Thursday, May 23, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 249, a measure that will provide relief in response to the May 2013 tornadoes.
Governor Mary Fallin applauded passage of the emergency aid legislation. SB 249 will direct $45 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the Office of Emergency Management for immediate tornado relief. These funds will match a portion of the federal funds that have been allocated to local governments for their relief efforts. The funds will be administered by the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management and used to reimburse local governments for relief efforts related to natural disasters, including the May 19 and May 20 tornadoes.
“The tornadoes that struck several Oklahoma communities this week were absolutely devastating,” said Fallin. “We are currently in an all-hands-on-deck effort to recover and rebuild. My thanks go out to our Legislature for helping to ensure that communities hit hard by storm and tornado damage will have the support they need moving forward.”
Money from the fund will match 12.5 percent of federal dollars spent to reimburse counties, cities, and towns for infrastructure damages that occur under a presidential disaster declaration. It will also be used to cover extraordinary response costs incurred by state agencies while responding to natural disasters.
“We lost 26 Oklahomans and hundreds continue to suffer due to this tragedy,” said Representative John Echols, R-Oklahoman City. “It is of the greatest priority that we come together as a legislature and provide help when our people are most vulnerable. We are a strong state made of strong people. We will overcome this tragedy and we will rebuild.”
“Tragedy has once again fallen upon our great state,” said Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “Communities have been destroyed and lives have been ended, all too soon. The world has been watching and Oklahoma and has proven that we are a brave people able to unite and rise above this challenging time. I give my thanks to my fellow lawmakers for their votes.”
News outlets are predicting the total dollar amount in damage to exceed the May 3, 1999 tornado, which was greater than $1 billion. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak has made early predictions that damage could be well over $2 billion.
“The devastation that has fallen upon my district and this state is indescribable,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore. “Oklahomans are facing a great hardship and the road to recovery will be long. I applaud my fellow lawmakers for their united compassion.”
“The people of Oklahoma have placed their trust in us as elected officials,” said Rep. Jason Nelson. “With that trust comes the responsibility to do what is right. By opening our hearts and through God’s guidance, I believe this chamber’s unanimous passage of this measure reinforces our commitment to the people of this state. This legislature is united. We are Oklahomans.”
Senate Bill SB 249 passed unanimously in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma State Senate. It was authored by Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman and Representative Jason Nelson.
SB 249 will now go to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law.