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AM NewsBrief: Nov. 28, 2022

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.

Oklahoma voters could decide on abortion access under proposed ballot initiative

Oklahomans could get the opportunity to vote for abortion access in the state. A ballot initiative is in the works, and it crossed a threshold last week.

Organizers filed the paperwork for the initiative late last month. State Question 828, if it ends up on the ballot, would amend the state’s constitution to create new protections for pregnant residents and the people who provide their care. Among other things, it would protect Oklahomans’ right to an abortion up to fetal viability, and afterward if a medical practitioner deems it necessary.

After the paperwork was filed, opponents had a set period of time to challenge the question in court. Usually, if an opponent files a challenge, they accuse organizers of a procedural problem like misleading language.

Rep. Mickey Dollens, a lawmaker who supports the initiative, says no challenges have been filed, so now the Secretary of State will decide when proponents can begin collecting signatures.

Oklahoma nonprofit creates legal fund to support teachers accused of violating HB 1775

An Oklahoma nonprofit is announcing a new legal fund to protect teachers accused of violating House Bill 1775, which limits critical discussions in the classroom about race or sex.

The program will be funded through donations and managed by the nonprofit Oklahoma Appleseed.

The announcement comes on the heels of Ryan Walters’ State Superintendent election win. Following the resignation of a Norman teacher who shared access to free library books, Walters falsely claimed she was fired and called for her teaching certification to be stripped.

"We know that public schools are the lifeblood of civic engagement," said Oklahoma Appleseed legal director Leslie Briggs. "We know that a public education that is robust, that is high quality, that introduces competing ideas, creates a generation of critical thinkers who can engage and self-govern. With this fund, we’re going to help protect that system."

Donations for the legal fund open on Giving Tuesday, which is Nov. 29.

Commercial fire forces shoppers at Penn Square Mall to evacuate

Penn Square Mall was evacuated over the weekend due to a three-alarm fire.

According to the Oklahoma City police department, crews arrived at the scene of a commercial fire at the mall Sunday morning. The Oklahoma City Fire Department said it started around the food court area.

There were no injuries reported and the mall has since reopened. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Gaming compact rulings

On Wednesday, a D.C. Federal court judge issued a mix of decisions over a gaming compact lawsuit involving Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and four tribes filed more than two years ago.

Timothy Kelly, a federal judge in Washington D.C. denied the U.S. Government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cheroke and Citizen Potawatomi Nation against four other tribes that entered into gaming compacts with Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2020.

Kelly said the Department of Interior had a legal duty to determine whether the agreements were validly entered into. He also said that regardless of that legal duty, they had an opinion written by Oklahoma Attorney General telling the Department they weren't legal under Oklahoma law.

Stephen Greetham is Chickasaw Nation's outside legal counsel.

"And the federal court, just like the Oklahoma Supreme Court before it has now held, Governor Stitt is bound by Oklahoma law, just like all other public officials."

Earlier this month, Gov. Stitt's lawyers filed a motion with the same judge saying these compacts were valid.

'World's tallest fresh-cut Christmas tree' returns to Enid

The so-called “world’s tallest fresh-cut Christmas tree” returns to Enid with upgrades. The 140-foot tall tree, which came from a California forest, has added reinforcements this year to help it withstand Oklahoma winds.

Last year, high winds broke off the top portion of the tree.

Crews are working this week to prepare the tree for the opening night lighting ceremony Friday, Dec. 3.

Organizers say the tree will feature 20,000 multi-colored lights and 10,000 ornaments.

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