Claremore Daily Progress

State/Nation

February 27, 2014

Consolidation plan clears House panel

CLAREMORE —

A plan to consolidate Oklahoma’s arts, history and tourism agencies into one new organization has narrowly cleared a House committee.
The House Government Modernization Committee voted 6-5 Thursday to create the new Department of Tourism, History and Cultural Affairs. The new agency would consist of the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.
House Bill 3028 was introduced by Rep. Jason Murphey (R), Guthrie. No where in the language of the bill are the Will Rogers Memorial Museum or J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum mentioned.
“This is due to the hard work of Sen. Sean Burrage and Rep. Marty Quinn,” said Wayne McCombs, J. M. Davis executive director.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mary Fallin proposed in her executive budget that the three agencies in the bill be consolidated, along with the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and the agencies that oversee the J.M. Davis and Will Rogers museums in Claremore as a cost-saving move.
Neither McCombs or Steve Gragert, Will Rogers Museum executive, has yet to be contacted by the governor’s officer or other legislators about possible consolidation.
Fallin’s consolidation supposedly would save the state 15 percent, about $4 million. Legislators have a $188 million less to spend on state services for the next fiscal year.
The J. M. Davis Museum receives $304,000 annually in state funding, according to McCombs. It has four full-time and four part-time employees. The state funds help pay for maintenance, salaries, supplies and utilities.
The Will Rogers Museum receives $740,000 in state funding, said Gragert. The museum has seven full-time and 11 part-time emplpoyees. He said that is only one more employee than it had when the museum opened in 1938, despite doubling its space.
Murphey says he hopes to keep the bill alive so legislators can continue possible agency consolidations.

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