Whatzup Politics (1501)
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus held a press conference at the State Capitol on Thursday morning to encourage Republicans to continue to focus on the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Democrats have fought for the restoration of the EITC since before it was repealed, and it is currently a key priority of the Oklahoma Focused Agenda.
“Many members of our caucus, myself included, have filed legislation at one time or another to restore the refundability of the EITC,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “Now we are seeing it in Republican tax legislation. The EITC is our common ground, and it must be included in any conversation about tax policy.”
Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC, and Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, both have EITC legislation filed this session.
“This is about securing a win for Oklahoma’s workforce,” Dollens said. “Restoring the EITC is the easiest way to get money back into the pocket of Oklahoma workers.”
The EITC also contributes to economic development. An OKPolicy study showed that every dollar spent through the credit generates $1.58 in economic activity.
“Democrats have fought for the EITC because it is a smart policy that helps individuals and communities,” Nichols said. “Hardworking, low-income Oklahomans shoulder the burden of Oklahoma’s irresponsible tax policy. Now, Republicans have finally acknowledged the importance of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC and Oklahoma workers must be at the center of the conversation when we talk about tax policy in this building.”
To learn more about House Democratic Caucus economic priorities, visit oklahomafocused.com.
WASHINGTON—Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after voting against Speaker Pelosi’s gun-grabbing bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446.
“Gun owners across our country should be concerned about the future of our Second Amendment rights with Nancy Pelosi and her radical Democrats in control of the House,” said Mullin. “The gun-grabbing bills the House passed today do nothing to prevent gun violence at the hands of criminals. Instead, they turn law-abiding, gun-carrying citizens into criminals. The Constitution clearly states: ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ Period. I will always stand up for our Second Amendment rights and that’s why I voted no on both of these bills.”
H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, criminalizes many activities that are common practice among law abiding gun owners, including mandating background checks when a gun is temporarily transferred from one person or entity to another. This would cover transfers of firearms with historical significance to a museum for public display, a suicidal person who asks a friend to take their guns, or an injured car accident victim who alerts an emergency responder that there is a gun in their vehicle and asks the responder to keep the gun from falling into the wrong hands when the vehicle is towed.
H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, creates arbitrary delays on background checks by increasing the amount of time a person must wait to receive a completed background check to a minimum of 10 full business days prior to proceeding to sale. Current law allows the sale of a firearm to an individual if the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) does not return a denial within 3 full business days.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation clarifying immunity protections for people asserting claims of self-defense passed the House today.
Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, said House Bill 1662 was a constituent request and he worked with the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association and with the state District Attorneys Council on the language in the bill.
“For people who have to use justified self-defense to protect themselves when they fear for their lives or safety, this gives them the assumption that they are innocent until proven guilty and that they acted in a legal manner unless proven otherwise,” West said.
West ran a similar measure last year, but it was sidelined because of COVID.
As amended, HB 1662 creates an appeal process for a defendant charged with and subject to criminal prosecution for unlawful use of defensive force. The measure would allow the defendant to file a motion to dismiss charges based on a claim of justified self-defense. If the motion is successful, the criminal charges and proceedings are to be dismissed with prejudice, which means the charge cannot be refiled.
The bill requires that if the court still decides at the end of the appeals process to pursue the unjustified use of force charge then the state must prove based on clear and compelling evidence that the defensive force used was not justified and was thereby unlawful.
HB 1662 passed by a vote of 77-19. Sen Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow is carrying the bill in the state Senate.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would prohibit the courts from extending the terms of tenancy failed the House today on a vote of 26-51.
House Bill 1564 by Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, would have allowed a landlord to immediately apply to a sheriff for enforcement of the right to possession upon the entry of a judgment. The measure limits the amount of a late payment fee to 15% of the monthly rent. The measure provides that the provisions in the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act are enforceable even during a catastrophic health emergency.
“This was not a matter of trying to deny someone tenancy, but about reestablishing the rule of law and not the rule of judges,” Gann said. “This ensures contracts and the Constitution remain in place even during a pandemic.”
Last week, a decision by a federal judge in Texas stated CDC guidelines are unconstitutional and “there is no federal law that requires a landlord give possession of a dwelling to a person who cannot pay rent…,” Gann said.
Gann said the issue was brought to him by a landlord in his district that had to take a tenant to court for failure to pay rent. The judge ruled that the landlord could not evict. Gann likened the scenario to the theft of property.
Gann said he would always hope that landlords would consider extenuating circumstances and work with their tenants before they sought eviction. He also encourages advocacy groups to help those struggling to pay rent during times or emergency or just personal hardship. But, he stressed, citizens must not allow for unconstitutional rulings from either judges or government bodies no matter the circumstances.
