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PM NewsBrief: Feb. 14, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

Performance Venue Included In Northwest OKC Development

A new outdoor performance venue is coming to northwest Oklahoma City.

The 7,000 sq. ft. venue will be located in the OAK Mixed-Use District near Penn and Northwest Expressway.

The outdoor concert area is expected to accommodate more than 17-hundred people.

The venue is part of a larger development underway that will include retail shops, office spaces, hotels and restaurants.

Developers say they plan for the entire project to be completed by this fall.

Bill Incentivizing Oklahoma Schools To Go Phone-free Advances

A bill that would incentivize school districts to ban cell phones on campus got one step closer Tuesday to becoming law.

But, Senate committee members opposing it say it does not go far enough and shouldn’t come with a price tag.

Senate Bill 1314 by Senate Education Committee Chair Adam Pugh would offer districts $100,000 to one million dollars, based on enrollment size, to adopt a phone-free campus policy.

Participating districts would be subject to unannounced visits from OSDE officers to ensure compliance, and districts that aren’t would be required to repay the money.

The bill comes with a projected $182 million price tag - something several Education Committee members took issue with.

Bartlesville Republican Julie Daniels was one of them.

“I’m ready to ban cell phones in schools. And I don’t believe we need to use tax dollars to incentivize people to do the right thing,” Daniels said.

Pugh himself expressed hesitation about the fiscal impact.

After discussion, he said he may be open to an outright ban without incentives.

The bill passed 8 to 3 and now heads to Appropriations.

Muscogee Nation Offering Summer Meal Program

The Muscogee Nation is offering a summer meal program for children since the state opted out of a federal meal program.

All kids who live within the boundaries of the tribal nation are eligible.

The Muscogee, Chickasaw and Cherokee nations have partnered with the USDA and nonprofit Hunger Free Oklahoma to pool together $16 million dollars from their organizations and matching grants as a stand-in for the EBT program.

Muscogee Nation spokesperson Jason Salsman said kids whose families make less than 50% above federal poverty requirements may have $40 put on their EBT cards each month.

“A lot of these kids, they count on school for their food. And I know that’s a sobering thought, but that’s the reality of it,” Salsman said.

Both Native and non-Native kids are eligible.

When asked about the original EBT program, a governor’s spokesperson referred to a statement from Gov. Kevin Stitt, in which he argues cutting income and grocery taxes are effective ways to put food on Oklahomans’ tables.

Lawmakers Consider Eliminating State Park Entrance Fees

A bill that aims to eliminate state park entrance fees is moving through the legislature.

Senate Bill 1253 would remove entrance and day-use fees for Oklahoma residents.

The bill passed through the Tourism and Wildlife Committee Monday.

But, concerns were raised about the lost revenue for park operations.

State park officials say the measure would cost parks about $1.75-million dollars.

The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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