Weekly Wonk: OK Policy’s 2021 policy priorities | Changes recommended to state revenue certification | Making government serve the people

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

OK Policy announces its 2021 policy priority areas: OK Policy has announced its 2021 legislative priorities, focusing on policy initiatives to help Oklahomans live healthier, create thriving families, and develop safe communities. “Even before COVID-19 struck, far too many Oklahoma families and communities were struggling to provide and care for themselves and their families. The pandemic and its economic fallout exposed the enormous disparities and lack of adequate support, especially for Oklahomans of color,” said OK Policy Board Chair Dr. Joe Siano. “We have identified these policy priorities as the key places in which elected officials, policymakers, and advocates can apply resources to help create a more equitable environment for all Oklahomans.” [OK Policy]

(Capitol Update) New state audit agency makes recommendations regarding state revenue certification: The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), a supercharged legislative audit agency created in 2019, presented its first “rapid response evaluation” to the Legislative Oversight Committee last week. The evaluation was of the State Board of Equalization (BOE) and assessed the accuracy and communication of the revenue certification processes. This is likely because of the uncertainty created last session as the pandemic turned the February certification upside down — and perhaps a feeling by legislators that they did not get accurate data from which certification decisions were being made. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Making government serve the people: When it comes to how our governments work, budgets should be policy tools that reflect how we intend our governments to operate and signify what we want them to accomplish. At least that’s the way that it should be. However, many governments – like the state of Oklahoma – build public budgets based on the availability of revenue. This means the upcoming year’s budget follows a similar allocation pattern from the previous year. As a result, policy priorities from previous officials continue to echo far into the future, sometimes well after the usefulness of the initial appropriation or revenue measure. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

OK Policy Employment Opportunities

  • Child Well-Being Policy Analyst / KIDS COUNT Coordinator. The Policy Analyst / KIDS COUNT Coordinator conducts research, analysis, and advocacy on state policy issues related to the well-being of Oklahoma children and families, particularly as it relates to financial stability and race equity. Deadline to apply for this position is Monday, Jan. 25. [Learn more or apply
  • CBPP Tribal Policy Fellow at OK Policy (CBPP State Policy Fellowship Program). OK Policy is seeking applicants for a Tribal Policy Fellow through our partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy and its State Policy Fellowship Program. The Tribal Policy Fellow will focus specifically on tribal state policy, promoting sound fiscal and budget policy recommendations that support Oklahoma’s tribal nations and increase participation of American Indians in the Oklahoma budget process. Deadline to apply is Feb. 19. [Learn more or apply]

Weekly What’s That

Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT)

The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT), created by SB 1 in 2019, is a division within the Legislative Service Bureau intended to provide greater legislative oversight of state agency budgets. Duties of the Office include gathering information related to proposed agency budgets; evaluating the extent to which each agency fulfills its statutory responsibilities; determining the amount of revenue available to the agency from various sources; comparing current budget information to prior agency requests; and conducting an investigation of any agency as needed to fulfill its responsibilities. The Office is also authorized to conduct performance evaluations and independent comprehensive performance audits.

A 14-member bipartisan legislative committee appointed by the Speaker and the President Pro Tempore was established to oversee the LOFT’s operations. The committee selected Mike Jackson, a former Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives, as LOFT’s Executive Director in June 2020 and approved LOFT’s first annual workplan in August 2020. The Legislative Service Bureau was appropriated $1.7 million to fund LOFT in FY 2020.

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

Quote of the Week

“Most of us, we just feel like a cog in a machine. It’s like: OK, one teacher died. Let’s just stick a sub in there.”

– Lawton teacher Janette Garton about the push for in-person as virus cases continue to climb in Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch

Editorial of the Week

It’s time to unite as a nation

With a new administration coming in today, now is a good time to hit the reset button and come together as a nation.

Perhaps at no other point since the Civil War in the 1860s has our nation been so divided. Our states are divided into “red” and “blue” depending on our party preference, many relatives can’t even talk to one another anymore and many have been “unfriended” on social media.

This division reached a crescendo Jan. 6 when thousands of rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol, the very seat of our government. Many can be heard on videos calling for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. Goodness only knows what the rioters had in mind for them.

Now Washington, D.C., is in lockdown, with a ring of some 25,000 National Guardsmen there to make sure we have a safe transfer of power today. Many Washington businesses are boarded up should violence break out.

This cannot be who we have become as a nation. This is not how we transfer power from one administration to another.

Now is the time to stop our bickering and come together as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We learned those words in the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school and they are just as true now as they were then.

The leadership in Washington is setting the tone today. President-Election Joe Biden has invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to join him in a worship service prior to the inauguration.

Our nation’s leaders are setting to example for the rest of us to follow. To be sure, there will be differences of opinion about how to govern in the next four years. And that is OK. That is a good thing. That is how our democracy works. We can agree to disagree, but we should never resort to violence when we don’t get our way or our side doesn’t “win.” Because in the end, everyone loses.

We hope that members of the Oklahoma delegation, including Fourth Dist. Rep. Tom Cole and Sen. Jim Inhofe, who are in positions of leadership and influence in their respective chambers, also seek ways to unify the nation. That is what we elected them to do, not to create more hate and division.

[Lawton Constitution]

Numbers of the Day

  • 1 – Oklahoma’s rank for COVID-19 positivity testing, which was 21.1 percent (the week of January 8-14)
  • 3 – Number of hours spent in public debate at Tuesday’s Broken Arrow City Council about a proposed COVID-19-related mask mandate. The majority of those speaking voiced opposition to a mask order, and the measure died before a vote could be called late Tuesday. The council also rejected for the second time a resolution that would have encouraged the wearing of masks. The council vote ended in a 2-2 tie, with the city’s fifth councilor not attending the meeting due to being symptomatic after a COVID exposure.
  • 111% – Increase in pretrial detention rate in 59 rural Oklahoma counties from 2000 to 2015.
  • 1,565 – Number of Broken Arrow students who are in quarantine as of Thursday, Jan. 22, due to close contact exposure. This represents about 8% of all students enrolled for in-person instruction and marks an increase of 565 students since the close of business Tuesday. Due to rising virus numbers, four Broken Arrow school sites are moving to distance learning. Last week, Gov. Stitt touted Broken Arrow’s in-person offerings in criticizing Tulsa Public Schools’ reliance on distance learning for much of the year.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • In Its First 100 Days, The Biden Administration Must Restore The Soul Of Medicaid [Health Affairs]
  • Administration Should Act to Expand and Improve Health Coverage [CBPP]
  • Prisons Are Releasing People Without COVID-19 Tests Or Quarantines [The Marshall Project]
  • White House Launches New Strategy to Combat COVID-19, Reopen Schools [Education Week]


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.