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PM NewsBrief: Jan. 23, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, January 23, 2024.

Lawsuit Filed Over Tulsa School Board’s Meetings

Two Tulsa Public Schools board members have filed a lawsuit against their colleagues.

The suit alleges illegal meetings took place to discuss high-profile resignations and appointments.

School board members Dr. Jennettie Marshall and Elena Ashley, along with plaintiff Aaron Griffith, accuse school board president Stacey Woolley of meeting with former superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist about her resignation and the appointment of the current superintendent, Dr. Ebony Johnson, outside the requirements of a public meeting.

The suit further accuses Woolley of bringing up topics not listed on a meeting agenda in a Dec. 11 executive session, which Marshall alluded to when they returned to the Dias.

“This board, while in executive session, violated the executive session rules and had a discussion - several discussions - about an item, one item, which we were warned by the attorney could not be discussed,” Marshall said.

In response, Woolley accused Marshall of bringing up unrelated topics to try to force a meeting violation from other board members.

Gist resigned after threats from the state to lower the district’s accreditation and possibly remove local control.

Johnson was appointed as interim and eventually as permanent superintendent of the district.

Federal Government Denies Oklahoma Woman’s Abortion Complaint

An Oklahoma woman with a nonviable pregnancy was told by an Oklahoma City hospital last year to wait in the parking lot until her condition was severe enough to qualify for an abortion under state bans.

The Biden Administration says the hospital did not violate federal law.

Twenty-six-year-old Jaci Statton filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a federal law ensuring access to emergency care.

In it, she says Oklahoma doctors told her she had a partial molar pregnancy, which could result in hemorrhaging, infections and even death.

President Biden said weeks before Roe v. Wade was overturned that, under federal law, hospitals must provide abortion services in emergencies, regardless of state bans.

But his administration denied Statton's complaint in October. The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents Statton, released the decision last week.

It did not disclose why it waited months to share this decision.

Abortion is virtually illegal in Oklahoma, with exceptions for preserving a woman’s life.

State Reaches Compact Agreements With Two Tribes

The State of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation have reached an agreement on tobacco and vehicle tags.

The compact is a significant deal for the Governor and the tribe.

Gov. Kevin Stitt and Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby entered into a compact that would split tobacco tax revenue and recognize tribal license plates until 2034.

This is the longest-term agreement Gov. Stitt has made with any of Oklahoma’s tribes.

He previously opposed the legislature making tribal compacts, saying only the governor’s office could strike agreements.

The tobacco compact is set to automatically renew after 2034 unless either party opts out.

Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat praised the deal, calling it a “major win.”

The state also reached an agreement on a tobacco compact with the Apache tribe.

Proposed Legislation For State Water Issues

State lawmakers are thinking about several water issues in the state, ranging from stream conservation to groundwater management.

Two water bills could come before the state legislature this session.

Spring Creek in Northeastern Oklahoma is just 35 miles long, but it passes by dozens of poultry farms.

Residents of the watershed have called for more notice and more public involvement in the approval process for new chicken feeding operations in the area. They say those facilities are affecting water quality.
Republican Sen. Tom Woods authored Senate Bill 1398, which would create an advisory group to develop a watershed management plan for Spring Creek.

On the other side of the state, Oklahomans face issues with water availability.

Sen. Brent Howard, a Republican from Altus, authored Senate Bill 1341.

Amidst rising concern about Oklahoma’s underground water stores, the bill would allow the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to meter existing wells or to stop issuing new well permits within well-studied aquifers in danger of running dry.

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