Republican Rep. Colby Schwartz of Yukon announced today via Facebook that he will not seek reelection this year.
He wrote, “It is with a humble heart and deep appreciation for the the trust given to me by the people of Yukon and Canadian County that I announce my decision not to seek a 5th term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to serve the town where Brenda Black Schwartz and I both grew up and have always called home. I look forward to returning full time to the private sector while still serving the community of Yukon in other ways.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman told a Tulsa group legislation is moving at a “very fast and furious pace”: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/legislators-upbeat-on-prospects-for-tax-cut-capitol-repair-bond/article_e15262f0-cb76-51f6-bca6-8de55730475c.html
The Expect More OK! Coalition is releasing the first video of a series of pro-common core ads today in an effort to urge Oklahoma lawmakers to stand strong in their support of higher learning standards in Oklahoma classrooms.
The announcement comes on the heels of the successful delivery of over 7,000 signatures to the Oklahoma legislature in support of the Common Core State Standards.
“Lawmakers were right to stand up for higher learning standards in 2010 and they shouldn’t back down now,” Brian Hunt, Executive Director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, said. “Politics has no place in Oklahoma classrooms and lawmakers should do what’s right for the children of this state.”
The ads will be released on social media and the web beginning today and are expected to continue at a steady pace in the coming weeks.
The Expect More OK! Coalition for higher standards is a state-led alliance of state leaders, education, business, community, parent and child advocates, all of whom support, clear, consistent and higher academic standards in public education.
Governor Fallin today praised the Oklahoma House of Representatives for passing a tax cut measure. House Bill 2508 would cut the income tax rate from 5.25 to 5 percent beginning in 2016 provided personal income-tax revenues are equal or greater in fiscal year 2015 than revenues generated in fiscal year 2014.
“The House of Representatives took an important step today towards delivering meaningful, responsible tax relief to Oklahoma families,” said Fallin. “Reducing the income tax allows working Oklahomans to keep more of their hard earned money while helping to attract and retain jobs and businesses. It is an important part of our strategy to grow our economy and continue Oklahoma’s forward momentum.”
HB 2508, which passed the House 57-34, was authored by Representative Earl Sears. It now goes to the Oklahoma Senate.
Oklahoma’s monthly gross receipts to the treasury report shows total state collections continued to rise in February, the fourth anniversary of the low point reached following the Great Recession, State Treasurer Ken Miller said today.
“Collections, as they did this month, have topped the same month of the prior year in 41 of the past 48 months,” Miller said. “The state’s gross receipts have grown by almost 25 percent in the last four years.”
Twelve-month gross receipts have expanded by $2.2 billion or more than 23 percent since exiting their trough in February 2009, eight months following the official end of the last national recession.
Miller said February receipts indicate the key value of the oil and gas industry to the state’s economy.
“Gross production collections are up by more than 10 percent for the month and reflect a 10th consecutive month of year-over-year growth in generated revenue,” he said.
Miller said the gross production revenue increase, which is based on production during December, can be credited primarily to moderate increases in price for the commodities.
Miller observed that corporate income tax and motor vehicle collections also jumped by double digits during February, but cautioned against reading too much into those numbers due to some non-economic factors.
“The 45 percent jump in corporate income tax collections simply exemplifies the wide variances we often see in month-to-month reporting of that revenue stream,” he said. “The nearly 20 percent increase in motor vehicle taxes is skewed due to an accounting anomaly that occurred during 2013 whereby collections were reported as being artificially low. The anomaly will continue through November.”
Positive business conditions
The latest Business Conditions Index for Oklahoma report anticipates continued economic growth, accelerating from January’s report. The February survey shows Oklahoma with a rating of 58.9, compared to January’s 54.7. Numbers above 50 indicate anticipated economic growth in the next three to six months.
The revenue report for February shows gross collections at $818.08 million, up $27.67 million or 3.5 percent from February 2013.
Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $246.64 million, an increase of $11.63 million or 4.9 percent from the previous February.
Personal income tax collections for the month are $238.35 million, up $9.05 million or 3.9 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $8.29 million, an increase of $2.58 million or 45.2 percent.
Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $335.27 million in February. That is $2.03 million or 0.6 percent above February 2013.
Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $69.83 million in February, an increase of $6.66 million or 10.6 percent from last February. Compared to January reports, gross production collections are up by $6.1 million or 9.6 percent.
Chad Warmington, president of the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association, said, “The February gross receipts report from Treasurer Ken Miller illustrates both the significance and strength of Oklahoma’s oil and gas sector. The nearly $100 million annual increase in gross production revenue to the state from oil and gas activities, spearheaded primarily by Oklahoma companies, is a testament to the significance of this industry to the economic well-being of our state’s economy. The economics of drilling wells is exceptionally sensitive. Oklahoma’s energy companies have options on where they can deploy their capital budgets. Policymakers need to be careful not to negatively impact activity by increasing taxes on the companies who are actively investing capital in drilling wells in Oklahoma. The slightest adjustment could result in companies moving their rigs to other states with better geology and economics. Oklahoma’s economy doesn’t run on empty, it runs on energy – oil and gas.”
