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PM NewsBrief: March 21, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

Oklahoma House Passes HB 1028 Banning Some Corporal Punishment in Schools

House Bill 1028 passed the House with a vote of 84 to 8, after it was reconsidered by state representatives.

The bill would prohibit corporal punishment - such as spanking or hitting - on special education students with disabilities.

Dozens of lawmakers changed their stances on the bill. It had failed on the house floor earlier this month with a vote of 45-43. A bill must receive a majority 51 votes to clear the chamber.

House Democratic Leader, Representative Cyndi Munson, says in a press release that although she is glad the bill was reconsidered - it doesn’t go far enough to protect special education students.

The bill can now be considered by the Senate.

EPA Says Oklahoma and Other States Cannot Refuse Hazardous Waste from Ohio Derailment

After a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, generated thousands of tons of contaminated soil, the company responsible must find licensed facilities to take that waste. Governor Kevin Stitt blocked a shipment to Oklahoma, but the EPA says he can’t legally do that.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency notified Stitt’s office it intended to send 3,640 tons of waste from the derailment site in Ohio to the Clear Harbors Lone Mountain hazardous waste facility near Waynoka. Stitt quickly announced he was working with Oklahoma’s federal delegation to stop the shipment.

In response to Stitt’s refusal and concerns from other states, the EPA sent a memo to state environmental agencies. It indicates refusing the waste is illegal, citing federal laws and court cases. It also assures state regulators the waste from East Palestine receives more testing and analysis than the industrial waste these facilities typically accept.

The Governor’s office says Stitt is standing firm and will continue his efforts to block the shipment.

School Employee Mental Health Program

A measure aiming to lighten the mental health load on education professionals advanced through the Oklahoma House of Representatives Monday.

The Education Employee Assistance Program outlined in House Bill 1424 by former teacher and current Owasso Republican Representative Mark Vancuren and would be housed in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. It would provide financial assistance to public schools to help with employees whose personal problems may negatively impact their job performance.

If passed, it would provide for assessment, referral, consultation and problem resolution assistance to school employees and their families seeking help for medical or mental health problems, including things like drug and alcohol abuse, marital and familial stress, or financial issues.

The bill is in the same vein as a bipartisan measure currently working through Congress, the Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act. A 2022 survey from the RAND Corporation shows more than a quarter of teachers and principals are experiencing depression symptoms, and more than twice as many teachers experience frequent job-related stress, compared to other working adults.

Bison Donated to Yuchi Tribe of Oklahoma

The city of Denver, Colorado has donated 35 bison to multiple tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming. This marks another example of Indigenous people reclaiming stewardship over land and animals that their ancestors managed for thousands of years.

The animals were loaded onto trucks and shipped to tribal lands, following a ceremony on Wednesday. About a half dozen went to the Yuchi Tribe of Oklahoma, which will be used to establish a new herd.

"We have a special song that keeps that connection with the buffalo." said Richard Grounds, Executive Director of the Yuchi Language Project.

Grounds accepted the bison on behalf of his tribe. He says when he was in grad school he read that the Yuchis were “extinct” in a textbook.

The Yuchi Tribe will use the bison to form a new herd for the tribal nation based near Tulsa.

St. Luke's to Withdraw From the United Methodist Church

Oklahoma's largest Methodist congregation has voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.

The Oklahoman newspaper reports 92% of 1,300 members in St. Luke's congregation voted to withdraw from the Methodist church.

The move comes as the denomination banned same-sex marriage and gay clergy.

There are still several other housekeeping measures related to the disaffiliation, but it's likely the congregation will formally withdraw next month.

The newspaper reported it will retain the St. Luke's Methodist Church name.


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