The Weekly Wonk: OK Policy’s new director; false claims on SQ 780; demanding responsible gun policies; & more

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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Open Justice Oklahoma Intern Thomas Gao.

This Week from OK Policy

This week marks the start of a new era in the history of Oklahoma Policy Institute as Ahniwake Rose takes over the helm as Executive Director, succeeding longtime director David Blatt. A born and raised Oklahoman, Rose brings two decades of successful experience in national policy initiatives and non-profit organizational leadership. 

“Assuming the role of Executive Director is an absolute honor and I am extremely excited to join the talented OK Policy team,” Rose said. “Together we will build upon OK Policy’s foundation of fact-based policy analysis to ensure all Oklahomans have the opportunity to thrive.”

To celebrate Blatt, OK Policy is hosting events in Oklahoma City on Monday, October 28th, 2019 and in Tulsa on Tuesday, October 29th, 2019. The events are free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, go to okpolicy.org/ThankYouDavid. To honor his years of commitment to the organization, the OK Policy Board of Directors has established the David Blatt Legacy Fund to provide dedicated support for OK Policy’s bedrock policy work on budget and tax issues.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Blatt pointed out that 17 days may not have been enough time to put a State Question on the ballot, but it was enough time for Oklahomans to show they are ready to demand responsible gun policies. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update addressed false claims surrounding SQ 780 and discussed a recent analysis by OK Policy which found that theft has continued a downward trend since the passage of recent criminal justice reforms. 

In this week’s edition of Meet OK Policy, we are featuring Andrea McNeil, Senior Operations and Development Associate. You can meet more members of our staff here.

OK Policy in the News

Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine spoke with KTUL about the Tulsa Public School district’s expected budget shortfall and pointed out that the state has come a long way, but that it will take time to catch up, after years of cutting funds. The interview also appeared on FOX25

The Journal Record published a release on Rose taking over the helm as OK Policy’s new Executive Director.

Last day to complete our legislative priorities survey!

We’ve had over 500 people complete our survey – have we heard from you? Help OK Policy & Together OK decide our 2020 legislative priorities by filling out this short survey. Today, Sunday, September 8th is your last day to participate! In gratitude for your participation, everyone who completes the survey and provides your name and contact information will be entered in a drawing to win one of two $25 Visa gift cards.

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid expansion, what’s that?

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 March 2019, 37 states, including Washington D.C., have expanded Medicaid. Oklahoma has opted not to, leaving billions in federal funding on the table, and more than 100,000 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

“Assuming the role of Executive Director is an absolute honor and I am extremely excited to join the talented OK Policy team. Together we will build upon OK Policy’s foundation of fact-based policy analysis to ensure all Oklahomans have the opportunity to thrive.”

– Ahniwake Rose, Oklahoma Policy Institute’s new Executive Director [OK Policy].

Editorial of the Week

Representative Emily Virgin: It’s time to restore the EITC

We need citizens to call their lawmakers and demand this money be put back into the pockets of Oklahomans.

The only way that this legislation will be reversed is if citizens take action, because at the end of the day, “The truth is poor people don’t have lobbyists.”

– Representative Emily Virgin, The Norman Transcript [Source]

Numbers of the Day

  • 6000 – The number of Oklahomans who have died due to opioid related overdoses since 2000.
  • 68,498 – Oklahoma households that received Summer Cooling Assistance in 2018
  • 326 million – Estimated number of opioids dispensed to Oklahoma residents in 2015 according to the evidentiary findings from the Johnson and Johnson trial in Norman.
  • 19 – The number of Medication-Assisted Treatment clinics in the state of Oklahoma

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Can Racist Algorithms Be Fixed?A new study adds to the debate over racial bias in risk assessment tools widely used in courtrooms [The Marshall Project]
  • What it’s like trying to live on minimum wage—it’s a ‘constant struggle’ [CNBC]
  • Why are many of America’s military families going hungry? [NBC]
  • The economist who would fix the American Dream [The Atlantic]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Oklahoma City University as a Clara Luper Scholar. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked as an Inbound and Digital Marketing Specialist for an OKC based firm. She is an alumnus of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a Board Member for Dream Action Oklahoma.

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