty level
  • $78 million – Amount of Tobacco settlement payments made by cigarette companies to Oklahoma in 2017
  • 44.1% – Percentage of Oklahoma renters that are cost burdened (spending 30% or more of household income on rent and utilities)
  • 25.4% – Rural child poverty rate in Oklahoma, compared to an urban child poverty rate of 21.8%
  • 510,098 – Number of Oklahoma children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP health coverage as of March 2018

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Time to rethink probation and parole [Larry Krasner/The Inquirer].
  • Have you ever seen someone get killed? [New York Times].
  • 50 years after the poor people’s campaign, poverty persists because of a stingy safety net and a dysfunctional labor market [Economic Policy Institute].
  • A flurry of bills followed Larry Nassar’s conviction. Here’s why that’s a problem [The Appeal].
  • The teen pregnancy prevention program was on the right track, now it’s being dismantled [Health Affairs].


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.

One thought on “The Weekly Wonk: Judges on the ballot, safety net access, and immigrant drivers licenses

  1. rofl how ? you cant even get rape kits up to date, little own chasing around undocumented people and discriminating against these , like our police have nothing better to do . and I agree , it is unconstitutional but what a money maker , correct . I call for reform and oklahoma has alot of this to do . as for your judges , Im voting No on all incumbents then maybe, just maybe, with new faces and new understanding this will cut down on incarceration, demise of private prisons. and a new way of thinking for minor crimes . misdemeanors that should have been nothing more then tickets or citations and not hauled into jail .

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