“We are governed by the rule of law in this nation,” Gann said. “Our nation’s founders established a Constitution that has governed us for more than 200 years. We have a three-tiered system of government to ensure appropriate checks and balances and that keeps us free. We must never allow legislating from the bench or for laws to be written by the executive or his or her operatives.”
Gann said his legislation was brought forward after the Federal Housing Administration last year forbid landlords with a federally backed mortgage from evicting their tenants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later issued a moratorium on evictions based on public health. The moratoriums on evictions are set to expire at the end of this month.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill aimed at improving road safety for motorists and bicyclists rolled out of the House today with a vote of 76-13.
House Bill 1770 by Rep. Mike Dobrinski, R-Okeene, is geared toward making Oklahoma’s streets and highways safer for all. It is a request from the Indian Nations Council of Governments and various bicyclist enthusiast groups.
“This bill will improve safety for our bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians who are sharing our roadways, and clarify responsibilities for each,” Dobrinski said.
He also pointed to the upcoming anniversary of Historic Route 66 as motivation to pass the legislation this year.
“These changes will make Oklahoma a prime destination for events and celebrations such as this, and will attract greater participation by groups such as bicycling organizations and enthusiasts,” Dobrinski said.
- Allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs;
- Updates hand signals so that a person on a buke can lawfully use a right hand to signal;
- Bars a motorized vehicle operator from honking at a person on a bicycle, or an equine or animal-drawn vehicle when there is no imminent danger.
Dobrinski allowed title to be struck on the bill as he continues to work with the Department of Public Safety and cycling groups on language regarding reckless driving.
He said he’s heard many horror stories from cyclists about traumatic experiences. This bill is an attempt to provide some protection for bicyclists against motorists that may have harmless intentions but whose actions resulted in accidents or, sadly, even deaths.
When questioned about balancing the liability and responsibility of motorists versus bicyclists, Dobrinski said the language in this bill does nothing to change the liability or the responsibility of the bicyclist while riding on roadways, but it does allow for bicyclists to move through traffic in a better manner.
“They cannot enter into a traffic pattern when there is a hazard, but the language will allow a bicyclist to move through intersections or to get started from intersections – like on a red light – that does not acknowledge them. This will better protect the bicyclist and be less of an impediment to motorists.”
Dobrinski said Delaware implemented these changes in 2017 and shows a decrease in the number of vehicle/bicycle crashes since that time.
The spokesman for the measure in the state Senate is Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore.
Mike Dobrinski represents District 59 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes which includes Dewey and parts of Blaine, Canadian, Kingfisher and Woodward counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill to address a growing trend of cybercrime unanimously passed the House on Wednesday with a vote of 92 to 0.
House Bill 1759, authored by Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, updates language in the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act to better address computer security threats that continue to evolve.
“Oklahoma’s economy is becoming more digital and more reliant on technology by the minute,” Ranson said. “It just makes sense that our laws would continue to adapt so that we can continue to protect small businesses.”
Cybercrime, such as ransomware where criminals deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid, threatens the livelihood of nonprofits, businesses, individuals, and governments.
“This legislation came from conversations with computer security experts,” Ranson said. “There are people who choose to use computers to harm people. With this bill, we can fight back and ensure fewer Oklahomans become victim to cybercrime.”
HB1759 is now eligible to be heard in the Senate.
Ranson’s office can be reached at (405)557-7411 or email@example.com.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill aimed at expanding the state Rainy Day Fund passed out of the House on Thursday with unanimous approval.
House Joint Resolution 1001, by Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, provides Oklahoma voters the opportunity to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to allow more money to be saved in the Constitutional Reserve Fund, better known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”
“When you save money at home for an emergency, do you ignore two-thirds of your spending?” Fugate asks. “Do you leave out your house payment, your utilities, your insurance? Of course not. This bill asks the people to do the same with our state emergency fund by accounting for all of our regular spending.”
Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund dates back to an idea in 1985 by retired Sen. Jim Howell, D-Midwest City. The state budget routinely fluctuates with boom years followed by bust years. The Rainy Day Fund captures money from the boom years for use in the bust years. In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved changing the calculation from 10 to 15 percent. However, shortfalls in recent years have shown this wasn’t enough.
“It doesn’t make sense to keep asking the voters to approve more rate increases when we can just fix the math entirely,” Fugate said.
- Asks the voters to amend the State Constitution;
- Expands the Rainy Day calculation to account for all primary state spending;
- Excludes one-time spending, fees/licenses, and bond expenditures.
Under this proposal, the potential state savings could move from $900 million to more than $3 billion. The constitution only allows three-eighths of the money to be spent at one time. With recent revenue shortfalls between $900 million to $1.3 billion, this is a must-needed change.
The House joint resolution is now eligible to be heard in the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton.
