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Capitol Insider: Medicaid Expansion Gets 'Amazing' Number Of Signatures

AP/Sue Ogrocki
Yes on 802 Campaign Manager Amber England spoke in Oklahoma City on Oct. 24, 2019.

The campaign to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma enters a new phase, and a court hearing on Wednesday could halt the state's latest gun law. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss these developments and more during this episode of Capitol Insider. 


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, Medicaid expansion supporters have submitted over 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office as they work to put Medicaid expansion to a statewide vote. They far exceeded the number that they actually had to have.

Shawn Ashley: That's correct. They only needed about 178,000 to qualify for consideration for a statewide election sometime in 2020. And they got more than 312,000, pushing 313,000. That's an amazing number of signatures.

Pryor: Now that they've turned those in what happens next?

Ashley: Well, first of all, those signatures have to be counted by the Secretary of state's office, and that will probably take some time because of how many signatures there were. At the same time, the Attorney General's office will be reviewing the proposed ballot title for the state question. Oftentimes, it seems the attorney general has rewritten those ballot titles. If the proponents of the state question are satisfied with the ballot title written by the attorney general, then that just goes forward. But they could challenge it in the Supreme Court and ask that either the old ballot title be restored or that the court right one itself. And also to the signature count could be challenged in the state Supreme Court. So there are several more steps to go through, and all those steps have to be achieved before Gov. Kevin Stitt can be asked to put it on a statewide ballot in 2020.

Pryor: Is there any kind of historic precedent that would indicate how long this all might take?

Ashley: You know, I've been looking at state questions, trying to come up with sort of an average amount of time, and really, when you look at the various initiative petitions, there's not a set amount. Often it depends on the number of challenges involved. So it's hard to set a definite time, but undoubtedly it will be late this year or early next year before Kevin Stitt is asked to put it on a ballot.

Pryor: And there is a political component to deciding when to place it on the ballot.

Ashley: Oh, certainly. We saw that when medical marijuana was considered. Rather than it being placed on the general election ballot, hat matter went on the primary election ballot in June of that year. We could see something similar here, as it's largely believed that Democrats support Medicaid expansion much more so than Republicans. So you would want to have that issue on the June primary ballot when Democrats are voting for themselves and Republicans are voting for themselves in primaries, than you would in the general election, when it's a competition between the parties.

Pryor: Right. The state has received some good news from Moody's Investors Service, which has raised the state's credit outlook from stable to positive. Why did Moody's upgrade the state's credit rating for the second time in two years?

Ashley: Yeah, it's been an interesting track, if you will. In 2017 after the legislature fought over revenue-raising measures for all of the legislative session, Moody's put us on a negative outlook and cited the problems with raising revenue in Oklahoma, particularly the three quarters vote requirement of both chambers of the legislature. In 2018 Moody's raised our credit outlook to stable, citing the fact that the legislature had been able to overcome that barrier and approved revenue-raising measures. And, as you mentioned, this year they've now moved that to positive, citing both that previous activity of increasing revenue and the the amount of money that has been placed in the rainy day fund and held back in reserve for future possible needs, as well as looking at the overall economy of Oklahoma.

Pryor: Permitless carry is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1, but there is a hearing on Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court that could change that.

Ashley: That's very true. The argument being made is that the bill violates the single-subject law, or the single-subject requirement of the state constitution. And there are a number of components of the bill cited in the lawsuit, which raised the question of whether, in fact, that might or might not be the case. The judge will have to hear that and make a decision. It's worth noting that Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews heard a challenge to Senate Bill 614, an anti-abortion measure, and ruling from the bench said he had a number of questions and he wanted to hear full arguments. So he placed a temporary injunction on that bill, which also was scheduled to take effect Nov. 1.

Pryor: And he's the same judge that's hearing the permitless carry case.

Ashley: That's correct.

Pryor: So we'll be watching that closely.

Ashley: That and a whole lot of other things.

Pryor: All right. Thanks, Shawn. That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us at news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and eCapitol.net, on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor. 

Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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