Associated Press


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A panel led by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to declare a revenue failure for the current fiscal year as plummeting oil prices and dwindling tax collections batter the state budget.

The Board of Equalization will meet early next week in a move that will allow the state to tap into some of the roughly $800 million in the state’s Constitutional Reserve Fund, commonly called the Rainy Day Fund, said Sen. Roger Thompson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The state has another $200 million in a separate savings account.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Oklahoma zookeeper sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot has filed a federal lawsuit seeking nearly $94 million in damages, claiming among other things that he was convicted based on false and perjured testimony.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” filed the lawsuit March 17 in federal court in Oklahoma City. Among the defendants are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted him and several witnesses in the case.

U.S. Navy

NEW YORK (AP) — Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man,” has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 61.

Diffie on Friday announced he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis. Diffie’s publicist Scott Adkins said the singer died Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications from the virus.

Office of the Governor

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Sunday joined other governors in requiring air travelers from New York and other coronavirus hot spots to quarantine when travelling to his state.

Travelers who fly from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Washington state and Louisiana must self-quarantine for 14 days if they head to Oklahoma, according to Stitt’s executive order. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and others have issued similar orders.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state’s top Native American gaming official rejected Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s latest casino gambling offer on Friday and accused the governor of trying to take advantage of the tribes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Matthew Morgan, the chairman of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, described the governor’s latest offer as “yet another unsuccessful attempt to divide the tribes.”

U.S. Senate-File Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn has died. He was 72. A cousin tells The Associated Press that he died early Saturday morning.

Coburn had been diagnosed with prostate cancer years earlier. The Oklahoma Republican railed against federal earmarking and earned a reputation as a political maverick.

The physician won a U.S. House seat during the “Republican Revolution” in 1994. He stepped down after three terms, keeping a term-limit pledge.

He returned to his family medical practice in Muskogee, where during his career he delivered more than 4,000 babies.

Laurie Avocado

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from delivering during the new coronavirus pandemic, but they can offer curbside pickup with limited contact, state officials decided.

Dispensaries are considered “essential” businesses, which are exempt from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s order that directs some businesses in counties with confirmed cases of people with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.


TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The body of an Oklahoma serviceman killed in a rocket attack on a U.S. base in Iraq has been returned to his home state, welcomed by a small collection of mourners whose gathering was restricted by efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt joined the family of the late Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts at a transfer ceremony Wednesday at the Tulsa Air National Guard Base, the Tulsa World reported.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Aircraft parts maker Spirit Aerosystems announced Tuesday that it was temporarily halting work for Boeing performed in Tulsa, McAlester and Wichita facilities amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.

The move came after Boeing announced Monday that it was suspending operations at its Seattle area facilities. At least 110 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington state, mostly in the Seattle area. Boeing employs about 70,000 people in the region. The company said 32 employees have tested positive for the virus, including 25 in the greater Seattle area.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Bill Braum, founder of Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores that has grown to nearly 300 outlets in five states, has died, the company announced Tuesday. He was 92.

Braum died Monday at his home in Tuttle, Oklahoma, the company said in a statement.

Braum grew up in Emporia, Kansas, where he worked for the small butter and milk processing plant his father ran. After selling the company he had inherited, Braum launched the chain bearing his name in 1968 with 22 Oklahoma stores.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma man was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison after being convicted of trying to blow up an Oklahoma City bank with a massive vehicle bomb, according to federal prosecutors.

Jerry Drake Varnell, 26, of Sayre, was sentenced in federal court in Oklahoma City. When he is released from prison, he’ll be under supervision for the rest of his life.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Seven national organizations representing patients with serious medical conditions have criticized Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt for rolling out his Medicaid expansion plan during the coronavirus pandemic.

The organizations, including the American Heart Association and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, released a statement calling for the state to withdraw its application immediately.

Department of Defense

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A second person in Oklahoma died of COVID-19 as the number of state residents with the illness caused by the novel coronavirus increased by more than a dozen, health officials said Sunday.

The man who died was in his 50s and lived in Pawnee County, west of Tulsa, the Oklahoma State Department of Health said in a statement. It did not provide further details on the circumstances of his illness and death.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The number of coronavirus cases in Oklahoma has risen by four, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday.

The number of positive cases for the virus increased from 49 to 53 while the number of deaths remains at one.

Oklahoma County has the most positive cases with 20 and adjacent Cleveland County is next with 12. Tulsa County, where the death occurred, has five.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is planning to offer a recorded, one-hour television program in place of a live ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The program will be offered to television stations statewide for broadcast on April 19 in place of a live ceremony at the museum, museum executive director Kari Watkins said Thursday.

U.S. House

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma U.S. Reps. Kendra Horn and Tom Cole said Thursday that they will self-quarantine for two weeks after two other members of Congress tested positive for COVID-19.

Horn, a Democrat, and Tom Cole, a Republican, each said they are not experiencing any symptoms of illness, but will self-quarantine on the recommendation of the House of Representatives’ attending physician.