Andy Fugate represents District 94 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Del City and portions of Southeast Oklahoma City.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House of Representatives advanced significant tax relief for individuals and businesses Thursday through bills phasing out the corporate income tax over five years and reducing personal income taxes at all income levels.
“Oklahoma needs a pandemic rebound and competitive boost in the race for jobs,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “It’s time to talk about tax relief in Oklahoma. This tax relief plan makes us more competitive, grows our economy and benefits all Oklahomans.”
House Bill 2041, by McCall, reduces the personal income tax by .25% through a credit. It results in tax reductions for all income levels.
HB 2083, by McCall, gradually phases out the state’s duplicative, outdated corporate income tax, which is currently set at 6%. Over the next five years, a deduction would be used to reduce the effective rate by 20% a year until it phased out in 2026.
“Timing for tax relief is ideal. Oklahoma can afford putting money back in the taxpayers’ pockets after years of strong fiscal management produced record revenues, significant investments in core services, historic reserves and now a more than $1 billion surplus,” said House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston.
The bills, as a package, are designed to grow the economy, recruit new businesses, spur spending after the pandemic and, ultimately, grow state revenues.
“This is responsible, thoughtful tax relief with adequate budgetary protections. Under this approach, Oklahoma will continue enacting strong state budgets containing historic investments because it will be stimulating the economy that funds those budgets. Once fully enacted, Oklahoma will be one of only three states that charges neither a corporate income tax nor a gross receipts tax,” said House Appropriations and Budget Vice Chairman Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow.
Because the bills use credits and deductions to achieve tax relief, they are not subject to the provisions of State Question 640, which requires supermajority legislative votes to raise revenue. The bills could be paused or reversed with simple majority votes in the future if necessary.
Personal income tax
Under HB 2041, the top income tax rate most taxpayers pay would be effectively reduced by .25%, from 5% to 4.75%, through a credit structure. To achieve tax relief for all income levels, various deductions are adjusted and earned income tax credit refundability is restored.
The fiscal impact to the budget next year is $71.1 million and $180.8 million the following fiscal year.
However, stronger state revenues have followed state income tax reductions in the past 25 years. Since 1997, the state top personal income tax rate has been reduced from 7% to 5%, or 28.5%, while state revenue from the tax has grown from $1.7 billion in Fiscal Year 1997 to a projected $3.7 billion in FY 2021 – an increase of 116% unadjusted for inflation and 32% adjusted for inflation.
Short-term state revenue reductions during that time were largely caused by economic events following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 2008 national financial collapse, mid-2010s energy sector contraction and pandemic.
Corporate income tax
Corporate income tax is a volatile revenue stream, typically accounting for less than 4% of the state’s main operating account, the General Revenue Fund. In the grand scheme of an $8 billion appropriated budget and total operating budget of more than $20 billion, the $350 million corporate income tax produces a year on average is insignificant.
Eliminating it over five years by reducing it 20% a year, as proposed in HB 2083, has a fiscal impact of $32.3 million next year and $100 million the following fiscal year.
“The current corporate rate of 6% has little budgetary value and is a black eye for business recruitment, especially against Texas where there is no corporate income tax,” McCall said. “Oklahoma is on the shortlist in the hunt for jobs against other states, but we continue to fail to close the deal. Eliminating the corporate income tax gets us off the short end of the shortlist.”
OKLAHOMA CITY - Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, secured passage of House Bill 1112 to allow the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife to set trapping seasons and methods of take for furbearing animals.
Talley said a constituent in Stillwater brought this to his attention last year. The constituent is a falconer who wanted to be able to hunt squirrels year-round.
Currently, legislation is required to make any kind of change to season dates and trapping methods for squirrels, where for most other wildlife, these are laid out in Title 800 rules. This measure would allow the Wildlife Conservation Commission to set season dates and bag limits for furbearing animals, including squirrels, with Title 800 administrative rules language rather than going through the Legislature.
“It makes good sense to give this authority back to the Department of Wildlife, who study animal populations and set hunting seasons and limits to maintain healthy population levels,” Talley said. “As a recreational hunter myself, I enjoy taking my son and grandson hunting and was happy to work on this legislation for my constituent in House District 33.”
HB1112 passed the House 69-24 on Wednesday and is now available to be considered in the Senate, where it is authored by Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro.
WASHINGTON—Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) released the following statement after once again voting against H.R. 1319, the Biden Bailout package.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this bill is nothing but Democratic wish list items that hinder our economic recovery from the pandemic,” Mullin said.
“From blue state bailouts to funding for a San Francisco subway, only 9 percent of the $1.9 trillion will actually go to COVID relief and 45 percent isn’t even going to be used this year. That is unacceptable and reckless. With $1 trillion from previously enacted relief bills still unspent, we should be focusing on getting targeted relief to those who need it most and getting our economy fully reopened.”