Weekly Wonk: Keeping our children safe | Will manage care debate resurface? | Policy notes and numbers

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

Policy Matters: Taking the field without a helmet: No parent would send their softball player to the plate without a batting helmet or their peewee football player on the field without a helmet. Yet, today, Oklahoma families are preparing to send our children back into classrooms without requiring the full measure of protection against the COVID-19 virus. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Will Oklahoma’s managed care proposals return? (Capitol Update): Medicaid expansion, making low-income Oklahomans ages of 19 to 64 newly eligible for coverage, seems to be going well…  It’s a different story with Medicaid managed care, which would have transferred management of Medicaid from OHCA to four private insurance companies. The OHCA managed care plan was halted when the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck it down because OHCA did not have legislative approval for implementing it, and the agency had failed to promulgate rules for its request for proposals (RFP). The court ruling invalidated the $2 billion in contracts already signed with the companies. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

Oklahoma Summer Policy Institute, 2021 Summer Series
(Deadline to apply: midnight, Sunday, Aug. 15)

To help connect Oklahoma college students and recent graduates with state policy issues, the Oklahoma Policy Institute will be hosting a five-day virtual event that will include presentations, panels, and live discussions. The Oklahoma Summer Policy Institute: 2021 Summer Series, to be held in online sessions Aug. 30 through Sept. 3, is expected to bring together college students for an informative five-day learning experience about pressing issues facing Oklahomans today. Programming for the OKSPI Summer Series will be offered in two-hour afternoon sessions during the five-day event.

[Learn More & Apply]

Weekly What’s That

Tax Expenditure Report

Under a provision of Oklahoma law passed in 1996, the Oklahoma Tax Commission is tasked with preparing a biannual report that provides the Commission’s “best estimate of the amount of state revenue that would have been collected but for the existence of each exclusion, deduction, credit, exemption, deferral, or other preferential tax treatment allowed by law for the previous fiscal year.” The report is organized by tax type and provides estimates of lost revenue based upon information from actual tax returns and secondary data sources. The most recent Tax Expenditure Report was released in October 2020; the next one is due October 2022.

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

Quote of the Week

“I’ve been a Republican my entire life, I am unequivocally pro-life and believe in local control. So it’s illogical what our governor and our state Legislature is doing because it’s contradictory to their own stated values because we have turned this into such a political culture war. To me, a consistent pro-life philosophy would be to do everything we can to protect the wellness of kids, especially vulnerable kids.”

-Emily Snook, a Norman parent speaking about SB 658 that bars local schools from implementing mask requirements. She is concerned because her 7-year-old son has a hereditary blood disorder that makes it harder for his spleen to fight infections. [The Frontier

Editorial of the Week

Defending state sovereignty or psychological denial? Oklahoma’s attorney general pushes U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the McGirt decision

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its 2020 McGirt ruling, which changed how criminal law has been practiced around here for the past 100 years.

On a 5-4 vote, the high court determined that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction in serious criminal cases involving Native American defendants or victims within the Muscogee Nation, which includes most of Tulsa. Subsequent court rulings have extended that thinking to serious criminal cases in most of this side of the state. McGirt logic may also soon be applied to many other things, including civil cases, government regulation and taxation.

O’Connor’s petition asks the Supreme Court to allow the state to continue to imprison violent felons who were convicted before the McGirt ruling. It also asks the court to affirm the state’s authority to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit crimes against Native Americans in the Muscogee Nation reservation.

“No recent decision of this court has had a more immediate and destabilizing effect on life in an American state than McGirt v. Oklahoma,” O’Connor says in a petition to the Supreme Court.

The results have been “calamitous and are worsening by the day,” he claims. “Numerous crimes are going uninvestigated and unprosecuted, endangering public safety. Federal district courts in Oklahoma are completely overwhelmed. Thousands of state prisoners are challenging decades’ worth of convictions — many of which involve crimes that cannot be reprosecuted.”

That’s a bit overstated and doesn’t explain away the issue of jurisdiction. If Oklahoma never had the right to prosecute the cases, the solution isn’t to let Oklahoma prosecute the cases.

We don’t deny that McGirt has had a major impact on Oklahoma, which makes adapting to it all the more urgent.

We have some sympathy for O’Connor and Gov. Kevin Stitt when they defend the state’s sovereignty. They have a duty to the state Constitution to do that. They are also bound to defend the U.S. Constitution, which declares the nation’s treaties — including those with tribes — to be supreme law.

Although one of the five justices who voted for the McGirt decision has changed, we don’t hold much hope for a reversal. Continuing to press the same arguments that lost in 2020 is a bit of psychological denial, which isn’t an effective legal strategy and does nothing to make Oklahoma safer.

The McGirt ruling pointed to a solution to problems created by the McGirt ruling: Congress. If Oklahoma wants a solution, it should look in the halls of Congress.

We don’t advocate Congress’ breaking faith with the tribes (yet again). We call for the state to join with the leadership of the tribes — Oklahomans, all — in a united effort to solve the problem legislatively to the benefit of both sides with the result a safer state and justice for all.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • -1.7% – Decrease in Oklahoma rural vaccinations completed in the week ending July 29 compared to previous week [Daily Yonder]
  • 75 – Number of Oklahoma counties that the CDC has designated high or substantial community COVID-19 transmission areas. [CDC]
  • 8 – Number of states — including Oklahoma — that have laws or executive orders that prohibit school districts from requiring students to wear masks. Ten states and the District of Columbia have adopted the CDC’s recommendation to require masks in public schools. [Pew Research]
  • 1,102 – Oklahoma’s current three-day average for COVID-19 hospitalizations — the first time it rose over 1,000 since early February. Of those, 49 were pediatric hospitalizations, and 294 people were in ICU beds with COVID-19. [The Oklahoman]
  • ~90% – About 90% of COVID patients that Oklahoma City’s SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital admits have not been fully vaccinated, according to hospital officials [Journal Record]

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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