Weekly Wonk: A better Oklahoma tomorrow requires action today | Capitol Update | Lawmakers should focus on Oklahoma’s pressing needs

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

Column: A better Oklahoma tomorrow requires action today: Oklahoma can be a state where we all have the opportunity and resources to be healthy, live in safe communities and raise thriving families. More than just aspirational talking points, this vision where everyone shares the prosperity of a better Oklahoma is attainable. Achieving it will take deliberate policy actions that prioritize the well-being of our people over politics and ideology. [Shiloh Kantz Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Policy Matters: Lawmakers should focus on Oklahoma’s pressing needs: The upcoming legislative session can be a time when Oklahoma lawmakers come together for thoughtful examination of the issues that can move our state forward. To achieve this, however, we need statesmanship that brings us together, not promoting wedge issues that divide our communities. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Proposed bills would ensure high-quality legal representation for children, parents (Capitol Update): To stop the cycle of child deprivation, we depend on the work of child welfare staff and our juvenile court system to make decisions about removal, care, placement, and permanency for these children. Although our juvenile courts arguably offer the best chance for generational change, they are often the most unsupported part of the judicial system. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

Together Oklahoma Meetings

  • Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.: Protecting Democracy Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on ensuring that Oklahoma laws and policies provide for governmental transparency and greater participation in the democratic process. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Thursday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m.: Safe Communities/Justice Reform Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on issues that can help make our communities safer, including criminal justice reforms. [Join the Meeting Online]

Weekly What’s That

Concurrent Resolution

A concurrent resolution is a measure passed by both legislature chambers to ex­press facts, principles, opinions, wishes and purposes of the legislature. Concurrent resolu­tions are also used to memorialize the president, congress, cabinet members or federal agencies on a certain course of action. A concurrent resolution does not, with rare exceptions, have the force and effect of law and does not require action by the Governor. Concurrent resolutions may be adopted without a formal roll call vote [Adapted from Oklahoma State Senate Legislative Terms]

A typical example of a concurrent resolution, from the 2021-22 legislative session, was HCR 1008 observing May 6, 2021 as the National Day of Prayer.

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

Quote of the Week

“It showed the causes. It showed breakdowns in relationships. It showed 18% of our people who were surveyed had come through the foster system. … It showed all of these things. We showed 67% were reporting disabilities. We have to remember that it is not just throwing somebody into a house, but it is creating a community around them. Because people need community. We were just built that way. They need a support system.”

– Sarah Grounds, founder and executive director of City Lights Foundation of Oklahoma, speaking about the ways to support people experiencing homelessness, which includes expanding mental health services, affordable housing, and more funding for non-profit providers. [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Enid News & Eagle Editorial: Legislature should stop trying to thwart initiative petition process

Predictably, this legislative session is seeing a number of bills proposed that would add additional restrictions or requirements for citizen initiative petitions to reach the ballot or increase the margin necessary for an initiative to pass.

New bills would:

  • Raise the threshold for state questions to pass from a simple majority to 66%, and limiting state questions to odd-numbered years.
  • Require initiative petitions to receive a percentage of signatures from residents in every county in the state.
  • Require state questions that propose an increase in state government expenditures to receive at least 60% of votes to pass.

Many of these bill are proposed because of the 2020 Medicaid expansion initiative that narrowly passed a couple of years ago. Some lawmakers say rural counties don’t have enough say in initiative petitions because signature seekers concentrate on metro areas to get the numbers they need to get the question on the ballot.

Of all these, possibly the only one worth considering is the requirement to get a percentage of signatures from every county. It seems only fair that all counties should be represented in the signature count.

However, because Oklahoma has deep populist roots, direct democracy through initiative petitions must be preserved. The initiative petition process provided by the Oklahoma Constitution is based in principles of agrarian populism. Since statehood, Oklahomans have had a general distrust of government trying to exercise too much authority over the individual.

Oklahoma has a good and reasonable process regarding initiative petitions. It is not easy for initiative petitions to get on the ballot. In fact, in the last 10 years, of the nearly 40 citizen-led initiative petitions filed, only seven qualified for a ballot. Of those, voters only approved four.

And, once some of these petitions pass, legislators have a bad habit of spending much of the next legislative session trying to undo what the voters have approved.

Legislators need to stop trying to thwart the initiative petition process. Many of these petitions come about because of legislative inaction on important issues, like Medicaid expansion.

If legislators want fewer citizen-led petitions, they need to work harder on the serious needs at hand instead of kicking the can down the road.

[Read at the Enid News & Eagle website]

Numbers of the Day

  • 5% – Oklahoma’s state-level Earned Income Tax Credit is pinned to five percent of the federal EITC credit. This makes the Oklahoma EITC among the lowest rates for such state-level tax credits designed to provide targeted tax relief for low-income workers. [National Conference of State Legislatures]
  • 47.5% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults struggling to pay household expenses, which is the nation’s third highest rate [U.S. Census Bureau via Experian]
  • 19% – Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides targeted tax relief to low-income workers, would benefit 19% of Oklahoma taxpayers if its value was increased to 10% of the federal EITC rate. [OK Policy, A Better Path Forward
  • 9.7% – Percentage of Oklahomans who identified as Black or African American alone or in combination, according to the 2020 Census. Four counties — Adair, Beaver, Harper, Cimarron — had fewer than 1% of residents identify as Black alone or in combination. [U.S. Census]

What We’re Reading

  • Boosting Incomes and Improving Tax Equity with State Earned Income Tax Credits: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is designed to boost low-wage workers’ incomes and offset some of the taxes they pay, providing the opportunity for lower-income families to move toward meaningful economic security. The federal EITC has kept millions of Americans out of poverty since its enactment in the mid-1970s. Over the past several decades, the effectiveness of the EITC has been amplified as many states have enacted and expanded their own credits. [Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • States Can Adopt or Expand Earned Income Tax Credits to Build Equitable, Inclusive Communities and Economies: State EITCs build on the success of the federal credit by helping families afford the basics, reducing poverty, and helping families thrive in the long run through improved child and maternal health, school achievement, and other benefits. Because people of color, women, and immigrants are overrepresented in low-wage work, state EITCs are an important tool for advancing equity. With high numbers of families facing food insecurity, eviction, and other hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, state EITCs are more important than ever. And as they bolster families’ incomes, EITCs also boost local communities and state economies. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Strategies for Improving Public Benefits Access and Retention: When people struggle to make ends meet, public benefit programs have the potential to help them meet their basic needs for food, housing, health care, and cash. Within federal laws and regulations, state policy choices, service delivery practices, and technological capacity can make a difference in how easily people can access and retain the benefits for which they are eligible. Prior research has shown that many families and individuals do not participate in the programs that could help meet their needs and for which they are eligible.  In this report, we present a menu of strategies that have the potential to increase access to individual public benefit programs or a package of benefits. [Urban Institute] | [Report, PDF]
  • Black History Month Theme 2023: Black Resistance: African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings since our arrival upon these shores. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond the United States political jurisdiction. [Association for the Study of African American Life and History]

Note: February is Black History Month.


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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