The Weekly Wonk: The path to equal pay; an innovative approach to homelessness; new budget analyst; & 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.

The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lindsay Myers.

This Week from OK Policy

Governor Stitt announced that he expects to have a budget deal by early next week — an event which typically signals that the legislative session is coming to an end. Still, a few key issues remain unresolved, including education funding, state worker pay, criminal justice reform, and health coverage expansion. Check out our Bill Watch post for the latest developments on key bills we’re following in these areas and others. 

Poverty in Oklahoma is consistently above the national average, but what you may not have noticed is the fact that women are more likely to experience poverty than men. Economic Opportunity Courtney Cullison points out that if equal pay were a reality in Oklahoma, the poverty rate for working women in the state would be reduced almost by half and their earnings would increase by about $5.4 billion a year. 

In the latest episode of the OK PolicyCast, Strategy and Communications Director Gene Perry spoke with Tyler Parette, the director of a unique homelessness outreach program in Tulsa with the City Lights Foundation. Tyler shares his perspective on dealing with some of the hardest problems in society of homelessness, addiction, and mental illness, not from the remove of a news article or policy paper, but by forging relationships directly with the people affected.

In his weekly Journal Record column, David Blatt noted that the Legislature has one last chance to expand coverage before voters approve Medicaid expansion through a state question. Steve Lewis’ Capitol Update gave us a look at Governor Stitt’s impact on policy discussions at the Capitol.

OK Policy announced that we’ve hired Paul Shinn as a senior policy analyst covering budget and tax issues. Shinn’s career has included extensive leadership roles in Oklahoma state and local government budget offices and previous work with OK Policy.

Upcoming Opportunities

Just over two weeks to apply for the 2019 Summer Policy Institute: “The Summer Policy Institute was a valuable and unique experience. I never imagined I would learn as much as I did. I formed relationships with so many students and professionals across the state. The information was comprehensive, and the guest speakers were amazing.” -Lily DeFrank, Masters in Social Work, OU. The deadline to apply is Monday, May 27.

ABCs of Advocacy: This Tuesday, May 14th, Together Oklahoma Ardmore will host an introduction to being an advocate. Learn how to get involved at a state level to contact your state representatives and ensure your voice is heard at the State Capitol. This will be the first in a series we will be doing all summer long. Learn more and RSVP here.

Weekly What’s That

Conference committee, what’s that?

A conference committee is a joint committee whose function is to arrive at a single version of a bill which has passed the two legislative chambers in different forms. Bills are assigned to a conference committee if the chamber of origin rejects amendments made in the second chamber, or if the bill has a stricken title. Click here to read more about conference committees

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

Quote of the Week

“There is really only one path that leads to growth and prosperity for Oklahoma’s future. A highly trained, taxpaying workforce driven by bright entrepreneurs starts with a robust higher education system. For too long, the state’s top leaders have acted as if tuition, donations and good luck would be enough to produce that. They are not.”

– Tulsa World Editorial Board [Tulsa World].

Editorial of the Week

Meloyde Blancett: Five reasons why bail reform is esssential

In some public remarks I was making recently, I emphasized the important role that bail reform plays in making a dent in our state’s massive overincarceration rates. When a person raised their hand and asked why that was important, it struck me that there are a whole lot of people who support reform but know nothing about why bail is such a critical issue. [Tulsa World].

Numbers of the Day

  • 9.2% – Share of family income paid in sales and excise taxes by the poorest 20% of Oklahoma households.
  • 28% – How much Oklahoma’s state appropriations for CareerTech have been cut over the past decade.
  • 20,782 – Number of drug-related arrests in Oklahoma in 2017, 18.2% of all arrests made in that year.
  • 638,428 – Number of children covered by Soonercare in 2018.
  • 220% – Percentage increase in meth related overdose deaths in Oklahoma from 2010 to 2017.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • The most cost-effective way to help the homeless is to give them homes. [Vox]
  • County jails struggle with a new role as America’s prime centers for opioid detox. [NPR]
  • Cities try new ways to help former inmates find housing. [Governing]
  • Where the good jobs are. [New York Times]
  • Meet the Canadian doctor who prescribes money to low-income patients. [Vox]


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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