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Oklahoma Senate approves $45M disaster relief measure

The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill that would withdraw $45 million from the state's savings account. About half would be available to help reimburse local communities and counties for expenses causes by disasters, especially this week's tornadoes.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: May 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm •  Published: May 22, 2013
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The Oklahoma Senate voted Wednesday to withdraw $45 million from the state's savings account to help reimburse state agencies and local communities and counties for expenses caused by disasters, particularly this week's tornadoes that struck the state.

The Senate voted 45-0 to pass Senate Bill 249. Withdrawing funds from the Rainy Day Fund required two-thirds support, or 32 votes, because the governor had already declared a state of emergency. Had that declaration not been made, the measure would have needed three-fourths support.

A clause to make SB 249 take effect as soon as the governor signs it also passed 45-0.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives Calendar Committee, which will determine if it should advance to the full House.

The Rainy Day Fund has about $577 million. State law allows up to 25 percent, or about $144 million, be used to pay for emergency expenses. The rest of the money is reserved for budget shortfalls and revenue failures.

The $45 million would be allocated to the state Emergency Management Department, which will place it in the state's emergency fund.

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said about $25 million of the $45 million would be used for matching money for local communities. The rest would be available to reimburse state agencies that were called in to assist with this week's tornadoes that caused extensive damage in Moore, and also damaged Newcastle, Edmond, Carney and communities the Shawnee area.

The federal government issued a federal disaster declaration this week for Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties. Disaster assistance benefits are available for individuals and business owners affected by the severe storms.