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AM NewsBrief: May 15, 2024

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

Oklahoma Democrats Push for Inclusion in State Budget Discussions

Because of Oklahoma Republicans’ supermajority, Democrats at the state capitol have little say in the state budget. Democratic leaders share how they fit into the legislative budget process.

"The governor calling people into a meeting felt special. Democrats aren't at the table, but we're not surprised by that because that's what happens up here and we see it everyday," said Senate minority leader-elect Julia Kirt.

Kirt says Democrats being left out of important budget decision-making is nothing new.

Still, while they aren’t at the table – either a figurative one or a literal conference led by legislative leaders and the governor – Democrats do have some say on budget matters behind the scenes, during committee meetings and on their chamber floor.

House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson says a more active role in state budget-making for the minority party is overdue.

"Regardless of who is in the minority, I believe it is important that there is a place for the minority caucus to have a voice to elevate our priorities, and to talk about the things that we're hearing in our districts about the needs of our constituents," said Munson.

Munson says not giving minority lawmakers a voice is a disservice to those they represent.

State Education Rule Changes Spark Democratic Opposition in House Committee

House lawmakers advanced a slew of administrative rule changes Tuesday for the State Department of Education. Committee Democrats tried 10 unsuccessful amendments to pump the breaks on the new rules, championed by State Superintendent Ryan Walters.

The department is proposing more than 20 rule changes. They include tying school districts’ accreditation statuses to test scores, penalizing districts for continuing to employ teachers under investigation by the department if they later have their teaching certificate revoked, and pulling state funding for districts with diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Tulsa Rep. Melissa Provenzano authored several of the Democratic attempts to pull some of the rules from the resolution, but none were successful.

"We should not tie high-stakes testing to accreditation. We should not subvert the Teacher Due Process Act. Members, I implore you to listen to your constituents," said Provenzano.

The resolution now heads to the House Floor. From there, it’ll head to the Senate. But if the Senate decides not to take any action, the governor will still get the final say.

Oklahoma Lawmakers Introduce Revised Survivor’s Act After Governor’s Veto

Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed the Oklahoma Survivor’s Act last month, after the measure sailed through the Legislature. While the Senate has already overridden the veto, the bill’s authors have a new strategy to make it a law.

House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat announced a new bill containing the language of the Oklahoma Survivor’s Act which they expect the Governor to approve.

The bill originally passed the Senate unanimously before passing the House with a vote of 84-3.

Stitt vetoed the bill, citing concerns that the proposed sentencing mitigation for survivors of domestic abuse who committed crimes related to their abuse could create a legal loophole for any criminal to claim they had been abused at some point in their life as a way to get a lighter sentence.

According to a press release from the OK Survivor Justice Coalition, Stitt has met with domestic violence experts and survivor advocates and has agreed to sign the new bill.

Centuries-Old Artifact Returned to Oklahoma Tribal Nation

An artifact more than 100 years old is back with an Oklahoma tribal nation.

At the Modoc Nation, Syd Colombe works to preserve her tribe’s culture. One way is through seeking out lost artifacts.

“What we've been doing is we go to auctions, online, virtual eBay. And the LEX Council has been generous and provided us a budget. And so we're able to buy those cultural items," said Colombe.

Syd is Modoc and is a Rosebud Sioux descendant. She says the Modoc Nation has received donated items. But for the most part, they have to buy back cultural pieces.

That’s why when the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma returned a Modoc basket, it was powerful.

“It is literally like we said, coming home, the fact that we're able to attain items that were part of that are part of us and a part of our history," said Colombe.

The basket is now on display at the Modoc Gathering Place in Wyandotte.

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