Weekly Wonk: Minimum wage anniversary | Addressing over-incarceration | Improving mental health | Bringing everyone to the table

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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lilly Strom.

This Week from OK Policy

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy hosting community listening sessions in Weatherford, Altus: To hear the concerns of everyday Oklahomans, the Oklahoma Policy Institute will be hosting listening sessions in southwestern and western Oklahoma. Two listening sessions are planned at the end of the month in Weatherford and Altus. [OK Policy]

We’re Hiring: Join the team as a Regional Organizer for Together Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Policy Institute is currently hiring for three regional organizers in Northeast, Southwest, and Central Oklahoma. Under the leadership of OK Policy’s Legislative & Outreach Director, the Regional Organizer provides structured leadership in the development and implementation of community-based advocacy actions that further policy goals identified by OK Policy, and works closely with Together Oklahoma (TOK) chapters, which are composed of volunteers that form OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy arm. Applications for these positions close on August 16, 2021 at 5:00 PM (CST). Click here to learn more and apply.

Weekly What’s That

Special Session

A special session, also known as an extraordinary session, may be called to address issues that are unresolved during regular legislative sessions, which can run only from the first Monday in February through the last Friday in May of the year.  When the Governor calls a special session, it is restricted only to those matters the governor specifies in calling the special session; however, the Governor may amend the call during special session. As the result of passage of SQ 540 in 1980, the Legislature can also call itself into special session by gaining the signatures of two-thirds of the members of both chambers. The Legislature may not prevent the calling of a special session by the governor; however, it is not obliged to take action on the issues it has been asked to address.

There is no constitutional limit on the length of special sessions. However, a special session called during one Legislature cannot extend past the swearing in of the next Legislature. Regular and special sessions can run concurrently.

There were two special sessions called in 2017 to address a budget shortfall triggered by the Supreme Court striking down a proposed smoking cessation fee as a tax.  The second session extended into 2018 and ran concurrently with the 2018 regular legislative session.

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

Quote of the Week

“We’ve got to start having a coordinated, cohesive statewide response to prepare for this new wave.”

-Dr. George Monks, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, who is among the state’s health leaders who want to see an emergency order reinstated [The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt should put public health over politics

The numbers are telling — and scary. Since June 1, the seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma has jumped nearly 500%. Our vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country. Less than 40% of the state is fully vaccinated. About 8% of our young people, under age 18, are fully vaccinated, according to the Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker.

Last Sunday, our reporter Carmen Forman showed how Oklahoma is following the track of many predominantly red states in lagging behind on vaccinations. Whether it’s politics, fear, misinformation or complacency as restrictions have eased, consider this: The unvaccinated make up 90% of recent hospitalizations, according to the Oklahoma Health Department.

Yet our governor, Kevin Stitt, as if channeling the will of parts of his base, seems content to sit back and let the pandemic run its course, even as the dangerous new delta variant surges across the state.

The governor in March smartly made a public show of getting his Johnson & Johnson vaccination, which requires only one dose. But recently asked by our reporter if the governor planned to do more to encourage Oklahomans to get a shot, Stitt’s spokeswoman replied, “No.”

This is no time to sit back. This is a time to lead. The governor should put public health over politics. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. A better vaccinated population leads to fewer cases, fewer hospitalizations and a continued economic recovery.

It also would provide at least a modicum of comfort to many parents sending their children back to school in the next few weeks, and for the teachers and school staffs who will care for them.

State Health Department figures show southeastern Oklahoma, the Panhandle, parts of western Oklahoma, and Ottawa, Grady, Logan and Okmulgee counties are lagging the most in vaccination rates.

The Legislature already has ruled out vaccine mandates for public schools and colleges. But if not mandates, then messaging.

Now is the time for the governor to go on a publicity blitz urging all Oklahomans to get vaccinated, or to get their second shot if they’ve only received one. He should be airing public service television and radio ads. He should be holding news conferences in parts of the state where vaccine hesitancy is strongest. He should be following the lead of the state’s public health officials, dispelling myths and espousing the benefits of the vaccines.

Stitt need look no further for inspiration than across the border to Arkansas, where fellow Republican governor Asa Hutchinson has been on road trips, holding community conversations coupled with vaccine clinics, to convince his people to get vaccinated.

In laying out our new vision for our Viewpoints pages, we at The Oklahoman promised to avoid putting our institutional stamp on issues. Instead, we want our pages to be a marketplace of ideas, to be a place where different perspectives can come together in respectful and well-informed dialogue, creating a platform where readers can form their own, fact-based opinions.

This is one of those moments when an issue of public health warrants us weighing in. Oklahoma and the U.S. are lucky. We have enough shots for everyone. Gov. Stitt, urge the people of your state to use them. As state leader, your silence is equivalent to encouraging the unvaccinated to play Russian roulette with their lives.

[The Oklahoman]

Numbers of the Day

  • 14.6% – Percent of parents with children under age 3 in Oklahoma who earn less than $10 per hour. [Source: Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center]
  • 1.3 million – Number of children who would be lifted out of poverty if the minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour [Source: Economic Policy Institute]
  • $12.61 – The estimated living wage for a single adult in the lowest cost counties in Oklahoma. The living wage in Oklahoma’s highest cost counties is $14.30 [Source: MIT Living Wage Calculator]
  • >$24 per hour – What the minimum wage set in 2009 would be now if it kept pace with productivity [Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research]
  • 608,000 – Estimated number of Oklahoma workers who would see a wage increase if the minimum wage was raised to $15/hour. This is more than one in three Oklahoma workers. [Source: CNBC]

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • It’s been 12 years since the last federal minimum wage increase. Where efforts to raise the pay rate stand [CNBC]
  • Economists in support of a federal minimum wage of $15 by 2024 [Economic Policy Institute]
  • A $15 minimum wage would help millions of struggling households in small and mid-sized cities achieve self-sufficiency [Brookings]
  • A $15 minimum wage would cost jobs, right? Probably not, economists say [Berkeley News]
  • When it comes to raising the minimum wage, most of the action is in cities and states, not Congress [Pew Research Center]


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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