A state Senate committee approved a measure Monday that would place the agency that is overseeing the half-built American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in downtown Oklahoma City under the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Sen. Greg Treat, author of Senate Bill 511, said his measure calls for the elimination of the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority. The fate of the agency's 11 employees would be up to the Historical Society, he said.
The Historical Society doesn't want the Indian cultural center, said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. Treat, chairman of the Senate General Government Committee, asked committee members to vote for the measure to keep it alive with the hope he could find a state agency willing to take the authority.
The committee voted 6-2 to pass the measure, which now goes to the full Senate.
Blake Wade, executive director of the authority, had no comment about the committee's vote.
Contacted later, Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said his agency, which collects, preserves and shares artifacts, has a different role than a cultural center, which looks at people and the way they lived.
Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, said he voted against the bill because the state could stand to lose $40 million in private pledges to help complete the center if it is placed under a different agency.
A bill authorizing a $40 million bond issue for the center failed by one vote last year in the Senate.
Treat said he is concerned by the findings of a state audit last year that criticized the authority for choosing highest-cost options when funding wasn't secure. Treat filed a bill last year to put the center under the state Tourism and Recreation Department; it passed the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives.
The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum project has benefited from three previous state bond issues totaling $63 million, as well as $14.5 million in federal funding and $4.9 million and 250 acres of land from Oklahoma City.