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
Last-minute budget dispute offers insight into closed-door negotiations (Capitol Update): Strange as it may seem, since both legislative chambers represent the same constituents, members of the leadership of each chamber—all members of the same party—independently develop their own set of priorities, mostly through discussions with their members. The priority can be a widely held conviction of most of the chamber, or sometimes it may be a strongly held conviction of one of the leaders who has a seat at the table. It’s important to have leaders at the table who are knowledgeable and principled, yet reasonable. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
Policy Matters: Do your lawmakers represent your values?:Now that this year’s legislative session has finished except for some last-minute budget business during a special session, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on how lawmakers represented you this spring. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]
Thursday, June 8 at 6:30 p.m.: All-Affinity Group Meeting (online only). We’re bringing together all four affinity groups – Thriving Families, Safe Communities, Healthy Oklahomans, and Protecting Democracy – for a 2023 legislative session debrief. Which bills passed? Which bills went dormant? What’s next? We’ll have a Q&A with OK Policy analysts and Together OK outreach organizers, then talk about what to expect in the coming months and how we can all get involved. [Join the Meeting Online]
Weekly What’s That
If a bill passes the Oklahoma Legislature during the final five days of session, the Governor has 15 days following the final day of session to sign or veto it. If the Governor does not sign or veto the bill by the end of that 15-day period, it does not become law. This is known as a “pocket veto.” No reasons for the pocket veto are required, and no override is possible.
Gov. Stitt used the pocket veto twice in 2021: on HB 1010, a bill to create an advisory council on traumatic brain injury, and SB 236, a bill to provide a sales tax exemption for the sale of clothing by certain non-profits. Prior to that, the pocket veto had been used only once since 2012, by Governor Fallin on a firearms bill (HB 1608) in 2018.
Quote of the Week
“It amounts to a gag order. If [a confidentiality agreement] exists, I would like to know about it. There are so many problems, legal and ethical, and just good government. Democracy doesn’t work if there’s no transparency, and for an office holder to essentially say, ‘I’m going to conduct my public office business in secret, and nobody can know what is going on.’”
– Oklahoma City Attorney Mark Hammons, who filed federal lawsuits Tuesday on behalf of two Oklahoma State Department of Education employees who were terminated for reportedly violating a confidentiality agreement when they shared documents to outside the agency, including the state attorney general’s office, a state representative, and media members. [Tulsa World]
Editorial of the Week
Enid News & Eagle: Too much lip service, not enough action on pro-child bills this year
It’s disappointing, but not necessarily surprising, that many bills that would make Oklahoma a more pro-child state did not get a hearing or failed in the Legislature this year.
Our governor and many lawmakers have been actively passing some of the most restrictive abortion measures in the country, while at the same time promising to produce laws that would be more helpful to mothers and children.
The Frontier nonprofit news organization reported that at least 10 bills that aimed to improve maternal health in the state failed this year. The bills included proposals requiring hospitals to make a “good-faith effort” to report all maternal deaths during pregnancy and up to a year after to the state medical examiner’s office, as well as requiring the state’s Medicaid program to cover donor human milk. Another failed proposal would have created a statewide telecare network to support women facing unexpected pregnancies.
Many lawmakers speculated they believed there would be momentum this session to pass bills addressing Oklahoma’s maternal health care problems and expanding family supports. But their words didn’t match their actions.
We have to wonder why?
As the News & Eagle has reported before, Oklahoma’s maternal mortality rate from 2018 to 2020 was 25.2 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to the national average of 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to a 2022 report from the State Department of Health. The majority of those deaths are preventable. More than half of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are classified as maternity care deserts, according to the March of Dimes. Black women and Native American women in the state are twice as likely to die from complications during or shortly after childbirth, according to the 2022 report. The state has 43 birthing hospitals, mostly located in or near the major metro areas, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Some progress was made in a few areas regarding expanding postpartum coverage for Medicaid recipients from 60 days to 12 months, as well as expanding the income threshold for pregnant women to be eligible for coverage.
Oklahoma can’t be a Top 10 state until it addresses the many inadequacies regarding maternal and child health care. If we don’t, statistics will continue to grow that don’t bode well for women and children.
It’s time to quit paying lip service to producing more pro-child policies that ease the vulnerabilities many women and children in our state face. There must be more focus on passing good and reasonable child and maternal health care policies.
Numbers of the Day
19.2% – Rate of Oklahoma children who are food insecure. More than 183,000 Oklahoma children, or about 1 in 5, lack consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. [KIDS COUNT]
14 million – Number of children nationwide who benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides nutrition assistance benefits to low-income individuals and families in an effort to reduce hunger and improve the health and well-being of low-income people nationwide. [No Kid Hungry]
3.8% – Estimated percentage of Oklahoma residents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. [Williams Institute]
20,080 – Number of people who were experiencing homelessness and were served by Oklahoma City area programs last year. [Homeless Management Information System via The Oklahoman]
What We’re Reading
Debt Ceiling Agreement Reflects Improvements Over House Bill, Harmful Provisions Remain: While the debt ceiling agreement announced last week is a significant improvement over the radical House bill, it is not the deal the country deserves. There are a number of troubling elements, including the provision that will put at risk food assistance for very low-income older adults. The nation must pay its bills — but that shouldn’t mean enacting legislation that leaves people who already struggle to afford the basics worse off. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
Characteristics of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: In Fiscal Year 2020, about 39.9 million people living in 20.5 million U.S. households participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in an average month. This report provides information about the demographic and economic circumstances of SNAP households in FY 2020 (October 2019 through September 2020). [USDA]
LGBT Poverty in the U.S.: This brief details levels of poverty among LGBT people before and since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. When our last LGBT poverty report was released in 2019, data indicated an economic disparity between LGBT and non-LGBT people. Since that report, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and a cascade of negative economic effects were felt by large proportions of the U.S. population. Our new analyses, across multiple datasets, indicate that these disparities persist—a higher percentage of LGBT than non-LGBT people have incomes below the federal poverty level (FPL). [Williams Institute]
Understanding State and Local Government Spending over the Business Cycle: State and local government expenditures are often thought to be procyclical, declining during recessions and recovering slowly. However, this pattern did not emerge until the mid-1980s, likely due to changes in the cyclicality of income tax revenues. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]