Ok Legislature Approves Race Riot Commission Funding

Wednesday, June 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A bill appropriating $250,000 to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission received easy approval in the Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday after the start of a special legislative session.

The commission has until Feb. 28, 2001, to submit a final report to the Legislature on its investigation into the 1921 rampage that destroyed Tulsa's black business district. Historians believe as many as 300 people died in the white mob's attack, although some dispute that.

The funding was included in a bill designed to ensure that tobacco settlement money is funneled into a special trust fund.

There was no debate on the bill, which passed 35-8 and headed for the House for final action.

Earlier in the week, commission member Pete Churchwell said a private fund-raising effort would be launched if lawmakers did not provide funding above the panel's original $50,000 allocation.

Churchwell said consultants aiding the group's assigned task to study and report on the riot have gone unpaid and uncompensated for airfare and other expenses.

The Legislature extended the panel last session, but Gov. Frank Keating vetoed a section of a bill designed to fund it. Under that measure, the commission would have received the first $250,000 from any other vetoed appropriations measures.

Keating said the section violated the separation of power sbetween executive and legislative branches. He then placed funding for the commission on the special session agenda.

Churchwell estimates it will cost about $100,000 to pay what is owed to consultants, finish the 250 to 300-page report and print it. The rest of the appropriation would presumably go toward a race riot memorial.