OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed 15 bills on Tuesday that she said were unnecessary or didn't have a meaningful public purpose and urged lawmakers to focus their efforts on the major issues affecting the state.
"Unfortunately, the progress has stalled at the Capitol," Fallin told reporters. "I'm asking the Legislature to work with me."
With less than five weeks remaining before the Legislature must adjourn, Fallin challenged lawmakers, particularly members of the Oklahoma House, to move forward on issues that are key to her legislative agenda. Such issues include repairing the Capitol building, enabling school districts to raise money for storm shelters, the long-term solvency of Oklahoma's pension system and prescription drug abuse prevention.
The Senate passed legislation that would authorize up to $160 million in bonds to repair and renovate the nearly 100-year-old Capitol building, but the House defeated it.
"They need to pass a bond issue to repair the Capitol, and they need to do it immediately," said Fallin, a first-term Republican who is seeking re-election.
"We can't ignore these big issues," said Fallin, who urged lawmakers to "step it up."
In an emailed statement, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said members of the 101-member House have worked hard to move forward with what he described as Fallin's "aggressive agenda," but that winning legislative approval "requires developing relationships with legislators across the state."
"The House, for the second time in the three years she has requested it, voted on Gov. Fallin's plan to renovate the Capitol with a bond issue," Hickman said. "For the third time, the House has said her plan is not acceptable, yet today the governor is still calling on members to support her plan.
He said House members "are closest to the people" and have listened to their concerns about the bond issue proposal and other pressing issues.
"We know there are serious issues left to resolve and the House intends to work every day, regardless of political rhetoric, to have a successful session for the people of Oklahoma," he said.
Hickman said House members worked hard to pass a personal income tax cut that Fallin requested and signed into law on Monday. He said the House has also passed pension reform legislation and a public referendum on a plan to pay for school tornado shelters.
But Fallin said many of the measures appear to be bottlenecked in joint House-Senate conference committees. She said legislative leaders are also making little progress on a budget proposal for the upcoming year.
"We have a responsibility to govern," Fallin said.
The 15 measures Fallin vetoed all originated in the House and included a bill involving federally required certifications for the transfer or manufacture of firearms that she said was an attempt by the Legislature to regulate a federal agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"This bill serves no significant interest of the citizens of the state of Oklahoma," Fallin said in her veto message.
The bill's author, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, denied that the measure is an attempt to regulate the ATF.
"To say I'm regulating the ATF shows extreme ignorance of the actual subject-matter of the bill," said Turner, a candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat.
Turner said he and other House members are concerned about who is behind the governor's agenda and are considering veto override efforts for his and the other vetoed bills.
"The House will not be bullied by groups that are unhappy with our fiscal restraint and our fiscal responsibility," Turner said.