News Column

Sewage smell motivates Oklahoma Senate

February 13, 2014

By Randy Ellis, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

Feb. 13--State Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman says senators received a sensory incentive Wednesday to vote for a proposed $160 million state Capitol repair bond issue.

While senators were discussing other legislation in the Senate chamber, the pungent aroma of raw sewage was drifting through the Capitol ventilation system.

"The smell ... was offensive," said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. "The vent was right next to my desk."

Repeated sewer line breaks and a crumbling exterior are among many problems plaguing the nearly 100-year-old state Capitol building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the proposed bond issue Wednesday.

A vote by the full Senate on the issue could come as early as next week, Bingman said.

Bingman said he has not yet had a chance to talk about the issue with new House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.

State House leaders opposed using bonds for Capitol repairs last session because they were against the state incurring additional debt.

Bingman said he doesn't know whether there will be strong House opposition this year.

The Senate drafted a bill that deals only with Capitol repairs, to keep the issue as simple as possible, even though the state has other needs such as completing Oklahoma City'sAmerican Indian Cultural Center and Museum, he said.

If approved, up to $160 million in bonds likely would be issued in stages so repairs could be made over three to five years, he said.

"I think it's important that when we start a project, we're going to finish the thing," Bingman said, citing problems that arose with the state Supreme Court building and the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.

The Legislature initially approved a $10 million bond issue to start renovating the Supreme Court building, but the renovation and expansion ended up taking 13 years and costing about $45 million.

About $91 million has been spent so far on the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, but work stopped when the project ran out of money, and its future is in limbo. Supporters want $40 million more from the Legislature to match $40 million in private contributions to complete that project.


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Source: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)

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