The Weekly Wonk: Key bills we’ll be watching this legislative session

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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

We released our first three posts in a series on key bills to watch this legislative session. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison previewed some promising (and some not so promising) efforts to improve the economic well-being of Oklahoma families. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler wondered if this will finally be the year the legislature gets serious about criminal justice reform. And Policy Director Carly Putnam ran down the list of bills that threaten to cut Oklahomans’ access to health care.

Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column directed our attention to a bill, moving quietly through the legislature, that would greatly increase the power of future governors. A guest post by Effie Craven told us about lunch shaming and an effort to end the practice in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with KTUL about what the Step Up plan would mean for taxes in Oklahoma. OK Policy’s statement on the failure of the Step Up plan made an appearance in a KFOR piece. Gentzler talked with NonDoc about SQ 788, the medical marijuana question that will be on the ballot this summer.

Weekly What’s That

Tax Expenditures

Tax expenditures are subsidies and other tax breaks usually created to achieve a specific purpose. They’re called expenditures because they amount to government spending through the tax code. A biannual report from the Oklahoma Tax Commission lists all of Oklahoma’s tax expenditures and their cost.

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

Quote of the Week

“It sad to think an Oklahoma teacher with a family of four qualifies for food stamps; must work two or three part time jobs to make ends meet and cannot even afford to send their children to Oklahoma universities without putting themselves and their children in debt. By failing to invest in education you are condemning Oklahoma’s children to a substandard education that will impact them for a life time.”

– Thomas A. Pecore, Putnam City North High School teacher and soccer coach writing an open letter to the state Legislature (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Writers, Tulsa World

Oklahoma has too many people in jail for owing money on fines that are out of proportion to the underlying violations. Those fines have historically been set not because they represent the proper penalty for the crime, but because the Legislature was looking for revenue without raising taxes. As we see it, jails have two purposes: Holding people who have been convicted of crimes and holding people charged with crimes and who would be a danger to society if released or who would flee the jurisdiction to avoid justice. They are not for coercing people who don’t have money to fork it over — or they shouldn’t be.

Numbers of the Day

  • $ 1,528,582,111 – Total budget requested by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for fiscal year 2019, more than three times their FY 2018 funding
  • 24.1% – Percentage of Oklahoma household who live in “asset poverty,” meaning they do not have enough savings or property to cover three months of living expenses at the poverty level
  • 37% – The percentage of OK Dept. of Corrections employees who qualify for SNAP benefits, according to Director Joe Allbaugh
  • 1.1% – Job growth in Oklahoma City in 2017, ranking 41st out of the 53 largest metro areas in the U.S.
  • 28.7% – Percentage of Oklahoma jobs that are in low-wage occupations, with median pay below the poverty line for a family of four ($24,250)

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here

What We’re Reading

  • The ‘Tough on Crime’ Wave Is Finally Cresting [Brennan Center]
  • The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies [The Atlantic]
  • What Amazon Does to Poor Cities [The Atlantic]
  • Lessons From the Last Push for Welfare Reform [The Atlantic]
  • In Defense of Social Security Disability Insurance [Vox]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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