Horn said she had contact with Utah Rep. Ben McAdams and Cole said he “was around” Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed into law sweeping changes to the state’s Open Meeting Act the Oklahoma Legislature approved on Tuesday to allow government bodies to meet via teleconference, a move that was in response to the coronavirus outbreak and alarmed open government advocates who worried the changes were too extreme.

Shorty after the Senate approved the bill, senators and their staff were asked to self-quarantine in their offices after learning a Senate staffer had tested positive for the coronavirus.

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline dropped 15 cents per gallon, to $2.39, over the past three weeks.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey said Sunday that gas prices could continue to fall as demand shrinks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The price at the pump averages 12 cents lower than it was a year ago.

The highest average price in the nation for regular-grade gas is $3.45 per gallon in Honolulu.

The lowest average is $1.82 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Princess Cruises

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Officials say more than two dozen Oklahomans who were on a cruise that had a coronavirus outbreak have returned home after being quarantined.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday that all 26 Oklahomans who were on the Grand Princess cruise ship have returned home. Hey says they were all asymptomatic before being allowed to return to Oklahoma and they will remain quarantined in their homes for another 14 days and be monitored by local health officials.

Office of Attorney General

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump’s declaration Friday of a national emergency over the new coronavirus triggered an Oklahoma law that prohibits price-gouging, the state’s attorney general said.

Attorney General Mike Hunter said the law prohibits an increase of more than 10% in the price of goods or services during a declared emergency.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Department of Defense says two servicemen killed in an Iraqi rocket attack on a U.S. base in Iraq were an Oklahoman and a Californian.

The department said Friday that 28-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal Roberts of Owasso, Oklahoma, and 27-year-old Army Spc. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias of Hanford, California, died in Wednesday's attack that also killed a British service member.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Senate approved legislation Thursday to essentially prohibit abortions in Oklahoma after six weeks of pregnancy.

The Senate voted 36-8 for the bill, which now heads to the House for consideration.

The bill by Republican Sen. Paul Scott of Duncan would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion, beginning at six weeks of pregnancy, if a fetal heartbeat or brain waves are detected.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday appointed state Department of Human Services Director Justin Brown to his cabinet as secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Development.

As cabinet secretary, Brown will oversee agencies and boards that include Oklahoma Human Services, the Office of Juvenile Affairs, Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the Office of Disability Concerns and Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Brown said he will seek “to drive innovation, collaboration and partnerships among our agencies and partners.”


NORMAN, Okla. (The Oklahoman) — The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents has called racial slurs that two professors used in their classrooms “disgusting."

The Oklahoman reports that Chairman Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes on Tuesday read a statement from the board addressing the recent incidents during the board's first meeting since dozens of students staged a sit-in outside the university's administrative offices.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's two largest universities are moving to online classes following next week's spring break as a precaution against the coronavirus.

The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University each announced the move Thursday. OU's online classes will be only for students at the main campus in Norman while OSU will offer online classes at both the main campus in Stillwater and its Tulsa campus.

Both universities said there are no cases of the virus on either campus, but public health experts recommend the move as a precaution.

State Impact

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Canadian company said Wednesday it has started preliminary work along the route of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline through the U.S. in anticipation of starting construction next month, as opponents await a judge’s ruling on their request to block any work.

TC Energy spokeswoman Sara Rabern said the Calgary-based company was moving equipment this week and will begin mowing and felling trees in areas along the pipeline’s 1,200-mile route within the next week or so.

Google Street View

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced Wednesday that it has lifted lockdowns at state prisons statewide that were imposed after what was called a “disturbance” at a prison in Stringtown.

All prisons have resumed normal operations, said DOC spokesman Matt Elliot. The statewide lockdown of state and private prisons was prompted by a March 2 disturbance at Mack Alford Correctional Center, about 120 miles south of Tulsa.

There were no injuries to prison staff and no serious injuries to inmates, the department said.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Senate voted Wednesday to increase penalties for drug possession near schools, drawing criticism from proponents of a state question in 2016 that made such crimes misdemeanors.

The Senate voted 35-12 for legislation to make it a felony to possess methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine or fentanyl within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school. The bill would not apply to people under 18, those enrolled as a student at a school or for people found in possession during routine traffic stops.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday appointed a northeast Oklahoma lawyer to the state Court of Civil Appeals.

Stitt announced the appointment of Stacie Hixon of Owasso to replace Judge Jerry Goodman, who has retired.

Hixon is a partner at Steidley & Neal law firm, which has offices in Tulsa, McAlester and Durant and has focused on areas that include insurance, product liability, employment law and general civil litigation.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Most retired school teachers, firefighters and other public workers would receive their first pension increase in 12 years under a bill that sailed through the Oklahoma House on Tuesday.

Members voted 99-0 for the bill to give a 4% cost-of-living allowance, or COLA, to about 85% of public retirees. Under the bill’s tiered approach, those who retired between two and five years ago would see a 2% boost, while those retired for less than two years would get no increase.