Grego Prison Rodeo bill passes state House vote

Mar. 9—District 17 State Rep. Jim Grego, R-Wilburton, herded his House Bill 3749 through passage by a full House vote this week.

It marks a major step forward in ongoing efforts to return the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Prison Rodeo to McAlester.

Passage of Grego's bill through a full House vote is considered a huge development in efforts to revive the OSP Prison Rodeo.

"I can't tell you the excitement," said Oklahoma Department of Corrections Chief Administrator of State Institutions Jim Farris of HB 3749 clearing the House.

"I'm excited for McAlester and the people of Oklahoma," said Farris, a former warden at OSP and the Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester.

The next step is for Grego's House bill to go to the state Senate for consideration. Although Grego's bill does not currently include a dollar amount, he said he is seeking $8.3 million for the Prison Rodeo Revolving Fund — an amount that would have to be added during the appropriations process.

At the same time, Senate Bill 1427 by Sen. Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, that would provide $8.3 million to help bring the OSP Prison Rodeo back to McAlester, passed through a full Senate Committee last Thursday.

As of late this week, SB 1427 awaited further Senate action.

Grego said once the Senate takes action on HB 3749, it will come back to the House if any potential differences need to be reconciled.

Included now along with Grego as sponsors of HB 3749 are District 7 State Sen. Warren Hamilton, of McCurtain, along with District 18 State Rep. David Smith, Rep. Justin Humphrey, and Sen. Casey Murdock.

Grego's HB 3749 passed Thursday afternoon by a vote of 64-29, meaning 64 state representatives voted "yea" in favor of the measure and 29 state reps voted "nay" or against passage of the bill.

With eight members of the 101-member state House of Representatives absent, the measure was decided by the 93 House members in attendance when the vote was taken.

Those voting to pass Grego's bill included 61 Republicans and three Democrats for the 64-vote majority.

Those opposing passage of HB 3749 included 15 Democrats and 14 Republicans, for the 29 votes in opposition to the measure.

HB 3749 is described in legislative documents as "An act relating to prisons and reformatories; creating the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Prison Rodeo Revolving Fund: making (the) revolving fund continuing and not subject to fiscal year limitations; stating purpose of revolving fund; making expenditures subject to warrants; providing for codification and declaring an emergency."

Farris has said many times he is determined to see the prison rodeo return to OSP.

ODOC Director Steve Harpe is also supporting the OSP Prison Rodeo's return to McAlester. He included a request for $8.3 million for the OSP Rodeo Arena in his initial ODOC budget presented earlier this year to the state Legislature.

In addition, ODOC has already invested approximately $1 million to begin the process of restoring the OSP Prison Rodeo arena and some of the concrete seating inside it, corrections officials said.

Prior to the OSP Prison Rodeo's cancellation by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 2010, it drew thousands of visitors, including locally and from around the state and the nation, to McAlester for the annual event.