In a dramatic late night flip-flop, members of the state House of Representatives reversed course Thursday and approved a school storm shelter proposal backed by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin just hours after they had defeated it.
House members voted 51-39 to approve the resolution after initially voting 34-61 to reject it.
In between those two votes, Fallin lobbied House members on the House floor and issued an angry news release blaming the initial defeat of the measure on “a politically motivated and intentionally misleading smear campaign.”
“Critics of the bill said House Joint Resolution 1092 would have raised taxes. It does not,” Fallin said in her news release.
“It would have allowed local communities to increase their bonding indebtedness only if those communities voted to do so. It is a local control measure that supports decisions made by local communities.”
House Author Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, implored House members to pass the measure when it came up for a revote.
“We’re sending the wrong symbolic message,” Echols said of the earlier vote.
“What we’re saying is we don’t care...You have an opportunity to send a message that we do care.”
Fallin issued a news release thanking House members for reconsidering the issue after the measure passed.
“It is now up to the Senate to act on this bill and ensure the people of Oklahoma have a chance to vote on a plan to help put more storm shelters and safe rooms in our schools,” she said.
The storm shelter proposal was drafted in the wake of last year’s devastating tornadoes and storms that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma City, El Reno and many other Oklahoma communities.
Fifty people died in those storms, including seven students at Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School.
“Every child that died in that school last year was our responsibility,” said state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City.
“A tornado didn’t kill them; we did.”