OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – We all send our kids to school, but many Oklahomans have seen the devastation that can happen there since the May 20th tornado.
A Moore mother, Kristi Conatzer, along with Take Shelter Oklahoma is working to get shelters in all state schools, but the group is running into obstacles when it comes to getting the measure on the ballot for voters to decide.
Conatzer’s little girl, Emily, was in Plaza Towers Elementary the day the storm hit.
“You walk up there, and you don’t think you’re going to find anybody,” said Conatzer. “Emily never made it out.”
Now Conatzer faces a bureaucratic storm.
Walking into the Supreme Court Thursday, she along with Take Shelter Oklahoma files papers to start the process of suing the Attorney General’s Office.
“It shouldn’t be left up to a group of elitist politicians to make our decisions for us,” said Conatzer.
The decision Take Shelter Oklahoma wants voters to make: should Okla. schools have storm shelters?
A cost of $500 million in franchise tax money.
“You know now these schools are not save, and these kids are in there,” said Conatzer.
The group of tornado victims wrote their proposal that voters would read on the ballot, and they issued it to the Attorney General.
However, the Attorney General changed the wording, telling News Channel Four there were inconsistencies.
“He wants to talk more about the franchise tax than about shelters for children,” said David Slane.
Slane is one attorney for Take Shelter Oklahoma. He says Conatzer is suing the AG’s OFfice because it did not submit the written ballot proposal within the five days the law requires.
“If we have to go to the Supreme Court and fight the highest levels of government because he wants to play politics with children’s safety, that’s what we’ll do,” said Slane. “because the people have a say. They’re going to have the right to vote, and they ought to have it on a petition that’s not misleading.”
Standing in the whirlwind, Conatzer thinks of Emily and her six classmates who could have used a shelter.
“We have their memories left and their pictures left, but this is their legacy,” said Conatzer. “These little kids died for this.”
However it ends up on the ballot, she wants shelters to end up in schools.
Take Shelter Oklahoma’s ballot proposal reads:
“This measure amends the Oklahoma COnstitution. It adds a new Section 44 to Article 10. Bonds could be sold. Up to Five HUndred Million Dollars ($500,000,000.00) COuld be available. Bond money would be used for school districts and career technology districts. Bond money would be used for storm shelters or secure areas. State franchise taxes would repay these bonds. If money from franchise tax was not enough, the Legislature could use the General Revenue Fund to repay the bonds. State bond money could be used by school districts or career technology districts to reduce local debt or eliminate local debt incurred for storm shelters or secure areas. If enough money from franchise tax remains after state bonds are paid for, the balance of franchise tax could be used for grants for storm shelters for people and businesses. When state bonds are paid off, additional bonds could be sold to keep the programs funded. Laws would be written for details about using bond money. State agencies could make rules about state bond money. These rules would have the effect of law. The Oklahoma Constitution is being amended to allow state bond money to pay for shelters and secure areas in schools.”
The Attorney General’s ballot proposal reads:
“This measure adds Article 10, Section 44 to the Oklahoma Constitution. The new Section authorizes the issuance of up to 500 million dollars in State bonds. The bond money would be used by local school districts and career technology districts for storm shelters and campus security. The measure does not provide for new State revenues to pay for the bonds. Under the measure State franchise tax revenues would no longer go into the General Revenue Fund, which is the primary fund used to pay for State Government. Rather, franchise tax revenues would be used for annual bond payments (principal and interest). In any year in which the franchise tax revenues are not sufficient to make annual payments, the Legislature, at its discretion, could use General Revenue Fund monies to make the annual bond payment. In years in which not all the franchise tax revenues are needed to make payments, the remaining franchise tax revenues – with Legislative approval- could be used for storm shelter grants to individuals and businesses.”
To see the Attorney General’s changes and paperwork, click here.