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Legal challenge filed in federal court against new Oklahoma public school bathroom law

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma seeking to prevent the state's new public school bathroom law (SB 615) limiting bathroom access for transgender students from being enforced. The lawsuit (Bridge v. Oklahoma State Department of Education) asserts the new is unconstitutional and violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.


Capitol Insider sponsored by the Oklahoma State Medical Association, physician members who devote more than 11 years of higher education and 10,000 clinical hours in study to provide care for all Oklahomans. More @okmed.org.

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, let's start in the courts. There has been a petition filed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court regarding the signatures to put legalization of recreational marijuana on the ballot and also a lawsuit challenging the state's public school restroom restrictions. What's happening in those two matters?

Shawn Ashley: State Question 820, which would legalize recreational marijuana, was the first to have its initiative petition signatures counted by a new electronic method approved by lawmakers in 2020. That legislation also changed how that information is kept by the Secretary of State's office. So former Representative Mike Reynolds said he and others have not had access to that information and he filed a petition Wednesday asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to direct the Secretary of State's office to release the signature documents, as well as the electronic information related to their county, and allow time for it to be reviewed to determine if there were any irregularities.

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma Foundation and a group of related organizations filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging the state's law that establishes public school restroom restrictions related to transgender students. That law was the result of Senate Bill 615 that lawmakers passed, and Governor Kevin Stitt signed, during the 2022 regular session. The law requires all pre-K through 12th grade public schools (to) restrict the use of multiple occupancy restrooms and other facilities at schools based on the sex listed on an individual's original birth certificate. The lawsuit contends that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title IX by discriminating on the basis of sex, gender identity and transgender status.

Dick Pryor: What is the ACLU asking for as relief?

Shawn Ashley: It's pretty simple. They're asking that the law be enjoined or prevented from taking effect. And they are also seeking $1 for each plaintiff from each of the defendants in the case.

Dick Pryor: The State Broadband Office has a new interim director, Shawn. It's not an office that receives much attention. What does that office do?

Shawn Ashley: The State Broadband Office is new. So new, In fact, it actually doesn't have an office yet. It was created by House Bill 3363 that lawmakers passed, and the governor signed, during the 2022 regular session. And it will be responsible for distributing all funding available for broadband expansion and delivering high speed internet access to 95% of Oklahomans in five years. On Tuesday, the State Broadband Governing Board, which oversees the office, hired Kirk Martin as the interim director, while the governing board expands its search for a permanent director. Martin has spent the past nine years at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce as the agency's director of Performance and Accountability.

Dick Pryor: A Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding working group is reviewing various funding requests related to broadband. Broadband access is very important, especially as we know in rural areas. How much money could be available to expand broadband in the state of Oklahoma?

Shawn Ashley: That's a good question. And the answer is no one really knows for sure. The legislature already has appropriated $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act - ARPA funding - to the office to map where broadband access needs to be improved. But that's a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars being made available by the federal government for states and internet service providers to expand broadband coverage. We probably won't know until the office closes its doors in 2027 how much money was spent in Oklahoma for that purpose.

Dick Pryor: And a new economic report from the State Treasurer again affirms that Oklahoma's economy is strong. Inflation is still a concern, but other indicators are promising.

Shawn:  That's right. August gross receipts set four records: collections for the month were at an all-time record, monthly gross production tax collections set a record, the 12-month total receipts set a record, and 12-months use tax receipts also are at record levels.

Dick Pryor: What does Treasurer (Randy) McDaniel point to for producing the encouraging numbers?

Shawn Ashley: In particular, he pointed to gross production tax collections and those use tax collections, but overall, in most cases, collections were up. Where they were down, it was only slightly.

Dick Pryor: All right. Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail them to news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.
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