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PM NewsBrief: Feb. 7, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.

Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers State of the State address

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivered the first State of the State address of his second term Monday.

Stitt has taken his re-election as a mandate from conservative voters: grow school choice, cut taxes and ban gender affirming care for transgender minors. He laid out those priorities in a 32-minute speech and reflected on what he says were wins during his first term.

"We said that we would put a fresh set of eyes on state government, cut red tape, and create a more transparent government - and we delivered," said Stitt.

What Stitt can deliver next remains to be seen. Some of his policy priorities - like growing private school voucher programs - aren’t too popular with all Republicans. But regardless, he says, he’ll continue to tout them.

Oklahoma Democratic leaders react to Stitt's speech

Oklahoma Democratic leaders held a press briefing in response to the priorities laid out by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Democrats account for nearly 19% of the entire state legislature. The minority party leaders say they weren’t surprised by Stitt’s State of the State speech. They still say they’re uneasy with many of his proposals like private school vouchers, restrictions to abortion access and other issues.

Stillwater Democrat Trish Ranson says she’s concerned the GOP is keeping too much money - almost $4 billion - in its reserves, instead of spending on government services.

"We call on the Republican Party to invest in Oklahoma. All of Oklahoma," said Ranson.

Democrats say investing in healthcare, education and other critical programs would be a good start. They are preparing to work across the aisle to eliminate grocery tax and advance criminal justice reform.

Stitt on gender-affirming care

During his State of the State address, Gov. Kevin Stitt ensured that trans rights will remain a major social issue during this year’s legislative session.

Hundreds of trans rights demonstrators gathered at the Capitol ahead of Stitt’s speech. They were protesting a spate of bills that aim to criminalize gender-affirming treatments, including reversible hormone therapies. The messaging around these bills focuses on care for minors. But one bill affects Oklahomans as old as 21, and another, those as old as 26.

Among the demonstrators was Nicole McAfee, the executive director of 2SLGBTQ+ rights organization Freedom Oklahoma.

“Trans folks are here. We belong here… We’re here now to make sure the governor knows we’re not going anywhere," said McAfee.

During the speech, Stitt joined a host of high-profile conservatives across the country criticizing gender-affirming care for young people.

"Minors can’t vote, can’t purchase alcohol, can’t purchase cigarettes… We shouldn’t allow a minor to get a permanent gender altering surgery in Oklahoma," Stitt said.

Gender-affirming care is the latest trans issue to catch fire in Oklahoma politics. Conservative lawmakers have already cracked down on trans athletes in girls’ and women’s sports and have banned gender-inclusive bathroom policies in schools.

Tribal-State relations not mentioned in Stitt's State of the State

While Gov. Kevin Stitt outlined his priorities for education, tax cuts and making Oklahoma one of the top ten states for business, OPMX's Allison Herrera noticed one topic wasn't there: tribal-state relations.

In the last couple state of the state addresses, Stitt has highlighted the landmark McGirt v. Oklahoma decision, saying that it was causing chaos for law enforcement and crime victims in Northeast Oklahoma. That decision says Muscogee Nation’s reservation was never disestablished and that the tribe has criminal jurisdiction in its boundaries. The ruling has since grown to also apply to the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says he appreciates the governor’s new tone, even if he didn’t talk about tribal nations.

"Education, infrastructure and health care-I think those are opportunities to touch upon that any governor of the state of Oklahoma could touch upon the relationship between the tribes in the state and how it's positive. And I think, you know, those are the kind of opportunities I'd like to see Governor Stitt take in the future," said Hoskin Jr.

Before his inauguration for a second term, Stitt reached out to a number of tribal leaders inviting them to the ceremony asking for a fresh start after nearly three years of tense relations over McGirt and tribal gaming.

The Sooners and Longhorns to remain in the Big 12 through 2025

Contract negotiations “stalled” over the weekend between the universities and television networks, ESPN and FOX.

ESPN college football senior writer Pete Thamel said, “the sides couldn't agree on how to create equitable value for what Fox would lose in 2024."

OU and Texas were attempting to join the South-Eastern Conference, better known as the SEC, a year earlier than the 2025 date initially agreed upon.

While there is no deadline for a deal to get done, Thamel reports that any transition prior to 2025 is now “unlikely”.

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