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Oklahoma school shelter supporters file legal challenge with state Supreme Court

by Tim Willert Modified: October 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm •  Published: October 18, 2013
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Supporters of an initiative petition to put storm shelters in Oklahoma schools asked the state Supreme Court on Thursday to throw out changes the state's top attorney made to the ballot title.

Take Shelter Oklahoma, a group of volunteers that includes the mother of a Plaza Towers Elementary School student killed in the May 20 tornado, filed a legal challenge to block Attorney General Scott Pruitt's revision.

The petition initiative seeks to let voters decide whether the state should create a $500 million bond issue to pay for shelters and security.

Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, a strong supporter of the bond issue, said the reworded version focuses too much on the funding mechanism — the franchise tax — and not the project's goal of protecting schoolchildren.

“The franchise tax is the funding mechanism, but it does not go into detail about what reasons are required for the constitutional amendment and what programs are established by it,” Dorman said.

The key argument against the revision is that Pruitt failed to legally make the changes in time.

Pruitt contends the measure failed to explain that franchise tax revenues go to the state's General Revenue Fund and that the state would see a loss if the funds were used to retire bond debt.

“The attorney general's office reviewed the proposed ballot language, found inconsistencies, and submitted revised ballot language to the secretary of state that complied with the law,” Diane Clay, Pruitt's communications director, said in a statement. “In this instance, the attorney general's office fulfilled its statutory duty.”

Dorman accused Pruitt of furthering the efforts of Gov. Mary Fallin to politicize the issue of protecting schoolchildren.

“I'm sick of these people using their positions to fight against a program when they haven't offered any suitable alternatives,” Dorman said. “We came up with an idea that does not raise taxes and could help put a shelter in every single school in the state.”

Supporters of proposed State Question 767 have until Dec. 16 to secure the 155,216 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot.

by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for FOXSports.com in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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