Legislature Completes Committee Deadline
This week marked the deadline for all bills and resolutions to be passed out of the standing committees in the opposite chamber of origin. State representatives worked to consider dozens of Senate bills so the legislation could continue in the process. The next legislative deadline is April 19, when bills and joint resolutions must be out of both chambers’ appropriations & budget committees.
Economy Continues to Improve
The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) reported this week that March General Revenue Fund collections were $405.5 million – $53.5 million, or 15.2 percent, above March 2017 collections and $21.4 million, or 5.6 percent above the monthly estimate.
Total collections for the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2018 were $4 billion – $468.5 million, or 13 percent, over year-to-date 2017 collections and $141.8 million, or 3.7 percent, above the year-to-date estimate.
Also this week, Moody’s, one of the nation’s top credit-rating agencies, issues a credit-positive report for Oklahoma. This comes five months after it issued a credit negative warning as the Legislature at the time had not yet closed a $215 million hole in the state budget.
Teacher Walkout Continues
Thousands of teachers were at the Capitol again this week to lobby their lawmakers for more classroom funding. While many districts have resumed class, 18 of the 20 biggest districts were still closed through April 12.
Rep. Cockroft Announces He Will Not Seek Re-Election
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Josh Cockroft announced this week that this will be his last legislative session. He is not seeking re-election.
Cockroft was first elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2010 at the age of 21. He has served as a member of House leadership under two speakers, as a presiding officer in the House, as the chairman of the House Rules Committee, and as the chairman of the House Special Investigative Committee.
He also serves as a member of the Appropriations & Budget Committee, Joint Committee on Appropriations & Budget, Appropriations Sub-Committee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services, and the Transportation Committee.
His House district covers mid and southern Pottawatomie County and Northern Cleveland County.
Rep. Cockroft comes from a background in ministry and small business and is a devout man of faith. Rep. Cockroft lives on a ranch in Wanette with his wife Jessica, and their daughters Kylie, Cassidy, and Caedence.
Rep. Rick West Announces He Will Not Seek Re-election
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Rick West announced this week he will not be seeking re-election for the next legislative session.
West was first elected in 2016. He serves as vice chair for the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee. He also sits on the County & Municipal Government and Veterans & Military Affairs committees, along with the Appropriations & Budget Sub-committee for Select Agencies.
West serves House District 3, which includes parts of LeFlore County.
Bill to protect victims from sexual predators heads to governor
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate unanimously approved a measure Tuesday to protect victims from sexual predators. Sen. James Leewright and Rep. Kyle Hilbert are the authors of House Bill 1124, also known as the Justice for Danyelle Act of 2018, to prohibit sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of their victims.
Current law prohibits sex offenders from residing or loitering within a 2,000 foot radius of any public or private school site, education institution, children’s organization, playground or park. HB 1124 would expand the zone of safety to prohibit the offender from loitering within 1,000 feet of the victim’s home or from living within 2,000 feet of the victim’s residence.
HB 1124 now goes to the governor’s desk. If signed, the new law will go into effect November 1, 2018.
Truckers against Trafficking measure heads to governor
OKLAHOMA CITY – The I-40 and I-35 corridor makes Oklahoma a prime location for not only drug trafficking, but human trafficking. Truck stops are major targets for traffickers, which is why Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Steve Vaughan authored House Bill 2651 that received final approval in the Senate Wednesdayand is moving on to the governor’s office.
HB 2651 allows the Commissioner of Public Safety to require training for students for Class A, B or C commercial licenses to include training on the recognition, prevention and reporting of human trafficking. The Commissioner would regularly review and update the training to take into account changes and trends in human trafficking.
The measure was requested by Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a 501c3 and an initiative of Chapter 61 Ministries that was started in March 2009 to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking industry on the critical role they can play in fighting human trafficking.
According to TAT, ongoing sting operations by the FBI and other law enforcement personnel reveal that criminals and crime syndicates sell their victims at a number of locations frequented by truckers. Since 2004, these sting operations have rescued hundreds of children, recovered millions of dollars and arrested numerous perpetrators.
Committee approves bills to tackle opioid addiction in state
OKLAHOMA CITY – The leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S. is from drug overdoses, killing more than 64,000 people each year. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved three measures Wednesday authored by Sen. A.J. Griffin and Rep. Tim Downing to address the growing health epidemic. The bills were among the eight legislative recommendations made by the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse that Griffin created through legislation in 2016.
House Bill 2795 directs medical facility owners that prescribe certain drugs to patients on a monthly basis to register with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control (OBNDDC).
HB 2796 requires manufacturers and distributors who are required to register with the OBNDDC to provide the agency with all data required by federal law, rules and regulations beginning November 1, 2019.
HB 2798 creates an 18-member Opioid Overdose Fatality Review Board until July 1, 2023. The Board will conduct case reviews of opioid overdose deaths of individuals 18 years or older; collect, analyze and interpret state and local data on opioid deaths; and develop a state and local database on those deaths. The Board will submit an annual statistical report on the incidences and causes of the opioid overdose deaths it has reviewed including recommendations for the medical and law enforcement system.
This year, Griffin has filed six bills following the recommendations of the Commission. On Monday, Gov. Fallin signed Griffin’s SB 1078, the first bill recommended by the Commission. The new law, which goes into effect November 1, adds fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, to the list of drugs eligible for a felony trafficking charge, along with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and others.
The Commission made 31 recommendations in total but only eight required legislative authorization. The others are aimed at law enforcement, the medical community and other areas.
House Bills 2795, 2796 and 2798 will now go before the full Senate.
