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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Assistance Is Hit And Miss For Individuals After 2013 Tornadoes

Victims embrace amid the devastation in Moore after the May 20, 2013 tornado.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

After last year’s deadly tornadoes, private insurers paid out over $1 billion in claims. FEMA also chipped in $15 million as part of its individual and household assistance program. But nearly three-quarters of that program’s applicants were denied.

As part of our series tracking the federal aid money, we look at the decision-making process that left much of Central Oklahoma out of luck. 

On the evening of May 20th, 2013, James and Sheryl Pennington stepped outside their home in Moore to find debris everywhere. The tornado had left a devastating trail, and they weren’t exempt from its destruction. 

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Goes Into Effect Nov. 1
6:11 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

New State Gun Law Could Affect Licensing This Year

Credit Scott Beale / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says a new state law could affect people who are applying for gun licenses this year.

The agency said Tuesday that the law going into effect Nov. 1 modifies the state's Self-Defense Act, making certificates expire after three years. Previously, the certificates did not expire.

OSBI says residents who have completed a gun safety training course should begin the application process for a license as soon as possible.

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8-1 Decision
3:47 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Legislature Had The Power To Repeal Common Core

Credit Michael Surran / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had the authority to repeal Common Core education standards for English and math in the state's public schools.

The state's highest court took the action Tuesday a little more than four hours after attorneys presented oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenged the Legislature's action.

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Education
1:40 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

State Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Common Core Lawsuit

Credit LLudo / Flickr Creative Commons

An attorney says the Oklahoma Legislature engaged in "unprecedented expansion" of its authority when it passed legislation repealing Common Core education standards for English and math.

Attorney Robert McCampbell made the comments Tuesday during oral arguments before the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit that alleges the legislation is unconstitutional.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
9:30 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Disaster 4117 - Moore Public Schools

A new Briarwood Elementary School in Moore is near completion, paid for by insurance and federal public assistance money.
Lindsay Whelchel Oklahoma Watch

The smell of freshly cut lumber rides a south breeze to the front of the steel and concrete skeleton rising out of red clay. Construction workers and machines move about.

The new incarnation of Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died in the May 20, 2013, tornado, is set to open this fall. And in front on this day stand Mikki Davis and family members, there for a rally calling for the state to help pay for safe rooms in schools. Davis holds a picture of her 8-year-old son Kyle, one of the seven children who died.

“I didn’t want him taken (from life),” Davis said. “I expected to come here (on May 20) and find him looking for mama to pick him up.”

Returning to the site brings back memories and emotions. But knowing that the new school will have a safe room gives Davis some consolation.

“If my son’s life was taken so that others in the future could be saved in the future, then that makes me proud to be his mom,” Davis said.

The inclusion of safe rooms in the three schools damaged or destroyed in last year’s tornadoes is part of the FEMA disaster aid enabling the district to  rebuild. The assistance covers three-fourths of the cost of what is not paid for by insurance and donations.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:30 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Public Assistance Helps Moore Schools Rebuild

Tornado damaged classroom in the Plaza Towers Elementary school in Moore, Oklahoma. An F5 tornado struck the area on May 20th, causing widespread destruction.
Andrea Booher FEMA

When tornadoes damage buildings, there are a number of things to account for when it comes to insurance and federal aid: how many square feet were there? Is the building a total loss? How much will it cost to repair?

But you often don’t think about the contents of a building. For example, what about the number of beakers in a school science classroom?

Robert Romines had been the superintendent of Moore Public Schools for just one week when the May 20th tornado devastated the town, leveling two schools, damaging multiple buildings and taking the lives of seven children. Romines promised the town that the district would rebuild, and it would do so quickly.

“We made a lot of promises early on, and I'll be honest with you, there were a lot of nights I went home shortly after May 20th, 2013 and thought to myself, ‘Holy cow, we have made promises not only to our community, but worldwide media was here,’” he said.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:31 am
Tue July 15, 2014

After 32 Years And A Wrongful Conviction, New Suspect In Rape Is Charged

Neeta Lind Flickr Creative Commons

The Cleveland County District Attorney's Office has charged a suspect in a 32-year-old case of rape for which another man was wrongfully convicted and spent more than 13 years in prison.

The suspect, Gilbert Duane Harris, 58, of Biloxi, Miss., was identified after an Oklahoma Watch inquiry last year caused the Norman Police Department to request a national DNA database check related to the 1982 rape of a University of Oklahoma student. That check, sought by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, matched Harris' DNA with DNA evidence from the rape, but authorities say it took months to verify and follow up.

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Politics and Government
4:21 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Crumbling Capitol Needs Repairs To Start

Credit bungasagadue / Flickr.com

State officials say they will authorize preliminary design work for repairs to Oklahoma's nearly century-old state Capitol before millions of dollars in bond money authorized by the Legislature becomes available.

John Estus, spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said Monday that authorities are discussing using a few hundred thousand dollars in available construction funds to pay for an investigation of the building's exterior to determine what repairs are needed. The information would be required before the state requested bids on the project.

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Health
1:31 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Oklahoma City Schools Offer Immunization Clinics Before Start Of School Year

Credit NHSE / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma City Public Schools says it will offer mobile immunization clinics at selected schools ahead of the upcoming academic year.

The school is partnering with the Oklahoma Caring Foundation and Oklahoma City-County Health Department to bring Caring Van clinics to designated sites to promote immunizations. The vans will be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the schools' parking lots on certain days.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:04 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Oklahoma Officials May Reconsider Keeping Oil Train Info Secret

Sam Beebe Flickr Creative Commons

In the wake of deadly derailments, fiery explosions and dangerous spills, the federal government in May ordered railroads to share with state authorities more information about some crude oil shipments.

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