Backers of a school storm shelter proposal have three days to submit the 160,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot, and they are well short of that number.
Their only hope: The Oklahoma Supreme Court meets Wednesday to consider changes Attorney General Scott Pruitt made to the wording of the proposed ballot measure.
If the court rejects the revised language, supporters might be permitted to start a new signature-gathering campaign.
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who has been working with the group Take Shelter Oklahoma to get a bond issue for shelters on a statewide ballot, said reports from volunteers suggest they have about 110,000 signatures, or about 50,000 under the goal.
The initiative petition calls for the state to issue up to $500 million in bonds for the construction of Oklahoma school storm shelters. Franchise tax revenues would be used to repay the bonds, and the Legislature could appropriate additional money to pay off bonds if franchise tax revenues were insufficient.
Pruitt's office rewrote the proposed ballot language, emphasizing that franchise tax revenues currently flow into the general fund and that approval of the measure would divert that money from the general fund, which is the primary fund used to finance state government.
People with the grassroots campaign have argued that Pruitt changed the language to make it appear as a new tax. Pruitt has said the language was changed merely to comply with legal requirements for the accurate description of ballot measures.
Wednesday the court will make a decision on the language and decide the deadline for signatures.
If the court decides to alter the ballot title and make a new 90-day period for signature-gathering, the signatures already obtained would likely be thrown out.
Dorman said that if the shelter effort fails, he plans to introduce a House resolution in the 2014 session that would put a state question on a ballot.
“Let me just say this, I would not want to be a legislator going into an election year who voted to not put storm shelters in schools,” Dorman said.
Gov. Mary Fallin has neither opposed or supported the proposed ballot measure but feels generally the school shelter issue is something best decided at the local rather than the state level, a spokesman said.