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

After this week’s deadline, all bills have either made it to the governor’s desk, are dead for session or are headed back to their house of origin for consideration of amendments.

Governor Stitt signed HB 2097 this week. The bill amends the definition of "excavate" in the Oklahoma Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Act to clarify that activities done in public or private rights of way are considered excavation. This bill provides additional safety protections for excavation workers and the public as well as extra protection against property damage.

Bills advancing to the governor include:

  • HB 2665 allows Oklahoma businesses to continue deducting state and local taxes from federal taxes. The legislation, known as the SALT Parity Fix, protects nearly 135,000 Oklahoma businesses at risk of losing a SALT deduction this year.

  • HB 1263 provides greater flexibility for job creators by allowing zero-emissions facilities to take their tax credit when they actually need it. Giving companies this option will help spread out the impact on the state budget without creating any new liability.

  • HB 1884 expands eligibility for the automotive industry engineer workforce tax credit to include parts and the manufacturing process. Combined with last year’s workforce tax credit, the policies will jump-start the automotive manufacturing industry in Oklahoma. 

  • SB 18 extends a sales tax exemption created in 2008 for rolling stock (locomotives, autocars and railroad cars) sold or leased by the manufacturer. This bill encourages railcar manufacturers to invest capital and continue to create jobs in Oklahoma. Currently, 36 states offer rolling stock sales tax exemptions.

SB 485 was amended by the House and now goes back to the Senate for approval of amendments. This legislation eliminates the tax credit for incubators and eliminates the Quality Jobs Investment Program. This bill follows the Incentive Evaluation Commission's recommendations to eliminate these programs, which are no longer being used.

HB 1403 is dormant for this session. The bill increases permitting and regulation, which would reduce water available for business and industry. We have longstanding policy opposing this additional regulation.

EMILY CROUCH
Issue Areas: Health Care; Workforce Development

Two measures headed to the Governor’s desk will help expand health care access in Oklahoma.  The House passed SB 773 and SB 943 on Wednesday. SB 773 provides mental health professionals with loan repayment assistance for providers who practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas. SB 943 aligns Oklahoma law with a new federal rule that gives small employers access to new health insurance coverage options through association health plans (AHPs). The State Chamber of Oklahoma launched its AHP, Oklahoma Chamber Blue , in 2018. Expanding access to health care for businesses and their employees continues to be a priority of the State Chamber. We appreciate House and Senate leadership for updating state law to allow AHPs maximum flexibility. 

In workforce development, HB 1364 would provide all high school students with a career-readiness assessment to measure and document foundational workplace skills. It passed the Senate floor this week and heads back to the House where they need to accept the amendments made in the Senate.

Several criminal justice reforms passed before this week’s deadline, including SB 252. SB 252 would end pretrial detention for people accused of low-level offenses and nonviolent crimes. The bill was passed on the House floor on Thursday and is estimated to save counties money while still giving the court the ability to detain individuals deemed a public safety risk. Ending pretrial detention will help prevent individuals awaiting trial from losing their jobs and being unable to support their families.


CORDON DEKOCK
Aerospace, Defense, Technology and Telecommunications; Transportation & Infrastructure

One of the first transportation bills signed into law by Governor Stitt was HB 2676 , which provided an additional $30 million supplement to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) Fund. This fund was created to help counties pay for large, expensive projects they otherwise couldn't afford. Passing this legislation outside of the usual omnibus appropriations bill highlights the need to fund transportation infrastructure, particularly after $230 million from the CIRB fund was used to help balance the state budget.

SB 700 was signed by the Governor yesterday. This bill amended the definition of an electronic record and an electronic signature within the Uniform Electronics Transactions Act to include records or signatures secured through blockchain technology. As the technology evolves, this will allow for the use of blockchain contracts, receipts and records by Oklahoma businesses and government agencies.

Two other priority bills were sent from the legislature to the governor’s desk: SB 189 and SB 749. SB 189 would allow for the use of platooning technology on Oklahoma roadways. Platooning enables trucks that are manned at all times to communicate through electronic coupling. This enables trucks to accelerate and brake together, allowing trucks to safely operate at closer distances and to form a platoon. This proven technology is shown to improve fuel efficiency and safety—the two biggest concerns for transportation companies.

