Issue Areas: Economic Development, Taxation and Financial Services; Energy/Natural Resources

As we near the end of session, discussions over the remaining issues, including the budget and veto requests are becoming more intense. We see encouraging signs that a budget deal may be right around the corner. A smaller number of bills are left in the process, but some of them have big impacts on business.

HB 1884 passed the House this week and now heads to the Governor. The bill expands eligibility for the automobile industry tax credit beyond labor/personnel and into the manufacturing process. This will increase job opportunities and help diversify the state’s economy and workforce. 

Conference committees continue to meet in the House and Senate. We’re working to advance HB 1640 through the conference committee process. This legislation allows a church to waive the 300-foot restriction for an establishment licensed by the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission. Waivers were created for school buildings in 2018, and this extends the same waiver to churches.

Monday is the final day for the governor to sign or veto SB 608. The bill requires the top 25 spirit and liquor brand manufacturers to offer to contract with all licensed wholesalers in the state. This is contrary to the will of the people who overwhelmingly approved alcohol modernization in 2016 (SQ 792). SQ 792 amended the Oklahoma Constitution to allow a winery or distiller to choose which wholesalers will distribute its products. 

Issue Areas: Health Care; Workforce Development

Two bills that will expand access to health care services through the use of telecommunications technologies or telehealth have made it through the legislative process. For Oklahomans living in areas where an occupational therapist may be unavailable, SB 1038 will expand access to occupational therapy services via telehealth. The bill has been sent to the governor and is awaiting his signature.

Governor Stitt took action this week and signed SB 575, which will help children and their parents gain better access to telemedicine services from within their school. Removing barriers to health services by allowing them to be delivered via telecommunications technologies, when appropriate, will create more access to health care.

Several criminal justice bills are still making their way through the process and are being reviewed in conference committee. Mentioned as possible bills for the governor’s criminal justice reform package, HB 1269 and SB 616 could be heard next week.

A workforce development bill awaiting the governor’s signature could help schools develop their own teacher pipeline. SB 217 will create a pilot program for the creation of alternative pathways to teacher certification within school districts. Schools across the state have teaching vacancies that remain unfilled and are in need of long-term solutions. OK2030 supports streamlining the teacher certification process by expanding the entities that can recruit, train and certify teachers for the classroom. 

Aerospace, Defense, Technology and Telecommunications; Transportation & Infrastructure

This week, the Senate accepted House amendments to SB 378 , sending the final version to the Governor for consideration. This legislation would direct the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to develop rules and criteria for third-party commercial driver’s license (CDL) testing. Currently, Oklahoma has a statewide testing backlog that creates a $5 million economic loss annually due to lost wages for potential commercial truck drivers, according to the State Chamber Research Foundation .

The House also accepted Senate amendments to HB 2142 and HB 2143 . These bills will help to increase economic development opportunities and address the backlog of $235 million in critical needs maintenance along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigational System (MKARNS). HB 2142 create the Tri-State Commission on the MKARNS while HB 2143 creates the MKARNS Infrastructure Revolving Fund. Learn more about the economic impact of the MKARNS to nearly all sectors of Oklahoma’s economy from the State Chamber Research Foundation .

Human Resources & Labor Law; Legal Reform; Workers' Compensation
This session, we saw a large number of bills filed that would make changes to workers’ compensation laws. Most of the bills would have increased the cost of workers’ comp and added troublesome new provisions that threaten to take us back to the expensive pre-2014 system.

At the State Chamber, we know firsthand how hard-fought those reforms were, so why would we ever want to go backwards?

Because of our strong belief in these reforms and the positive changes they have brought about, one of our main goals this session has been to protect the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act from attacks at the Legislature.

Since 2014, Oklahoma employers have saved hundreds of millions of dollars, and data shows that injured workers are moving through the process quicker and getting back to work. However, we knew there were some pressing items, including weekly benefits for injured employees, that needed to be addressed this year. So far, we’ve been able to work with Judiciary Chairs in the House and Senate to alleviate the majority of the troubling provisions in HB 2367.

With the deadline for House bills to be signed out of conference committees this week, we’re hopeful that final negotiations between the House and Senate will bring an agreement about funding for the Multiple Injury Trust Fund and a transition plan for the Court of Existing Claims. 

Capitol Appreciation: Big Truck Taco Day
Legislators, legislative assistants, security guards and senior officials—everyone at the state Capitol plays a crucial role in our government. That’s why we are honored once a year, together with our friends at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the Tulsa Regional Chamber, to honor everyone who works in the capitol building.
Your work is invaluable, and we know it sometimes goes unheralded.

We hope everyone who joined us for Big Truck Tacos and Roxy’s Ice Cream Social enjoyed the treats and also felt our appreciation for their efforts on behalf of our state.
Across the country, hundreds of businesses, labor organizations, elected officials and others will come together to raise awareness for our country’s infrastructure needs.
The seventh annual National Infrastructure Week on May 13-20 highlights the contributions of infrastructure and the need for strong, sustained investment. Investing in infrastructure is consistently one of the issues with the strongest bi-partisan support from voters, with more supporters wanting action from government on infrastructure than almost any other issue.

“The state of America’s infrastructure is one of the most pressing issues facing us as a nation. The benefits of a stronger, better infrastructure system could be immense, but we urgently need political courage and leadership on this issue,” said Zach Schafer, Executive Director of Infrastructure Week. “During Infrastructure Week,   we bring together the public and private sector to encourage lawmakers to think long-term, and invest in infrastructure at the federal, state and local level.”

Learn more about Infrastructure Week, download shareable graphics and create your own posts using the campaign’s #BuildForTomorrow hashtag. 
Don't Forget to Register & Submit Your Video
Members, now is your chance to show off your company as part of our 2019 Annual Meeting Member Video! Highlight your organization by submitting photos, short video clips or newspaper articles highlighting something special your company did this year. Space is limited, and submissions will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. This year’s member video will be unveiled at Annual Meeting on June 18 and will be added to our website and YouTube channels following the event. All we need is a completed video submission form and your choice of media no later than May 24. To view last year’s member video, click here .

And be sure to register soon for Annual Meeting space is already filling up quickly!

Contact: Lindsey Sparks
Work-Based Learning Grant Opportunity 
The Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development (OOWD) is offering employers and industry partners an apprenticeship incentive grant opportunity to encourage growth of new apprenticeship programs across the state. Apprenticeships are a way for individuals and employers to explore talent opportunities and train skilled workers.

Grant funds may be used for planning and program start-up costs for organizations creating a new apprenticeship program. Ten grants will be available with awards ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the type of applicant. OOWD is accepting grant applications through June 1, 2019. Grant award winners will be announced at the 2019 Oklahoma Work-Based Learning Summit on June 17.

To learn more about the OOWD Apprenticeship Incentive Grant opportunity, click here
In the News
State Chamber of Oklahoma | www.okstatechamber.com
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