Oklahoma joins states issuing February food benefits early

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is joining other states in giving out February food stamp benefits early because of the partial government shutdown.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced Tuesday that those already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as food stamps, will begin receiving next month's benefits by Jan. 20. Benefits are loaded onto Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and can only be used at stores approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake said employees will work overtime to process case renewals and applications.

Last week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told states to issue the February benefits early and several states, including neighboring Arkansas , have already announced distribution plans.

Lake says about 610,000 Oklahomans receive SNAP benefits each month.


Collections to Oklahoma general fund keep climbing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Collections to Oklahoma's main government operating fund are continuing to outpace the estimate, but state finance officials are cautioning that lower oil prices are expected to start driving some of those collections down.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Tuesday that December collections to the General Revenue Fund totaled $620 million, nearly 9 percent above the monthly estimate.

For the first six months of the fiscal year, collections have exceeded the official estimate by nearly 5 percent.

But Oklahoma's new chief operating officer, former Sonic Corp. executive John Budd , warns that December collections reflect October production levels of oil, which was then around $70 per barrel.

Benchmark crude added 3.2 percent on Tuesday to close at $52.11 a barrel in New York.


OKC school district approves the use of medical marijuana

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Students in the Oklahoma City school district with medical conditions that require cannabis are now permitted to use the drug at school.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools board voted to approve the policy Monday night, The Oklahoman reported . The district will provide a place for a guardian to administer medical marijuana to students at school.

The policy also states that the caregiver would be responsible for delivering the cannabis to the qualifying students and removing it from the premises after consumption.

Mark Mann, an OCPS board member, said medical marijuana should be treated like any other prescription drug.

"It was passed by the voters, it's a medication and it's a medication that has been prescribed by a doctor," Mann said. "I don't see how we can possibly withhold it. That may not be popular with some people, but if it's not popular they need to go back to the ballot box and address it there."

Oklahoma voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana last June.

Officials said students are required to consume the medicine orally or topically, since state law bans the smoking of any substance on school property. School employees will not be allowed to aid students in obtaining, using or storing medical marijuana.


New Oklahoma governor announces more appointments

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's new Gov. Kevin Stitt is putting more of his key hires in place, including the appointment of his chief operating officer to head up the state's Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Stitt issued seven official orders on Monday, his first official day in office, to appoint his top cabinet secretaries and other appointments. He announced that former Sonic Corp. executive John Budd, who he previously named as his chief operating officer , will be the acting head of OMES. Budd will replace Denise Northrup, a longtime ally of outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin.

Stitt has kept a few members of Fallin's leadership team , including Homeland Security Director Kim Carter, Adjutant General Michael Thompson and Commissioner of Public Safety Rusty Rhoades.


Bloomberg announces $1 million gift for Tulsa art project

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a $1 million gift to The Greenwood Art Project in Tulsa.

Bloomberg, a potential candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced the gift Tuesday from the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge .

Bloomberg will join Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and artist Rick Lowe on Thursday to reveal more details. Bloomberg also will meet in Tulsa with Moms Demand Action volunteers and survivors of gun violence.

The Greenwood project will include temporary public artworks commemorating an area of Tulsa known as Black Wall Street, which was largely destroyed during deadly racial violence in 1921. Estimates of the number of dead vary widely, from about three dozen to 300 or more.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission is a partner in the project.


Judge denies recusal request in Oklahoma mom's murder case

OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma judge has denied a request to step aside from the case of a woman accused of fatally shooting two of her teenage children and wounding her third child.

Court records show Special District Judge Pandee Ramirez on Tuesday rejected the request by defense attorneys for 38-year-old Amy Leann Hall. Attorneys say Ramirez should disqualify herself because she is already overseeing a deprived action case involving Hall and the surviving child.

Hall is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the November shooting deaths of 18-year-old Kayson Toliver and 16-year-old Kloee Toliver and one count of shooting with intent to kill a 14-year-old daughter, who was wounded but managed to take the gun from her mother.

Court records do not show that Hall has yet entered a plea.


Oklahoma authorities find 2 bodies in search for Texans

OKEMAH, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma law enforcement agencies have discovered the bodies of a man and a woman in clandestine graves in rural Okfuskee County as part of their search for two missing Texas residents.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of investigation said Tuesday that police in the central Texas city of Temple had asked for their assistance in the disappearance of 28-year-old Jenna Scott and 32-year-old Michael Swearingin.

Officials in Temple say the two friends were reported missing Jan. 4, and that new information about their disappearance was obtained on Jan. 9. The OSBI says it was asked to assist in the case on Friday.

Authorities say the bodies of the man and woman were found in the graves but that their identities will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.