MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

September 4, 2013

State senators return to missing Capitol offices

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Several state senators are conducting business without an office during this week’s special legislative session while renovation of the 100-year-old State Capitol continues.

Stacks of office furniture lined Senate hallways on Wednesday as legislators returned to the Capitol for the second day of a special session to address changes to the state’s laws about how lawsuits are filed and litigated in Oklahoma.

The House and Senate had already moved forward with plans to renovate and remodel office spaces and committee rooms as part of a $7 million face-lift to the building when Gov. Mary Fallin called legislators back into session. Because the special session wasn’t expected when the Legislature adjourned in May, the offices of several members already had been stripped down to the concrete.

Sen. Charles Wyrick, who spent time Wednesday working in a small office and sharing a desk with his executive assistant, said he doesn’t mind the lack of an office, but it rankles him that the Legislature appropriated $7 million for renovations, technology upgrades and new office space.

“My whole beef with the deal is why I don’t have an office to start with — it’s because we took $7 million and started remodeling an area of the Capitol,” said Wyrick, D-Fairland. “I can have an office in my car if I need to ... but the reason I’m displaced is that we’re spending money on this when we have needs that are unmet for the citizens.”

Like Wyrick, several other senators are sharing space with Senate staff on the third floor of the Capitol, while four were moved to vacant office space on the sixth floor of the building.

Sen. Connie Johnson, who was moved to the sixth floor, said her constituents often have a difficult time finding her office, tucked away at the top of a staircase in space once occupied by Republican leadership staff. But she said she and others are making the best of the situation.

Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said someone jokingly removed a few stenciled letters on the door that once read “Republican Leadership Staff,” so that it now reads “Public Leadership Staff.”

Meanwhile, about a dozen Republican members in the House have been moved to vacant office space on the first floor of the Capitol.

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