The Business Advocate - March 29, 2018

View the 2018 Chamber Legislative Agenda

Business Advocate Newsletter

 

March 29, 2018
Inside this issue
 
  Introduction  
 

The second deadline of the 2018 session occurred on March 15 when House bills had to be approved by the full House and Senate bills had to be approved by the full Senate. Following the deadline, 840 measures remain active for further consideration. House bills will now be sent to Senate committees for consideration and Senate bills will be advanced to House committees.

On March 26, the full House voted to pass a revenue increase for the first time since 1990, and, on March 28, the full Oklahoma State Senate passed the bill.  This bill, HB 1010xx, will provide teachers, education support personnel and state workers with a significant pay increase.

This report covers legislative and Chamber activity immediately preceding and following the March 15 deadline on: 1) revenue raising measures to fund teacher pay increases; 2) the Chamber's opposition to State Question 788 - Medicinal Marijuana; 3) the status of legislation to expand gun rights; and, 4) a positive development regarding an onerous discrimination bill that was not heard by the deadline in the Senate.

 

Top

  Historic Revenue Measure to Provide Teachers, Support Staff and State Employees Pay Increase Passed By Legislature, Signed by Governor  
 

The House voted on March 26 to pass a major revenue bill and, on March 28, the Senate passed the same bill. Under State Question 640, approved by Oklahoma voters in 1992, revenue raising measures require a supermajority of 75 percent to become law (76 votes in the House and 36 in the Senate). HB1010xx was passed 79-19 by the House and 36-10 by the Senate and was signed into law on March 29 by Governor Mary Fallin (R-Tecumseh). The bill will provide additional revenues to increase pay for teachers, support staff and other state employees. Achieving teacher pay raises of at least $5,000 a year has been a top priority for the Chamber and HB1010xx accomplishes that priority.

This revenue package was rolled out ahead of a scheduled April 2 strike by teachers and state employees after previous attempts to raise revenue failed to receive 76 votes in the House. It appears the planned strike by teachers on April 2 may still occur, but as of this writing, we don't expect it to last more than a day or two.

HB 1010xx also included the following revenue increases:

  • Increases the Gross Production Tax from 2 percent to 5 percent
  • Imposes a $5 per night hotel/motel tax
  • Levies a $1.00 per pack cigarette tax.
  • Increases gasoline tax by $.03 and diesel tax by $.06.

The passage of this measure in both chambers was followed by passage of a series of nine additional bills that were dependent upon the passage of HB1010xx. Most significant among them is HB1023xx, which passed 91-8, and will provide starting teachers an average $5,000 pay raise and those with over 25 years teaching experience an additional $7,000-8,000. HB1024xx, will provide other state employees a pay raise, and HB1026xx will provide a raise for school support staff.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

Top

  Provision to Increase State Hotel/Motel Tax Repealed in House  
 

The Chamber, which operates the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, was troubled by the inclusion of a $5 per night hotel/motel tax in HB 1010xx. However, we are pleased to report an agreement has been reached by legislative leadership to pass trailer legislation to repeal the tax. Pursuant to that agreement, the House voted 69-26 to repeal the hotel/motel tax on Thursday afternoon. It is expected the Senate will vote to repeal the tax on Monday. The Chamber and CVB worked with partners, including other chambers/CVB's, hoteliers and members of the Oklahoma tourism and hospitality industry to achieve this result.

Currently, Oklahoma City has the 71st highest occupancy tax in the country; however, a $5 increase would catapult Oklahoma City into charging the highest occupancy tax of the top 150 largest cities in the United States. Additionally, Tulsa would move up to #3 on that list. With Oklahoma City set to break ground on a $194 million state-of-the-art convention center and the 17-story, 605 room Omni convention center hotel this summer (both are expected to open in 2020), such a tax would have significantly impacted our ability to recruit conventions to these facilities. 

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

Top

  Chamber Opposes State Question 788 - Medicinal Marijuana  
 

The Chamber is opposed to State Question 788 - allowing the use of Medical Marijuana, which will be on the ballot on June 26. The Chamber is not principally opposed to medical marijuana, however, the question voters will consider has been drafted so broadly as to provide no restrictions on the conditions for which it could be prescribed or the type of doctor who could prescribe it. And, even more importantly, it gives employers no protection on their ability to maintain and enforce a drug-free work place - which creates concerns in the areas of liability, workers' comp and other issues that must be addressed. The Chamber will be vigilant in working with legislators and other interested parties to pass specific legislation to protect employer rights in the event voters approve SQ 788.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

Top

  "Oklahomans for Business and Property Owners' Rights" Continues Effort to Defeat Harmful Gun Legislation  
 

The 2018 session began with 83 troubling gun measures available to be considered by the legislature to expand gun rights in Oklahoma. Of those, only 14 troubling gun bills remain following the two legislative deadlines that have occurred. The Chamber continues to lead "Oklahomans for Property and Business Owners' Rights" - a group composed of 45 businesses, associations, universities, and law enforcement organizations that was formed to oppose the gun measures that would endanger business owners' rights or jeopardize public safety.

The Chamber and its coalition are opposed to HB 2918 by Representative Jeff Coody (R-Grandfield) and Senator Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow). HB 2918 is broadly written to allow firearms to be carried on all property controlled by "a person", which would allow virtually unlimited carry on any property in the state.  This bill passed the House and awaits a hearing in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

The Chamber and its coalition partners will continue to work in opposition to the irresponsible expansion of gun rights.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

Top

  Chamber Applauds Senate Leadership for Not Hearing Damaging Discrimination Bill  
 

Senator Joseph Silk's (R-Broken Bow) SB 197, a discriminatory measure that if passed would have been devastating for Oklahoma's economy, failed to receive a hearing in the Senate by the March 15 deadline. Therefore, SB 197 will not advance this session. We applaud Senate leadership for not bringing this measure up for a vote.

SB 197 was written to allow anyone with a "religious or conscientious" objection to certain "marriage, lifestyles, or behaviors" to actively discriminate against individuals. This would have provided business owners a right to not  serve targeted individuals and government officials the right to refrain from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The bill would have also allowed businesses and individuals to deny housing or employment to targeted groups/individuals. The legislation would have resulted in substantial economic damage to the state through the loss of conventions and other activities similar to the fate of North Carolina following its disastrous passage of HB 2 that brought tremendous economic and reputational damage to that state. The Chamber has frequently warned legislators that taking similar actions in Oklahoma would send us down the same path and result in the cancellation of economic investment and loss of conventions and NCAA/Big XII sporting events and damage Oklahoma's reputation as a place where organizations, employees and individuals are protected from discriminatory practices.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

Top

  Government Relations Roundtable Series Lunch Held with House Democrats  
 

The Chamber held a Government Relations Roundtable Series lunch with House Democratic Leader Steve Kouplen (D-Beggs) and several leaders of the House Democratic Caucus on March 14. The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the Chamber's legislative priorities as well as those of House Democrats. Topics included: Economic Development Incentives, Gun Legislation, Criminal Justice Reform and SQ 788 (Medicinal Marijuana). The Chamber was represented by Rhonda Hooper, Brad Krieger, Teresa Rose Crook, Roy Williams and Mark VanLandingham.

For more information, please contact Mark VanLandingham.

 

Top

 
 

Visit the Business Advocacy Center to sign up to receive updates.