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Oklahoma's governor lashes out at Legislature for inaction on key issues

Gov. Mary Fallin vetoes 15 bills, says lawmakers are not addressing top issues, including repair of crumbling state Capitol.
by Rick Green Modified: April 29, 2014 at 8:02 pm •  Published: April 29, 2014

Gov. Mary Fallin lashed out at the Legislature on Tuesday for failing to address key issues facing Oklahoma and singled out the House of Representatives for special criticism for rejecting a bond measure to fix the crumbling Capitol.

To emphasize her point, she announced that she was vetoing 15 House bills that she said were flawed, bad policy or not relevant to the concerns of most people.

She said she hopes the vetoes will send a message to the Legislature to “step it up” and deal with serious issues.

Asked whether her vetoes could spawn override attempts that could further delay consideration of important issues, she said, “What’s the option? They’re not dealing with them anyway.”

“I’m disappointed that the Legislature and, in particular, the House of Representatives is unconcerned with the maintenance and the upkeep of state facilities, especially the state Capitol,” she said.

“We’re all very familiar with the sewage problems, the electrical problems, the plumbing problems, the facade at the front of the state Capitol that is crumbling, the barricades we’ve had up now for 3 1/2 years and we’ve yet to take a step forward to find a solution to the problem and act upon that.”

A Senate-backed plan to authorize $160 million in bonds to fix the Capitol failed in the House, where some lawmakers expressed concern about debt and called for a pay-as-you-go plan.

Fallin said bonds have the advantage of not siphoning money away from other pressing needs, including common education. Oklahoma has less bond debt than most states, and many of its bonds will be retired in the coming five years.

“I’m asking the Legislature to work with me,” she said.

She said lawmakers in the House “continue to find ways to avoid passing meaningful legislation.”

House response

In response, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, said veto override attempts are likely and that the governor’s office appeared to misunderstand some of the bills that were vetoed. He said the House has been acting in a more prudent manner than the Senate or the executive branch led by Fallin.

“The House is being the more financially responsible adult among the three parties,” Turner said. “One particular branch is having a temper tantrum.”

House Speaker Jeff Hickman said the House has passed portions of the governor’s agenda, including an income tax reduction measure, but found other parts — like the Capitol renovation bond issue — unacceptable.

“We know there are serious issues to resolve and the House intends to work every day, regardless of political rhetoric, to have a successful session for the people of Oklahoma,” Hickman said.

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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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