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PM NewsBrief: March 22, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

State Supreme Court Rules Oklahomans Have Right To Life-Saving Abortions, Emergency or Not

The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday to clarify medical exemptions in the state’s abortion ban. StateImpact’s Catherine Sweeney reports.

When lawmakers passed several bills banning abortion last year, they included an exception for medical emergencies. The wording was vague. It didn’t have a list of qualifying conditions. Medical and legal experts raised concerns that this would leave doctors wondering how much danger was enough to protect them from a decade in prison.

The court ruled on Tuesday that Oklahomans have a right to life-saving abortions at any time during pregnancy. The majority wrote, “Requiring one to wait until there is a medical emergency would further endanger the life of the pregnant woman and does not serve a compelling state interest."

Abortion access advocates filed several lawsuits last year challenging the bans in an effort to get them overturned. In the ruling Tuesday, the Court said it would not rule on elective abortions. The other lawsuits are still under consideration.

State Legislature Advances Two Teacher Pay Raise Bills

The state legislature has now advanced two teacher pay raise bills, one from the Senate and one from the House. The Senate voted Tuesday to give educators a $3,000-$6,000 raise.

Senate Bill 482 by Edmond Republican Adam Pugh would give raises to public school teachers and other certified personnel such as counselors and nurses. Personnel with 0-4 years of experience would get $3,000, those with 5-9 years of experience would get $4,000, 10-14 years of experience would get $5,000 and 15 years of experience and up would get $6,000.

Notably, there were no questions asked and no debate presented about the bill in the hearing. And, it passed almost unanimously, with the lone nay vote belonging to Broken Arrow Republican Nathan Dahm.

The House also has a pay raise bill, though it’s just a $2,500 across-the-board raise. House Bill 2775 by Republican Representatives Mark McBride and Charles McCall passed through the chamber in February. It’s tied to another bill that creates a tax credit system to allow public dollars to go toward private education.

It remains to be seen whether the House bill, the Senate bill, or neither will ultimately prevail.

House Approves Bill Banning Corporal Punishment

A bill to eliminate corporal punishment of students with disabilities was reconsidered by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Monday, after failing to meet a majority vote last week.

House Bill 1028 passed the House with a vote of 84-8, 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.

Sports Betting Bill Moves Forward

Oklahoma may soon legalize in-person and mobile sports betting. The Oklahoma House approved House Bill 1027 on Tuesday.

Ponca City Republican Ken Luttrell says Oklahoma and tribal nations are missing out on more than $9 million dollars per year because the state has not legalized sports betting. He also thinks this is the best way to curtail illegal and unregulated gambling.

If HB 1027 becomes law, tribal nations would have the option to add sports betting to gaming operations they already have and would pay a tiered fee of 4% on the first $5 million made in one month, 5% on the next $5 million and 6% on additional revenue.

Luttrell filed similar legislation in 2022 but it never became law.

Food Distributor Halts Deliveries Following Possible Cyber Attack

One of the largest food distributors in the country has disabled its delivery operations after the company detected "unusual activity" in their network. That leaves some Oklahoma businesses scrambling.

Ben E. Keith likely disabled its services due to a possible cyber attack but the company hasn’t confirmed this.

The Oklahoman newspaper reports local restaurants such as the Olde Orchard Restaurant in Yukon have publicly posted about facing delivery issues and having to drive to the warehouse themselves to pick up their shipment.

Oklahomans may also notice a shortage of their favorite food items when visiting local restaurants.

Ben E. Keith services a 14-state area from New Mexico to Florida and Texas to Nebraska, and distributes food to schools, hospitals and nursing homes in addition to restaurants.


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