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
Ready … set … shenanigans: In the hoopla over the budget, it was easy to miss that lawmakers were quietly advancing a number of bills that have nothing to do with the health, safety, and economic security of our state (as they indicated would be their priority). Two that I am particularly concerned about are designed to limit citizen engagement. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]
- Statement: SB210: Lawmakers had the opportunity this week to take a stand for election integrity. They chose not to: On Thursday, the Oklahoma Senate advanced SB 210, which will cement barriers to voting by mail, to Gov. Stitt’s desk. Passed in the middle of a pandemic, this bill would roll back a state Supreme Court decision from just days ago and continues the shameful shell game that began yesterday in the House. [OK Policy]
- Statement: ‘Three-bill Monte’: Lawmakers fail transparency test, advance absentee voter barriers: The Oklahoma House on Wednesday played ‘three-bill monte’ with legislation that would keep many Oklahomans from voting safely. The legislative changes, made just minutes before floor debate began, appeared to be an attempt to ram through legislation that places unneeded barriers for our neighbors who want to vote via absentee ballot. [OK Policy]
- Statement: Bill would introduce unneeded barriers to voting, invite lawsuits: Just a day after the Oklahoma Supreme Court removed barriers to absentee voting, the Oklahoma Legislature is quietly advancing a bill to make it harder to vote by mail. [OK Policy]
SNAP is a critical piece of our pandemic response, and Congress needs to give it a boost: SNAP can help to stabilize a declining economy, and making the program as effective as possible is in everyone’s best interest right now. Food security is economic security — when people have adequate nutritious food, they are healthier, better able to fight off illness, and able to work as soon as good jobs are available. [Courtney Cullison / OK Policy]
OK Policy has announced it will hold its Oklahoma Summer Policy Institute on August 2-5. SPI offers participants a unique opportunity to become better informed about the most important Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders, and prepare for their future studies and work in policy-related fields. The institute is open to any undergraduate or graduate student at an Oklahoma college or university, or graduate from an Oklahoma high school, who has completed a minimum of 24 hours of college credit or has graduated in December 2019 or later. Deadline to apply is May 25. For more information or to apply, visit okpolicy.org/SPI.
Weekly What’s That
General Appropriations Bill
The General Appropriations (GA) bill is an annual bill approved by the Legislature that funds the ongoing operations of state agencies for the next budget year.
The GA bill has two features that distinguish it from other legislation:
- It does not need an emergency clause to become effective July;
- It may include funding for multiple government functions and agencies.
Until the early-2000s, the GA bill was typically passed midway through session and continued the current year’s funding for most agencies for the next year. The legislature would then pass funding for new program in separate bills later in session. In more recent years, the GA bill has included almost all funding agreed to as part of the budget agreement reached by the Governor and legislative leaders and is typically voted on in the final days of session.
Quote of the Week
“They never act that quickly when it comes to other issues. It hasn’t been a good week for democracy in Oklahoma.”
Editorial of the Week
Those who support the end run around the Supreme Court argue the proposed change is necessary to prevent voter fraud. They contend those who cast absentee ballots should be treated no different than those who are required to present identification when they vote at precincts — the voter identification requirement was approved as a state question.
The idea that widespread fraud is being perpetrated by those who vote by mail is a false narrative being pedaled by people who have failed numerous times to prove it exists. Voting by mail is the primary method used by five states and voters in 28 states, including those in Oklahoma, may vote by mail without providing any reason or excuse. More than 31 million Americans, one of every four who voted, cast ballots by mail in 2018.
Numbers of the Day
- 23 – Percentage of Oklahoma’s known COVID-19 cases linked to long-term care facilities. Additionally, 45 percent of reported deaths are connected to the state’s long-term care facilities.
- 1,271 – The average daily SNAP food assistance applications in Oklahoma from March 16 to April 15, 2020. This is three times the prior average of 460.
- 2 – Instances of Oklahoma absentee ballot fraud in almost four decades, according to a database from The Heritage Foundation.
- 491 – Number of voter fraud prosecutions in the U.S. during a 12-year period from 2000 to 2012 during which billions of votes were cast.
- $800 million – Approximate amount of federal funding available to Oklahoma for reimbursing the state for coronavirus-related expenses via the federal CARES Act. Legislators and others have questioned how Gov. Stitt’s administration is spending those funds.
- $877 million – The amount of funds Oklahoma banks have loaned to small businesses in the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program, for a total of 20,919 loans. In the first round, which opened April 3 and lasted until funds were exhausted on April 16, Oklahoma banks funded 35,557 loans worth $4.61 billion.
- 70% – Percent of typical reading growth students are likely to retun to school with for fall 2020 compared to a full year.
What We’re Reading
- Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many imigrants are excluded from federal relief efforts [Community Catalyst]
- A gloomy prediction on how much poverty could rise [New York Times]
- Straggling in a good economy, and now struggling in a crisis [New York Times]
- Debunking the voter fraud myth [Brennan Center for Justice]
- Flattening the curve for incarcerated populations, COVID-19 in jails and prisons [New England Journal of Medicine]
- Government’s role in addressing the pandemic’s grim racial reality [Governing]
- The heartbreaking choices faced by child care providers on the front lines [The Nation]