The week in review: May 19, 2017
From Caldwell and Associates
Last week was marked by ups and downs as budget proposals were rolled out with the hope of being the answer to the state’s nearly $1 billion shortfall, only to come up short on support and the necessary votes.
A rare occurrence, the legislature worked over the weekend in an attempt to reach a budget agreement and avoid a special session. Although Sine Die isn’t until May 26, revenue bills cannot be sent to the governor the last five days of session. However, budget talks broke down over the weekend and a special session is imminent. One option is a concurrent special session held alongside the last week of session.
The proposed revenue raising measures contain three major provisions – cigarette tax, fuel tax and gross production tax. The disagreement among party lines is the gross production tax. The industry currently pays two percent for the first three years of a well’s operation. It then increases to seven percent. Democrats would like the gross production tax rate to increase to no less than five percent. Republicans have offered three percent. The division isn’t just along party lines. Advocacy groups lined the halls of the Capitol last Thursday to voice their position on the gross production tax.
Finding the revenue to fill the budget hole is just the first step. A plan agreeing on how to appropriate the money once it is shored up must also be drafted and approved by both chambers. The House and Senate will reconvene today.
Gov. Fallin signed one of the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma’s priority measures into law last week. HB1392, authored by Rep. Dell Kerbs and Sen. Eddie Fields, reauthorizes the Oklahoma Wildlife Diversity Program check-off and creates an Oklahoma Emergency Responders Assistance Program check-off. The bill takes effect Nov. 1
The House adopted the conference committee report for HB1326 and passed the bill by a vote of 58 to 28. Authored by Rep. Casey Murdock and Sen. Lonnie Paxton, the bill prohibits a person from intentionally or knowingly operating an unmanned aircraft over the private agricultural property of another unless otherwise exempted. The bill will move to the Senate for consideration.
A complete list of measures monitored for the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is available here.