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PM NewsBrief: Mar. 19, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

McCurtain County Prepares For Eclipse Watching Crowds

The Oklahoma National Guard will be in McCurtain County to help first responders during the upcoming solar eclipse.

The county expects thousands of tourists in the area to watch the eclipse on April 8.

The Guard says the influx of visitors has the potential to exhaust local resources.

"McCurtain County Emergency Management requested our support because they expect up to 100,000 additional people visiting their communities to watch the eclipse," Lt. Col. Jabonn Flurry, 63rd CST commander, said in a Facebook post.

Members of the 63rd CST, in coordination with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, will provide local first responders with additional HAZMAT response capabilities.

While most of Oklahoma will see a partial eclipse, the southeastern area will be in the path of totality.

Oklahoma House Republicans Advocate for Additional Tax Cuts Despite Senate Opposition

House Republicans are pushing forward the conversation about more tax cuts following a slate of last minute tax slashing measures that passed the House last week.

House Republicans passed House Bills 2948, 2949 and 2950, last week. The three measures would lower the state income tax for individuals and corporations.

House Speaker Charles McCall introduced the bills.

He says if passed, Oklahoma would eventually have no income tax…as long as the state’s base revenues continue to grow year after year.

"I'm hoping that the Senate will consider those measures. That does put us on a path to eventually becoming competitive with the most robust economies throughout the United States," McCall said.

The approved Senate budget doesn’t account for any more tax cuts beyond the elimination of the state grocery tax already signed into law earlier this year.

Senate leadership says further cuts are off the table.

Tulsa School Counselor Addresses Stress Facing LGBTQ Students On National Program

A school counselor from Tulsa says the state's rhetoric and laws related to LGBTQ people create a difficult environment at schools.

Jennifer Sack is the lead counselor at Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School.

She was a guest on WAMU's 1A program Tuesday, and talked about what it's like to navigate making her school a welcoming, safe place for LGBTQ students.

“We walk a very fine line sometimes in trying to obey law, and yet still serve our kids, because they can’t check that part of their identity at the door. That is who they are,” Sack said.

Oklahoma passed laws in recent years to prohibit trans and nonbinary youth from using bathrooms concurrent with their gender identities and a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth in the state.

“We have a lot of, you know, rhetoric in our state right now that says “No, that can’t be a thing. That can’t exist.” And that’s just simply not true,” Sack said.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating the Owasso public school district in response to the death of nonbinary student Nex Benedictlast month.

At issue are potential violations of Title IX, which prevents discrimination based on sex, and Title II, which stipulates that schools must prevent bullying and harassment.

Mild Winter Sparks Early Morel Mushroom Season

Oklahoma fungi foragers started finding morel mushrooms in late February — about a month ahead of schedule.

Yellow morels are prized for their rich, nutty taste — they sell for $20 a pound. These honeycomb-looking mushrooms usually spring up in forested areas of Oklahoma starting in March or April.

Jacob DeVecchio of Oklahoma Fungi said a mild winter and recent rains are extending this year’s morel season.

"There's a saying that we have in the mushroom community, and that is when it rains it spores," DeVecchio said.

Yellow morels are tasty and safe when cooked, but there are poisonous and inedible lookalikes out there. DeVecchio said to never eat mushrooms raw, and to be confident you know what kind you’ve found.

Oklahoma is one of the only states in our area without an official mushroom guide, although DeVecchio hopes to change that later this year.

If you want to learn how to forage and prepare morels, you can attend Oklahoma Fungi’s third annual Morel Mushroom Education class at the Myriad Botanical Gardens on April 7.

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