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
Oklahoma’s parole process has helped safely lower the number of people in prison. Continued investments could build on this progress: Oklahoma’s parole process — which allows conditional early release from prison — has played a key role in lowering the number of Oklahomans behind bars. The use of parole has reunited families, protected public safety, and saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars in incarceration costs. [David Gateley / OK Policy]
Interim studies examine justice reform solutions (Capitol Update): Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, is at it again with his criminal justice reform interim studies. One study included looking at data collection and funding since passage of State Question 780 and SQ 781 in 2016. According to Rep. Humphrey, “If we keep sending money to prisons, they will find a way to use everything we send them. But if we want true reform, we need to start sending money to the programs that help address the root of the problem.” [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]
Policy Matters: Oklahomans need targeted, timely inflation relief: Now that the dust has settled on the general election, it’s time for our new and returning lawmakers to cast aside electioneering and get down to the business of governance. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]
Column: Time for lawmakers to follow through on SQ 781 for community well-being: Despite voters in 2016 resoundingly approving State Question 781 calling for investments in community-based mental health and treatment services, Oklahoma lawmakers have yet to invest a dime into the fund that could save lives and transform futures. It’s long past time for lawmakers to follow through on the will of Oklahoma voters. [David Gateley Column / Tulsa World]
Together Oklahoma to host Tulsa County meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15
The grassroots advocacy program Together Oklahoma has announced it will hold a Tulsa County meeting — both in-person and online — on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa campus.
The Tulsa County meeting will feature a community discussion on housing issues in Tulsa County with participation from the Oklahoma Policy Institute and other people and organizations directly working on housing issues.
The Tulsa County meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Tulsa Room in OSU-Tulsa’s North Hall, 700 N. Greenwood Avenue. For anyone unable to attend in person, a virtual option is available via Zoom.
Weekly What’s That
Earned Income Tax Credit
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit that subsidizes work for low-income families. The EITC is the nation’s largest cash or near cash assistance program after the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Together with the Child Tax Credit, the EITC lifted about 7.5 million people out of poverty in 2019, including about 4 million children, according to the US Census Bureau.
The amount of EITC depends on a family’s earnings and number of children; the maximum credit in 2022 was $6,164 for a family with two children. The federal EITC is refundable, which means the full amount can be claimed even if it exceeds a taxpayer’s tax liability. Refundability is critical to the success of the EITC because it allows the credit to still reward work and support families even if workers pay little income tax.
Oklahoma is one of 30 states (including DC) with a state EITC, set at 5 percent of the federal credit. In 2016, the Oklahoma Legislature made the credit non-refundable in response to a budget shortfall. In 2021, the Legislature reversed this decision and restored refundability of the credit; however, the state credit was pegged permanently to 5 percent of the federal credit as of 2020. The non-refundable state EITC was claimed on 312,301 returns for $13.2 million in 2020, according to Oklahoma Tax Commission records.
Quote of the Week
“The justices are now faced with a stark choice: on siding with the U.S. constitution and centuries of precedent, or with a political campaign that would reduce tribal sovereignty and create instability throughout the U.S., in areas ranging from criminal justice to child welfare.”– Joint statement from five tribal nations (Cherokee Nation, Navajo Nation, Oneida Nation, Quinault Indian Nation and Morongo Band of Mission Indians) following the U.S. Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law that governs adoptions, child custody and foster care issues involving tribal citizens. [Tulsa World]
Editorial of the Week
Tulsa World Editorial: It’s time to confirm a Cherokee Nation delegate to the U.S. House
he Cherokee Nation was promised a delegate in the U.S. House as part of its forced 19th century removal from its ancestral lands. It’s time America lived up to its word.
The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday about the effort to seat a Cherokee Nation delegate.
For three years, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has pushed the federal government to fulfill an ignored part of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. The treaty contains condescending language and became the catalyst for the Trail of Tears genocide.
But the treaty makes clear its intent about a congressional delegate. This was a point negotiated in good faith between the Cherokee Nation and U.S. government but never acted upon.
