Weekly Wonk: Making the budget process more transparent | Pardon & Parole Board | Charitable giving during the holidays

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

It’s time to reopen Oklahoma’s budget process to the public: An effective, open budget process both informs and involves the public. Oklahomans can be informed if the legislature widely shares budget requests from our public agencies, debates budgets in public, holds votes on individual budget issues, and provides ample time for all interested parties to evaluate the budget. The public should be involved through public hearings and through the opportunity to comment — both in person and online — about budgets. Our state’s budget process won’t be this transparent until Oklahomans demand it. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Focus on the Pardon and Parole Board (Capitol Update): Everyone who makes decisions in criminal cases — from judges to prosecutors and defense attorneys to the parole board and the governor — bears the weight of the decisions they are making. They live in apprehension that a wrong decision could cost damage, injury, or life. It goes with the territory. No one in the system is infallible. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Giving during the holidays: The poet Robert Browning reminds us that our “reach should exceed our grasp,” which to me serves as a call to strive towards a brighter future for ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. I am especially reminded of this call to seek out greater possibilities during the end of each year as nonprofits seek support to create change. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

Reminder: We’re Hiring! Join the team as a Data Analyst: OK Policy is currently hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Applications for this position close on January 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM (CST). [OK Policy]

Quote of the Week

“In a transparent and democratic political system, we can all trust each other, but we can also verify.”

-OK Policy Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst Paul Shinn writing about the need for Oklahoma’s budget process to become more open and transparent [OK Policy]   

Editorial of the Week

State officials doing disservice to doubt science behind COVID vaccines

Comments by Oklahoma’s attorney general that he has lingering doubts about the science behind COVID-19 vaccines are truly disappointing.

Attorney General John O’Connor seems to be grasping at straws for reasons to challenge the federal government and military mandating COVID-19 vaccines. The state has five lawsuits seeking to halt the mandates, which they contend are unconstitutional.

It’s one thing to challenge the mandates based on their constitutionality. However, high government officials from the state of Oklahoma casting doubt on the science behind vaccines is irresponsible.

First of all — whether they agree or disagree with mandates — officials at the highest levels in our state should be promoting people getting the vaccines willingly. The best way to combat this pandemic and finally get it under control is for more people to be vaccinated.

Asked why he has concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine, as opposed to other vaccines that have long been required by the military — such as flu, polio, anthrax and the measles — O’Connor said he believes the science is more of a concern for the COVID-19 vaccine because of how long it’s been around. O’Connor, who has been vaccinated, also questioned the post-vaccination effects and said one of the other questions he has is which source to trust for information.

This is exactly the type of misinformation that feeds distrust from the general public. Dr. David Kendrick, department chair of medical informatics at University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine, said the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines is the same science behind all the other vaccines that have been developed over the years. He also said the process used to build the vaccines has been well vetted and used repeatedly.

Kendrick said there’s definitely a lot of respect being given to natural immunity — or what’s known as acquired immunity — that develops after someone has had COVID-19. But, he said the concern is that no one really knows or completely understands the long-term effects of COVID-19 on health.

The vaccines have made getting back to a more normal life more possible. The hard truth is that those who are getting sick with COVID-19 are largely the unvaccinated population. Those who are vaccinated and have had breakthrough cases, by vast majority, have had milder symptoms and have stayed out of the hospital.

The attorney general is doing a disservice to the state by questioning the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines, and this particular argument is making it harder for Oklahoma to get to a point where vaccine mandates aren’t necessary.

[Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 458.6 – Oklahoma rate of violent crime offenses per 100,000 people during 2020, which is above the national rate of 398.5 per 100,000 residents. [FBI Crime Data Explorer]
  • 1 in 3 – Approximately 1 in 3 Oklahoma residents live in rural areas [Rural Health Information Hub
  • 3 – Number of days for public consideration of Oklahoma’s FY 2021’s $7.7 billion general appropriations bill before it was approved by lawmakers in May [OK Policy]  
  • 6.8% – Nonprofit employment as a percentage of private employment in Oklahoma. [National Council on Nonprofits]
  • 18% – Households with children in Oklahoma where there was little or no confidence in ability to pay the next rent or mortgage payment on time in Oklahoma, as of October 11, 2021. [Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

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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