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AM NewsBrief: Jan. 23, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.

Legislative Preview

As a new legislative session approaches, members of the House and Senate are preparing for the work ahead.

Lawmakers have filed more than 3000 bills for the 2023 session. There’s sure to be some tension as measures can sometimes contradict each other. For example, a massive private voucher program - estimated to cost more than $116 million dolars - is back after failing in 2022. Critics had called it a “rural school killer.” At the same time, Republican Senator Adam Pugh - chairman of his chamber’s education committee - is spearheading a teacher raise and other public education reforms worth more than half a billion dollars.

Other topics like infrastructure, agriculture and health are sure to come up again.

Poultry Lawsuit Decision

Oklahoma finally got a verdict in its longstanding court case against Arkansas poultry farms for their polluting of the Illinois River.

After nearly two decades, a federal judge ruled in the state’s favor, finding Tyson Foods and ten other poultry producers guilty of polluting the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller in Eastern Oklahoma.

In his decision, Judge Gregory Kent Frizzell, calls phosphorus pollution “one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems.”

Poultry need lots of phosphorus in their diets, but some of it ends up in their poop. If that waste leaches into a watershed, it can cloud downstream waters, harm fish and foster the growth of blue-green algae. Frizzell says that’s what happened on the Illinois River, which ran clear as recently as the 1960s.

The state and the poultry farms have until March to agree on a plan to remedy the pollution, or the court will determine its own.

OK Marriage Exception

A proposed bill could allow Oklahoma to chose not to implement new federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage.

President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law in December, codifying federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage. However, Senate Bill 455, introduced by Republican State Senator David Bullard, would amend an existing law that allows the Oklahoma Legislature to review executive orders from the President, rules from federal agencies, and federal congressional actions to include the regulation of marriage.

If passed, the Oklahoma Legislature, through the Attorney General and the State Reserved Powers Protection Unit, could find the Respect for Marriage Act unconstitutional and bar it from being implemented in the state.

Sports Betting

Could this be the year Oklahoma legalizes sports betting? The Oklahoma legislature is set to take up the issue when the 2023 session begins.

State Representative Ken Luttrell, a Republican from Ponca City filed HB 1027 to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma. The bill, if passed, would offer tribes who already have a gaming compact in place, the opportunity to add sports betting and pay a percentage of the revenue to the state.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt voiced his support. Here he is last week on a sports talk show when asked if he would be willing to work with the state's tribal nations on the issue.

"Nobody wants to cut anybody out of the deal. But we also want it to be fair for the citizens. This is ultimately about what's fair for the citizens and all 4 million Oklahomans for the benefit of education or, like I said, an economic development bond like other states have done," said Stitt.

Representative Luttrell filed a bill to legalize sports betting at the beginning of the 2022 legislative session, but it didn't go anywhere. The deadline to file all bills to be considered for the 2023 session was last Thursday.

Beet Juice Used To Treat Icy Roads

Oklahoma City is experimenting with a new way to treat roads ahead of potential wintry weather Tuesday.

Driving around the metro you may notice a few bridges that will have a redder tint. That's because Oklahoma City’s Public Works Department is experimenting with beet juice to combat potential icy conditions Tuesday.

The department says beet juice is used in northern U.S. cities. But how is it different? Public Works Emergency Operations Manager Mike Love Jr. says traditional rock salt needs temperatures above 15 degrees and sunlight to be effective, but adding a percentage of beet juice to the salt or brine mixture brings the operational temperatures down to minus 10 to minus 20 degrees.

Beet juice has the added benefit of being less corrosive than salt and it's biodegradable.

Eleven bridges in Oklahoma City will be treated with the beet-laced brine solution.

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