By Mick Hinton
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The state Senate voted Wednesday to take $45 million from the state Rainy Day Fund for immediate tornado disaster relief.
Senate Bill 249 was passed unanimously in the Senate and sent to the House, where members will vote very soon to approve the measure and send it to the governor.
SB 249 was passed in response to a request by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Rep. Scott Martin, head of the powerful House Budget and Appropriations Committee, applauded the Senate’s quick action and is working to get the bill heard quickly by the House.
“I am excited and thrilled for Cleveland County,” said Martin, a Norman Republican. Each dollar the state spends in disaster aid will be matched by $3 from the federal government.
The $45 million would prompt the federal government to provide another $135 million.
The elected officials are responding to the devastation resulting from an EF5 tornado that hit much of Moore on Monday. At least 24 people were killed and more than 200 injured. Additionally, a tornado in eastern Cleveland County earlier in the week killed two men and damaged dozens of homes in the Bethel Acres area.
It has been projected that the damage from Monday’s storm could exceed that of May 3, 1999, which topped $1 billion.
While the lawmakers have been scrambling at the Capitol to authorize funding from the state Rainy Day Fund, Rep. Mark McBride has spent his weekdays in his district. McBride’s House district was the one receiving the most damage.
Republican McBride concluded that he was needed by his constituents, trying to help coordinate efforts and also to provide the tour for Fallin and U.S. senators and representatives who toured the disaster site on Tuesday.
“I left the Capitol just as soon as I thought I could get to my district,” McBride said. The home of his parents, Jim and Frankie McBride, was destroyed. But his parents were not injured.
On the Senate side, Moore Sen. Anthony Sykes represents the Senate district where Monday’s tornado was the deadliest and caused the greatest destruction.
“This is extremely important for the people of Senate District 24 who were so greatly affected by the tornado,” Sykes said in a news release.
“The Senate vote to enable the use of these emergency funds is a critical part of the relief effort. I thank my fellow members for their support, and I thank our fellow citizens throughout the state who have reached out to those impacted by this devastating storm.”
Brian Bingman, head of the state Senate, said, “This is an absolutely heart breaking tragedy, but we know these are strong communities full of resilient and tough Oklahomans.”
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft’s House district also was badly damaged.
Republican Wesselhoft said he is trying to keep tabs on the numerous private donations being made by corporations. Thus far, the private sector has pledged about $16 million, he said.
That money coupled with a federal, state and local match could produce the more than $1 billion needed.
“I think we can make it,” Wesselhoft said.