The Weekly Wonk: Mental health policy fellowship; don’t delay pre-K; teacher walkout message ignored…

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 launched applications for the 2019-2021 cohort of the Mental Health Policy Fellowship, a two-year program intended to equip professionals to be passionate, knowledgeable advocates for mental health and addiction policy reforms. Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine explained why delaying Pre-K under Senate Bill 11 would be a step back for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children. In a guest post, Erin Taylor, PhD, showed us how a lack of funding forces thousands of families raising a child with a developmental disability to wait over a decade for critical services

Following Governor Stitt’s State of the State address on Monday, we released a statement noting the Governor’s budget proposes some positive steps but leaves out other major needs. Communications and Strategy Director Gene Perry compiled a list of tools and resources we offer to help you follow what’s happening and advocate for better policies in the Legislature. 

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt laments that the teachers’ walkout message on additional state aid for classrooms may have fallen on deaf ears. Prior to the Governor’s address, Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update gave us his predictions and expectations for the upcoming legislative session

OK Policy in the News

Our Mental Health Policy Fellowship application launch was featured in The Journal Record and NewsOK. Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade spoke to NewsOK regarding Governor’s Stitt’s appointments to the Pardon and Parole Board. The Journal Record cited OK Policy data on incarcerated Oklahomans’ eligibility for parole. Blatt spoke with the Tulsa World regarding dropping revenue estimates. The OU Daily cited our statement in a story on Governor’s Stitt’s State of the State address. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Legislative Kick-off with Together Oklahoma in Stillwater: As the legislative session gets underway, advocates in Stillwater are gathering to share advocacy tips, discuss how best to communicate with legislators, and make plans for session. The event will be this Tuesday, February 12 at 5 PM in Stillwater. Visit Together OK’s Facebook event page for all the details

State of the State Forum with David Blatt in Ardmore: Executive Director David Blatt will be joining advocates in Ardmore to present on the state budget and discuss the upcoming legislative session. The forum will take place next Tuesday, February 19 at 6 PM in Ardmore. Visit Together OK’s Facebook event page for all the details

Weekly What’s That

Committee Bill, What’s That? 

A committee bill is a new legislative procedure initiated by the Senate in 2015 that allows Senate bills to be introduced after the regular legislative deadlines.

Under Senate Rule 6-23, the author of a bill filed after the deadline may ask the chair of the committee to which the bill has been assigned by the Majority Floor Leader to hear the bill as a measure authored by the committee. Upon majority vote of the committee, the authorship of the measure is transferred to the committee from the individual Senator and the deadlines established under Senate rules are not applicable. Committee bills are also exempt from the requirements that no bill can be heard on General Order and passed on Third Reading without a House author.

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

Quote of the Week

By not accepting the return of the taxes we paid to the federal government to cover health care — as 36 states now do, including most Republican states — we are just raising the amount that Oklahomans pay by about $1 billion per year.

-Tulsa businessman George Kaiser, calling on Oklahoma lawmakers to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion [Source: Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Teresa Meinders Burkett: Don’t refuse Medicaid expansion by claiming the feds undercut our residency program

Expanding a state’s Medicaid program through a 9-to-1 federal funding match has been offered as a lure to states to cover more of the uninsured population for several years. Until the end of 2016, under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picked up 100 percent of the tab. Under the plan clearly described in the Affordable Care Act, each subsequent year, the federal percentage dropped a few points until the match reached its current permanent 90 percent level. Oklahoma remains one of only 14 states that is holding out, saying no, and allowing our federal taxes to flow to other states that expanded their Medicaid programs. [Source: Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 5,489 – Number of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for Medicaid services as of January 2019, down from 7,672 in July 2018
  • $17,181 – Average school bus driver salary in Oklahoma.
  • 12,401 – The number of inmates Oklahoma would have to release to reach the national average incarceration rate.
  • $11.3 billion – Estimated Oklahoma hospital reimbursements lost from 2013 to 2022 if Oklahoma continues to refuse federal funds to expand Medicaid.
  • -1,287 – Net migration of 25-34 year olds out of Oklahoma, 2012-2017.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Can this Indiana city re-invent job training? [Politico]
  • ‘I’m trying not to die right now’: Why opioid-addicted patients are still searching for help. [Politico]
  • Rural hospitals in greater jeopardy in non-Medicaid expansion states. [Pew Trusts]
  • Can mental health training for teachers reduce preschool suspensions? [The Hechinger Report]
  • How the shutdown opened a window on poverty in America. [NBC News]


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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