The ballot title for a $500 million state bond issue for school safe rooms was properly rewritten and any suggestion of a Republican conspiracy against the plan is “utter hogwash,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office said in court documents filed Friday.
Pruitt’s office filed its response with the Oklahoma Supreme Court over a challenge to his rewrite of the ballot title. In it, he accuses the plaintiffs in the case of grandstanding and says the ballot title was rewritten to more adequately explain the effect of the proposition.
The plaintiffs in the case are Take Shelter Oklahoma and Kristi Conatzer, the mother of one of seven children killed in May when a tornado hit Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore. That group is gathering the roughly 160,000 signatures of registered voters it needs to place the proposal on the ballot. The plan calls for a $500 million state bond issue that would help public school districts pay for storm shelters or safe rooms. The existing franchise tax on Oklahoma businesses would be used to pay off the bonds. Any leftover funds could be used for grants to individuals and businesses to build storm shelters, according to the proposal.
But supporters have challenged Pruitt’s rewrite of the ballot title. They claim Pruitt, a Republican, intentionally rewrote the ballot title so it would fail because he opposes the use funds from the state’s franchise tax to pay for the plan.
In Pruitt’s response, Senior Attorney General Neal Leader disputed any such allegation and accused the plaintiff’s attorneys of “an exercise of pure theater.”
“The suggestion that there is a Republican conspiracy and that there is a connection between the ballot title and the people’s right to vote on a proposal are utter hogwash!” Leader wrote.
In a separate filing, Leader also asked the court to either disregard or deny the plaintiff’s motion to have Pruitt removed from the case.
“This shameless attempt to grandstand and play to the media should be overruled because neither the law nor the alleged facts provide a basis for ‘recusal’ from this case,” the filing states.
The attorney general also maintains there is no legal basis for the court to grant the plaintiffs a new 90-day window to begin gathering signatures.
The plaintiff’s lead attorney, David Slane, did not immediately return a telephone message left at his Oklahoma City office.
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