Each year as the legislative session draws to a close, leaders of each caucus are asked to grade the session and discuss which measures they see as victories or defeats. But as the Senate approached final adjournment, President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Minority Leader Sean Burrage agreed that analysis should come later. For now, they said, it was important to remain focused on supporting fellow Oklahomans who were still hurting from May’s deadly tornadoes.
Over the course of two days, 26 people were killed, including 10 children. Hundreds more were injured, and thousands left homeless. The projected cost of the Moore tornado alone is expected to be more than $2 billion.
“The events of the past week have reminded us all of the importance of family, of community, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with one another in the face of tragedy,” Bingman said. “Politics as usual seems so trivial in this moment. Thankfully, the Legislature has united to send immediate disaster relief assistance to these communities, and to provide appropriate tax credit assistance to the families struggling to piece their lives back together. These are small but meaningful steps. They will make a difference in people’s lives, and frankly, other hot button political topics can wait. There will be a time to talk politics – but that time is not now. For today, the members of the Senate want to set aside the traditional end-of-session critique, and instead, direct our thoughts and prayers to our fellow Oklahomans.”
In the final days of the session, members of the Senate moved quickly to approve Senate Bill 249, authorizing the use of $45 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for tornado relief. That was followed by the passage of Senate Bill 330, which authorized tax credits to offset the cost of replacing homes and vehicles destroyed in the storms, as well as measures to assist businesses impacted by the tornadoes and those donating to victims.
“We will have plenty of time to tally up political wins and losses. Today, the only losses that matter are those borne by our fellow Oklahomans who have felt first-hand the impact of these devastating tornadoes,” Burrage said. “As Senators, we are public servants. But our service to Oklahoma has been dwarfed by the work of the first responders, teachers, volunteers, and even survivors who came forward to help their neighbors in this time of inconceivable need. I’m sure I speak for many when I say our thoughts and prayers for safety, comfort, and peace are with those who have suffered such great losses in the recent days.”
Oklahomans wishing to help with the ongoing relief efforts can contact the American Red Cross in Oklahoma City at 405-228-9500 or in Shawnee at 405-273-8800 or online at www.redcross.org. Donations are also being accepted by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma at 405-972-1111 or by going to www.regionalfoodbank.org. They can also donate to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund for long-term needs of tornado victims by calling the United Way of Central Oklahoma at 405-236-8441, or donate online at www.unitedwayokc.org.