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AM NewsBrief: Jan. 12, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

Stitt reshapes Oklahoma state boards for education, veterans affairs as he starts second term

Gov.Kevin Stitt is reshaping two state boards he’s occasionally been at odds with.

Stitt is retaining two members of the state board of education: Trent Smith and Sarah Lepak, who were both appointed by him in the last two years.

Every other member – including a homeschool teacher, an energy executive and a conservative former state representative candidate – will be new.

The moves come as new state superintendent Ryan Walters gets ready to shape a new era at the State Department of Education.

Stitt also terminated four of the veteran’s commission members, including its chairman. The governor has been trying to oust veteran’s commission executive director Joel Kintsel after he challenged Stitt in the GOP primary last year. The commission had been protecting him.

All of Stitt’s appointees to the boards must be approved by the Senate, where Republicans hold a supermajority.

Oklahoma AG picks up Epic case

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond announced Wednesday that he will oversee the prosecution of the founders and former chief financial officer of Epic Charter Schools.

Drummond has hit the ground running on his promises to take a more proactive approach to cases of alleged state fraud or corruption.

He says he will be taking on the prosecution of Epic Charter Schools founders and former CFO - who were charged last June for racketeering, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretense and other allegations.

The case was punted to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office by Drummond’s predecessor John O’Connor. Then DA David Prater picked it up, but he has since retired.

Drummond says because the allegations involve tens of millions of dollars intended for public education and that the case has a statewide impact - it is appropriate for it to fall under his office.

Oklahoma’s managed Medicaid program faces another lawsuit

Oklahoma’s managed Medicaid program is facing another lawsuit.

Managed care models bring insurance companies in to help administer the no-cost health coverage program. Oklahoma’s, SoonerCare, serves about 1 million people.

Managed care in Oklahoma has already been scrapped once after medical providers challenged an earlier iteration of it in court in 2021. Now, it’s facing another lawsuit.

An Oklahoma company applying to be a managed care contractor filed the lawsuit this week. It argues the application process is unfair because it rewards companies that already have Medicaid contracts. Because Oklahoma doesn’t have managed care yet, no companies here have that experience, so out-of-state companies could have a leg up.

The lawsuit also argues state law says to favor Oklahoma companies run by medical providers over traditional, out-of-state private insurance companies, and the state’s Medicaid agency isn’t doing that.

USDA Rural Business Grants

The US Department of Agriculture is giving grants to small businesses in, what it says, is an ongoing effort to give rural communities the resources they need to thrive. But the deadline to apply is just around the corner.

According to the USDA, all sorts of rural public entities are eligible to receive grant funding: towns, communities, nonprofits, higher education institutes, federally-recognized tribes, and more. To qualify for rural business development grant funding, the entity must have fewer than 50 new workers and less than one-million dollars in gross revenue. Although there is no maximum grant amount, smaller grants will be given priority. Businesses will be selected based on economic need, evidence of local job creation, experience, and consistency with local economic development priorities. Applications for grants end Feb. 28 at 4:30p.m.

Cherokee Nation seeks artwork by youth of Cherokee Freedmen descent

Cherokee Nation is seeking artwork by youth of Cherokee Freedmen descent to expand on its current exhibit at the Cherokee National History Museum.

Last fall, the Cherokee Nation opened the exhibit, "We are Cherokee: Cherokee Freedmen and the Right to Citizenship" at the Cherokee Nation museum in downtown Tahlequah. The first of its kind exhibit solicited input and stories from Freedmen descendents across the country to shed light on those Black citizens formerly enslaved by the tribal nation.

This latest solicitation asks that young people in grades 6 through 12 continue highlighting that history by submitting their artwork. Entries will be accepted on Jan. 23 and 24 at Cherokee Nation businesses in Tahlequah. The show will open in February.

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