OETA’s existence is preserved after lawmakers overturn governor’s veto

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OETA's headquarters in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma House and Senate voted Thursday to override a veto by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt that would have threatened the future of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority.

In a 38-6 vote, Senate lawmakers tossed aside Stitt’s April 26 veto of a bill that sought to reauthorize OETA as the state’s public media network. Earlier Thursday, the House overrode the veto with a 73-23 vote. OETA will keep its status until at least July 1, 2026.

Garrett King, board president for Friends of OETA, an independent charity and advocacy group, praised the legislators’ decision.

“Oklahomans have expressed their appreciation for OETA via thousands of telephone calls made and messages sent to their elected officials,” King said in an emailed statement. “The decisive votes to reauthorize OETA taken by both the Oklahoma House and the Oklahoma Senate this week reflect the genuine value Oklahomans place on the public safety, education, and civic leadership services provided by OETA.”

Cheers broke out in the Oklahoma House of Representatives when lawmakers approved the bill to reauthorize OETA, according to a Thursday report in The Oklahoman. The newspaper added that a Democratic lawmaker brought a piñata resembling Sesame Street’s Bert to the House lobby.

House Rep. Cyndi Munson, the Democratic minority leader, tweeted Thursday that she was “proud to vote to protect” OETA. Others who tweeted in support of OETA included Sen. Julia Kirt, Rep. Jason Lowe, Rep. Melissa Provenzano and the Oklahoma Senate Democrats.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks to reporters April 28.

Oklahoma’s governor had questioned OETA’s “long-term strategic value” in his veto message. He expanded on his views about the network at an April 28 press event.

“It may have had its place in 1957,” Stitt said. “Why are we spending taxpayer dollars to prop up the OETA? It makes no sense to me. And when you further look at the programming … I don’t think Oklahomans want to use their tax dollars to indoctrinate kids. And some of the stuff that they’re showing, it just overly sexualizes our kids. There’s parents defend[ing] child transition on PBS that’s being played, there’s elevating LGBTQIA2S+ voices. … If you want to watch that, that’s fine, but why am I using taxpayer dollars to prop that up? I don’t think we need that.”

In his statement to Current, King described OETA as a “model public-private partnership,” pointing to the network’s distribution of educational programming, local productions like Outdoor Oklahoma and The Oklahoma News Report, and the operation of a tower and transmitter that serve as the only statewide wireless distributor of emergency communications.

“We will continue striving to be found worthy of the trust placed in OETA by the public and by lawmakers,” King said. “Again, we thank so very much each and every person and organization who took action to #SaveOETA during the 2023 Oklahoma Legislative Session.”

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