Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: April 24, 2008
Sen. Don Barrington
Barrington Wants People's
Vote on Disaster Relief Funding
Oklahomans could vote this fall to change
how the state handles funds from the Constitutional Reserve Fund,
commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund, following natural disaster
declarations. Sen. Don
Barrington said his amendment to HB 1519, both of which the
Senate approved Tuesday, would get communities and counties their
money faster following natural disasters.
"Luckily on May 3, 1999, when the largest tornado in history
swept through central Oklahoma, the Legislature was in session so
they could vote to appropriate money to help those communities like
Moore that were affected. But when disasters strike at other times
of the year, communities and counties are forced to wait on their
funding," said Barrington, principal Senate author of HB 1519.
"We have not been fulfilling our obligation to counties and
communities struck by disasters and it's important that we get them
their funding as soon as possible so they can be whole again."
Rep. Joe Dorman is the principal author of HB 1519 and worked
with Barrington on the language for the amendment.
“Politics should not come into play when we have a disaster
on hand that needs immediate attention,” said Dorman, D-Rush
Springs. “The Rainy Day Fund is our account for emergencies
and this will take care of the funding problem for the disaster
and also not require the legislators to return to a costly special
session if after May or before February.”
Barrington noted that Comanche County just recently received $5.25
million in disaster relief funding from the state for an ice storm
that occurred in December 2000.
"This is only one example of many. Think about how much building
supplies and other products have increased in price since 2000.
In essence, Comanche County lost money because the state didn't
do its job in a timely manner. They can't do the same things with
that money that they could have had they received it right after
the disaster," said Barrington, R-Lawton. "This constitutional
change would ensure that counties and communities get the funding
they need in a more timely manner."
When federal disaster relief funding is offered to the state,
in order to receive the full funding the state must match 12.5 percent.
Counties and communities are responsible for another 12.5 percent
while FEMA takes care of the remaining 75 percent in costs.
Barrington's amendment would require that the state’s part
be paid from the Rainy Day Fund within 30 days of the Oklahoma Department
of Emergency Management determining the appropriate amount for that
fiscal year. That amount would have to be paid prior to any other
withdrawals from the Fund. The Contingency Review Board would be
able to approve or disapprove the payment based on availability
of funds without an appropriation from the Legislature. The Legislature
would still be able to pass laws to regulate the use of the funds,
as long as those laws did not lessen federal disaster relief money
for the state.
“This has been a team effort on finding a way to immediately
fund the match that FEMA requires from the state,” said Dorman.
“Senators Barrington, Corn and I examined ways to provide
this funding to the entities that qualify and this seemed like the
obvious choice. The amount cannot be questioned due to the federal
allocation, so we are required to spend this definite amount for
the 12.5 percent match.”
The measure is now awaiting consideration in the House.
For more information
Sen. Barrington's Office: (405) 521-5563