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PM NewsBrief: Jan 5, 2023

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This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Thursday, January 5, 2023.

Waters of the U.S. 

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers announced a change to the Waters of the United States rule.Some Oklahoma officials have been critical of the revision.

The rule spells out where the federal government can apply Clean Water Act regulations. In 2015, the EPA put out a rule saying any wetlands or waterways that could feed into a river or lake were under federal jurisdiction. That definition drew criticism for its potential to saddle farm ponds and pastures with regulations meant for drinking water sources. The Trump administration repealed that rule in 2019 and replaced it with a scaled-back version, which was met with legal challenges.

Now the EPA has made good on the Biden administration’s promise to restore broader protections. The EPA says the change is meant to provide clarity on regulations that have been in flux over the past decade. But Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur says it actually introduces uncertainty that will “impede the ability of Oklahomans to do their jobs.”

Mental Health Facility

Funding for a new mental health facility to be built alongside the new Oklahoma County jail was approved earlier this week.

The Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners voted to reserve $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds for the construction of a new mental health facility that would be built next to the new Oklahoma County jail. Additionally, the commissioners approved nearly $5 million in ARPA funds to pay Accenture, a consulting firm that will help determine if the facility could be open to both detainees of the jail and the general public under ARPA guidelines. This follows the U.S. Department of Justice opening an investigation into Oklahoma City’s ability to provide mental health services to the community last November.

Education Bills

An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed several pieces of legislation related to education for the upcoming legislative session. Republican Senator Nathan Dahm filed Senate Bill 139, which would add the New England Primer, and other historically significant documents to the required reading materials for high school students.

Senate Bill 137 would implement a pilot program that offers courses on the Constitution and the Federalist Papers among others. Dahm also submitted SB 138, which would require Oklahoma social studies courses to include at least 45 minutes of instruction on Victims of Communism Day, and SB 140, the Oklahoma Science Education Act. That bill encourages the exploration and debate of scientific theories. The next legislative session begins Feb. 6.

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