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AM NewsBrief: Mar. 12, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

Black Hole Award

Every year, the organization Freedom of Information Oklahoma awards those who promote access and awareness of open records and government. But, it also saves one award to recognize a lack of transparency - the Black Hole Award. This year’s Black Hole Award recipient is State Superintendent Ryan Walters.

The Black Hole Award recognizes the individual or entity that has most thwarted the free flow of information. FOI Oklahoma says in a press release Walters has QUOTE, “done more to damage the First Amendment freedoms among educators and others than any other political leader in recent state history,” and “the state education system is in a black hole based on his inept leadership.”

It notes a recent lawsuit filed by Edmond Public Schools against the administration for its efforts to ban two books from EPS high school libraries. The department has also come under fire for its long response times in fulfilling open records requests. For example, StateImpact still has unfulfilled requests dating back to last May.

The group also recognized McCurtain County Gazette-News’ Bruce Willingham for the prestigious Ben Blackstock Award for his series of stories last year on violent, racist comments from the County sheriff and commissioners.

Wyandotte Reservation 

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has recognized that the Wyandotte Reservation was never disestablished. The Wyandotte Reservation was founded in Northeast Oklahoma in 1867, after the tribe’s members were forcibly removed from the upper Midwest.

Steven Leon Fuller was charged with a DUI on their land in 2022 but appealed his conviction. As a Cherokee Citizen, Fuller argued the DUI should be under tribal or federal jurisdiction, not the state’s.

That appeal hinges on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 McGirt decision, which affirmed that the Muscogee Nation’s reservation was never disestablished, and its lands remain under tribal jurisdiction.

Wyandotte is the ninth tribal reservation to have its continuous existence recognized in Oklahoma post-McGirt.

In a statement, Chief Billy Friend says “While the Wyandotte Nation knew the Wyandotte Reservation was not disestablished, we are glad to see the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirm this truth.”

Faster FOIA

When a member of the public files an open records request from a government agency, there is no timetable required for it to be fulfilled. Now there's an effort to create accountability for fulfilling records requests.

Sometimes, it can feel like a public records request in Oklahoma simply goes into a black hole. State agencies often take months or occasionally even years to fulfill a request to inspect government records, often irking members of the public and reporters tasked with informing them. House Bill 27-30 would require a public body to give written notice about WHY a records request takes more than 10 days and give an estimated date of availability. Author Annie Menz - a Norman Democrat - says the measure would promote transparency from the government.
It can now be heard in the senate after passing off the house floor unanimously.

Big XII basketball

The Big XII Men’s Basketball Tournament tips this morning. The Oklahoma State Cowboys, who are 12-19 on the season, take on the U-C-F Golden Knights Tuesday morning at 11:30 in Kansas City. The winner will move on to face B-Y-U on Wednesday morning.

The Oklahoma Sooners, who are 20-11 on the season, will play their first game of the tourney against the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday afternoon at 2:30. This will be the Sooners’ final Big 12 basketball tournament, ahead of their move to the S-E-C next season.
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