The Weekly Wonk: Thousands speak out against Gov.’s health care plan; tax equity needed; 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 from OK Policy

Upcoming Opportunities

Today (April 19) is deadline to apply for two OK Policy Internships for Summer 2020. Internships are open to both current undergraduate and graduate students (must have completed a minimum of 24 hours of college credit) and to those who completed their degree programs no earlier than the fall 2019 semester. [Learn more and apply.] 

Weekly What’s That

State Question

State Questions are measures to change Oklahoma laws or the state constitution that appear on the ballot for all voters. They can be added to the ballot by the Legislature or by an initiative petition from citizens.

The number of signatures required for a petition to qualify for the balloy is tied to the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Constitutional amendments require signatures equaling at least 15 percent of votes cast, statute changes require 8 percent of this vote, and veto referendums require 5 percent.  Most State Questions are voted on during November general elections, but initiative petitions can be placed on the ballot at the time of primary elections or a special election.

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

Quote of the Week

“It’s unfair to voters to wait until the last second for them to see if they’re going to have to vote, or if they’ll have to request absentee ballots or locate a notary to comply with the safer at home order. Really this problem has been going on before the pandemic and (Gov. Stitt’s) opposition to the state question has led him to drag his feet.”

-Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, speaking about Gov. Stitt setting an SQ 802 election date [The Frontier

Editorial of the Week

April 19, 1995: A moment of eternity

On this April 19, 25 years have passed since that moment McVeigh’s fuse reached the explosives. The sun moving across the 200 block of NW 5 no longer illumines a government office building. It floods a field of green planted with sculpted chairs in place of 168 lives and all the memories they made and all the potential that died with them.

Twenty-five years later, the stories of resilience and fortitude, of picking yourself up and moving forward, of remembering what happened to us all on April 19, 1995, but not becoming paralyzed by it, can be found among scores of victims and their families. They are found in the scores of weddings and births and graduations and job milestones that have been celebrated during the past 25 years.

[The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Numbers of the Day

  • 53% – Percentage of increase in Oklahoma’s COVID-19 cases over the past week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
  • 48,977 – Number of new unemployment claims filed in Oklahoma during the week ending April 11, 2020, a 19% decline from the prior week when 60,534 filed for unemployment insurance.
  • 1,401 – Daily average number of Oklahomans who have applied for safety net programs since March 16, with a bulk of the applications for food assistance through SNAP benefits. Between January 1 and March 15, the average daily applications for programs was 508.
  • 62% – Amount by which the likelihood of a rural hospital closing decreases if that hospital is in a Medicaid expansion state.
  • $8.6 billion – Additional funding which would be available to Oklahoma over the next decade to fund services if the state expanded Medicaid.
  • 1,175,713 – Number of Oklahoma adults (age 18+) at risk of serious illness if infected with COVID-19, or 40.8% of Oklahoma adults 18 and over.
  • 620,000 – Number of Oklahomans annually lifted above the poverty line by the social safety net.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Relief package a good start, say advocates for the poor. But more help is needed. [NPR]
  • The safety net got a quick patch. What happens after the coronavirus? [New York Times]
  • ‘I have no money’: Debt collection continues despite pandemic [The Guardian]
  • Health coverage for unemployed harder to come by in some states [Pew Trusts]
  • States lead the fight against COVID-19. That means we all depend on Medicaid now [Washington Post]
  • Paying for Medicaid — State budgets and the case for expansion in the time of coronavirus [The New England Journal of Medicine]
  • Easing access to the safety net, and why we need to do it now [Governing]


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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