House Committee Backs Tourism Bill

Article excerpt

A proposal to earmark some state recreation tax revenues for a continuing fund to help finance public and private recreation and tourism development projects throughout Oklahoma was endorsed by a legislative panel Wednesday.

House Bill 1586 by state Rep. Joe Hutchison, D-Jay, passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations and Budget. Now it advances to the calendar for a vote by the full 101-member House sometime in the next three weeks.

The Oklahoma Recreation and Development Revolving Fund would be used to help underwrite: Development and maintenance of public recreation and tourism facilities, such as civic centers, little league baseball fields, playgrounds, etc., Hutchison said. Preparation of business plans and other research for public recreation and tourism facilities or products. Protection or preservation of lands for public tourism and recreational use or for "environmental importance or scenic beauty." Implementation of "special demonstration projects which show merit for recreation and tourism but do not fit explicitly into" another category of eligibility. Construction and operation of an Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Assistance Center (OTRAC) at one of the universities, to "serve as the focal point for recreation and tourism research and development" in the Sooner State.

Expenditures from the special fund would be limited to two-thirds of total revenues, while one-third of the money would be retained as principal, growing from interest earnings on investments.

Of the amount distributed, as much as three-fourths would be devoted to tourism and recreation grants and one-fourth would be allocated to OTRAC and special studies, Hutchison said. Expenses for administering the program would be limited by House Bill 1586 to no more than 15 percent of the annual investment income.

The grants would be awarded by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission, based on recommendations from a seven-member advisory board. …