Senate Appropriations Committee approves ACES Act
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to boost the state’s second largest industry, the aerospace industry. House Bill 2578, by Sen. Paul Rosino and Rep. Tess Teague, would create the Aerospace Commerce Economic Services (ACES) program under the Department of Commerce. The ACES program is based on similar business models from other states that have proven to have substantial economic impacts.
HB 2578 would create a partnership of service providers to more effectively respond to the needs of the aviation, aerospace and defense industries in the areas of education and training, research and economic development. A panel would be formed, chaired by the Governor to facilitate Oklahoma agencies, industry, academia and other key stakeholders in creating and aligning goals.
ACES would build on the success of its precursor, the Center of Aerospace and Defense Supplier Quality (CADSQ) ran by the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC). A 2015 Economic Impact Study found that CADSQ created $72 million in new business and had a $237 million state economic impact. The OAC invested $2 million in CADSQ, which produced $9.7 million in new taxes for the state.
HB 2578 will now go before the full Senate.
Senate gives final approval to foster care measure
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate gave final approval to legislation Tuesday to put the rights and protections of Oklahoma’s foster kids into state statute. House Bill 2552, authored by Sen. A.J. Griffin and Rep. Pat Ownbey, passed unanimously.
HB 2552 establishes certain rights for children in the custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS) with regard to their placement, safety, privacy, communication and personal growth. It also directs DHS and child placing agencies to develop grievance procedures for children in custody.
Oklahoma has been recognized nationally by various organizations and associations for the many improvements made to its foster care system in recent years. Many of the changes were advocated or authored by Griffin, a former foster parent and strong advocate for children.
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk for final approval.
Governor Mary Fallin Signs Legislation Repealing Hotel/Motel Tax Measures to make up revenue from proposed tax also signed into law
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today signed House Bill (HB) 1012XX, which repeals a $5 tax on hotel and motel rooms, and two other bills that are estimated to replace the revenue to help fund teacher pay raises and increased education funding.
Fallin signed HB 3375, which allows tribal casinos to use traditional roulette and dice games, which were specifically prohibited since a 2004 vote of the people. Exclusivity fees generated by the change will put substantial additional dollars into education.
The governor also signed HB 1019XX, which will require third-party online retailers to collect and remit sales tax back to state coffers. It will affect purchases made through sites like Amazon, when the seller is someone other than Amazon. It is estimated to bring in about $20.5 million for public schools.
The House of Representatives and Senate voted to repeal the hotel-motel tax, which was included in a larger revenue package, HB 1010XX. That bill raised a variety of revenue to pay for an average $6,100 teacher pay raise – the largest teacher pay increase in state history – and added $50 million in new revenue for textbooks and school supplies.
The governor and the Legislature have worked diligently to pass historic funding measures for K-12 public education.
Fallin last month signed HB 1010XX, part of an historic revenue package to fund pay raises for teachers. The package allows for a $6,100, or 16 percent, pay raise on average for Oklahoma teachers. It moves Oklahoma’s teacher pay up from the lowest, in average teacher pay, to second in the seven-state region and up to 29th from 49th nationally. Oklahoma’s teacher-pay ranking improves to 12th in the nation when adjusted for cost of living.
Last week, the governor signed the $2.9 billion appropriation bill for common education for the upcoming 2019 fiscal year. The funding marks the largest amount ever appropriated in Oklahoma for K-12 public education and a 19.7 percent increase over the $2.4 billion appropriation bill for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The $2.9 billion education funding contained in HB 3705 includes an additional $353.5 million for teacher pay; $52 million for support personnel pay: $33 million for textbooks: $17 million for the state aid formula; and $24.7 million for flex health care benefits.
Fallin said today’s action should complete funding K-12 public schools for the 2019 fiscal year. She encouraged legislators to turn attention now on other issues, such as criminal justice, and address the financial needs of other core services, such as public safety and health and human services, in finishing work on the 2019 fiscal year budget.
The governor made it clear she supports the voters’ decision in a 2004 statewide election of encouraging investment in Oklahoma through the capital gains tax deduction.
The capital gains tax deduction, which was a tax reform measure approved in a statewide vote in 2004, is an exemption from capital gains taxes for property and business located in the state of Oklahoma. The idea was to increase the incentive for people to invest in Oklahoma, and to put Oklahoma properties and businesses on an equal footing with other states.
Governor Mary Fallin Announces Approval of Federal Opportunity Zone Designations in Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced the designation of federal opportunity zones across the state of Oklahoma. Opportunity zones were created by The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December; they are intended to spur investment in impoverished and economically distressed areas.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury reviewed and approved all of the governor’s designations in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is one of 15 states to have opportunity zones designated by the Treasury Department.
Opportunity zones allow private investors and companies to defer and/or reduce their federal capital gains taxes when they are invested in a qualifying opportunity fund that, in turn, invests in opportunity zones. They will connect private capital to economically distressed areas, which will benefit residents living in the zones, businesses operating in the zones, and the private investor willing to invest in projects that fit their profile.
Fallin designated 117 census tracts in Oklahoma, which is the maximum number of opportunity zones allowed by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 for the state of Oklahoma. The 117 opportunity zones are spread across the state, and cover 47 urban and rural counties and touch 30 tribal nations.
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce collaborated with tribal nations, metropolitan areas, rural communities, economic development professionals, state agencies, and consultants across the state to make the recommendations to the governor. In addition to opportunities for residential redevelopment, there are numerous opportunities for commercial redevelopment, industrial parks, and community development.
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce will take an active role promoting investment opportunities in Oklahoma for development to reduce poverty in the state.