Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Barker Says Housing Bill to Improve State's Image / Industry Aid?

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Barker Says Housing Bill to Improve State's Image / Industry Aid?

Article excerpt

Oklahoma's image, House Speaker Jim Barker said Tuesday.

"It would help our image if we could get a fair housing bill passed," Barker said.

The presence or lack of a state fair housing law sometimes is among the quality-of-life factors that large companies consider when they are considering plant sites, Barker acknowledged.

The need to improve the Legislature's image also figured into Barker's decision to tell House members to back off on efforts to pass another bill to improve retirement benefits for elected officials. Gov. George Nigh vetoed the lawmakers' retirement bill last week.

"It's time to clean up our act," Barker said. "It would not be right to delay the session or go into a special session just to pass a retirement bill for ourselves."

With only two days left in the session, Barker said he planned to lobby some House members on behalf of the fair housing bill.

But Barker said he won't make the fair housing bill a leadership program.

"I have strong personal feelings about the fair housing bill, but I realize there are those on my leadership team that have equally strong feelings against it," Barker said.

"Quite often, women, children and minorities are discriminated against. That shouldn't happen," Barker said.

Oklahoma is one of only 10 states in the nation that does not have a fair housing law.

This week, the House voted 59-35 to send the bill back to conference with the same instructions that Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City, got approved the week before.

The main issue in the bill is whether it would protect homosexuals from housing discrimination.

Graves had expressed concern last week that the section prohibiting discrimination because of sex might be construed to embrace sexual preference. …

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