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Oklahoma House reverses course, approves storm shelter measure

In a dramatic late night flip-flop, members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives reversed course Thursday and approved a school storm shelter proposal backed by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin just hours after they had defeated it.
by Randy Ellis Modified: May 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm •  Published: May 22, 2014


photo - Oakdale School's new gym was built as a 'safer room' to add a level of protection for students on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. The structure which is said to withstand 250 mph winds, is built with rebar 10 inch concrete walls and four inch cement roof.   Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oakdale School's new gym was built as a 'safer room' to add a level of protection for students on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Okla. The structure which is said to withstand 250 mph winds, is built with rebar 10 inch concrete walls and four inch cement roof. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

In a dramatic late night flip-flop, members of the state House of Representatives reversed course Thursday and approved a school storm shelter proposal backed by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin just hours after they had defeated it.

House members voted 51-39 to approve the resolution after initially voting 34-61 to reject it.

In between those two votes, Fallin lobbied House members on the House floor and issued an angry news release blaming the initial defeat of the measure on “a politically motivated and intentionally misleading smear campaign.”

“Critics of the bill said House Joint Resolution 1092 would have raised taxes. It does not,” Fallin said in her news release.

“It would have allowed local communities to increase their bonding indebtedness only if those communities voted to do so. It is a local control measure that supports decisions made by local communities.”

House Author Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, implored House members to pass the measure when it came up for a revote.

“We’re sending the wrong symbolic message,” Echols said of the earlier vote.

“What we’re saying is we don’t care...You have an opportunity to send a message that we do care.”

Fallin issued a news release thanking House members for reconsidering the issue after the measure passed.

“It is now up to the Senate to act on this bill and ensure the people of Oklahoma have a chance to vote on a plan to help put more storm shelters and safe rooms in our schools,” she said.

The storm shelter proposal was drafted in the wake of last year’s devastating tornadoes and storms that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma City, El Reno and many other Oklahoma communities.

Fifty people died in those storms, including seven students at Moore’s Plaza Towers Elementary School.

“Every child that died in that school last year was our responsibility,” said state Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City.

“A tornado didn’t kill them; we did.”

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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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