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PM NewsBrief: Jan 3, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, January 3 2023.

Indian Health Service

Last week, President Biden signed a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill. It will provide aid for Ukraine, disaster recovery and advanced funding for Indian Health Service.

Don't get sick in June-that's a dark joke that's been floating around Indian Country for years. But it has a ring of truth: that's because Indian Health Service typically runs out of funding towards the end of the fiscal year in June. Advanced appropriations of $5 billion will provide a crucial funding bridge between budget impasses that often leave the 2.5 million American Indians and Alaska Natives that rely on the service in dire straits. Tribal Nations have been advocating for advanced appropriations for years saying short term funding creates uncertainty for tribal citizens.

New Laws

It’s 2023 and, as Oklahomans rang in the new year over the weekend, eight Bills went into effect.

The Oklahoma Inform Act requires online stores verify the authenticity of third party sellers they use to protect consumers from fraud and limit the sale of stolen goods. Republican Senator Julie Daniels says the hope is it will help to legitimize online businesses. House Bill 1933 cuts the duration of unemployment from 26 weeks to 16 weeks with the goal being to address workforce shortages.

Lastly, House Bill 3365 deals with elections. The law changes many aspects of voter registration and verification. For instance, voter registration could be canceled if a voter is issued a license in another state and voters living in a house with at least four other registered voters must verify their address in writing. Democrats like Regina Goodwin are concerned the law limits voting access for Oklahomans but the bill’s co-author, Republican Sean Roberts, argues there is no language that prohibits people from voting. The next legislative session starts next month.

Minimum Wage

Minimum wage is increasing this year in 26 states across the country, but Oklahoma is not among them. The Sooner State has not seen an increase to its minimum wage since 2008. When the wage was increased, it went from $6.55 to the federal minimum of $7.25. At least 20 other states use that hourly rate for their minimums. Neighboring states Texas and Kansas join Oklahoma with the lowest hourly wages. Last year, State Senator Mary Boren filed a bill to increase the lowest hourly wage to $15 by the year 2027, but it failed to reach the floor for a vote. According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the average hourly worker makes $18 per hour. That number is comprised of all hourly workers in the state.

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