Oklahoma anti-abortion laws triggered by U.S. Supreme court Roe v. Wade decision
Oklahoma is one of 13 states with abortion "trigger laws" designed to go into effect in the event the U.S. Supreme Court banned the right to obtain an abortion. On Friday, the Court announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, triggering Oklahoma's anti-abortion law.
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Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider - taking you inside politics, policy and government in Oklahoma. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Shawn, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and the 49 years of precedent that held the right to have an abortion was constitutionally protected. What happens now in Oklahoma?
Shawn Ashley: Oklahoma essentially banned abortion when it passed and Governor Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 4237, which says life begins at conception, prohibits abortions after fertilization, and allows civil lawsuits against those who perform abortions or assist a woman in obtaining an abortion. That bill took effect May 25th. And abortion clinics in Oklahoma essentially stopped providing abortions after that. Lawmakers also passed and Stitt signed two bills that criminalize abortion except to protect the life of the mother. Senate Bill 1555 and Senate Bill 612. Senate Bill 1555 is already in effect, and it authorizes the state to enforce an existing statute that criminalizes abortion if Roe is overturned and then is certified by the attorney general. The Supreme Court's decision Friday triggered that bill, if you will. And Attorney General John O'Connor praised that decision Friday. So, I suspect it's only a matter of time before he certifies the state can begin enforcing that law.
Dick Pryor: And we'll have much more on this issue as it continues to evolve. On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation arrested the two founders and former CFO of Epic Charter Schools who were charged with various criminal offenses resulting from an investigation that began in 2013. As those leaders of Epic were being arrested, the State Board of Education was reviewing an investigation conducted by the State Department of Education. It found significant ongoing problems in Epic's operations. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has announced she will recommend placing Epic on probation. What will that mean?
Shawn Ashley: Well, first of all, we should note that Epic ended its relationship with its co-founders and former CFO in May of 2021 and now operates independently from them. The State Department of Education found serious problems in Epic's governance, enrollment and attendance reporting and improper, unapproved and excessive payments to administrative staff. If placed on probation, it will mean Epic Charter Schools will be subject to additional reporting and monitoring requirements by the State Department of Education and its governing board and administrative staff could be subject to additional training. We will know the specifics July 28th, when the State Board of Education takes its final action.
Dick Pryor: Also on Thursday, the State Regents for Higher Education considered tuition and fee requests from 18 of the state's colleges and universities. The Regents approved the University of Oklahoma's request to increase tuition 3% for out-of-state students beginning in the fall, but denied other requests, which was a bit unusual. What was the Regents’ rationale?
Shawn Ashley: Yes, it was rather unusual. After years of covering or editing stories about the Regents considering tuition increases, I can't recall a time where they have not approved one. Now, State Regents Chair Jeff Hickman, a former House speaker, told me on Wednesday that the Regents have to consider the impact of what's going on in the economy and record inflation rates on students and their families as they make the tuition decisions. Hickman noted inflation also impacts the institutions as well. Hickman said Wednesday “our job is to ensure that we're doing everything we can to keep tuition as low as possible and keep a college degree as accessible as possible to all Oklahomans.”
Dick Pryor: Tuesday is primary election day in Oklahoma, and while some races have a multitude of candidates, others will be decided Tuesday.
Shawn Ashley: Approximately 20 state House races will be decided in either the primary on Tuesday or the primary runoff in August, if one candidate fails to win a majority of the votes. All 101 House seats are up for election this year, but 68 of those races already have been decided because only one candidate filed. Eight Senate seats also will be decided in the primary election or the runoff, where 24 of the 48 seats are up for election this year. Eight have already been decided because just one candidate filed. And then, of course, there are the statewide primaries, Congressional and U.S. Senate primaries and local races that will be on the ballot.
Dick Pryor: Thank you, Shawn.
Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.
Dick Pryor: If you have questions, email them to email@example.com or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.