THE LATEST IN OKLAHOMA – March 2023
March 6th, 2023
Update from NASL Members, A&A Advocates
Here are the latest news and updates in Oklahoma:
THE LATEST IN OKLAHOMA
Gov. Kevin Stitt has formed a special child welfare task force to research strategies that improve the child welfare system and reduce the number of Oklahoma children in foster care. On Wednesday, Stitt named eight people to the board including Oklahoma Secretary of Human Services Justin Brown.
Gov. Stitt signed the LEAD Act into law on Thursday. The bill modifies the “Project Ocean” legislation adopted last year. The new legislation creates a $698 million incentive package to assist in luring a company code-named “Project Connect” to build a manufacturing facility in northeastern Oklahoma. To qualify for the incentive, the company would be required to spend at least $3.6 billion in its Oklahoma project and add 500 jobs in the first year and 3,500 new jobs in four to five years.
Early voting on State Question 820 – an effort to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in Oklahoma – started on Thursday. Supporters say the initiative will help boost the state economy and build on previous criminal justice reform efforts. Detractors say the initiative would bring more crime to the state. Early voting runs from Thursday to Saturday. On Tuesday, polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Attorney General Gentner Drummond and the state’s utility regulating agency are revisiting the circumstancesthat led to high natural gas prices during a 2021 winter storm after Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach said this week he is suing a national energy company for market manipulation after it sold natural gas at an inflated rate to local utility companies. Drummond’s office said it was aware of the Kansas lawsuit and that the situation in Oklahoma is being investigated to see if there were similar circumstances.
NEED TO KNOW NEWS
New York Times: Oklahoma Wants to Be the ‘Next Texas.’ Imagine That.
On a stifling July day, Elon Musk sat across from the governor of Oklahoma under a small white pop-up tent, a red Tesla flag waving from a short pole in an otherwise unadorned field.
That the billionaire was even in Oklahoma, seriously considering putting a gigantic new Tesla factory outside of Tulsa, was a major turning point for the frequently overlooked state. Suddenly, Oklahoma could boast of being on par with its much larger neighbor and rival, Texas. The only other city still in the running for the plant, by that point in 2020, was Austin.
NonDoc: Seeking $30 million for food deserts, innovative grocery store proposal faces oversight questions
A proposal to provide a nonprofit organization $30 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to build four grocery stores in underserved areas is receiving additional review by Oklahoma legislators owing to questions about the nonprofit’s governance board, the executive director’s stake in for-profit companies potentially associated with operation of the planned stores, and ongoing litigation filed by a former business partner.
Aaron “AJ” Johnson is the co-owner and executive director of Oasis Fresh Market, a privately owned grocery store that opened in a north Tulsa food desert in May 2021. Simultaneously, Johnson serves as the executive director of Oasis Fresh Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit also established in 2021 to provide wrap-around social services for customers.
But although Johnson has the conceptual support of many influential Oklahomans, uncertainty about the governance structure of Oasis Fresh Foundation has raised significant questions about whether the organization is positioned to handle $30 million of public money.
Oklahoman: She killed her abuser. An Oklahoma House committee passed a bill that could set her free.
In 1998, April Wilkens shot and killed her fiancé, who had handcuffed and raped her in a Tulsa home. A jury convicted her of first-degree murder, and Wilkens was sentenced to life in an Oklahoma prison.
“I knew that I was going to die. I just knew I was going to die,” Wilkens said last year about being abused and why she shot her fiancé with his own gun.
Wilkens has been denied parole four times, but she has never been able to use the evidence of her domestic abuse in her appeal for early release.
But House Bill 1639, which was unanimously advanced by a state House committee on Wednesday, could give Wilkens and other incarcerated women like her a chance at freedom.