Under the guise of saving the state $4 million, Gov. Mary Fallin has set in motion an effort to consolidate several agencies into one, including the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum.
She announced her intentions during her State of the State address. She wants to fold the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission with the Will Rogers and J. M. Davis Museums into the Tourism Department.
She says it will save $4 million or 15 percent. In the meantime, she plans to cut the Tourism Department by 15 percent too.
On Thursday, HB 3028 — introduced by Rep. Jason Murphey (R), Guthrie — was approved by the House Government Modernization Committee on a 6-5 vote.
Murphey’s bill would create the new Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs.
It would consist of the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
This looks to be the framework of Fallin’s consolidation desire with the exclusion of the Will Rogers and J. M. Davis Museums.
That’s good and not so good.
Murphey said he was pleased with the committee’s vote, which he is a member. He wants to keep the bill alive so his fellow legislators will continue to consider agency consolidation.
Voting for the bill were Reps. David Brumbaugh (R), Dan Fisher (R), Elise Hall (R), Jason Smalley (R), Mike Turner (R) and Murphey (R). Voting against the bill were Rep. David Derby (R), Joe Dorman (D), Richard Morrissette (D), Ken Walker (R) and Justin Wood (R).
Murphey can be reached at 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., Room 437 Oklahoma City, OK 73105 or by telephone at (800) 522-8502. His email address is email@example.com.
It’s good that Will Rogers and J. M. Davis are not included in Murphey’s bill. That is due to the hard work of Rep. Marty Quinn and Sen. Sean Burrage. And the hundreds of museum supporters who have voiced their disagreement with Gov. Fallin’s plan.
However, this is no time to stop letting the governor, Rep. Murphey and other state leaders know how these two museums are important to Claremore, Rogers County and the state. Please let them know how valuable an asset these museum’s are to the local and state economy.
How many visitors come to Oklahoma to visit the state capitol? Not as many that come to learn about the state’s favored son, Will Rogers, or see the world’s largest collection of guns.
The downside is the consolidation bill is still alive in the house and someone who doesn’t really care about Oklahoma’s culture could still incorporate Will Rogers and J. M. Davis museums into the consolidation bill. Or like in past years when the final budget deal is made in the backroom by the Republican leadership hours before Sine Die, funding for local museums could be cut.
Our support for these museums must not waiver. We must be diligent and voicing our desire to keep state funding and current oversight of the Will Rogers and J. M. Davis museums
Randy Cowling is editor of the Claremore Daily Progress.