Oklahoma and Tennessee are the only two states that prohibit local communities from establishing tobacco laws that are stricter than those of the state.
“Our communities deserve the opportunity to engage in local dialogue and take steps closer to improving the health of their residents,” said Ted Haynes, president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, in a statement after the governor’s speech.
Fallin is seeking $10 million in supplemental funding for the nearly 100-year-old Capitol: $8 million to repair the crumbling limestone exterior and $2 million for a study to develop a plan to repair and renovate the building. The money would come from about $125 million that is available from various accounts for lawmakers to appropriate this fiscal year.
Yellow barricades and scaffolding to protect passers-by were put up 18 months ago on the south side of the Capitol after chunks of limestone began falling off the building.
“The Capitol is a symbol of our state, a place of business and a living museum dedicated to preserving Oklahoma’s history, its literature and its art work,” Fallin said. “It’s not right for our visitors to come to the Capitol and see construction cones and barriers outside, to have crumbling facade from the top and a faulty sewer system that stinks.”
After lawmakers applauded, Fallin quipped, “I’m glad somebody else doesn’t like that smell in the basement because I don’t like it.”
Noting that Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, didn’t join in the standing ovation, she looked at him and said, “Richard, you must like it.”
Her response was met with laughs and hoots from lawmakers.
“Just joking, buddy,” Fallin said, smiling.
Morrissette later issued a statement criticizing the governor’s approach.
“It’s like knowing the roof leaks, the siding are sliding and the toilet doesn’t work but addressing only one of these issues,” he said. “The entire structure remains unfit.”
It’s been estimated it would cost $160 million to repair and renovate the Capitol. A $200 million bond issue proposal was crushed last year in the House, failing 77-15. Shannon said last week he didn’t think the House would support a bond issue for any project.
“Stop playing games,” Morrissette said. “Take out a loan at zero interest or take $150 million out of the Rainy Day Fund. Just do it. Fix the building, Governor. Let’s do it and do it right.
Fallin didn’t mention any funding for the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in downtown Oklahoma City. Five years after its original projected opening, the cultural center still lacks about half the total $170 million cost to complete the project.
Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said he was disappointed the governor didn’t include the project in her speech.
“South Oklahoma City deserves better than an empty building,” he said. “The time to make accusations and be blame mongers is gone. Put simply, we need to get this done.”
Contributing: Staff Writer Zeke Campfield