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Oklahoma school tornado shelter measure: Fails, passes, then fails again

Last day of Oklahoma Legislature’s session is marked by the Senate’s rejection of a school tornado shelter measure.
by Rick Green Modified: May 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: May 23, 2014

A year and three days after seven children were killed when a tornado hit Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, the Oklahoma Senate ended its session Friday with a rejection of a proposal for school storm shelters.

“Of course I didn’t vote for it personally,” Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said after the yearly session ended. “I didn’t think there was a need for it.”

The proposal, which was approved Thursday night by the Oklahoma House, called for a statewide vote on allowing school districts, with local voter approval, to increase their bonding authority once to build tornado shelters.

Bingman said 97 percent of school districts already have the ability within their existing bonding authority to seek such public safety improvements. Among school districts that could benefit from the plan, there isn’t much interest in local school bond measures to fund tornado shelters, he said.

Gov. Mary Fallin had lobbied hard for its passage, going to senators’ offices Friday to ask for their support.

The previous day she pressed representatives and put out an angry news release, saying the proposal was being subjected to a “politically motivated and intentionally misleading smear campaign.”

The measure failed in the Senate, 16-25. On Thursday, it passed the House on reconsideration after representatives rejected it earlier in the day.

Fallin said the measure’s defeat was disappointing.

She harkened back to the May 20, 2013, tornado that killed 25 people, including seven children in a hall at Plaza Towers. She said there are 1,100 schools in the state that need to build safe rooms.

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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