The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy to host KIDS COUNT, problems with House Farm Bill, the radicals in criminal justice debate

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 announced that OK Policy will be the new host agency in Oklahoma for KIDS COUNT, a premier source of state and national data on children and families.

Economic Opportunity & Financial Security Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison explained the devastating effects of the U.S. House farm bill on working families, and concluded that the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill is a better way forward for families that struggle with food insecurity. Following the House’s approval of their farm bill, OK Policy issued a statement calling on the Senate to reject the deeply flawed House farm bill.

Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler noted that our incarceration rate has skewed our sense of normal, and went on to say that the real radicals in the reform debate are those who believe that what has worked to reduce crime and incarceration elsewhere would lead to chaos in Oklahoma. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis spoke about the narrowing support for SQ 788 and medical marijuana legalization initiative. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt urged Oklahoma’s members of Congress to tell the administration that removing young children from their parents and denying protection to victims of domestic violence is offensive to our traditions, our values, and our laws.

OK Policy in the News

Communications and Strategy Director Gene Perry was on KTUL’s education crisis roundtable to talk about the funding package and the effort to repeal HB 1010xx. OK Policy’s selection as Oklahoma’s host agency for KIDS COUNT appeared in The Journal Record. 

Upcoming Opportunities

June 26 Primary Elections: The primary elections in Oklahoma are just days away. For answers to some frequently asked questions on voting, check out TogetherOK’s new Advocacy 101 video. For resources, tools, and upcoming deadlines, visit our Oklahoma 2018 State Questions and Elections page.

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 descendants: three African-American families who journeyed west after emancipation. Find all the details on the Facebook event page

Weekly What’s That

Coverage Crater, What’s That?

This term refers to people in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid who earn too much for traditional Medicaid but not enough to qualify for subsidies on the online health insurance marketplaces.

When the ACA was originally drafted, it was with the intention that all states would expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) – $28,676 for per year for a family of three in 2018. Meanwhile, people between 138 and 400 percent FPL would have access to subsidies for purchasing health insurance on the online marketplaces, thus providing seamless coverage. However, in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states had a choice in whether or not to expand eligibility. As of May 2018, 18 states have chosen not to, leaving people who would have been covered by Medicaid expansion without access to health insurance, including some 140,000 in Oklahoma. This group constitutes the ‘coverage crater.’

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

Quote of the Week

The recent auditing ideas are just a ruse to avoid spending money on Oklahoma’s needs, and they spend more money doing it. Education, prisons, roads, human services — these are services that the vast majority of Oklahomans believe the state should be providing. By auditing them only to identify cost savings, the Republicans are violating all the rules of effective auditing. 

– Adam Kupetsky, a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board.

Melissa Baldwin: If you want Oklahoma to stand for something other than putting people in prison, know your candidates

With three-quarters of people headed to our state prisons being admitted for nonviolent offenses and truly not receiving rehabilitation while incarcerated, the Department of Corrections appears to be more the Department of Warehousing. This is no place for people with nonviolent offenses who are impacted by mental illness, homelessness, addiction, lifetimes of trauma and are living in poverty.

The primaries are upon us. Where do your candidates stand on criminal justice reform? These days, most candidates say they support it, but we need leaders who aren’t afraid to be innovative and show their support with more than just words. We need bold action now. Your vote makes that happen.

Numbers of the Day

  • 16.1% – Percentage of Oklahomans who are uninsured 
  • 10,209 – Number of Oklahomans who died due to heart disease in 2016 – the leading cause of death in the state.
  • $3.7 billion – Total sales and gross receipts taxes collected by Oklahoma in 2017, nearly 44 percent of all taxes collected by the state.
  • $25,856 – Average debt of class of 2016 students with loans for an Oklahoma college or university.
  • 62,552 – Number of Oklahomans currently barred from voting because of felonies.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Why rich kids are so good at the marshmallow test [The Atlantic].
  • 5 things to know about medicaid work requirements [Kaiser Health News].
  • Reagan, deregulation and america’s exceptional rise in health care costs [New York Times].
  • Our 2 kinds of criminal justice, and how to reconcile them [Governing].
  • Colleges are no match for american poverty [The Atlantic].


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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