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PM NewsBrief: Sept. 14, 2022

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This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022.

OTA Supreme Court hearing

Opponents of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s plans to build three controversial central Oklahoma turnpike routes presented their case to a referee of the state Supreme Court Tuesday. The referee will make a recommendation to the high court in the coming weeks on how to proceed.

Much of the disagreement between the OTA and the project’s opposition centers around the language of the law. The OTA argues once a project location is authorized by the legislature, state statute gives the agency broad and sole discretion to decide how to route the new road, and that courts shouldn’t question whether better route options exist. But attorney for the opposition Rob Norman disagrees.

“What’s happening here is the OTA is trying to just say, ‘We don’t really care what the people think. We don’t really care about the principles of representative democracy. We just get to put a turnpike wherever we want because we’re the OTA and we’re undefeated.’ And that’s just wrong.”

Opposition attorneys argue that while the statute that authorizes new turnpikes is specific as to where it should go, one of the planned routes is well outside of that description, and the legislature decided decades ago that no new bonds could be issued for the other two contested routes.

Pregnancy coverage for Medicaid

Gov. Kevin Stitt has come out in support of expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers. Oklahoma could soon implement two new policies aimed at improving maternal health outcomes.

The two policies are recommendations from a task force Stitt formed to explore how best to support unplanned pregnancies in the state. Right now, Medicaid offers coverage to pregnant Oklahomans through 60 days postpartum. One policy would extend that to one year of postpartum coverage.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has been a vocal supporter of that policy. Many complications from pregnancy can continue postpartum and can be life threatening. That includes infections, blood clots, and heart conditions.

The other proposal would increase the income cutoff from 138% of the federal poverty level to 205% of it. For example, that would mean instead of having to make less than about $31,000 annually for a family of three, it would be less than $47,000.

The Stitt Administration can get the ball rolling on these policies, but federal regulators would have to sign off.

Poll shows narrow gap between Kevin Stitt and Joy Hofmeister in Oklahoma governor's race

A new poll released Tuesday shows Gov. Kevin Stitt has a thin lead on his opponent State Superintendent Joy Hofmiester. StateImpact’s Robby Korth reports on the governor’s race.

The poll shows if the election were today, 43.7% of voters would prefer Stitt and 42.7% would prefer Hofmeister. It was conducted by Sooner Poll and commissioned by News9 and Newson6.

The incumbent Republican is missing out on a small chunk of likely GOP voters who say they prefer his Democratic challenger, while a tiny fraction of surveyed Dems say they’d vote for Stitt.

Hofmeister switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party earlier this year in her bid to challenge the governor. The two will face off in November. For StateImpact, I’m Robby Korth.

Independent Ervin Yen is polling just below 4% and Libertarian Natalie Bruno is polling just under 3%.

Stitt creates Emergency Drought Commission

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order Monday in an effort to bring relief to farmers experiencing drought.

The executive order creates an Emergency Drought Commission which will use relief funds to help cover the costs of losses due to the drought, such as crops and livestock.

The commission will include the state’s Secretary of Agriculture, Blayne Arthur - as well as leaders of Oklahoma’s Conservation Commission and the Water Resources Board.

All 77 counties in Oklahoma are currently under a state of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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