School Shelters
5:59 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

School Shelter Supporters Ask Supreme Court For More Time

Petitions are completed Monday evening for the Take Shelter Oklahoma organization. The group says it does not have enough signatures to put its petition on the ballot.
Petitions are completed Monday evening for the Take Shelter Oklahoma organization. The group says it does not have enough signatures to put its petition on the ballot.
Credit Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

The legal battle over the language that would allow Oklahoma voters to decide on a way to pay for tornado shelters in public schools was in court today, but it’s not known when there might be a ruling in the case.

Attorney David Slane, representing the group Take Shelter Oklahoma, told an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee that Attorney General Scott Pruitt missed his deadline to change the title of the group’s initiative petition.

“We are very confident that it caused actual confusion with the public,” Slane said. “There was a town hall meeting where a lady later said, ‘I don’t understand what’s going on with the ballot. I’m for shelters, but what does this mean?’”

Slane said that when Pruitt later changed the title, it meant lost time for gathering the nearly 160,000 signatures needed to get the proposal on the ballot.

“The law need to be very clear - you file it, they object within five days, if not, you go to work.” Slane said. “The way they did it, we lost 10 percent of the time to collect signatures. What that means is the people of Oklahoma were cheated out of 10 percent of their time.”

Slane argued the group should get another 90-day window to collect more signatures.

Assistant attorneys general representing Pruitt’s office argued they did not miss the deadline because the paperwork in the case was not properly filed. They also disagreed with Take Shelter Oklahoma’s assertion that Pruitt was influenced to obscure the goal of providing shelters for public schools in his re-written title by a $5,000 contribution from an influential member of the State Chamber of Commerce.

The bond issue that would help fund the school shelters would be paid for with revenue from the state franchise tax on Oklahoma companies. The Chamber wants to see that tax repealed. No timeline was set at today’s hearing for a decision in the case. 

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