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Thu March 13, 2014
House Approves Oklahoma School Shelter Initiative
A proposal supported by Gov. Mary Fallin to help local school districts pay for safety upgrades like storm shelters and safe rooms has been approved by the Oklahoma House.
The House voted 65-28 Thursday for the bill and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
“This bill empowers communities to take action to better protect their children from tornadoes and other threats," Fallin said in a statement. "It is a fiscally responsible, realistic plan that I believe will ultimately help to save lives."
The bill calls for a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow every school district to pursue a one-time increase in bonding capacity for safety upgrades.
However, a group opposed to the idea who wants the state to fund storm shelter construction and school security enhancement called the measure the "largest local property tax increase" in Oklahoma's history.
“The bill provides for a property tax increase of at least $880 million, but does not guarantee that a single storm shelter is built in a single public school,” Danni Legg with Take Shelter Oklahoma said in a statement. “Worse yet the plan does not guarantee that if a storm shelter is built, it will meet FEMA standards. So bottom line is nothing in this bill will protect children’s safety.”
Legg's son was one of seven children who died when the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore was destroyed by the May 20, 2013 tornado.
Fallin has said the proposal is a responsible plan for improving safety and security at Oklahoma's public schools without the need for new taxes and mandates.