Oklahoma entered Phase 3 of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s (R) “Open Up and Recover Safely” plan on June 1, 2020. Church and school summer camps may open, businesses may resume unrestricted staffing at worksites with social distancing and sanitation measures, and businesses that were operating by appointment only may accept walk-ins.
Residents are encouraged to minimize time spent in crowds and vulnerable individuals are urged to continue following safer-at-home guidelines. Also under Phase 3, visits to hospitals can resume, with limitations such as one representative per patient and social distancing measures. Visits to senior care facilities are still prohibited.
The Oklahoma State Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 27 on Friday, which will appear on the statewide ballot as State Question 814 on November 3. The constitutional amendment would decrease appropriations made to the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund from 75% to 25% of tobacco settlement revenue. Funds that are not being deposited into the TSET fund are deposited into a special fund, which would continue under the amendment. The measure would direct the legislature to appropriate money from the special fund to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program.
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund was created through State Question 692 in 2000. The measure was referred to the ballot by the state legislature and was approved by voters in a vote of 69% in favor to 31% opposed. The TSET was funded through a percentage of revenue from tobacco companies under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). The money in the TSET fund was earmarked for tobacco use prevention, smoking cessation programs, education, health care, and other purposes as established by the fund’s board of directors.
The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) of 1998 is an agreement between 46 states, four U.S. territories, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and, originally, four cigarette manufacturers (Philip Morris Incorporated, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, and Lorillard Tobacco Company). As of October 2018, more than 50 tobacco manufacturers were a part of the MSA. Annual payments to the states under the MSA began in 2000 with no set end date.
As of 2020, the average annual payment received by Oklahoma under the Master Settlement Agreement was around $75 million. About $56.25 million was deposited into the TSET fund. Under State Question 814, the amount deposited into the TSET fund would be about $18.75 million, and the remainder (about $56.25 million) would be allocated to drawing down federal matching funds for Medicaid.
State Question 814 was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 27 on February 3, 2020. It was passed largely along party lines with 96.5% of Republican legislators in favor and 81.3% of Democratic legislators opposed.
One other measure, State Question 802, is certified to appear on the ballot in Oklahoma. State Question 802, which will appear on the June 30 primary ballot, would expand Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma to adults between 18 and 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.
A total of 80 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Oklahoma from 1996 to 2018. Of the total, 77.5% (62 of 80) of the measures were approved and 22.5% (18 of 80) were defeated.
Ballotpedia is tracking state legislative races without a known Democratic or Republican candidate in the 2020 elections. As of April 29, 764 state legislative races do not have a Democratic candidate, and 583 do not have a Republican candidate.
The most seats without a candidate from one of the major parties are concentrated in three states: New York, Oklahoma, and Georgia. New York has the highest number; of its 213 state legislative seats, 74 races (34.7%) do not have a Republican candidate. Oklahoma and Georgia are tied with the second-highest at 68 races. Of the 125 seats on the ballot this year in Oklahoma, 68 races (54.4%) do not have a Democratic candidate. Of the 236 state legislative races that are on the ballot in Georgia, 68 races (28.8%) do not have a Republican candidate.
In 2018, 6,073 state legislative races were on the ballot and 2,017 (33.2%) did not feature major party competition. In comparison, there were 2,477 such races in 2016 and 2,606 in 2014.
During the 2020 election cycle, the filing deadline to run for the state legislature has passed in 30 states. Washington has the next filing deadline on May 15.