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AM NewsBrief: Apr. 4, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Thursday, April 4, 2024.

Oklahoma Senate Halts Consideration of Money Bills Amid Budget Impasse

Oklahoma’s budget-making process has hit a snag. Senators now say they won’t consider any money bills from the opposite chamber. They say they'll continue with that stance until they get a budget plan

Members of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee convened for about ten minutes Wednesday afternoon to say one thing: There will be no action on House bills that cost the state money until the chamber provides the Senate with a budget plan.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat says the Senate has done its part to be transparent, now it’s time for the House to do the same.

"We delivered the numbers on time. The House of Representatives had told us they were giving us their budget sheet yesterday so we could operate in a consistent, transparent manner when we're taking up House bills. Unfortunately, for some reason, they're delaying that," Treat said.

Treat says he has a “sneaking suspicion” the House is trying to push budget discussions to a Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget. If that happens, the state budget process would be more ad hoc and less transparent.

Oklahoma Set to Execute Michael DeWayne Smith

The state is scheduled to execute 41-year-old Michael DeWayne Smith Thursday at 10:00 a.m. It will be Oklahoma’s first execution of the year.

Smith was sentenced to death for the murders of 40-year-old Janet Moore and 24-year-old Sharath Pulluru in separate events on February 22, 2002. At the time, he was 19 years old and a member of an Oklahoma City street gang called the Oak Grove Posse.

Smith says he is innocent despite having confessed to the murders days after his arrest and says he was high on PCP at the time of his confession.

In February, Attorney General Gentner Drummond requested the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board deny a recommendation because Smith’s innocence claims have been repeatedly denied in court.

The board voted against recommending clemency last month, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals also denied his request for an emergency stay of execution.

Oklahoma Lawmakers Consider Removing Chronic Absenteeism from School Report Cards

Oklahoma’s A through F Report Cards offer an overview of successes and shortcomings of school districts, but some lawmakers say it’s not fair to dock districts’ scores for a metric largely out of their control — chronic absenteeism. A bill advanced this week to remove chronic absenteeism and replace it with something new.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as students who miss 10% or more of the school year, and House Bill 3510 by Ada Republican Rep. Ronny Johns would remove it from the State Report Card.

A committee substitute introduced Monday by Edmond Republican Senator Adam Pugh would replace chronic absenteeism with another metric: a school climate survey administered to students, staff and students’ guardians. He says that would be a more comprehensive indicator to districts about something they can control — their students’ daily experience.

"It gives parents and students as well the ability to speak to their school leaders in a manner that I don’t believe is currently available, and let that data drive school decisions, and not arbitrarily hold a school district responsible for lines that were drawn a long time ago," Pugh said.

Chronic absenteeism exploded nationwide during the pandemic and remains a significant national problem. The bill can now be heard on the Senate Floor.

Oklahoma Officials Offer Guidelines, Tips For Solar Eclipse

As the solar eclipse draws closer on April 8, Oklahoma officials are issuing some tips and guidelines.

The state is expected to see an influx of travelers trying to get into the narrow path of totality in southeastern Oklahoma.

State Transportation Director Tim Gatz is urging drivers not to block roadways.

"We have a lot of rural two-lane highways that don’t have a safety shoulder on them. So there is nowhere to pull off. And please don’t stop in the roadway during the eclipse and take pictures or anything like that," said Gatz.

Travelers are encouraged to have a full tank of gas in case they get stuck in congestion for an extended period of time.

State Secretary of Tourism Shelley Zumwalt says you may want to pick up a paper map as well.

"You will have places-especially in our state parks-where you won’t have service. Be prepared. Take a map with you." Zumwalt said.

Maps can be found at all Tourism Information Centers.

The state expects about 60,000 to gather in and around McCurtain county.

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