Weekly Wonk: Federal law can strengthen Oklahoma health care | Mexican Consulate in OKC | Reimagining economic development | Capitol Update

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

New federal legislation will improve health care access and outcomes in Oklahoma: In late December 2022, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill that includes several health provisions that will have meaningful impacts for Oklahomans. Taken together, these provisions will strengthen the health care safety net. This is particularly important in Oklahoma, as the state continues to rank poorly on the majority of all health outcomes due to the state’s historic underinvestment in public programs that impact health. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

A Mexican Consulate in Oklahoma City will help more than 100,000 Oklahomans: For years, Oklahomans have had to travel hundreds of miles to reach the nearest Mexican consulate for handling diplomatic transactions such as renewing passports, getting an identification card, or other routine services for Mexican and U.S. nationals. Commuting to the consulates specifically designated for Oklahoma residents — Little Rock, Arkansas, or Kansas City, Missouri — is a demanding process that often requires workers to take an entire day off of work just to make the long drive there and back. However, Mexico recently announced that it will open a Mexican Consulate in Oklahoma City in May 2023, making it significantly easier for over 100,000 Mexicans in Oklahoma to access the services they need without sacrificing a day’s worth of wages or more to travel out of state. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy

Oklahoma would be better served by investing in programs that improve our state, not tax cuts (Capitol Update): The legislature, after the February meeting of the State Board of Equalization, has a whopping $967 million in recurring revenue available this session to appropriate for state services for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023. Recurring revenue means those dollars, if spent, can be expected to be replaced in the same amount by new revenue in the following years if economic conditions remain relatively stable and there are no tax cuts. In addition, the state has about $1.1 billion in “one-time” funding available that could be spent for expenditures such as capital projects or other investments that would not be recurring. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: The ‘small ball’ approach to economic development: Oklahoma has swung for the fences to land major economic development in recent years with Amazon, Tesla, Panasonic and Volkswagen. Despite considerable efforts, our state struck out on all of those pitches. Others already have explored the possible role that controversial state legislation and culture war attacks have played in hurting our economic development efforts. While I believe current events work at cross purposes to Oklahoma’s efforts for major manufacturing investments, I also think we need to reexamine our approach. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]


Upcoming Opportunities

  • Wednesday, March 29 @ 6:00 p.m.: Cleveland County Community Meeting at Equity Brewing Co., 109 E Tonhawa St, Suite 100 in Norman. Join us for a community discussion about the issues you see in your region and throughout the state. In-person & online. [More Information]
  • Thursday, March 30 @ 6:00 p.m.: Healthy Oklahomans Affinity Group (online only). Advocates will gather online to engage on policy changes that can help all Oklahomans live healthier lives. [More Information]
  • Friday, March 31 @ 11:00 a.m.: State Budget Update from OK Policy. To help Oklahomans better understand Oklahoma’s state budget picture — and what we might expect from this year’s legislative budget negotiations — OK Policy is hosting a 2023 State Budget Update. Join us live online as OK Policy’s Fiscal Policy and Health Care Analyst Emma Morris shares a state budget overview as lawmakers approach this legislative session’s halfway point. A Q&A will follow the presentation. [More Information]

Weekly What’s That

Engrossed Bill

A bill that passes out of one chamber is engrossed, and then sent to the other chamber. If the bill passes the second chamber but not in its final form (e.g. it has been amended or has had its title or enacting clause stricken), it will again be engrossed. A bill that passes both chambers in its final form is enrolled.

To find the engrossed version of a bill, go to the Legislature’s website, click on Legislation, select Basic Bill Search, enter the bill number, and choose the “Versions” tab.

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

Quote of the Week

“As politicians continue to use these tactics, we become preoccupied with fighting one another while our state’s outcomes and people continue to suffer.”

-Noel J. Jacobs, Ph.D., a child psychologist and executive director of The Respect Diversity Foundation, writing about why Oklahomans should stop listening to politicians who use fear as a tool for governing. [Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Enid News & Eagle Editorial: New rules to ‘out’ students to parents will make schools seem like the enemy

We bet that if you ask any parent, most would prefer that topics of gender, sexuality, religion, etc. be conversations they would prefer be left in the home and not particularly be addressed at school.

Just teach pertinent school subjects many parents would likely say. School should be for learning academics, not advocating social issues. At least, that’s what the state superintendent seems to want.

Yet, then, state school officials seem to contradict themselves with proposals that would require public school staff, including counselors, to report when students use different names or pronouns or other aspects of social transition to their parents.

However, for that to happen, doesn’t that mean some kind of conversation or reveal has to take place between or among school staff and students regarding those topics?

This is why proposals that State Superintendent Ryan Walters and the new State Board of Education are proposing to have schools report students’ sexual or gender issues to parents are so confusing, and potentially harmful, to students and school personnel.

This goes way past worries about so-called indoctrination. Are we basically turning school personnel into spies out to dig for any kind of controversy they can find on students? If a teacher overhears a conversation between two students, is she supposed to run and tell a parent what she heard — or, should she just ignore it and focus on the “academic topic” of her job?

In reality, what the superintendent and board are asking is impossible because schools are social settings, and these topics will be discussed among students. And, what is being proposed goes way beyond the 2014 Oklahoma Parents Bill of Rights. Even Sherri Brown, legislative chair for Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, has a lot of concerns about the proposals, but especially the lack of due process.

Brown, and others, also say the proposals expand beyond the department’s authority.

Walters continues to dismantle the expectations educational advocates have been building for years that schools should be considered safe spaces for students. With these proposals, some kids’ fragile mental health realities will be pushed further and further into the shadows.

The unintended consequences that are possible through this are far more dire than when teachers and parents were simply honest about the realities students are dealing with and worked with those students to help them be safe and secure.

With these new rules in place, school will be seen by many students as their enemy. Doesn’t sound like a great place to learn and grow, does it?

[Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 34% – Percentage of Oklahoma households that rent their homes. [National Low Income Housing Coalition]
  • 5.3 – The health insurance coverage gap between Black and white adults in the U.S. in 2021 was 5.3 percentage points, down from 9.9 percentage points in 2013. The gap between Hispanic and white adults dropped from 25.7 to 16.3 points. [Commonwealth Fund]
  • 27% – Rate of Oklahoma children under 18 whose family income was less than twice the federal poverty level and at least one parent worked 50 or more weeks during the previous year. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 133 – The number of U.S. senators and representatives in the 118th Congress who identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian, or Alaska Native. This represents 25% of the 534 voting member of Congress, as of Jan. 3, 2023. [Pew Research Center]
  • 233.9 – In FY 2021, the average person in Oklahoma’s prison system had a 233.9-month (19.5 year) sentence, a 28-month increase from FY 2016. [FWD.us]

What We’re Reading

  • Tackling Rural America’s ‘Hidden’ Housing Crisis  [Daily Yonder]
  • 13 Years Later: The Affordable Care Act’s Enduring Legacy [Center for American Progress]
  • Private opulence, public squalor: How the U.S. helps the rich and hurts the poor [NPR]
  • We the (Native) People? How Indigenous Peoples Debated the U.S. Constitution [Columbia Law Review]
  • Oklahoma’s Long Sentences Undermine Certainty, Cost Taxpayers Money, and Provide No Public Safety Return [FWD.us





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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