Governor Stitt

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The federal government approved new gambling compacts between Oklahoma and two tribal nations, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced on Monday, but the governor still remains locked in a legal dispute over tribal gambling with other tribes and legislative leaders from his own party.

The compacts between Oklahoma and the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and the Comanche Nation were both “deemed approved” by the U.S. Department of the Interior following the expiration of a 45-day review period.

Stuart Ostler / Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s Republican legislative leaders asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to settle whether Gov. Kevin Stitt overstepped his authority when he reached deals with two Native American tribes to allow sports gambling.

That was Attorney General Mike Hunter’s conclusion in a formal opinion and letter to the U.S. Interior secretary last month.

Citing a low proportion of active cases in the state, increased testing and declining positive rates, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday the state will move to the next phase of his Open Up and Recover Safely plan on Monday as planned.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration is scrapping a plan to expand Medicaid on July 1, citing a lack of state funding.

The state’s Medicaid Director Melody Anthony notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a letter Thursday that the state was withdrawing its proposal.

The Stitt administration pushed for the expansion in March, but after the Legislature narrowly passed bills to help pay for the state’s share, including one that increased a fee that hospitals pay, Stitt vetoed them.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Friday morning his pick for a new interim director of the State Department of Health.

Col. Lance Frye, a Tulsa resident, is currently serving as the State Air Surgeon of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, a role he said he will continue in during his time as health commissioner. Frye is also an OB/GYN and professor at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

"Col. Frye is the right leader at the right time," Stitt said in his announcement from the Capitol on Friday.

Wikipedia

Oklahoma cities and counties can apply for federal coronavirus relief funds through an online portal starting June 1.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that will be the method for them to be reimbursed for eligible COVID-19 expenses under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which Oklahoma received $1.2 billion from.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Responding to complaints from Oklahomans across the state who say they're struggling to receive unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a state cabinet secretary said Tuesday that many issues and delays are being caused by the applicants themselves.

"The biggest issue that we've seen that's causing people to get - either they get paid one week and then it stalls, or they stall completely, are inconsistencies or incomplete information," said David Ostrowe, Governor Kevin Stitt's Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration. 

Oklahoma’s affordable housing tax credit will not be touched going into next fiscal year.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has vetoed House Bill 2760, which would have cut its annual cap from $4 million to $2 million.

Mental Health Association Oklahoma Chief Housing Officer Greg Shinn said Stitt’s veto message correctly noted cutting the incentive would not provide more money for the state budget until fiscal year 2023.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Dozens of people rallied at the state Capitol on Monday, complaining that their state unemployment claims aren’t being processed.

Most of those who gathered on the Capitol’s south steps were self-employed and complained of glitches with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s website, waiting on hold for hours to talk to an agent and not getting promised call backs.

Tesla

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla has picked Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as finalists for its new U.S. assembly plant, a person briefed on the matter said Friday.

The person says company officials visited Tulsa in the past week and were shown two sites.

It wasn’t clear if there were any other finalists in the mix. The person, who didn’t want to be identified because the site selection process is secret, said no final decision has been made.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Late Wednesday afternoon, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed lawmakers' $7.7 billion budget in its entirety, along with bills temporarily reallocating nearly $300 million in apportioned dollars to public schools.

By 10 p.m., lawmakers voted to override Stitt's vetoes of all four bills.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Collections to Oklahoma’s main government operating fund missed projections by 44% last month, the biggest shortfall in modern history, state finance officials said Tuesday.

Postponing the income tax deadline from April to July, plummeting energy prices and the coronavirus-related shutdown of businesses across the state amounted to a “threefold economic gut punch,” said Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Steve Harpe.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s pick to lead the Oklahoma State Department of Health doesn’t have enough support in the state Senate to secure the job, a key senator said Monday.

Sen. Greg McCortney, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said interim Health Commissioner Gary Cox doesn’t have enough votes to be confirmed, and so his nomination won’t be considered at the committee’s last scheduled meeting Monday afternoon.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday he will veto budget bills taking dollars apportioned to the state’s teacher, law enforcement and firefighter pension systems next year.

House Bills 2741 and 2742 use the apportioned dollars to provide $112 million for public schools, a move that helps hold the State Department of Education's budget cut to 2.5% as other agencies take cuts of up to 4%.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Health officials say four more people in Oklahoma have died  from the coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths to 270.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says that the number of confirmed positive cases in the state increased by 66, for a total of 4,490.

The number of actual infections is thought to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without showing symptoms.

With Tesla founder Elon Musk using Twitter as a platform to threaten to pull his company out of California due to his disagreement with the state's measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt saw an opening on Saturday.

