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PM NewsBrief: Nov. 10, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, November 10, 2023.

State Department Of Education Seeks To Be Party In Lawsuit Over St. Isidore Contract

State Superintendent Ryan Walters is aiming to get the Department of Education involved in a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general.

The suit is over what would be the nation’s first publicly funded religious school.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond filed the suit last month against the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board for approving a contract with the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School.

The suit alleges the board violated the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act. Drummond says Oklahoma charter schools are public schools, so they should be treated as state actors. And statute prohibits state dollars from going to sectarian institutions, like a religious school.

But the department says in its motion to intervene that because it is responsible for distributing those public dollars, it should be party to the suit.

In a statement, Walters says the lawsuit discriminates against some Oklahomans for their faith and seeks to “enshrine atheism as a state-sponsored religion.

Update On Heartland Flyer Extension Proposal

Kansas and Oklahoma officials are optimistic there will be an extension of the Heartland Flyer rail route.

An announcement about competitive federal rail funding is expected this month.

The new segment would have six stops between Oklahoma City and Newton, Kansas.

At the northern end of the line, passengers could transfer to the existing Southwest Chief, which runs between Los Angeles and Chicago.

On the current timeline, the train could be operational in about six years. Cory Davis works with the Kansas Department of Transportation. He says the project could be expedited if it’s selected as part of the Federal Rail Administration’s Corridor ID program.

“We submitted our application in March and have had good conversations with FRA and Amtrak. So we're hopeful that we will be included in that announcement in late November," Davis said.

KDOT’s proposed schedule runs once a day in either direction, which could pose a problem for some travelers — especially in Kansas, where the train would only stop between 11:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

OMMA Cracking Down On Growers' Sign Violations

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority is seeking to revoke the licenses of 165 grow facilities in the state as the growers have failed to post signage on their property violating a year-old law.

Commercial growers in the state must have a sign on their operation showing their name, phone number, address and business license number.

If they don’t put up a sign within 60 days after the renewal of their license, the law requires it to be immediately revoked. Authorities say consistent regulations are needed for the state to shape a balanced cannabis market.

This is part of the state's larger effort to expand compliance and enforcement on medical marijuana facilities.

In the past year alone, the authority seized close to five tons of illicit cannabis, and pulled more than 70,000 plants off the market.

Tulsa Designated as “Welcoming City” For Immigrants, Refugees

A national immigration advocacy group has announced its first 'Welcoming City' designation in Oklahoma.

The group Welcoming America gave Tulsa the designation, citing how city leaders have built partnerships and policies that help people with immigrant and refugee backgrounds thrive and belong.

At his State of the City address earlier this month, Mayor G.T. Bynum touted these efforts, including partnering with local organizations during the Afghan refugee resettlement.

“The work of Catholic Charities, the YWCA, B’nai Emunah Synagogue and so many others led President Biden’s top aid for refugee resettlement to come to Tulsa to see how we were handling it because he wanted to use us as a model for other cities around the country,” Bynum said.

Bynum also launched the New Tulsans Initiative, which has hosted citizenship ceremonies for 11,000 international residents.


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