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Oklahoma House calls for vote on school storm shelter solution

Oklahomans could get to vote next November on whether to allow local school districts to exceed their bonding capacity to pay for storm shelters and other school safety improvements under a resolution passed Thursday by the state House of Representatives.
by Randy Ellis Published: March 13, 2014

“You’re telling the people of the state of Oklahoma that they have to choose between their children’s lives and raising their property taxes when we have many other options,” Hamilton said. “I’m ashamed to be standing here today and have to vote on this.”

“We should be considering something that provides for the safety of the children of this state without forcing people to face what could for some of them be ruinous property tax increases,” she said.

Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman, who has announced he will run against Fallin for governor, has been pushing an alternative plan through a petition drive that calls for the state to issue $500 million in bonds that school districts could tap to help pay for storm shelters.

That plan, which is currently tied up in a state Supreme Court case, calls for the bonds to be paid back with state franchise tax revenue, or general fund revenue if franchise tax receipts are insufficient.

Dorman made several attempts Thursday to amend Echols’ resolution to include variations of his proposal, but was unsuccessful.

Gov. Fallin issued a news release Thursday praising House members for their action.

“My thanks go out to House members who voted for this responsible plan to improve safety and security at Oklahoma schools,” said Fallin, who asked lawmakers to pass the resolution in her State of the State Address earlier this year. “This bill empowers communities to take action to better protect their children from tornadoes and other threats. It is a fiscally responsible, realistic plan that I believe will ultimately help to save lives.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative 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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