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AM NewsBrief: May 2, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Thursday, May 2, 2024.

Budget Deal on the Horizon, Senate Leadership Change Could Delay Negotiations

Oklahoma lawmakers are close to reaching a budget deal. It could be as soon as the weekend if you ask certain members of the House. A shake-up in Senate fiscal leadership is expected to delay negotiations.

House Speaker Charles McCall says he thinks the two chambers could agree upon budget appropriations for fiscal year 2025 as soon as this week.

"I really hope to get a budget deal done this week. I think we're very close. There's only about three areas, four areas of the budget that there's just not quite agreement on. And hopefully we can work through those," McCall said.

Those areas of disagreement include common and higher education funding, an income tax cut and some deferred maintenance projects at universities, parks and other public spaces.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat replaced his chief budget negotiator with the House Tuesday. The move is expected to delay budget talks past this week.

Satanic Temple Eyes Participation in School Chaplain Program

The Satanic Temple is looking to participate in a school chaplain program, should the measure pass the state legislature. State Superintendent Ryan Walters has supported the bill but took to social media Wednesday to warn off the religious group.

Senate Bill 36 would allow districts to employ chaplains or accept them as volunteers to provide support, services and programs for students.

The Satanic Temple’s founder, Lucien Greaves, says it will be participating in the program if it passes.

In response, State Superintendent Ryan Walters posted Wednesday, “Satanists are not welcome in Oklahoma schools, but they are welcome to go to hell.”

Greaves says while The Satanic Temple would rather schools just adequately staff qualified professional counselors for student support, if the bill passes, his federally recognized religion has the same rights as any other.

"You can’t simply advocate for bringing religions in school and then tweet out later that one specific religious group isn’t allowed," Greaves said. "That’s not how legislation is made, that’s not how laws are passed. You can’t change the Constitution by fiat from Twitter."

The bill is waiting to be heard in the Senate.

OU Students Hold Pro-Palestine Rally on Campus

As the war in Gaza wages on, OU students joined the growing number of students across the country calling for their universities to cut ties with companies supporting Israel.

The OU Student Coalition for Palestinian Liberation held a rally on campus Wednesday afternoon to call for the university to divest from companies like Chevron, which supports Israel financially, and Lockheed Martin, which provides Israel with weapons.

On their Instagram, the student organization notes OU divested from companies supporting South African apartheid following student rallies in the 80s.

Other student organizations like the OU Student Socialist League and local organizations like the Red Dirt Collective attended the rally and have signed on to the demand for divestment.

Another rally at OSU is planned for May 2.

'Government Overreach': Stitt Vetoes Groundwater Monitoring Bill

Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed a bill that would have required farmers, ranchers and other commercial irrigators to track how much water they pull from Oklahoma’s aquifers.

Oklahoma already limits how much groundwater commercial wells can use. But currently, irrigators self-report on a form each year, and the state doesn’t have a good way to double-check.

Although overuse is a concern, lawmakers say they think many irrigators actually use less than they report, for fear they’ll have their limit lowered otherwise.

Rep. Carl Newton and Sen. Brent Howard authored House Bill 3194, which would have required more accurate monitoring and documentation of groundwater use. Both lawmakers are from Western Oklahoma, where most communities rely on aquifers for their water.

The bill landed on the Governor’s desk last week. But Stitt vetoed it for what he calls “government overreach at its finest.”

Now it’s up to the legislature to overturn the Governor’s veto, if they so choose.


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