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PM NewsBrief: Nov. 28, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.

Oklahoma nonprofit creates legal fund to support teachers accused of violating HB 1775

An Oklahoma nonprofit is announcing a new legal fund to protect teachers accused of violating House Bill 1775, which limits critical discussions in the classroom about race or sex.

The program will be funded through donations and managed by the nonprofit Oklahoma Appleseed.

The announcement comes on the heels of Ryan Walters’ State Superintendent election win. Following the resignation of a Norman teacher who shared access to free library books, Walters falsely claimed she was fired and called for her teaching certification to be stripped.

"We know that public schools are the lifeblood of civic engagement," said Oklahoma Appleseed legal director Leslie Briggs. "We know that a public education that is robust, that is high quality, that introduces competing ideas, creates a generation of critical thinkers who can engage and self-govern. With this fund, we’re going to help protect that system."

Donations for the legal fund open on Giving Tuesday, which is Nov. 29.

Oklahoma voters could decide on abortion access under proposed ballot initiative

Oklahomans could get the opportunity to vote for abortion access in the state. A ballot initiative is in the works, and it crossed a threshold last week.

Organizers filed the paperwork for the initiative late last month. State Question 828, if it ends up on the ballot, would amend the state’s constitution to create new protections for pregnant residents and the people who provide their care. Among other things, it would protect Oklahomans’ right to an abortion up to fetal viability, and afterward if a medical practitioner deems it necessary.

After the paperwork was filed, opponents had a set period of time to challenge the question in court. Usually, if an opponent files a challenge, they accuse organizers of a procedural problem like misleading language.

Rep. Mickey Dollens, a lawmaker who supports the initiative, says no challenges have been filed, so now the Secretary of State will decide when proponents can begin collecting signatures.

Oklahoma City-based oil and gas producer Continental Resources is now off the stock market

Billionaire Harold Hamm is taking his company private.

Hamm’s family already owned about 83% of Continental’s stock, worth around $27 billion. For another $4 billion, Hamm bought out the rest of the company’s shares.

Hamm’s been a big opponent of Democratic policies regulating fossil fuel production. And especially as conversations about climate change mitigation and sustainability have become more prevalent, Hamm says Continental was being underappreciated. He says the move gives the company back its “freedom” to grow and innovate.

But the purchase wasn’t without controversy. Hamm originally proposed buying out Continental at $70 a share, which spurred a lawsuit claiming Hamm was undervaluing the company. But after bumping his offer up to $74 a share, the company’s board accepted.

Gaming compact rulings

On Wednesday, a D.C. Federal court judge issued a mix of decisions over a gaming compact lawsuit involving Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and four tribes filed more than two years ago.

Timothy Kelly, a federal judge in Washington D.C. denied the U.S. Government's motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cheroke and Citizen Potawatomi Nation against four other tribes that entered into gaming compacts with Gov. Kevin Stitt in 2020.

Kelly said the Department of Interior had a legal duty to determine whether the agreements were validly entered into. He also said that regardless of that legal duty, they had an opinion written by Oklahoma Attorney General telling the Department they weren't legal under Oklahoma law.

Stephen Greetham is Chickasaw Nation's outside legal counsel.

"And the federal court, just like the Oklahoma Supreme Court before it has now held, Governor Stitt is bound by Oklahoma law, just like all other public officials."

Earlier this month, Gov. Stitt's lawyers filed a motion with the same judge saying these compacts were valid.

Some Oklahoma farmers open up their Christmas tree farms for business

Oklahomans looking to spruce up their holiday decor can visit one of 20 Christmas tree farms in the state.

From Enid to McAlester, Christmas tree farms allow visitors to cut down their very own evergreen trees.

Farms that aren’t quite ready to cut their trees down, also offer precut Christmas trees and festive wreaths.

It takes about six to eight years, sometimes even longer, for Christmas trees to grow the ideal size to take home.
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