OKLAHOMA CITY — OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House reversed itself Thursday night and narrowly passed a plan it had earlier defeated to help school districts pay for safety upgrades such as storm shelters and safe rooms.
House members voted 51-39 for the plan supported by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. It takes a minimum of 51 votes to pass a bill in the 101-member House. House members had defeated the proposal hours earlier by a bipartisan vote of 61-34. The measure now heads to the Senate.
Among the legislators who changed their vote to support the shelter bill was State Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan. State Reps. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, and Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, voted against the measure again.
The bill's author, Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, had kept the measure alive by holding it over for possible reconsideration, and House members indicated Fallin's office had urged members of the majority GOP caucus to change their previous no votes.
"Now all of a sudden you're being told to flip your vote," Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, said during debate on the bill's reconsideration. Armes originally voted against the bill but voted for it on reconsideration.
Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, a Democratic candidate for governor, urged House members to stick by their prior votes.
"We took action on this earlier and that action should stand," said Dorman, who helped spearhead a separate initiative petition calling for a statewide referendum on a $500 million proposal to pay for school storm shelters with revenue from a franchise tax on businesses.
The House took up the proposed constitutional amendment two days after the anniversary of a massive tornado that struck Moore and killed seven students at an elementary school.
Fallin, who had criticized lawmakers when they first defeated the bill, praised them for finally passing it.