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PM NewsBrief: Feb. 15, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Thursday, February 15, 2024.

Bill Would Prevent Oklahoma Co. Jail From Being Built At Current Location

As Oklahoma County commissioners continue their location search for the new jail, a bill moving through the Legislature would effectively rule out the current downtown location.

Rep. Jason Lowe and community organizers gathered for a press conference opposing House Bill 3758.

The bill would double the distance a jail could be built from schools, potentially ruling out downtown Oklahoma City as a jail site.

Lowe argued against the bill, emphasizing downtown's strategic location near courts and services.

"This bill is frankly an effort to remove the current downtown location from consideration and pave the way for commercial development," said Lowe.

The bill’s author, Rep. Josh Cantrell, cited safety concerns and the need for buffer zones around schools.

He said opponents of the bill are intentionally misrepresenting the effect of his legislation.

Oklahoma County commissioners are also eyeing a location near SE 15th and Grand, but that has sparked opposition from nearby school districts and residents.

Commissioners need to make a selection soon due to time limits on ARPA funding.

Cherokee Nation Invests $80 Million To Expand Cell Service

The Cherokee Nation has announced plans to build new cell towers to expand service to rural communities in eastern Oklahoma.

The tribe plans to build more than a dozen towers where cell service and high-speed internet are lacking or nonexistent.

Cherokee officials say the tribal nation is investing $80 million into the project over the next three years.

The project is estimated to be complete in 2026.

Education Budget Requests

While Gov.Kevin Stitt wants this year’s legislative session to end with a flat budget, state agencies with mostly governor-appointed boards are requesting funding increases.

That conflict was the theme of a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Wednesday over education funding.

State agencies reiterated their budget requests to lawmakers for the next fiscal year. Each agency’s director was asked about the makeup of their boards approving those requests.

"I just want to confirm, director, before we get into the budget, you have a Career Tech Board that is fully appointed by the governor and has approved your $43 million budget increase. Is that correct?" said Committee Chair Adam Pugh. "That is correct," said Brent Haken, Director of CareerTech.

Pugh repeatedly highlighted a disconnect between Stitt’s call for a flat budget and the needs of agencies. Eleven of the 13 agencies present requested budget increases.

"We will have a discussion on how we reconcile the executive branch that you all work for, that wants a flat budget, versus the legislative branch that appropriates your dollars," Pugh said.

Pugh also said while he supports a grocery tax cut, that would complicate keeping a flat budget even more.

Norman Seeks To Add Emergency Volunteers

The city of Norman is seeking volunteers to assist in the event of a tornado.

The city’s Emergency Management Department says they are trying to line up more help ahead of the spring severe weather season.

Department officials say they are looking for individuals with various skills, especially in damage assessment and medical aid.

Interested volunteers can contact the Norman Fire Department at 405-292-97-80 or email David.Grizzle@normanok.gov.

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