Local & Regional

The Oklahoma Democratic Party and state chapter of a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group strongly disapprove of the Oklahoma Republican Party’s new leader.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation

State lawmakers say they are filing legislation to guard against massive utility bills in the wake of winter storms that put Oklahoma in the deep freeze in February.

Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow) said the measures will set up a process for utility companies to package and sell off their debt from spiking natural gas costs, limiting how much of the impact can be passed along to consumers.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is turning to online collaboration tool SharePoint to improve its processing of stage one commutation applications.

District attorneys must get access to applications within 10 days of pardon and parole completing their review. Files for each applicant will be accessible on an agency SharePoint site, which should provide faster access than hard copies.

District attorneys should get automatic notifications when a case from their area is uploaded.


Updated April 13, 1:10 p.m.

The NCAA Board of Governors issued a statement Monday in support of transgender student-athletes with more than two dozen states considering legislation to restrict their participation.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is sending two specialized mobile health units to rural corners of the reservation in an attempt to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Our reservation includes urban and rural communites, so we bought these mobile units to reach out into the areas where we might not have a clinic, where there might not be accessibility," said Rhonda Beaver, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health chief administrative officer. 

"So we're going to areas like Yardeka, we're going to areas like Dustin, Holdenville, to Checotah," Beaver said. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday opened applications for financial assistance for funeral costs incurred as a result of COVID-19.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families. At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus," the agency said in a statement.

Individuals are able to receive up to $9,000 per funeral, with a maximum of $35,500 for people who incurred the cost of multiple funerals.

Monday's top stories:

• The Tulsa Health Department is preparing to open a mass vaccine site in north Tulsa next week in coordination with FEMA.

• The Oklahoma Senate will not join the House in calling for the elimination of the state corporate income tax.

Tulsa Police Department

The Tulsa Police Department dedicated and unveiled a memorial to Ofc. Jerad Lindsey on the grounds of their training facility on Sunday.

TPD Chief Wendell Franklin and Mayor G.T. Bynum were among the officials in attendance at the ceremony for Lindsey, who also chaired the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The department said in a statement that Lindsey's is the 41st monument at the Tulsa Police Officers' Memorial, which recognizes dead officers from 1917 to present.

Oklahoma Senate

The leader of the Oklahoma Senate said the chamber, his caucus and he personally have no appetite to take up a plan House Republicans passed last month to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax.

House Bill 2083 would phase out the corporate income tax over five years through increasing deductions. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) said there needs to be more than politics behind a move like that.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Updates to Tulsa’s animal ordinances were on track to prohibit roosters over eight weeks old in residential areas, but city councilors may have figured out a way to avoid the ban.

State of Oklahoma-File photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former state representative with a reputation for anti-Islamic rhetoric has been elected as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Former state Rep. John Bennett won a first-ballot victory at the party convention Saturday at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, vice chairman Shane Jemison said Sunday.

File Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two children are dead after separate, unrelated shootings in Oklahoma City, police said Friday.

In the first shooting Thursday afternoon, 5-year-old Trevion Cole was killed after he and a playmate found a gun inside a home on the city’s northeast side, police said. The other child accidentally shot Trevion, who was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

Police say an adult was in the home at the time of the shooting but was in another room.

File photo

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former Oklahoma City attorney and her boyfriend have been charged with killing an ex-girlfriend and her parents in 2019.

Keegan Kelley Harroz and Barry Titus II were each charged Thursday with three counts of first-degree murder and a related first-degree burglary count in the shooting deaths of Tiffany Eichor and her parents, Jack and Kaye Chandler.

In a five-hour special meeting on Friday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to keep an indigenous-led charter school on probation and to place an Oklahoma City district on probation.

The board could have terminated Sovereign Community School’s contract, but they praised operations director Stacie Thrasher and founding board member Kyla Molina for working to improve its governance and solve financial problems.

The Tulsa Health Department recommended Friday the City of Tulsa can let its mask ordinance expire April 30, given current COVID trends.

THD Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said new cases and hospitalizations are at levels last seen in June, and more and more people get vaccinated every day.

"We’ll continue to scan the environment, watch the data and make the best recommendations to keep people safe. If that means recommending that we reinstitute our mask mandate, we would do that," Dart said.

National Weather Service Tulsa

This afternoon’s isolated thunderstorms will ramp up through the evening, meaning a threat of severe weather across northeastern Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service in Tulsa expects several strong to severe storms as a cold front pushes a line of storms across Green Country.

