The Weekly Wonk: Tennessee’s Medicaid block grant proposal examined, historic week for criminal justice reform, and 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

Across the country, states are using Medicaid waivers to seek alternatives to straightforward Medicaid expansion and limit who can access health care. In September, Tennessee became the first state to submit a Medicaid block grant proposal, a plan that threatens access to care and rests on shaky legal ground. Rather than spending time on a legally questionable approach that poses serious threats for the state’s Medicaid population, our state should focus on tried and tested ways of improving access to care and health outcomes for Oklahomans.

This week, former executive director David Blatt penned his last Prosperity Policy column. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update column praised Oklahoma’s historic mass commutation and called it a big step towards recovery from the “war on drugs.”

In this week’s edition of Meet OK Policy, we are featuring Bobby Koolis, one of our Mental Health Policy Fellows. You can meet more members of our staff here.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy data was cited in a number of local and national stories about Oklahoma’s historic mass commutation, including The Washington Post, Slate, U.S. News, The Appeal, and KTUL. Visit the OK Policy website to review our most recent analysis on criminal justice reform issues. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Monday is the deadline to apply to join our team as a Spring intern: We are still accepting applications for paid, part-time internships in our Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices during the Spring 2020 semester. The deadline to apply to join our team is Monday, November 11 at 5:00 p.m. Click here to learn more and apply today.

Weekly What’s That

Legislative Compensation Board, what’s that?

The Oklahoma Board on Legislative Compensation is a constitutionally created Board that has the exclusive authority to set compensation for members of the Oklahoma Legislature. The Board is made up of five members appointed by the Governor and two members appointed by both the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem. No member of the Legislature may serve on the Board.

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

Quote of the Week

“It’s an overdue step, even, but really the real work for the community starts now in supporting our fellow Oklahomans. We want to make sure that we’re giving them all the tools that (we) can to be successful. They’re our neighbors.”

-Lynde Gleason, re-entry case manager at The Education and Employment Ministry non-profit group [The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Muskogee Phoenix: Getting prison reform on track:

But, no one flung open the gates and told inmates they were on their own. Corrections’ officials made time to prepare for the release of the inmates. They had dozens of volunteers to help with job fairs, process paper work to re-issue or return driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs, and set up special programs to help the inmates successfully re-enter society.

“This was a huge first step in the right direction for criminal justice reform,” said state Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, co-author of the new law. “And folks, believe me, we have a lot more to do.”

We agree. Some may say we’re soft on crime, but we think officials are looking at some crimes differently. Monday was a great start at reform. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 953,048 – The estimated number of children under the age of 18 in Oklahoma in 2018
  • 6 – Number of states, including Oklahoma, that tax groceries at the full sales tax rate. Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief Credit, which was designed to reduce the impact on low and middle income families, has not increased since it was created in 1990
  • 97.6% – The percentage increase of Hepatitis C infected prison inmates enrolled in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Chronic Clinic between FY 2013 and September 2019
  • 9 – Number of states, including Oklahoma, where tax revenue is lower than in 2007-09, adjusted for inflation
  • 26,000 – The estimated number of children living with incarcerated parents in Oklahoma in 2017

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • When eviction looms, landlords have lawyers. Now more tenants do, too [WFAE]
  • This data tool helps homeless people get housing. If you’re white, your chances are even better [Seattle Times]
  • States try a gentler approach to getting Medicaid enrollees to work [Chicago Tribune]
  • Low-income communities of color are at more risk for water problems, report finds []
  • Researchers say there’s a simple way to reduce suicides: Increase the minimum wage [Washington Post]


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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