Joe Wertz

Joe has previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla., lives in Oklahoma City, and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Ways to Connect

ok.gov

Gov. Kevin Stitt stood before the Oklahoma legislature to deliver his first State of the State address Monday. He outlined key pieces of his executive budget for fiscal year 2020. The legislature will craft its own budget during the 2019 legislative session.

Executive Power

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In a cow pasture near Shawnee, Kirk Wilson parks his work truck, grabs a harness and prepares for a 30-foot climb.

“We’re changing the sensor at the top of the tower that measures the wind direction,” said Wilson, a burly meteorological electronics technician with a big beard and a booming laugh.

On the ground, another tech uses a GPS receiver to make sure the sensitive instrument is properly aligned before it’s tightened in place.

In a cow pasture near Shawnee in central Oklahoma, Kirk Wilson parks his work truck, grabs a harness, and prepares for a 30-foot climb.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group organized to protect an ecologically sensitive river in southeastern Oklahoma is preparing a lawsuit accusing multiple governments of violating the Endangered Species Act.

Local, state, federal and tribal governments signed off on a 2016 agreement cleared a path for Oklahoma City to divert and pump water out of the Kiamichi River and Sardis Lake to meet the growing metro’s future water needs.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Twenty-nineteen means a new governor for Oklahoma and a fresh class of state legislators — nearly 40 percent of whom have zero political experience. It’s a new year, but the state government’s slate hasn’t been wiped clean.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest policy issues on deck for the upcoming year and legislative session.

Energy & Environment

Brianna Bailey / The Frontier

Dustin Misener started using drugs in his early teens growing up in rural Oklahoma. By his 30s, he was battling an addiction to methamphetamine and had racked up multiple drug-related convictions in Oklahoma.

“I was just getting out there pretty bad,” Misener said.

Misener, 32, is a U.S. Army veteran. Now he works cutting grass and setting up stage equipment for concerts. His hands are lined and calloused from a life of hard work.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Kenneth Wagner, a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with close personal and business ties to ousted EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, will serve as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Energy and Environment, Governor-elect Kevin Stitt’s transition team said Wednesday.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Environment and agriculture officials in Oklahoma and Arkansas signed an agreement pledging continuing cooperation in developing a plan that addresses pollution in a sensitive watershed near the neighboring states’ border region, a deal sharply criticized by conservation groups as doing little to protect water quality.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with the energy industry, ruling against officials in Kingfisher County who blocked companies from using temporary lines to transport produced, treated or recycled water in one of the state’s hottest oil fields.

Last spring, Kingfisher County Commissioners stopped issuing permits for temporary pipes placed in easements alongside county roads to pump water to and from drilling and oil-field sites, citing liability concerns and environmental hazards posed by leaks.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Update: 11:18 p.m.

Republican Kevin Stitt has defeated Democrat Drew Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell to become Oklahoma's next governor. The Tulsa businessman is a political newcomer who largely campaigned on his business background.

With nearly 89 percent of the vote tallied, Stitt leads Edmondson as the top vote-getter by a margin of 54.7 percent to 41.9 percent.

Pages