"Oklahoma is open for business," the tweet from the governor's official account reads. "We're doing it safely, responsibly and based on the data in our state. @ElonMusk, let's talk!"

"P.S.," the tweet concludes, "Route 66 would make a great place for a test drive..."

The number of workers workers at a pork processing plant in Guymon testing positive for the coronavirus is up to at least 151, according to state officials on Wednesday.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said the state is helping the situation at the Seaboard Foods plant by sending health department contact tracers and offering housing at a public college about 20 minutes away in Goodwell.

Wikimedia

Oklahoma lawmakers on Tuesday gave Gov. Kevin Stitt another 30 days of expanded powers granted under a catastrophic health emergency declaration to deal with COVID-19.

Under state law, the declaration of a health emergency gives the governor powers including waiving regulations that could hinder the public health response, mobilizing the National Guard and reallocating up to $50 million in state funds for the response.

Facebook / Gov. Kevin Stitt

This story was updated at 4:48 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5th, to include a new response from Baylee Lakey, communications director for the governor.

In an opinion released at the request of the Oklahoma legislature's two most senior Republicans and a separate letter to a federal cabinet secretary, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Tuesday dug in deeper on his charge that Governor Kevin Stitt, a fellow Republican, acted unlawfully last month in signing gaming compacts between the state and two Indian governments.

Metro Pentecostal Church in Tulsa has lost several congregants and at least one pastor to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus currently spreading throughout Oklahoma, the country, and the world. One member spent 31 days on a ventilator. The head pastor fought and recovered from the illness.

Still, on Sunday, it became one of the first churches in Tulsa to reopen for in person worship service following Governor Kevin Stitt's orders to allow houses of worship to begin welcoming back congregations.

The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt and Health Commissioner Gary Cox offered a response of sorts Thursday to Attorney General Mike Hunter’s request for an investigative audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s spending.

Stitt said the health department is buying personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies for the state’s COVID-19 response on the competitive global market, purchases the state has $1.2 billion in federal funds for.

Libby Billings courtesy Libby Billings; Thomas Hunter courtesy Oklahoma Restaurant Association

Following prolonged mandated closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with the blessings of both Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt and a reluctant Mayor G.T. Bynum, Tulsa restaurants will be permitted starting Friday to welcome guests back to eat in their dining rooms.

Not too many are seizing that opportunity, though.

"Absolutely not," said restaurateur Libby Billings, whose downtown Tulsa eateries include The Vault, Roppongi, and Elote. 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s top prosecutor on Tuesday requested an investigative audit of the state Health Department over the agency’s spending of state-appropriated funds. 

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Attorney General Mike Hunter’s request was related to the state’s coronavirus response, which the agency is leading.

The Oklahoman

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday continued to defend his decision to begin lifting restrictions meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Stitt said hospitalizations in Oklahoma peaked almost a month ago and the health care system now has plenty of capacity. Stitt said he started issuing executive orders on COVID-19 March 12 with three goals in mind.

Anadisgoi / Cherokee Nation

In a donation spurred by what he called a "dire need of assistance," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. ordered 5,000 protective facemasks to be sent to Navajo Nation, where COVID-19 rates continue to climb rapidly.

"Today it's the Navajo Nation that's in desperate need," Hoskin said on a Tuesday phone call from Tahlequah, Okla., the Cherokee capital. "The next time around, it could be the Cherokee Nation, and we would want other Indian nations to be there for us."

Justin Russell on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt requested that the White House declare an "Act of God," a legal maneuver the governor said is "a necessary step to encourage and support those operators who choose to stop production until demand returns and storage becomes readily available." 

Oil and gas industry insiders are split on whether that's true. 

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department, told the Tulsa World on Monday that each patient in Tulsa County who tests positive for COVID-19 provides an average of 36 potentially exposed persons for the department to trace.

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington

Oklahoma has already begun reopening following a plan by Governor Kevin Stitt, but a team of health researchers estimate that the state is still over 50 days away from the earliest date when it would be safe to ease restrictions intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt defended his decision to allow the state's businesses to reopen.

"We peaked at hospitalizations with 560 across the state," Stitt said. "Today we have 300 across the state in our hospitals. And so we think it's time for a measured reopening."

Wallace asked Stitt about statements by Dr. Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, in which Monks characterized the reopening as too early and not in keeping with White House guidelines.

Gov. Kevin Stitt appears set to give it a month before implementing the third phase of his Open Up and Recover Safely Plan and have businesses running at nearly normal levels.

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