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
No more delayed justice, HB 1077 is good tribal-state policy: HB 1077, authored by Rep. Ken Luttrell, R-Ponca City and signed into law on May 1 by Gov. Stitt, directs the Department of Public Safety to create a statewide Kasey Alert for critically missing adults, similar to the alerts used for children and elders. The Kasey Alert will be a proactive effort to immediately alert the public when a person age 18-59 goes missing. Combined with Ida’s Law (Senate Bill 172 passed in April 2021), the Kasey Alert signals hope for justice for Oklahoma families impacted by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People epidemic. [Vivian Morris / OK Policy]
This week is crucial for budget issues, education bills (Capitol Update): With only four weeks left in this year’s Legislative session, the feud between the House, Senate, and governor over education funding — including tax credits for parents sending their children to private schools — still dominates and is yet to be resolved. It was clear before the session began that a debate about education funding, public funding for private schools (call it vouchers or something else), and tax cuts would be on this year’s agenda. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
Policy Matters: Coming together in the people’s house: By design, our state Capitol is intended to be a striking monument for Oklahoma’s possibilities. That grandeur, however, can also intimidate everyday folks from fully taking part in advocacy or even stepping foot inside the center of our state government. On Tuesday, May 9, Together Oklahoma will host its annual Day of Action at the Capitol. We will bring together advocates from around the state to help connect them with lawmakers about the issues that matter most to them. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]
OK Policy in the News
Why Oklahoma Isn’t Joining An Interstate Effort to Counter Voter Fraud: Senate Bill 710 proposed authorizing Oklahoma to join a multistate cooperative whose members share voter and motor vehicle data to keep their voter rolls updated and root out fraud. But two years later, Oklahoma lawmakers and the state’s top election official have soured on partnering with the Electronic Registration Information Center, citing dissatisfaction with its leadership, uncertainty about membership costs and data privacy concerns. [Oklahoma Watch]
Oklahoma begins disenrolling 270,000 Medicaid recipients: Beginning Sunday, about 30,000 Oklahomans will lose Medicaid coverage each month through the end of the year as a federal health emergency tied to the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end. [Tulsa World]
- From OK Policy: Oklahoma residents who use SoonerCare need to take action to keep their coverage, includes resources in English and in Spanish.
Tuesday, May 9 | CHANGE IS POSSIBLE | Join Together Oklahoma on May 9 for our 2023 Day of Action at the Capitol
Together Oklahoma will be holding its 2023 Day of Action at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 9, to help everyday Oklahomans engage with lawmakers and help build political power in our communities. Advocates from around the state will gather together at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City to advocate for change that makes our state healthier, safer, more equitable, and more representative. [Learn more and register]
For more information and a full list of Together Oklahoma events, visit TogetherOK.org/events.
Weekly What’s That
Under the Oklahoma Constitution, citizens have the power to repeal legislation via veto referendum. Article V, Section 3 states:
Referendum petitions shall be filed with the Secretary of State not more than ninety (90) days after the final adjournment of the session of the Legislature which passed the bill on which the referendum is demanded. The veto power of the Governor shall not extend to measures voted on by the people. All elections on measures referred to the people of the state shall be had at the next election held throughout the state, except when the Legislature or the Governor shall order a special election for the express purpose of making such reference. Any measure referred to the people by the initiative or referendum shall take effect and be in force when it shall have been approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon and not otherwise.
To put a veto referendum on the ballot requires signatures equal to 5 percent of voters in the last Gubernatorial election. Based on votes cast in the 2022 election, a veto referendum would require 57,664 signatures to get on the ballot. After a veto referendum is drafted, it goes through a lengthy process which can include various legal challenges.
There have been 20 veto referendums in Oklahoma history, with the last one in 1970. An unsuccessful 1991 effort to repeal House Bill 1017 was conducted through a proposed constitutional amendment, not a veto referendum. In 2018, a veto referendum campaign (State Question 799) to overturn HB 1010xx, a revenue-raising measure that passed with 3/4 support from both chambers, was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In August 2019, a veto referendum effort was launched to challenge HB 2597, which allowed for the permitless carry of firearms in Oklahoma; the veto referendum effort failed to gather enough signatures to make it on the ballot. In 2021, a veto referendum effort to repeal a bill (HB 1674) that protects from prosecution drivers who cause death or injury while escaping from a public protest, also fell short of gathering the requisite signatures.
Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.
Quote of the Week
“In a year when we’ve got historic funding opportunities, now’s the time to increase the funding in such a way that it’s going to make a difference in the teacher shortage, and it’s going to make a difference in what we can do for our support staff… and improve that morale and do everything that we can for kids to make sure they have the opportunity to be successful in the future.”
– Kyle Reynolds, Woodward Public Schools superintendent, expressing his extreme concern that current legislative fights over education funding will leave Oklahoma public schools with nothing. [CNHI News]
Editorial of the Week
Editorial: End childish standoff that holds legislation hostage, Oklahomans as political pawns
Oklahomans are pawns in an unproductive political fight that holds legislation hostage and rejects popular, needed potential laws.
