Senate Session Update – Week 4


March 2, 2017

Week No. 4 of 56th Legislature

Total Senate Bills and SJRs introduced in 2017:  877

Total reported from committees:  412

Total acted upon by full Senate:  36

Total remaining for March 23 deadline:  376 measures

REAL ID

  • This is an issue the vast majority of Oklahomans wanted us to solve quickly
  • It’s an example of how the Legislature and Governor’s Office can work together quickly toward a common goal – optimistic this spirit of cooperation continues as we work on the budget and building a more prosperous Oklahoma
  • The bill gives Oklahomans a choice: they can get a REAL ID license, or they can opt-out
  • Allows Oklahomans the convenience of continued use of OK driver’s licenses to fly commercially
  • Most importantly, it means the Oklahomans who work on military bases will continue to maintain access with their Oklahoma driver’s license so they can continue their important work to support the men and women in our Armed Forces

 

BUDGET

  • S&P DOWNGRADES OKLAHOMA’S BOND RATING
    • S&P pointed to sustained weak revenue collections and structural imbalances in the state budget
    • Senate Republicans have advocated for some time for the need to reduce the reliance of one-time money and other short-term fixes to balance the budget
    • Senate Republicans made budgetary reforms last year to address some of these issues and will continue to do so moving forward

 

  • The Senate Appropriations Committee continues working at a fast pace
    • Senate budget negotiators are working on the budget every day of the week
    • Subappropriations committees are looking at existing revenues sources that can help make up this year’s budget shortfall
      • We should find every penny of existing revenue before raising Oklahomans’ taxes
  • The Senate this week approved measures to modify wind industry tax credits
    • SB 118 (Thompson) ends the wind energy tax credit by changing the date a facility must be placed in service from January 2021 to January 2018. It also places a cap on the program ($2 million)
    • SB 466 (Smalley) requires wind facilities to complete a form detailing the price per unit of electricity and how many units were sold when applying for the tax credit.
  • All options are on the table to help craft a budget. Raising taxes are a last resort, and we must pursue other ways of generating revenue before raising taxes. Those include:
    • Tax credit/incentive reforms: meaningful revenue to be had by eliminating wasteful credits
    • Apportionment reform: legislators would have more flexibility to shift revenue to core services that currently is taken “off the top” of tax collections
      • Senate Appropriations Committee approved SB 291 (Newberry), which creates a task force to study the repurchasing of tax credits.
    • Agency efficiencies: it’s the Legislature’s job to advance this idea during “good” and “bad” budget timesWORKERS’ COMP REFORM
    •  
  • The Oklahoma Supreme Court (OSC) last year knocked down parts of the system
  • The system is working: it’s lowering costs for business and helping injured works to get treatment and return to work quicker
  • Senate Judiciary approved SB 737 (Sykes) which preserves the system and addresses issues raised last year by the OSC.

 

EDUCATION

  • Senate Republicans are pro-public education – despite what you may hear
    • What doesn’t get talked about much is our “herculean efforts” in recent years to protect common education from huge budget cuts taken by other areas of state government
    • We also have made up shortfalls in lottery funds and HB 1017 funds when those revenue sources fall short in delivering money to schools
  • A key part of our agenda is reducing administrative costs in an effort to boost teacher salaries
    • The Senate Education committee this week approved SB 514 (Stanislawski) directing the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) to conduct a study regarding voluntary consolidation of school districts. Advantageous consolidations will be recommended and school districts may choose to follow said recommendations.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved SB 415 (Brecheen) in an effort to give local schools more flexibility in their building funds
    • The bill allows school districts, including technology centers, to utilize their building funds for operational expenses.
  • The full Senate approved education accountability and assessment standards (HJR 1028) and sent them to the Governor for approval.
    • The standards meet new requirements under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which gives Oklahoma more authority and more responsibility to improve our schools.
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