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AM NewsBrief: Jan. 20, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, Jan. 20, 2023.

Bill to end straight party voting

The deadline to submit bill proposals ended this week - and what lawmakers care about is becoming clear. One of those bills looks to end straight party voting.

Senate Bill 568 authored by Democratic Senator Mary Boren looks to amend parts of the law to remove straight party voting as well as update language to be gender neutral.

Oklahoma is only one of six states to offer straight party voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some proponents argue it’s a time saving measure, while some critics say the option discourages voters from researching individual candidates. Several states have chosen to remove straight party voting in recent years including - Texas, Utah and Iowa.

But the option remains popular in Oklahoma - nearly 42% of voters used it during the Nov. 8th election.

Lawmakers will be able to consider the bill when session begins in February.

Bill filed to strengthen Oklahoma's seat belt laws

An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed a bill that aims to strengthen the state’s seat belt laws.

Democratic State Sen. Carri Hicks has filed two bills to change the seat belt requirements. One would include all passengers to wear seat belts regardless of age. The other would require children 8 years or older to buckle up.

Under current state law, drivers and front-seat passengers are required to buckle up and it’s optional for those in the back seat.

Sen. Hick’s has filed similar legislation in the past that has previously failed.

Court rules Kickapoo Reservation was disestablished

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals says the historic Kickapoo Reservation was disestablished.

According to the Associated Press, the court’s decision involves the case of a Seminole citizens challenging his state conviction on four counts of lewd acts with a child.

The ruling agrees with a lower court’s decision stating the reservation had been ceded back to the United States in 1897 with land allotments and cash payments to tribal citizens.

Under the agreement, each of the estimated 300 Kickapoos at the time were allotted 80 acres of land and cash.

Agency aims to bring arts to all of Oklahoma, not just metro areas

A state agency says it's going to focus on bringing the arts everywhere -- not just in the two metros.

The Oklahoma Arts Council hopes to advance its mission in rural communities this year.

At an Oklahoma Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, Arts Council president Amber Sharples said investment in the arts in rural Oklahoma decreased 15 percent before COVID-19. Sharples attributed this to multiple factors, including the migration from rural areas to urban centers, and grant benefactors aging out.

"We realize that this is an area where we must have intentional and strategic programs to build up rural arts and infrastructure," said Sharples.

Sharples said there has been increased investment in the Council from the Legislature.

In October, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed $10 million in ARPA money to the Arts Council, arguing the strategic value of the proposed appropriation had not been clearly established.

OU announces date for spring football game

University of Oklahoma officials have announced the date for the football team's annual spring football game.

OU’s Athletics Department announced Wednesday that the Sooners’ 2023 spring football game will be held on Saturday, April 22 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Kickoff time will be announced at a later date.

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