The standoff between Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Senate over tax cuts and private school vouchers/tax credits has created a large swath of collateral damage.
Stitt is using — or abusing — his veto power on unrelated legislation to force the Senate into adopting his education and tax plans. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said he and the chamber won’t be bullied.
The losers are Oklahomans.
The thwarted laws were those with unanimous or near unanimous passage — a rarity in politics. That kind of support indicates bipartisan approval and a clear mandate from Oklahomans through their representatives.
This includes House Bill 2608 that would have closed a loophole in the sex offender registry. It passed 93-0 in the House and 45-0 in the Senate. The bill would require those registering with tribal governments on tribal land also be put on the state’s sex offender list.
The unanimously approved Senate Bill 429 would have reinforced the rights of Indigenous students to wear tribal regalia at graduations. This came after vetoing House Bill 2819, passed with no dissent, that would have extended the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education.
It appears Stitt is continuing his contentious relationship with tribes.
Among the more than 20 vetoes: Senate Bill 291 would have allowed child abuse victims to apply for an emergency temporary orders or emergency ex parte order for protective orders. Senate Bills 711 and 712 would allow prisons, jails and hospitals to give Narcan to known opioid users upon release.
Regulatory boards for architects, chiropractors and psychologists are gone. An update to the collegiate athlete name, image and likeness licensing has been scrapped, putting the state behind other universities.
Stitt cannot claim his vetoes are what Oklahomans want, with most of those receiving almost no legislative opposition. He made these authoritarian-like choices based on his own biases and political game.
Take his turnabout on Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. Stitt’s original budget included $2.8 million for OETA but now he’s arguing to defund it, claiming it sexualizes and indoctrinates children.
OETA and the Public Broadcasting System are doing no such thing. The examples given were of a 3-year-old “Clifford the Big Red Dog” episode that included a lesbian couple, a 4-year-old documentary featuring a drag queen and a news interview of parents of a transgender child. That’s slim — to no — evidence.
The OETA attack is an old one from the right wing that ignores its infrastructure ties to the public emergency system, educational programming and rural outreach.
The Senate is retaliating by withholding Stitt’s confirmations to boards and commissions.
What a poor way to govern, frustrating Oklahomans who already have shaky faith in government. This isn’t gridlock. This is a shakedown and freefall.
The Legislature can override the vetoes and ought to do so for some critical areas, such as OETA funding.
In the meantime, this childish stalemate among Republican leaders needs to end.
Numbers of the Day
- 270,449 – Number of Oklahomans who will be disenrolled from Medicaid (SoonerCare) after pandemic-related health care coverage rules changed and some residents either no longer quality for coverage or the state doesn’t have current information about eligibility. [Oklahoma Health Care Authority via Tulsa World]
- Unknown – The total number of missing or murdered Indigenous women is unknown because, for several reasons, federal databases do not contain comprehensive national data on all AI/AN women reported missing. [General Accounting Office]
- $123 million – Estimated annual cut to Oklahoma’s state aid for schools from FY 2030 and onward if the state were to implement a private school voucher program in the form of a tax credits. Adjusted for inflation, the combination of prior funding cuts and the cost of private school vouchers would leave the state aid allocation 22 percent lower than in 2009 when Oklahoma had 55,000 fewer students than we do today. [OK Policy]
- Up to 40% – Amount of tuition increases at some Iowa private schools just months after the state signed into law a program to pay families $7,600 for private school tuition and education expenses. [Axios]
What We’re Reading
- Research Reinforces: Providing Cash to Families in Poverty Reduces Family Involvement in Child Welfare: Cash assistance to families with low incomes is critical both to help them stabilize their circumstances and to create conditions in which they can thrive. A new body of research from Chapin Hall, a research and policy center that focuses on child welfare and family well-being at the University of Chicago, finds that material hardship increases the risk for child welfare involvement due to neglect and abuse, and when families are given cash assistance, child welfare involvement is reduced. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
- Research raises new questions about missing and murdered Indigenous women: An analysis published recently in the Criminal Justice Policy Review offers new insights and raises new questions about the national public health crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the U.S. — and the news media’s role in helping authorities solve these cases. When found deceased, Native American women’s bodies are 135% more likely to be unidentified than the bodies of women of other racial or ethnic groups in the U.S., according to the analysis, which examines cases reported to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System from 2009 to 2018. [The Journalist’s Resource]
- Deep Public Investment Changes Lives, Yet Too Many States Continue to Seek Tax Cuts: When state budgets are strong, lawmakers should put those revenues toward building a stronger and more inclusive society for the long haul. Yet, many state lawmakers have made clear that their top priority is repeatedly cutting taxes for the wealthy. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
- State and local experience proves school vouchers are a failed policy that must be opposed: Recently passed school voucher bills in four states are part of an extreme and unpopular campaign to defund and privatize public schools. As momentum builds around efforts to divert public funds to private schools, lawmakers and advocates should recommit to opposing harmful voucher bills and supporting greater investment in public education. Research and advocacy by educators and champions of public education in the states can serve as a guide. [Economic Policy Institute]