Weekly Wonk: Benefits simulator can help families understand assistance programs | State of the State commentary | Black History Month

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

Our new benefits simulator helps families understand assistance programs and helps support better policies: Because public benefits are so complex and interconnected, OK Policy introduced a benefits simulator that provided data for that report. In this piece, we will show how the simulator works, how families can use it to make decisions about applying for and retaining benefits, and how we can improve the assistance programs these families need. The simulator then provides a detailed analysis, both in graphs and data, showing how much assistance a family could receive per month from each assistance program. Additionally, it shows how benefits can change as their work schedule or hourly wage changes. This tool can be invaluable for Oklahomans who want to better judge available assistance for themselves and their families. It also can be a useful tool as they advocate for a stronger, more robust social safety net for themselves and other Oklahomans who need it. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

(Capitol Update) Confrontations between governor, legislature may continue over managed care proposal: For years, legislative sessions have slowed or ground to a halt for days or even weeks while leadership pounded out agreements between the House, Senate, and governor. But confrontation reached a high last session when budget negotiations terminated, legislators passed the state budget in the final weeks of session, and Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed the budget bill. The legislature overrode the budget veto plus several other measures. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

OK Policy’s Response to 2021 State of the State Address: In pointing Oklahomans towards his vision of Oklahoma as a Top 10 state, Gov. Stitt during his State of the State address shared a quote he attributed to Will Rogers: “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.” However, if Gov. Stitt and our elected officials focus too intently on a far off horizon without recognizing the path that got us here, they are destined to repeat past mistakes. [OK Policy]

Policy Matters: What was left unsaid: For those who follow Oklahoma politics, the governor’s annual State of the State address can prompt a range of responses from cheering to hand-wringing to even the occasional honest-to-goodness policy discussion. However, instead of focusing too much on what he said, I’d like to focus on the things he didn’t say – namely how our state can help its residents who are struggling the most. [Ahniwake Rose /  Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Enrolled Bill

A bill that passes both chambers in its final form is enrolled. It is then sent to the Governor.

To find the engrossed version of a bill, enter the bill number into Bill Search search box on the Legislature’s website — make sure to include HB for a House Bill or SB for a Senate Bill — and then select the “Versions” tab.

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

Quote of the Week

“Getting the pandemic under control is critical to efforts to safely reopen our public schools. We all agree students learn best in the classroom, but we need to make sure our school districts have the funding necessary to protect students, teachers, support staff and their families.”

-Sen. Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, responding to Gov. Stitt’s State of the State address [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: Gov. Kevin Stitt says the state is strong; it could be stronger with better leadership

In his State of the State address Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt continued to push ahead with a dangerous course that has risked the health of Oklahomans unnecessarily.

“I’ve kept my promise to follow the data and make the right decisions for Oklahoma at the right time,” Stitt said, but that doesn’t square with his dangerous refusal to require Oklahomans to wear masks in enclosed public places during the pandemic.

“Together, the three W’s became part of our daily life,” Stitt said. “We’ve washed our hands frequently, we’ve watched our distance from others, and we’ve worn masks in public places.”

The part that Stitt leaves out is that he shirked his responsibility to require those masks, which he says are a necessary reality of daily life. The State of the State speech would have been a good chance for Stitt to denounce those who want to stop mask mandates imposed by responsible local governments — including Oklahoma City and Tulsa. But he didn’t do it.

Instead, he took yet another swipe at Tulsa Public Schools because it isn’t forcing unvaccinated teachers into in-person classrooms according to his schedule. No one disagrees that in-person classes are better than virtual ones, but the higher responsibility is to conduct safe classes.

Stitt gets credit in our book for moving teachers higher in the vaccination priority list, but that hasn’t translated into enough needles in arms yet. He should leave the operations of the district to the districts…

[Read the full editorial at Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 8 – Number of Black legislators currently serving in the Oklahoma House and Senate. [Source: Governing]
  • 13 – The number of historic all-black towns still incorporated in Oklahoma. Between 1856 and 1920, more than 50 all-black towns were established in Oklahoma. [Source: Oklahoma Historical Society]
  • $40,000 – Median family income among Oklahoma’s Black households with children. Median income for Oklahoma’s white households with children was $76,000, or about about 90% greater than the median family income for Black households with children. [Source: KIDS COUNT]
  • 12% – Percentage of books for children and teens published in the United States (2019) that featured a Black primary character. Of those books, only about half were written by Black authors. [Source: Cooperative Children’s Book Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison]
  • 1907 – The year Oklahoma elected its first Black legislator, A.C. Hamlin of Logan County. He was elected in the year of Oklahoma’s statehood and served in Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1908 to 1910. He lost re-election after Oklahoma lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that effectively limited Black voters through voter registration requirements. The amendment was declared unconstitutional in a 1915 court case, but Hamlin remained Oklahoma’s only Black legislator until 1964. [Source: Tulsa World and Oklahoma Historical Society]

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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