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PM NewsBrief: Apr. 4, 2024

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for April 4, 2024.

Oklahoma Executes Death Row Inmate For 2002 Murders

The state of Oklahoma carried out its first execution of the year this morning.

Michael Dewayne Smith was the 12th inmate put to death since the moratorium on executions ended in 2021.

Smith was executed via lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on Thursday morning. He was pronounced dead at 10:20 a.m.

He was sentenced to death for the murders of 40-year-old Janet Moore and 24-year-old Sharath Pulluru in separate events on February 22, 2002.

At the time, he was 19 years old and a member of an Oklahoma City street gang called the Oak Grove Posse.

Smith claimed he was innocent despite having confessed to the murders days after his arrest and said he was high on PCP at the time of his confession.

His execution follows the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denying him a recommendation of clemency last month and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals denying him an emergency stay of execution earlier this week.

Oklahoma Senate Halts Consideration of Money Bills Amid Budget Impasse

Oklahoma’s budget-making process has hit a snag. Senators now say they won’t consider any money bills from the opposite chamber. They say they'll continue with that stance until they get a budget plan

Members of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee convened for about ten minutes Wednesday afternoon to say one thing: There will be no action on House bills that cost the state money until the chamber provides the Senate with a budget plan.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat says the Senate has done its part to be transparent, now it’s time for the House to do the same.

"We delivered the numbers on time. The House of Representatives had told us they were giving us their budget sheet yesterday so we could operate in a consistent, transparent manner when we're taking up House bills. Unfortunately, for some reason, they're delaying that," Treat said.

Treat says he has a “sneaking suspicion” the House is trying to push budget discussions to a Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget.

If that happens, the state budget process would be more ad hoc and less transparent.

Task Force Recommends Eliminating Cap On Individuals’ Campaign Donations

A task force created by Gov. Kevin Stitt proposes eliminating the cap on how much money state politicians can accept from individual campaign donors.

Right now, a candidate on the ballot for a primary, runoff and general election can receive just shy of $10,000 from an individual.

But that cap isn’t there for everyone.

The task force argues so-called dark money groups that raise unlimited funds can take advantage of their own set of rules to attack candidates with impunity.

And the task force findings say, unlimited donations from individuals to candidates could level that playing field.

But Oklahoma would be in a small minority of states like Texas and Oregon that allow for unlimited donations from individual donors.

Ultimately, Stitt is asking the legislature, State Election Board and Ethics Commission to make that change and more for the sake of election integrity.

Other recommendations include a ban on ranked choice voting, adding additional disclosure requirements to expenditure filings and partnering with tribes to work together on resolving election crimes and campaign finance violations.

Update On Legislation That Expands Sexually Transmitted Infection Treatment

A bill moving through the Oklahoma Legislature could expand who health care providers can treat for sexually transmitted infections.

The practice of treating a patient's sexual partner without evaluating them is already legal in 46 states.

Senate Bill 1491 by Duncan Republican Jessica Garvin would allow providers to prescribe drugs to the partners of Oklahomans diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections that only require one treatment.

This practice is called expedited partner therapy.

Cynthia Roe is the bill’s House author and has worked as a nurse practitioner.

“I saw this in primary care, and I'm sure other health care providers too. Frequently, the partner of the individual does not get treated,” Roe said.

Roe’s personal experience matches findings from clinical trials that say more partners are treated for these diseases when patients are offered expedited partner therapy.

Roe and Garvin’s bill was approved unanimously by the Oklahoma House Public Health Committee. Now, it moves to the House floor.

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