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PM NewsBrief: Oct. 12, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

SoonerCare’s future is on the November ballot

As the November election draws closer, a major issue is emerging in the governor’s race. Voters will choose the path forward for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.

Right now, Oklahoma manages its own billion-dollar Medicaid program. Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to change that.

His administration is working to partially privatize the state’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare.That would mean bringing private insurance companies in to take on the day-to-day operations of the no-cost health coverage program, which covers about one in four Oklahomans.

Hofmeister supports the current model, in which the state directly pays providers — like hospitals and doctors — for their services. One of her objections: those private-sector companies would be allowed to keep about 15% of their funding for overhead. That’s millions of dollars.

"The governor’s plan actually puts profit over care," said Hofmeister.

She also notes Oklahoma attempted a similar program in the 1990s, but it became too dysfunctional and the state canceled it.

Oklahoma's five largest tribes endorse Joy Hofmeister for Governor

Leaders of Oklahoma's five largest tribal nations endorsed Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister in her bid for Governor during an Oklahoma City press conference Tuesday.

This is the first time tribal leaders in the state have gone on record to endorse a candidate running for public office. Seminole Nation Chief Lewis Johnson says Hofmeister has shown respect for tribal sovereignty, a willingness to come to the table to work with tribes on public safety and a commitment to education.

"We want to continue to see improvements in those particular areas because the education of children is really, truly the foundation for the future of the state of Oklahoma."

State campaign finance reports show several tribal leaders have given to Hofmeister's campaign. But the first formal endorsement from the state's largest tribes could mean even more come Election Day.

Tar Creek Conference Wednesday and Thursday

Today and tomorrow, the LEAD Agency is hosting its annual Tar Creek Conference in Miami.

For decades, chat piles have loomed above Ottawa County. These hill-sized heaps of toxic mining waste have leached heavy metals into the air, soil and waters of Tar Creek.

Now, the chat piles are shrinking thanks to work from the Quapaw Nation and other groups. But while the problem is getting better, Martin Lively with the LEAD Agency says it’s not going away.

"You know, the vast quantity of acid mine water underground that is coming up into Tar Creek every day, one and a half million gallons a day, that's not going to stop when these chat piles are gone."

The Tar Creek Conference highlights ongoing cleanup efforts and plans to make the land a good habitat for plants and wildlife again.

You can register to attend talks virtually both today and tomorrow at leadagency.org.

Oklahoma City Zoo makes more room for marine mammals

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is announcing it will expand its marine mammal habitat. Construction will begin in spring 2023. Currently, sea lions and seals are planned to live in the habitat, but other species may be added.

The new habitat will include an outdoor amphitheater, a beach area for the animals, and a space for special events. The expansion was funded with a sales tax accrual approved by Oklahoma City residents in 1990.

During the new construction, the zoo’s current population of seven sea lions and two seals will be temporarily relocated to other zoos and aquariums.

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