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Oklahoma Senate passes Indian museum bill over objections

A bill authorizing the use of $40 million from Oklahoma’s Unclaimed Property Fund to help complete Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum cleared the state Senate on Tuesday despite stiff opposition.
by Randy Ellis Modified: March 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: March 4, 2014

A bill authorizing the use of $40 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund to help complete Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum cleared the state Senate on Tuesday despite stiff opposition.

The vote was 30-17.

The bill will now head to the state House, where House Speaker Jeff Hickman has indicated it is likely to face even stiffer opposition.

J. Blake Wade, executive director of the entity developing the American Indian museum, said he is ready to face the House challenge.

“It’s going to be tough, but as you guys know, it was tough on the Senate side, too,” Wade said. “We really can get this finally completed, not only for all of the American Indian tribes, but for Oklahoma. Every Oklahoman will be proud of this project.”

Several senators, including some who voted against the bill, said they expect the project one day will be a world-class museum.

“I believe we’re going to be open in 2017, if we can get this bill passed,” Wade said. “I’ve got $40 million worth of donors that have been waiting almost three years to make sure that this is going to happen.”

State Rep. David Dank, the House author of the bill, said he likely will ask museum backers such as former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer and Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby to meet with Republican and Democratic House members in their closed caucus sessions to discuss the museum’s merits.

Dank said he hasn’t yet taken a straw poll of House members concerning their positions on the bill.

“I think it’s an ace,” Dank said of the museum’s potential.

Senate division

On the Senate floor Tuesday, the museum was treated more like an albatross.

“Can you tell me how many broken promises have gone on with this project?” asked state Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, referring to the project’s troubled financial history in which supporters have repeatedly gone back to the Legislature to ask for more money to complete it.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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How they voted

For: Roger Ballenger, D-Okmulgee; Randy Bass, D-Lawton; Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa; Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City; Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso; Corey Brooks, R-Washington; Sean Burrage, D-Claremore; Harry Coates, R-Seminole; Brian Crain, R-Tulsa; Kim David, R-Porter; Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant; Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee; James Halligan, R-Stillwater; David Holt, R-Bethany; Tom Ivester, D-Elk City; Constance Johnson, D-Forest Park; Rob Johnson, R-Yukon; Clark Jolley, R-Edmond; Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City; Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward; Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City; Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa; Susan Paddack, D-Ada; Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee; Wayne Shaw, R-Grove; Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City; Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa; John Sparks, D-Norman; Rob Standridge, R-Norman; and Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland.

Against: Cliff Aldridge, R-Choctaw; Mark Allen, R-Spiro; Patrick Anderson, R-Enid; Don Barrington, R-Lawton; Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton; Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate; Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow; Eddie Fields, R-Wynona; John Ford, R-Bartlesville; A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie; Ron Justice, R-Chickasha; Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa; Mike Schulz, R-Altus; Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore; Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa; Anthony Sykes, R-Moore; and Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

Excused: Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow.


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