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Stitt Lauds COVID Response, Talks Business and Sentencing Reform in Broad Tulsa Chamber Address


Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to say Oklahoma is handling the coronavirus pandemic well and is months ahead of other states.

During the Tulsa Regional Chamber State of the State on Tuesday, Stitt compared the state’s hospitalization numbers from earlier in the pandemic to now.

“You know, on March 30, we had 560 people in the hospital being treated for COVID across the state of Oklahoma. Yesterday, we had 504 people in the hospital with capacity well above that,” Stitt said.

Monday’s 504 hospitalizations, however, came after a new record of 663 set last week and included more than double the number of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 from March. They are more likely to need intensive care, and hospitals are reporting staffs strained by COVID care.

Stitt also announced during his chamber address that federal coronavirus relief funds have been approved for the area.

“More than $30 million is on its way to the City of Tulsa, and more than $7 million is on its way to Broken Arrow,” Stitt said.

Only Oklahoma counties got direct CARES Act payments from the U.S. Treasury. Other local governments must apply to the state for population-based aid.

Talking about business, Stitt said while Oklahoma couldn’t land electric car maker Tesla, the company will need suppliers. Stitt said to that end, the Department of Commerce has launched the Oklahoma Automotive Accelerator Program.

“We’re going to be using the Quick Action Closing Fund, the Automotive Engineering Workforce Tax Credit and expedited permitting to reel in the suppliers and other companies that will need operations close to Tesla’s facility in Austin,” Stitt said.

The program will be used to attract all kinds of auto part manufacturers. Stitt also stressed the need for continued criminal justice reform, saying lawmakers, prosecutors and judges must work together to overhaul Oklahoma’s sentencing guidelines.

“You’re going to hear a lot from out-of-state interest groups who want to change our constitution via the initiative petition process to put arbitrary caps on the amount of time a domestic abuser can spend in prison. This is not the right solution to this problem,” Stitt said.

Those remarks appear to be aimed at State Question 805, a proposal backed by in-state advocates that would end sentence enhancements for offenses not on Oklahoma’s violent crimes list as of Jan. 1, 2020. Some forms of domestic abuse were added after the start of the year after Stitt signed the legislature’s update into law.

Stitt also called into question the passage of State Question 802 in June, noting it captured 45% of the vote on election day but passed by about 6,500 votes after getting 80% of absentee ballot votes.

Stitt has opposed Medicaid expansion through SQ802, saying amending the state’s constitution ties officials’ hands if costs increase because the federal government reduces its 90 match down the road.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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