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PM NewsBrief: Jan. 11, 2023

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This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

Trans Health Bills

Lawmakers have already filed two bills that aim to criminalize gender-affirming care in Oklahoma.

Before bill filing started, Representative Jim Olsen pledged to file legislation banning the care for anyone under 21. House Bill 1011 would do just that, and like the state’s abortion ban, it threatens providers who perform the procedure with up to a decade in prison and $100,000 in fines.

And there’s another — Senator David Bullard’s Senate Bill 129 would also charge participating health workers with a felony, but it doesn’t specify the penalties. It allows patients and their families to sue the physicians involved in their care, and would ban the services for anyone under 26.

Each of the bills ban gender-affirming surgeries as well as more minor treatments, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

Lawmakers can continue filing bills until January 19, and the legislative session kicks off on Feb. 6.

GOP-led Congress leads to new chairmanships for Oklahoma Congressmen

Members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation will have a significant influence in the newly shaped House of Representatives.

A new speaker of the house means a new-look Congress. And because Republicans have gained control of the chamber, Oklahoma’s entirely GOP delegation will benefit.

Two Congressional veterans will have significant new roles.

Frank Lucas of Cheyenne will chair the House Science, Space and Technology. Tom Cole of Moore will chair the House Rules Committees.

Those jobs play an important part in policy formation by Congress.

Tulsa Congressman Kevin Hern will also play an important role for the GOP, serving as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus of members.

Oklahoma City Hall construction

Construction at Oklahoma City Hall will temporarily relocate public meetings. From January 18 through 30th crews will be installing a new HVAC and air filtration system at city hall.

As a result, public meetings will be relocated and there will be no live streaming of them during that time period. The temporary closure won’t affect City Council meetings.

City Hall is expected to have everything back to normal after January 30th.

Oklahoma’s new Attorney General has new priorities

On the campaign trail Gentner Drummond made promises to improve the relationships with the state’s Native American tribes. The state has had a contentious relationship with tribal nations in the wake of the McGirt v. Oklahoma Supreme Court decision.

Drummond says he plans to make agreements with the tribes that respect sovereignty and ensure public safety.

Other issues he plans to address include eliminating illegal marijuana grow operations, and taking a more proactive role in cases of alleged state fraud or corruption.

Drummond’s predecessor punted corruption cases to local district attorneys: like the prosecution of the founders of Epic Charter School - who are accused of embezzling tens of millions of dollars.

Drummond is the 19th Attorney General in Oklahoma history.

Walters steps down from nonprofit

Oklahoma’s newly minted State Superintendent Ryan Walters is stepping down from his CEO position at a nonprofit amid conflict-of-interest concerns. The organization, Every Kid Counts, is supported by donations from school privatization advocates.

Every Kid Counts Oklahoma paid Walters at least $120,000 in 2021 for a full-time position, according to reporting from The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch. That’s almost as much as his state superintendent salary, at $124,000.

The organization advocates for expanding charter and private schools, which is an issue Walters championed in his campaign. But critics have voiced concerns about how a state superintendent could do their job while also running a nonprofit that lobbies for big changes in education.

According to The Oklahoman, two of the organization’s contractors were let go by its board last week after they raised questions about the nonprofit’s plans to hold a Capitol reception for Walters. However, a direct link between raising concerns and their dismissal couldn’t be confirmed.

Walters says he plans to push for school privatization again this legislative session after the GOP’s failed voucher effort last year. The session begins in February.
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