The Weekly Wonk: Open Justice Oklahoma; three join OK Policy team; (paper)work requirements

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

It was an exciting week for the OK Policy team!

Monday marked the launch of Open Justice Oklahoma (OJO), a new project to improve understanding of Oklahoma’s justice system through analysis of public data. The project will be led by Ryan Gentzler, who has been a criminal justice analyst with Oklahoma Policy Institute for the past two years. OK Policy is also hiring a justice data analyst to work with the project, with an application deadline of August 3rd. We also welcomed three new staffers to the team: Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine, Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade, and Operations and Development Associate Andrea McNeil. 

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote about how (paper)work requirements threaten essential health coverage for Oklahoma parents and caregivers under a SoonerCare waiver proposal. To send Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency a public comment on this proposal, you can use this survey. See this advocacy alert to learn more.

OK Policy Intern Anna Rouw argued that to encourage reintegration, we should restore voting rights for people with felonies. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update speculated that the last minute medical marijuana rule changes were the result of lobbying efforts

OK Policy in the News

Policy Director Carly Putnam helped Tulsa World Editorial Board Director Wayne Green with research for his op-ed on the SoonerCare waiver proposal. She also spoke with KTUL on how this plan would harm parents and families in Oklahoma. The Enid News & Eagle published her piece on why this waiver proposal is a threat for parents and caretakers. 

Blatt spoke with the Enid News & Eagle about the unwillingness of legislators to convene for a medical marijuana special session. The Washington Post cited OK Policy data in a story about Oklahoma Republicans’ changing attitude toward raising taxes. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Join us and Magic City Books on August 1st to host award-winning scholar Kendra Field: Following the lead of her own ancestors, Kendra Field’s epic family history chronicles the westward migration of freedom’s first generation in the fifty years after emancipation. Drawing on decades of archival research and family lore within and beyond the United States, Field traces their journey out of the South to Indian Territory, where they participated in the development of black and black Indian towns and settlements. Kendra will be in conversation with local author and attorney, Hannibal Johnson, Wednesday, August 1 at 7 PM. Find all the details on the Facebook event page

August 3rd is the deadline to register to vote in the August runoffs. For a full list of deadlines and additional voting resources, visit our Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections page.

August 3rd is the deadline to apply for OJO’s justice data analyst position: OK Policy is seeking a curious and creative Data Analyst to assist the work of Open Justice Oklahoma, a new project that aims to identify, evaluate, and promote state justice reform efforts by providing data and data analysis tools to stakeholders, advocates, and the public. Visit OJO’s website to read the full job announcement.

Weekly What’s That

Interim Study, what’s that?

Interim studies are studies of legislative and policy issues that may be requested by any member of the House or Senate. They often address issues that have been the subject of legislation that failed to pass in previous sessions, or that are deemed worthy of more in-depth consideration.

Interim studies must be requested by House and Senate members by a deadline set by each chamber. The Senate President Pro Tempore does not approve or disapprove interim study requests but assigns them to the appropriate standing committee. The committee chair then decides which studies will be heard.

Interim studies are typically held from September to November and usually meet at the State Capitol. Interim studies rarely generate formal reports or recommendations, but their work can guide future legislation. Read more about interim studies here.

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

Quote of the Week

“Full employment doesn’t necessarily mean people can provide everything they need. A ton of jobs here pay $10 or $11 an hour. Think about supporting a family on that — the math doesn’t work.”

-Eileen Bradshaw, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, explaining why many working Oklahomans still need help getting enough food for their families [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Wayne Greene: The state is ready to force the nonexistent horde of able-bodied adults on Medicaid to get jobs … but it won’t say it’ll save a dime

“Here’s the biggest problem with the whole idea: It assumes that people on Medicaid don’t want to work and that they must be coerced with the threat of losing their health care coverage. That taps into the animus and fear of a lot of taxpayers who don’t know many Medicaid clients, except, perhaps, their Aunt Dee in the nursing home … who doesn’t have a job. In fact, those 6,000 Medicaid clients are a lot like you and me.” [Tulsa World].

Numbers of the Day

  • 126,000 – Number of children in immigrant families in Oklahoma, 13% of all kids in the state
  • 58.4% – Percent of Oklahoma students participating in free or reduced-price lunch at school who also participated in breakfast in the 2016-17 school year, 23rd in the U.S.
  • 61.5% – Share of Oklahoma students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in the 2016-17 school year
  • $1.084 billion – Total spending on the justice system by state government in Oklahoma, FY 2015

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • More women than men: State legislatures could shift for the first time [New York Times].
  • American Indian and Alaska native maternal and infant mortality: Challenges and opportunities [Center for American Progress].
  • As feds pull back, states step in to regulate for-profit colleges and universities [Hechinger Report].
  • Medicaid work requirements: Inside the decision overturning Kentucky health’s approval [Health Affairs].
  • The new toll of American student debt in 3 charts [New York Times].


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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