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Oklahoma Senate passes Indian museum bill

by Randy Ellis Modified: March 4, 2014 at 3:50 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 receive a chilly reception.

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

Dank said he likely will ask museum backers like 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.

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

On the Senate floor Tuesday, it was treated more like an unwanted 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 history in which supporters have repeatedly gone back to the Legislature to ask for more money to complete it.

Clark Jolley, one of the Senate authors, said backers of the project have obtained $40 million in pledges from non-federal and non-state sources to match the state’s contribution and finish the project.

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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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