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AM NewsBrief: Sept. 28, 2022

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This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.

Stitt calls on legislature to cut grocery tax

Gov. Kevin Stitt stood on the steps of the capitol building in Oklahoma City Tuesday and called on the legislature to deliver inflation relief via tax cuts during a special session.

"Our communities need relief from soaring inflation," said Stitt.

That’s why Stitt says ending the grocery tax should be a priority for a special session beginning today, renewing a call on the legislature to cut it. 

But GOP legislative leaders signaled such a move would be unlikely. In statements sent out shortly after Stitt’s address to the media, he called for a deliberate process to look at tax reform.

Regardless of what happens with taxes, lawmakers are convening to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in federal relief funds. 

Gender-affirming care for kids and teens

Oklahoma is joining the ranks of conservative states cracking down on gender-affirming care for kids and teens. Lawmakers are using pandemic relief funding as an opportunity to bring the national wedge issue to the state.

The Oklahoma Legislature is convening for a special session Wednesday to dole out hundreds of millions in American Rescue Plan funding.

A proposal laid out in House Bill 1007 would grant $40 million to OU Health for child behavioral health services. But it has a stipulation: none of it can go to gender-affirming care for minors.

OU Health has offered that care for years. A spokesperson says the new facility was never intended to offer gender-affirming services. Nonetheless, access will decrease soon.

The organization’s leadership team is planning an end to certain gender medicine services across their facilities.

It’s unclear which services that includes. Current gender-affirming services OU Health offers include medications that delay the changes that come with puberty, hormone therapies and help with legal name changes.

Texas and Florida officials have worked to ban gender-affirimg care for trans youth, and right-wing commentators such as Tucker Carlson have used their platforms to falsely accuse parents and doctors who provide that care of sexually mutiliating children.

Benjamin Cole clemency hearing

A man on death row convicted of killing his 9-month-old daughter in 2002 did not receive a recommendation of clemency Tuesday.

In a 4-1 vote, the Pardon and Parole Board did not recommend clemency for death row inmate Benjamin Cole.

Cole’s defense says executing Cole would be beneath us as a society, as his decline in both physical and mental health in recent years including a large lesion on his brain and symptoms of schizophrenia have left Cole in a state where he is not a danger to anyone.

Representatives from the Attorney General’s office say the horrific nature of his crime, his apparent lack of remorse, and history of child abuse should disqualify him from consideration of clemency.

Relatives of the victim, Brianna Cole, requested the board not recommend clemency.

While a decision about Cole’s competency is yet to be made, he is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 20.

How an Oklahoma City technology center is helping first responders fight electric vehicle fires

At a training area for the Edmond fire department, with a drone camera flying above, instructors and administrators from Francis Tuttle Technology Center gather around an EV battery that’s been set on fire.

The demonstration is to prepare Francis Tuttle for a new program it’s launching in the fall that aims to train first responders on how to manage alternative energy vehicle fires.

Edmond Fire Department’s Captain of Prevention, Jesse Benne, says one of the main challenges with EVs is there’s little standardization across car brands — from where the battery is located to the chemical makeup of the lithium inside.

"I think if we just know what we’re looking at and know what we’re dealing with and educate ourselves, I think we can mitigate it," said Benne.

Francis Tuttle plans to keep partnering with the department for more experiments on other AEVs

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