SB 749 increases access for community infrastructure programs and public-private partnerships. It will expand opportunities for multiple communities to jointly participate in projects using pooled finance funding. It will also enable military installations such as Vance AFB, Tinker AFB and Fort Sill to participate in public-private partnerships alongside businesses, communities and the state.

ADRIA BERRY
Human Resources & Labor Law; Legal Reform; Workers' Compensation

A bill that will reform the way Supreme Court justices are chosen was signed by the Governor this week. HB 2366 by Representative Kannady and Senator Julie Daniels changes the judicial districts for the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to match the current five congressional districts. The Supreme Court will also contain four at-large districts.

SB 882, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Waste Management Act, addresses the disposal of marijuana waste product within this new industry. Disposal of the product renders it unusable through physical destruction or a recycling process. There are currently very few guidelines around the disposal of marijuana waste products in Oklahoma. This bill addresses the lack of disposal options by creating a new commercial medical marijuana waste disposal license. This bill passed the House and will go back to the Senate for acceptance of amendments before being sent to the Governor for his signature.  

Two workers’ compensation bills, HB 2367 and SB 701, were both passed through their opposite chambers this week before the deadline with titles off. Each bill is the subject of continued discussion and negotiation. 

OK Supreme Court Rules Non-Economic Damages Cap Unconstitutional
On Tuesday, a divided Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in Beason v. I.E. Miller Services, Inc. that a statute capping non-economic damages in personal injury lawsuits is unconstitutional. The $350,000 cap on non-economic “pain and suffering” damages was implemented as part of a 2009 tort reform omnibus bill and amended in 2011.

The State Chamber of Oklahoma strongly disagrees with this court ruling.

“This is obviously a big setback for business, but it’s also a setback to the power of the Legislature to craft laws that protect people,” said State Chamber president & CEO Fred Morgan in an interview with NonDoc . “From a job creator’s perspective, it’s hard to promote the state of Oklahoma when we’ve got a court that says when you come to Oklahoma you risk unlimited damages for non-economic damages.”

“A number of states around the country have upheld caps on noneconomic damages,” he said. “This is at least the third time the court has used the ‘special law’ provision of the constitution to strike down acts that we believe were constitutional.”

Contact: Adria Berry
Governor’s First 100 Days Report
A report released this week recaps notable achievements from Governor Kevin Stitt’s first 100 days in office.

“As your governor, I am committed to delivering a customer-centered government that is efficient and focused on delivering measurable outcomes with your hard-earned tax dollars,” said Governor Stitt in the report.

Notable accomplishments include: 

  • Securing $5 million for the Quick Action Closing Fund to aid in economic development
  • Signing into law direct appointments of the heads of the state’s five largest agencies, ensuring greater accountability 
  • Decreasing the number of structurally deficient bridges in Oklahoma by 50 since 2018
  • Requesting performance audits of nine agencies that comprise 90 percent of the state budget
  • Championing judicial redistricting to reflect current demographics and expand the pool of highly qualified judicial candidates

Many of these policies and reforms were also priorities of the State Chamber of Oklahoma and the State Chamber Research Foundation’s OK2030 initiative this session.

OK Workers’ Comp Rating Improves 20 Spots
Our state had the unfortunate distinction of the fourth highest workers’ compensation premiums in the nation in 2010. Thanks to comprehensive workers’ compensation reforms, Oklahoma has dramatically improved its workers’ compensation rate ranking since then, moving 20 spots in eight years. The recently released 2018 State Ranking of Worker Compensation Premium Costs found that Oklahoma now ranks just 1 percent above the national median and in the same tier as neighboring New Mexico and Missouri.
Possible Increase to Legal Smoking Age
The U.S. Senate could consider legislation that would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to formally introduce a bill next month. The bill is preceded by 12 states that passed laws to increase the legal age of purchasing tobacco products to 21. This minimum age increase would also extend to the sale of vaping devices. Leader McConnell specified his bill would provide an exemption for those who serve in the military.

Some retailers recently announced they will be changing their store policies and will no longer sell tobacco products to customers below the age of 21.

Contact: Emily Crouch
In the News
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