The Edmond Sun

January 7, 2013

Legislators look to fund M.E.'s office, other state assets

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — The political will for funding the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is better than ever, said state Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond.

No longer is the debate about whether Oklahoma needs a facility to be built in Edmond. Senate Bill 1337 in 2010 agreed to place the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in close proximity to the UCO Forensic Science Institute and the OSBI crime lab.

Grau recently accompanied a group of freshman legislators on a tour of the current facility. Without funds for the move, the ME’s office has remained on the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus at 901 N. Stonewall in Oklahoma City.

“Now we just have to determine the funding mechanism,” Grau said.

Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon added momentum for funding the $42 million ME’s office in Edmond recently when he said all options for funding should be on the table.

The ME’s office lost its accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners in 2009 and has fired two chief medical examiners in two years. The association issued a report noting the deficiencies result from an inadequate staff due to a lack of funding. Also, the agency’s equipment and facilities are obsolete, the association’s report stated.

“We can get re-accredited and put the issue behind us and move on to the other capital improvements that we need to address,” Grau said.

A long-term plan and funding source should be developed to preserve state-owned assets that need repair or replacement, Grau said.

“We don’t have a long-term plan like ODOT does for roads and bridges,” Grau said.

The Capitol itself needs an estimated $135 million to $150 million in repairs, according to the governor’s office. Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas has pointed out that the Jim Thorpe building where she offices is in disrepair. Every year, the heating and cooling system breaks down.

Legislators will convene at noon today for Organization Day, according to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Organization Day is a constitutionally required day for the Oklahoma House to meet, certify the members of recently elected 54th Oklahoma Legislature and then nominate and vote on a new House Speaker and Speaker Pro-Tem for the upcoming legislative session that begins in February. | 341-2121, ext. 114