Bill to fund Indian museum clears Oklahoma House committee

The Oklahoma state House Appropriations and Budget Committee on Wednesday approved a bill to use $40 million from the state’s unclaimed property fund to help pay for the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City.
by Randy Ellis Published: April 9, 2014
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A bill to use $40 million from the state’s unclaimed property fund to help pay for the completion of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City was approved Wednesday by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

The vote was 16-10.

The measure, which previously cleared the Senate, now heads to the House calendar, where it faces an uncertain future.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, previously has said he doesn’t plan to bring it up for a vote on the House floor unless museum backers can show they have vote pledges from 51 House Republicans — which would be enough to pass the bill without support from any House Democrats.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman has said all 29 House Democrats support the measure, but that won’t matter if Republican leaders refuse to allow a vote.

“We have enough votes to pass the bill on the floor, but the speaker has said...that he wants 51 Republican votes. I don’t know if we can get there on that or not,” said House author David Dank, R-Oklahoma City. “We’ve passed a lot of bills out here — controversial bills that I’ve been opposed to — that certainly didn’t have 51 Republican votes, not only beforehand but when they were voted on.”

But Dank remains hopeful.

“There will be a lot of discussion,” Dank said. “I think our leadership wants to do something about this....We’ll just keep working.”

Discussions were spirited during Wednesday’s committee meeting.

“I think this thing could have an impact that would bring people from all over the country and all over the world,” Dank said. “We need to finish it....I think it will attract hundreds of thousands of people a year.”

“This will be the biggest thing that ever hit the state of Oklahoma,” echoed Blake Wade, executive director of the organization developing the museum. “There is an economic boom that will happen if you allow this to happen. We have hotels, a convention center, restaurant — the south side of that river will boom with economic development.”

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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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