Weekly Wonk: Safe, affordable housing should not be a luxury | SQ 820 Fact Sheet | High quality representation in child welfare cases

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

Fact Sheet, SQ 820: Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative: State Question 820 would legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. Adults over the age of 21 years old would be able to purchase marijuana products for recreational use from licensed sellers. It also requires “resentencing, reversing, modifying and expunging” past marijuana-related criminal records and convictions. The statewide special election is March 7, 2023. [OK Policy] | [PDF]

  • Monday, Feb. 20, is the deadline to request an absentee ballot for the March 7 special election [Oklahoma Election Board]

Policy Matters: Safe, affordable housing should not be a luxury: All Oklahomans deserve to experience the security that comes with having a roof over their heads and knowing their loved ones are safe. However, it’s growing harder for everyday Oklahomans to secure safe and affordable housing due to rising rents, a shortage of housing stock, and the skyrocketing costs of real estate. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Together Oklahoma Meetings

  • Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m.: Thriving Families Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on issues that can help all Oklahomans and their family have equitable opportunities to thrive. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Wednesdsay, Feb. 22 at 7:00 p.m.: Cleveland County Community Meeting (In-person and Online). Equity Brewing Co., 109 E Tonhawa St. – Suite 120 in Norman. Special guests: The Red Direct Collective and Rep. Jared Deck. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 at 6:00 p.m.: Healthy Oklahomans Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on health care and policies that help Oklahomans live healthier lives. [Join the Meeting Online]

For more information and a full list of Together Oklahoma events, visit TogetherOK.org/events

Weekly What’s That

Ballot Title

Every State Question, or ballot measure, in Oklahoma must include a ballot title that will appear on every voter’s ballot.  Oklahoma law (Title 34, Section 9) specifies that the ballot title must fairly and accurately describe the measure in 200 words or less. In addition, it must be free of jargon, be written at an eighth grade reading level, and clearly represent the effect of a “yes” vote and a “no” vote. The ballot language must always be formulated so that a “yes” vote is a vote in favor of the proposition in question, and a “no” vote is a vote to reject it.

Initiative petitions and legislatively-initiated ballot measures must contain a draft ballot title.  When signed copies of a petition are filed, or when a legislative referendum has been submitted to the Secretary of State, the state Attorney General reviews the proposed ballot title and may rewrite the title if s/he determines that it does not meet legal requirements.  Any person may challenge the Attorney General’s proposed ballot language to the Supreme Court, which may rewrite the language.

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

Quote of the Week

“There’s a push right now to ignore history, but I wish my colleagues (in the state Legislature) would understand that this is not a conversation about blame, this is a conversation about how to close the gap.”

– Rep. Monroe Nichols, speaking on the importance of having honest conversations about the history of racial inequity and how it impacts the present, including systems of housing, employment and education. [The Oklahoman]

Op-Ed of the Week

Opinion: Providing high quality legal representation in child welfare cases provides better outcomes for kids

Every child in every family in every community deserves the chance to thrive. Often the best way to help a child is to make sure children and their families are supported and have access to high-quality legal representation in court-involved child welfare cases.

Yet access to high-quality legal representation continues to vary dramatically across Oklahoma.

National research shows that high-quality legal representation can help keep families together by preventing unnecessary removal and increasing reunification of families if they are separated. It increases the rate of children being safely returned to their parents and their extended families.

It decreases trauma resulting from family separation. It provides our juvenile judges with critical information so they can make the best possible decisions for families. It saves the state money by reducing the costs of foster care for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services…

[Click here to read the full Op-Ed from Retired Tulsa County District Judge Doris Fransein / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 40 – Number of bills filed this legislative session that would limit health care access, inclusion in schools, and options for self-expression for LGBTQ2S+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Two-Spirit) Oklahomans. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • 13.2% – Percentage of income paid in taxes by the lowest earning 20% of Oklahoma residents, which is nearly double the rate (6.2%) paid by the top 1% of Oklahomans. [Institute on Taxation and Policy via OK Policy]
  • 13.8% – The rate of Oklahomans without health insurance in 2021, down from 14.3% in 2019. Even with this decrease, Oklahoma continues to have the nation’s second highest rate of uninsured residents behind Texas. [U.S. Census]
  • $13.16 – Average hourly wage needed for a worker to afford a one-bedroom rental in Oklahoma. The state’s minimum wage has not changed since the federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009. [National Low Income Housing Coalition via OK Policy]
  • 690,712 – Number of Oklahomans who received food assistance through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in November 2022. This is a 7% increase when compared with November 2021. During the pandemic, the federal government increased SNAP benefits, but that extra help will end in March. [StateImpact Oklahoma] | [USDA]

What We’re Reading

  • A Proposed Catholic Charter School Is New Test for Religion and Public Education: The application from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa says St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, if approved, would receive as much as $2.5 million in state money to serve a projected 500 students in its first year. Although the sponsors do not mention it in the application, they are aware that Oklahoma law requires charter schools to be “nonsectarian” in their programs and operations and that no sponsor may “authorize a charter school or program that is affiliated with a nonpublic sectarian school or religious institution.” But they are also aware that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions backing the inclusion of religious schools in certain school choice programs have prompted a debate about whether states may provide public funds to charter schools sponsored by religious institutions or even whether they must do so if they also fund secular public charter schools. [Education Week]
  • Why the States Have a Major Role to Play If We Want Tax Justice: Americans scored a tax victory with last summer’s Inflation Reduction Act, raising hundreds of billions of dollars for climate, health and debt reduction, and breaking a long streak of little progress or even backward movement on tax fairness. Now, with fears of gridlock in a divided Washington, tax justice champions are building momentum in other places where there’s dire need for better tax policy: the states. We can upgrade communities across the country by making 2023 a year to win tax improvements in statehouses. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • Millions of people are about to get kicked off Medicaid: Perhaps the greatest success of the American health care system these last few benighted years is this surprising fact: The uninsured rate has reached a historic low of about 8 percent. That’s thanks in part to the pandemic — or, more precisely, the slew of emergency provisions that the government enacted in response to the Covid crisis. But in April, that will end — states will be re-checking every Medicaid enrollee’s eligibility, an enormous administrative undertaking that will put health insurance coverage for millions of Americans at risk. [Vox]
  • Three Roommates or Four Jobs Needed to Afford a Two-Bedroom Rental on Minimum Wage: Based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, it would take nearly four full-time minimum wage workers to afford the typical national two-bedroom rental, spending a maximum of 30% of household wages on their rent payments. Renters have been squeezed by record-fast rent growth while incomes haven’t kept up and the country’s housing shortage has taken a toll. [Zillow]
  • Here’s the story behind Black History Month — and why it’s celebrated in February: Every February, the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation. Black History Month celebrates the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history. Critics have long argued that Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round, not just during one month each year. [NPR] | For more information on Black History Month, visit the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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