“The Cherokee Nation having already made great progress in civilization and deeming it important that every proper and laudable inducement should be offered to their people to improve their condition as well as to guard and secure in the most effectual manner the rights guarantied to them in this treaty, and with a view to illustrate the liberal and enlarged policy of the Government of the United States toward the Indians in their removal beyond the territorial limits of the States, it is stipulated that they shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make a provision of the same.”
Hoskin nominated Kimberly Teehee, who serves as director of government relations for the Cherokee Nation. Her background includes working as a partner in a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group representing Indian tribes and organizations and serving as the nation’s first senior policy advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council. She grew up in Claremore and earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and a law degree from the University of Iowa.
The U.S. House has six nonvoting delegates representing U.S. territories. Teehee would be unique in that she would not be representing a geographic area. Her constituency would be Cherokee citizens, no matter where they live.
Nonvoting members can still wield power. They can introduce legislation, speak on the House floor, and serve and vote on committees; they just don’t vote in final legislative consideration. This is a fight worth fighting for the Cherokee Nation.
Having a delegate puts representation among U.S. leaders located at the seat of power. Congress and other federal agencies constantly take up policy and funding issues directly affecting Indigenous people.
Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, including Sen.-elect Markwayne Mullin, who is a Cherokee Nation citizen, and Rep. Tom Cole, who is a Chickasaw citizen, ought to pick up this mantle. The U.S. Congress ratified the treaty 187 years ago, and no information has shown it to be invalid.
The U.S. government has a history littered with broken treaties and assaults on Indigenous sovereignty and rights. Congress has an opportunity to right a wrong and ought to do just that.
Numbers of the Day
- 150+ – For the first 150+ years of the existence of the United States, Native Americans were not allowed to vote
[Native American Rights Fund]
- 199,000 – Approximate number of Oklahomans who had voted early, as of Monday morning. About 67,000 of those votes were cast by mail, with more mail-in absentee ballots expected to arrive before Tuesday’s election day deadline. [Oklahoma Election Board via The Oklahoman]
- 38th – Oklahoma’s national rank for health care affordability [Health Care Value Hub]
- 50% – Voter turnout for Oklahoma’s 2022 general election, down from 56% during the 2018 general election. [Oklahoma Watch]
What We’re Reading
- Democracy is Indigenous: Our collective efforts to reclaim our voice and our power were driven by our shared commitment to combating the invisibilization of Urban Native people — one of the most under-represented and under-resourced populations in America. Despite making up over 70 percent of the total AI/AN population, our urban Native communities have traditionally been excluded from conversations, decisions, and outreach efforts that lead to resource allocation and policy decisions. [National Urban Indian Family Coalition]
- 7 Facts About Voting — and Myths Being Spread About Them: Election Day is fast approaching, and the midterms are being watched extremely closely. The Midterm Monitor project provides a tool to better understand the online conversation around the election. Our research using the tool finds that various myths are gaining traction on social media, underscoring the importance of clarifying key facts. [Brennan Center for Justice]
- Health Care Affordability State Policy Scorecard: Polling data repeatedly shows that health care affordability is a top issue — often the number one issue—that state residents on both sides of the political aisle want their policymakers to work on. Moreover, it is well documented that people are declining coverage and delaying or forgoing care due to cost concerns — or getting care but struggling to pay the resulting bill—and that these affordability burdens affect nearly 70 percent of adults in some states. Health care affordability problems cause stress and anxiety for families, crowd out other critical family spending and lead to poorer and less equitable health outcomes. Evidence of affordability problems goes far up the income ladder and affect people of every stripe, functioning as a strong call for action that must be met with a comprehensive approach. [Health Care Value Hub] | [Oklahoma’s Health Care Affordability Scorecard]
- Democracy Wins the 2022 Midterms: Democracy had a good day on Tuesday. Our election systems faced extraordinary pressure and held up well. The elections were free, fair, and emphatically calm. Elections like this teach lessons and shape narratives. This year the health of our democracy was a central topic for the first time in years – and the public made clear what it thought. [Brennan Center for Justice]