The Weekly Wonk: SQ 805’s defeat doesn’t signal end of justice reform efforts | Census numbers require more context

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 Communications Intern Lilly Strom.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy announces Angela Monson as Outreach and Legislative Director: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has announced it has hired former Oklahoma lawmaker Angela Monson to help engage Oklahomans and elected officials with its work to make our state a place where everyone can thrive. As OK Policy’s Outreach and Legislative Director, Monson will advance OK Policy’s priorities by maintaining and strengthening relationships with elected officials statewide, as well as with connecting state residents through the organization’s Together Oklahoma advocacy group. Monson started her new role on Nov. 2. [OK Policy]

SQ 805’s defeat doesn’t signal end of justice reform efforts (Capitol Update): Supporters of criminal justice reform are surely feeling the sting of defeat after Tuesday’s 61 percent to 39 percent loss of State Question 805. The measure would have banned enhancing penalties for a second or subsequent conviction for nonviolent offenses. Opponents cast the vote as a public safety issue in a time when civil unrest and polarization was top of mind for voters. Some opposed SQ 805 on the basis that domestic violence inexplicably had not been listed as a violent crime by statute. They remained unconvinced by arguments that domestic violence penalties could be enhanced by other means. A little history should give criminal justice reformers reason to take heart. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Census numbers require 99.9% more context: Community advocates have been driving home the message that the census, which wrapped up in October, is vitally important to our communities because its resulting data drives decision-making on distribution of about $890 billion of federal funds. In celebrating the end of the 2020 census, state officials touted that Oklahoma had a 99.9% completion rate. That number, however, requires more context. Many factors resulted in a census operating on a shortened deadline with unnecessary systemic problems that likely resulted in a “complete” count, but one that isn’t as accurate as it could have been. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That


The Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety (ROADS) Fund is a fund of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation that was created by the Legislature in 2005 to ensure dedicated revenue for the maintenance and repair of state highway and bridges. Until 2019, money was apportioned directly to the ROADS Fund from personal income tax collections. Under HB 1014xx, passed in 2017 special session, beginning in FY 2020, the ROADS fund receives gasoline and diesel fuel tax revenue and most motor vehicle collections previously apportioned to the General Revenue Fund; income tax collections previously going to the ROADS Fund will go to the General Revenue Fund instead.

The ROADS Fund was guaranteed an annual apportionment equal to the amount apportioned for the previous year plus an additional $59.7 million until it reached a cap of $575 million. The ROADS Fund hit its $575 million cap in FY 2019.

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

Quote of the Week

“The unyielding COVID spread across Oklahoma continues with new hospital admissions, inpatients, and patients in the ICU at record levels, indicating deeper spread across the state. The most recent trends, showing steep inclines across all indicators, need immediate action including mask requirements to decrease severity in morbidity and mortality among Oklahomans.”

White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Oklahoma, Nov. 8, 2020 

Editorial of the Week

The city has spoken; now, stop the hate

(O)n the off chance that this piece might be seen by a “freedom fighter” who is still capable of thinking rationally but is on the edge of losing that ability, here’s a message regarding the Tahlequah City Council’s vote Thursday night to extend the mask mandate: Stop the hate, OK? Just stop it. Right now. Please.

No one’s constitutional rights have been infringed upon. None of the councilors, regardless of how they cast their votes, have anything to gain by what they did. The mayor doesn’t own stock in a mask-making company, and she’s not leading a conspiracy to take over the world with pieces of cloth.

Yes, many people of goodwill are adamant about wearing masks themselves but question the wisdom of an ordinance. It’s equally true that other good folks, who care about the welfare of friends and neighbors, think the best way to flatten the curve on this pandemic is to enact temporary laws to save us from ourselves. Either way, what’s done is done – so act like you care about your community, and put on the mask when you go out.

Stop stomping into stores defiantly and telling owners you’ll take your business elsewhere if they politely ask you to mask up. Stop hollering about “recall elections” for officials who were doing what they thought best to protect the people of this city. You’ll get your chance for “revenge” at the polls, if that’s what you want. Stop ridiculing people who wear masks as “cowards,” especially when by virtue of your petulant attitude, you have revealed yourself to be a craven snowflake offended by the least perceived slight.

[Read the full Tahlequah Daily Press editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 4,507 – Nov. 7 revised COVID-19 daily case count for Oklahoma, which more than doubled the previous record of 2,101 from two days earlier.
  • Zero – Number of available ICU beds in Tulsa on Nov. 9 following record number of COVID-19 cases reported in Oklahoma during recent days.
  • 1,248 – Number of Oklahomans who are hospitalized with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, Nov. 11, which surpasses the previous record of 1,055 set last Nov. 5.
  • 28% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults living in households with children who did not get needed medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic in Oklahoma, compared with the 25% national average.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • State variation in seasonal flu vaccination: Implications for a COVID-19 vaccine [KFF]
  • Tracking the COVID-19 recession’s effects on food, housing, and employment hardships [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • There’s been a concerning lack of progress for communities of color during the COVID-19 crisis [Urban Institute]
  • Why every state should adopt a mask mandate, in 4 charts [Vox]


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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