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Oklahoma High Court Hears School Shelter Arguments

Kurt Gwartney

An attorney for supporters of an initiative petition to place storm shelters in public schools told the Oklahoma Supreme Court that Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office abused its discretion by re-writing a ballot title that he says was not legally incorrect.

The state's highest court heard oral arguments Tuesday from attorneys in the lawsuit over an initiative petition that asks voters to decide a $500 million bond issue to pay for school storm shelters.

For Take Shelter Oklahoma, the original ballot title explained that districts could add safe rooms to their schools in a way a layman could understand.

But when Attorney Pruitt revised the ballot title, Slane said it was evident Pruitt was stonewalling the shelter effort and making it about the funding mechanism as opposed to the purpose. 

David Slane, who represents supporters of the petition, says the attorney general's ballot title overemphasizes the funding method and underemphasizes the purpose of the petition.

"We are cautiously optimistic," Slane said after the hearing. "We believe they were very fair in their hearing today. And we’re here for the right reasons, for our children, and we think that’s the right thing."

The lawsuit was filed in October by Take Shelter Oklahoma and Kristi Conatzer, the mother of one of seven children killed when a tornado struck a school in Moore last May.

Supreme Court Justice James Edmondson said in the past, the court has ruled to keep the Attorney General’s wording unless it disturbed the law.

Both sides now wait to hear if Take Shelter Oklahoma will receive another 90 days to put the proposal before the voters. 


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