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AM NewsBrief: Feb 26, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

A Senate Panel Passes Bill That Would Provide Funding To Restart The Prison Rodeo In McAlester

The prison rodeo in McAlester could be getting a new life more than a decade after it was stopped due to budget cuts. Lawmakers are considering injecting more than $8 million dollars into the rodeo.

Senate Bill 14-7 would dedicate millions toward rebuilding and rehabbing the Oklahoma State Penitentiary prison rodeo arena.

The measure is authored by Kingfisher Republican Darcy Jech

Nonprofit news outlet Oklahoma Voice reports Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections has already put $1 million dollars into the facility, but the rest of the money is necessary to fully relaunch the rodeo.

The Southeast Oklahoma spectacle was shut down in 2010 due to state budget cuts and low attendance. It has run off and on since 1940.

The funding has only passed one subcommittee hurdle. The bill must be approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee before it can be heard by both chambers of the legislature.

Oklahoma Nonprofit Urges Passage Of Bill Requiring Free Menstrual Products In Schools

In Oklahoma schools, educators and local nonprofits often purchase menstrual products to help students access free supplies. But a bill advanced in the Legislature that would require sixth through twelfth grade schools to provide free products.

Lindsay Republican Cynthia Roe authored House Bill 33-29, which would make free menstrual products accessible to students in school bathrooms, the nurse’s office and administrative offices. Period OKC President Linley Smith says her nonprofit donated around 100,000 products to public schools last year. But there are still schools across the state that need them.

Smith says the effects of funding those products could be significant.

“Well, with a quarter of our students missing school because they don't have access to menstrual products, imagine how much that would affect the absenteeism rate," said Roe.

The bill was approved unanimously in the House A&B Education Subcommittee and is now waiting to be heard in the full A&B Committee.

Oklahoma Supreme Court To Hear Oral Arguments From 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors

The two remaining survivors of the 1921 Race Massacre may get another shot at a reparations lawsuit after its dismissal last year.

According to court filings, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will allow oral arguments from the survivors’ legal team in April on whether to send their public nuisance case back to trial.

Lead attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons released a statement Wednesday thanking the court for their “swift attention” to the case.

In November, Solomon-Simmons and his team delivered what was their final brief to the court, emphasizing the urgency of their appeal.

“There is nowhere else for us to go," he said. "There is no going to the United States Supreme Court. There is no going to the federal court system. This is it.”

The two remaining survivors of the massacre, Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle, are seeking reparations, accusing the city and state of being complicit in the massacre.

Attorneys for the survivors argued Oklahoma’s public nuisance law applies to their clients because the massacre still has lasting effects for them and the Greenwood community to this day.

A Tulsa County district judge dismissed the case in July. A decision from the Supreme Court could decide if the dismissal was wrong.

Oral arguments are set for the afternoon of April 2.

Medical Debt Relief Bill

Oklahomans facing medical debt lawsuits could get some relief under a bill advanced by a House committee Thursday.

House Bill 41-48, authored by Rep. Suzanne Schreiber and Rep. Mark Lepak would make health-care providers or third-party debt collectors demonstrate to the court that patients were informed about the costs of care before pursuing debt-collection litigation.

The proposal aligns with the Transparency in Health Care Prices Act passed in 2021, empowering healthcare providers to disclose the cash price for their top 20 services.

The nonprofit newsroom Oklahoma Watch reports Oklahoma's high rate of medical debt, with one in five residents facing collections, underscores the urgency of legislative action.

The bipartisan support suggests a recognition of the need to address the systemic challenges surrounding medical debt in Oklahoma.

That bill can now be heard on the House floor.

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