Greater Oklahoma City Chamber - The Business Advocate - March 10, 2017

The Business Advocate - March 10, 2017

View the 2017 Chamber Legislative Agenda

Business Advocate Newsletter

March 10, 2017
Inside this issue
 
  Introduction  
 

This edition of the Greater OKC Chamber's Legislative Update covers activity at the Oklahoma State Capitol that occurred before, and immediately after, the first Legislative Deadline of the 2017 Session. By March 2, Senate bills had to be passed by a Senate committee and House bills by a House committee to advance within the legislative process. The legislature had a productive first month - approximately 400 House bills and 400 Senate bills (out of an initial 2,242) were passed by a committee and remain alive.

Legislative achievements early in the session include the protection of key economic development incentives from efforts to repeal, scale-back or cap certain programs and the signing into law of Real ID Legislation that will prevent Oklahomans from having to possess a passport or military I.D. to board commercial aircraft, access a U.S. military installation or enter federal government buildings. Additionally, substantive discussions continue on teacher pay raises and the Chamber remains fully engaged in efforts to oppose troubling gun legislation, advance and protect key criminal justice reforms, and oppose measures that would give businesses, cities and counties a license to discriminate.

 

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  Key Incentive Programs Protected for Additional Year  
 

Several measures were introduced by Senator Joe Newhouse (R-Tulsa) that, if enacted, would have hurt economic and community development programs utilized by the Chamber. These measures were not heard before the committee deadline and failed to advance this session.

The following bills failed to advance:

  • SB 553 (Sen. Newhouse) would have repealed the Aerospace Engineer Tuition Reimbursement Tax Credit for employers on July 1, 2017;
  • SB 556 (Sen. Newhouse) would have capped the Historical Rehabilitation Tax Credit at $5 million annually; and,
  • SB 554 (Sen. Newhouse) would have sunset the Oklahoma Quality Events Incentive Act

Another positive development on incentives has been the advancement of legislation to protect and extend the Aerospace Engineering Tax Credit.  The Chamber is supportive of SB 120 by Senator Kim David (R-Porter) that would ensure the Aerospace Engineering Credit is available until 2026.  SB 120 was passed in Senate committee and will next be considered by the full Senate.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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  Governor Signs REAL ID Legislation  
 

The Chamber supported legislation to bring Oklahoma into compliance with the federal REAL ID law. Because of swift action from state leaders, Oklahoma residents will not, as of January 2018, be required to possess a federal ID such as a passport or military ID to fly commercially or to access military installations or federal buildings. HB 1845 by Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-Altus) was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R-Tecumseh) on March 2.

The Chamber applauds Gov. Fallin, Speaker McCall, Senate President Pro Tempore Schulz and legislators for achieving a swift solution on REAL ID early in the 2017 session.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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  Deliberations Continue on Teacher Pay Increase  
 

Legislators are continuing to deliberate on a course of action to provide teachers with a pay raise. A number of measures are working their way through the process that would provide a pay raise of varying levels to teachers. However, the challenge remains how to fund a pay increase with a nearly $900 million budget shortfall.

While a half dozen measures providing teacher pay increases have advanced from a Senate committee, HB 1114 by Rep. Michael Rogers (R-Broken Arrow), chairman of the House Education Committee, appears to have the most legislative momentum at this time. HB 1114 is an incremental plan to increase teacher pay by $6,000 over three years by providing a $1,000 increase in 2017; a $2,000 increase in 2018; and a $3,000 increase in 2019. The Chamber is supportive of HB 1114 as a reasonable plan to increase teacher pay. On March 7, HB 1114 passed the full House 92-7 and is available to be heard in Senate committee.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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  Chamber Works to Successfully Reduce Number of Troubling Gun Measures  
 

The Chamber continues to lead a broad-based coalition (Oklahomans for Business and Property Owners' Rights) composed of 50 businesses, associations, universities and law enforcement groups formed to oppose the irresponsible expansion of gun rights in a manner that would be detrimental to economic development.

The session began with 49 gun expansion bills; however, significant progress has been made and only 15 measures remain, including several innocuous hunting bills. Although there are several troubling bills that are still alive, the Chamber and its partners have been successful in stopping many of the bills that would: 1) impact business owner's rights; 2) allow guns on college campuses; 3) allow guns to be carried into high-economic impact events; and, 4) prevent law enforcement from protecting the public's safety.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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  Key Criminal Justice Measures Advance  
 

Progress continues toward enacting substantial, common sense reforms to improve the way Oklahoma approaches incarceration of non-violent criminals. Two measures recommended by the Chamber's Criminal Justice Taskforce have advanced. Legislation authored by Senator David Holt (R-Oklahoma City) would do the following:

  • SB 363 (Sen. Holt): Authorizes special judges to sign pretrial release orders. Special district court judges are commonly called on in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties to handle a growing number of criminal cases. Under current state law, district judges and associate district judges have authority to sign pre-trial release orders. However, the law is ambiguous on whether special judges have that authority. Granting this clear authority would allow special judges to sign a pre-trial release order for low-level offenders who are costing taxpayer money and contributing to an overcrowded prison environment (Oklahoma County jail is at nearly double capacity).
  • SB 342 (Sen. Holt): Creates a task force to perform statewide assessments of fines, fees and costs imposed on individuals interacting with the criminal justice system and identify which agencies depend on those funds. The fines, fees and costs associated with incarceration are an overwhelming burden to lower-level offenders who, upon release, must pay back the cost of their incarceration in the form of fees and fines. The status quo generates a revolving door for inmates who frequently find themselves back in a jail cell for failing to timely pay all fines, fees and costs.

Both, SB 363 and SB 342 were passed unanimously by Senate Public Safety Committee and are now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor. The Chamber will continue to actively engage with the legislature to advance these critical reforms.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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  Chamber Works to Protect Criminal Justice Reforms Approved by Voters Last November  
 

The Chamber is also actively working to protect key reforms that were overwhelmingly approved by Oklahomans in November 2016. These reforms, contained in State Questions 780 and 781, would allow rehabilitation instead of incarceration of those addicted to drugs by reclassifying simple drug possession to a misdemeanor rather than a felony. While there are a number of positive bills on criminal justice reform being considered by the legislature this year, there are several bills proposing to "undo" the key reforms contained in SQ's 780 and 781, both of which were supported by the Chamber. The Chamber will work to preserve the changes voters approved in the State Questions.

In addition, the Chamber is supportive of the recommendations of the Governor's Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform, which is also pursuing legislative changes. Of those, eight Senate bills and four House bills have been passed by a committee and remain alive. Should all of those reforms be enacted, all projected prison system growth will be stopped and Oklahoma's prison population would be reduced by 2 percent. The reforms would save 7,830 prison bed nights by 2026 and avert the immediate need to build new prisons.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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  Chamber Opposes Legislation Giving Businesses and Cities a License to Discriminate  
 

Senator Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow) and Senator Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate) have both introduced measures (SB 197 and SB 694) that would give individuals, municipalities and counties a license to discriminate against those with whom they disagree regarding their lifestyle or sexual orientation. The severe economic impacts experienced by North Carolina and Indiana after they passed similar measures should serve as a clear warning to Oklahoma legislators that taking this path will have devastating consequences for economic development activity and hurt Oklahoma's image in the eyes of companies, sports associations, conventions and others looking to invest in our state.

Even though these bills were approved in Senate committee, title has been taken off each of these measures, meaning that neither bill can achieve final passage or become state law in its current form. The Chamber is hopeful that SB 197 and SB 694 will not be heard by the full Senate.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

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