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$18 million for OKPOP 'held hostage' in House

A dispute between Oklahoma's House and Senate led to the demise of a bill that would have brought the museum halfway to its fundraising goal.

Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget chairman.

A bill that would have given OKPOP Museum half of the money it still needs to be fully funded is currently dead in the Oklahoma Legislature thanks to an unrelated dispute between the House and Senate.

Senate Bill 22X would have given the museum $18 million toward its funding goal of $36 million to open. The bill passed out of the Senate with bipartisan support before the Legislature’s special session reconvened Monday.

But Rep. John Waldron (D-Tulsa) confirmed Monday that members of the House nixed the bill. He said he was told by other members it was because the Senate killed a House bill concerning judicial evaluations.

“OKPOP was held hostage in the end on the House side, then, because of something the Senate had done,” Waldron said.

While two bills giving nearly $38 million to the Oklahoma Historical Society and putting $18 million in the OKPOP revolving fund technically give the museum the money, SB 22X still must pass the Governor’s desk before the money can be used.

“The revolving fund does not exist” because the bill hasn’t been signed into law, Oklahoma Historical Society Director Trait Thompson said. The museum operates under the Historical Society.

Thompson said he and others at the historical society are conferring with the Oklahoma attorney general’s office about the revolving fund not being enacted.

In an emailed statement, House Budget and Appropriations Chairman Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) said there were several members of the House Republican supermajority who were concerned about SB 22X. He said the Historical Society received a combined $84 million from the state this year, which he said was "a large increase in funding."

"There are other ways to accomplish this than this bill," Wallace's statement reads.

However, Wallace said the House is waiting on the Senate to reconvene in special session to fulfill the Legislature's budget agreement.

When asked if Tulsa’s representatives have discussed how to move forward, Waldron said they’ve been in “pause mode” since the end of regular session.

The museum sits across the street from Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Once open, it will highlight the achievements of Oklahomans who have contributed to popular culture, including Kings of Leon, The Gap Band, Bill Hader and Alfre Woodard.

The museum has launched a $36 million fundraising campaign with the goal of a grand opening by the end of 2024.

Waldron said thanks to the contributions Tulsa alone has made to pop culture, the museum would serve the city well.

“Look at the potential — the cultural contributions that Tulsa has made to music, to the arts, to culture, is enormous, and this puts us on the map,” Waldron said.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.