Severe potentials are expected to exit by late evening. Large hail up to 2 inches and greater, damaging wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph, and also a tornado threat will be possible across eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.

Tulsa Community College

The White House announced Friday that the Tulsa Community College Northeast Campus has been chosen to host a federally supported COVID-19 vaccination site in partnership with state and local agencies.

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will lend support to the vaccination site, in partnership with the Tulsa Health Department, Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Oklahoma National Guard and state and local partners," the White House said in a news release.

Oklahoma State University

OSU held a virtual meet-and-greet this week for Dr. Kayse Shrum, who was recently selected as the university’s 19th president.

Shrum served as state secretary of science and innovation from March 2019 through June 2020, playing a key role in building the state’s coronavirus response when there was a lack of testing or even just knowledge about the virus.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Hardesty Family Foundation has awarded Mental Health Association Oklahoma a $900,000 grant to keep criminal justice programs going another two years.

Funding will support initiatives like a special services docket that puts case managers in touch with people facing misdemeanor charges often related to homelessness, housing for people who were homeless because of untreated mental illness, and mental health training for law enforcement officers and others involved in the justice system.

Oklahoma Capitol Restoration

A state lawmaker revived an anti-trans bill on Thursday, the last day to get measures out of committees.

Friday's top stories:

• The Oklahoma legislature advanced a piece of anti-trans legislation meant to ban some trans athletes from participating in athletics at schools and universities.

• The Tulsa Health Department says they're prepared to vaccinate out-of-staters, as the state of Oklahoma announced non-residents are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma effective Thursday.

Oklahoma Watch

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A union complaint about whether an Oklahoma meatpacking plant is doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus could test the industry’s response to the pandemic because Seaboard Foods says it is following recommendations from the government and trade groups. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With the Oklahoma State Department of Health announcing Wednesday that non-Oklahomans are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the state system, the Tulsa Health Department said Thursday they're up to the job.

"We are happy to be administering the vaccine, really, to anybody who wants it, whether they are Oklahoma residents or those that are residents of another state but for some reason are in Oklahoma," said Ellen Niemitalo, THD clinical services manager.

"We're just excited to be able to administer the vaccine to anyone who is wanting it," she said.

Thursday's top stories:

• State lawmakers have pushed more restrictions on abortion care closer to Gov. Kevin Stitt's desk.

• Democrats are demanding an apology from a Republican state rep who said the fight to illegalize abortion is more important than the fight to end slavery and compared abortion to the Holocaust.

Pool photo by Mike Simons / Tulsa World

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of any state as Oklahoma’s vaccine supplies and vaccinations administered increased, deputy state Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday.

Until now, Oklahoma had limited vaccinations to only its 4 million residents.

Now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Oklahoma has received more than 2.9 million vaccine doses and administered more than 2.1 million vaccinations. So, residents of any state will become eligible for vaccination in Oklahoma starting Thursday.

A state lawmaker who vowed to fight Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to let for-profit companies manage Oklahoma’s expanding Medicaid program took action on Wednesday.

Rep. Marcus McEntire (R-Duncan) amended Senate Bill 131, which dealt with dialysis, to instead require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to oversee services to thousands of newly eligible enrollees starting July 1.

The Oklahoma Democratic Party is demanding an apology from and censure of Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland) after comments he made Wednesday as a committee considered his abortion restrictions bill.

"The cavalier usage of racist terms with no repercussions is exhausting. I would be grateful if those who are elected to represent Oklahoma remember that they represent all of Oklahoma, even those of us who are Black and brown," said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Alicia Andrews.

Oklahoma lawmakers’ relentless push for new abortion restrictions continued on Wednesday.

Three bills made it out of committee, putting them all a floor vote away from the governor’s desk.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 441,906 total cases in the state on Wednesday, an increase of 3,542 over the past week.

Wednesday's total included approximately 1,300 cases not previously reported over a six-week period during which a single laboratory had technical issues during the transition to a new COVID-19 data reporting system. Without those cases, Oklahoma added roughly the same number of new infections over the past week as it did the week before.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

Add "eyesight" to the list of things possibly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jean Hausheer, a Lawton ophthalmologist and past-president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said on a Tuesday Zoom press conference hosted by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition that a recent paper in the American Journal of Ophthalmology looked at a potential link between the increase in screen time and decrease in outdoor activity in kids due to the switch to remote learning and myopia (nearsightedness).