Motor vehicle taxes produced $59 million, up by $9.56 million or 19.3 percent from the prior year.
Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $107.33 million during the month. That is $2.22 million or 2 percent less than last February.
Between March 2013 and February 2014, gross revenue totals $11.53 billion. That is $452.24 million or 4.1 percent higher than collections from the previous 12-month period.
Gross income taxes generated $4.13 billion, reflecting an increase of $144.33 million or 3.6 percent from the prior 12 months.
Personal income tax collections total $3.55 billion, up by $148.81 million or 4.4 percent from the March 20121 to February 2013 period. Corporate collections are $582.42 million for the period, a decrease of $4.47 million or 0.8 percent over the previous period.
Sales taxes for the period generated $4.28 billion, an increase of $91 million or 2.2 percent from the prior 12 months.
Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $807.84 million during the 12 months, up by $96.52 million or 13.6 percent from the previous period.
Motor vehicle collections total $748.48 million for the period. This is an increase of $51.26 million or 7.4 percent from the trailing 12 months.
Other sources generated $1.56 billion, up $69.13 million or 4.6 percent from the previous 12 months.
Rep. Mike Turner announced today that he’ll seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Congressman James Lankford.
He joins a list of other Republicans seeking the seat, including Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas, Senator Clark Jolley, former Rep. Shane Jett and former Senator Steve Russell.
“The main reason I’m running is that we need strong, active conservatives of a new generation who aren’t part of the status quo, but are there to work hard in Congress,” Turner said.
“After surveying the current field of candidates,” Turner said, “many people approached me about running. There simply wasn’t a true, ‘across the board’ conservative on issues ranging from taxes and spending, social issues, economic growth issues like tort reform, and immigration.”
“I’m not a lawyer or career politician,” Turner said, “and my background, values and beliefs all match this district.”
An Oklahoma City native, Turner holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Southern Methodist University. Turner grew up working as an electrician’s apprentice, crawling through attics and underneath floors to run wire. Today, he provides technical advice to inventors and start up manufactures with particular expertise in the automotive sector.
Turner defeated an entrenched, 8-year Republican incumbent to win his Oklahoma House seat in 2012. He personally knocked on the doors of over 10,000 voters in the process. Turner pledged not to take money from lobbyists or political action committees, refused a state pension and promised to donate half his legislative salary to schools and charities in his district. He kept these promises in office.
Turner has shown a willingness to buck leaders in his own party when they stray from conservative principles. Last year, Turner voted against the record-high state budget because “it spent too much and gave back too little in tax relief.”
While his opponents have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbyist and PAC money over their political careers, Turner is once again refusing all such contributions in this race. Turner says he will also refuse the Congressional pension.
“I’ll work for the people of central Oklahoma, not the special interests in D.C.”
The 5th Congressional District seat includes most of Oklahoma County, along with Seminole and Pottawatomie counties to the east. The Republican Primary Election will be held June 24th.
GOPAC today announced the addition of Oklahoma Senate Majority Whip David Holt to its Legislative Leaders Advisory Board, composed of State Senate and House leaders who provide guidance to GOPAC.
“Senator Holt has distinguished himself in the Oklahoma Senate by successfully championing many pieces of conservative legislation, including lowering the state income tax and focusing tax dollars on core services that only government can or should offer,” said Frank Donatelli, Chairman of GOPAC. “We are honored to add yet another dedicated and innovative state legislator to our Advisory Board and look forward to working with him to advance conservative solutions to address the real challenges our communities face.”
“GOPAC has a long history of working to encourage and elect strong conservative leaders, and I’m honored to support its mission,” said Senator Holt. ”Oklahoma conservatives like Governor Frank Keating, Congressman J.C. Watts and Speaker T.W. Shannon have all been a part of GOPAC’s leadership through the years, and so I’m also pleased to be a part of preserving the strong bond between Oklahoma and GOPAC.”
Last week presented the first major legislative deadline. Proposals which didn’t receive committee approval by last Thursday are no longer eligible for additional consideration.
As the chairperson of the Government Modernization committee it was my responsibility to sort through a large number of proposals and work with the authors of those proposals to make them both politically viable and practicable for implementation if approved.
This year, the committee considered more proposals than in any other year.
Here are just a few.
Based on our interim study regarding the need for reform in county government, the committee approved a proposal to require county commissioners to follow the state’s training laws in order to be eligible for re-election. It appears this important law is being ignored by commissioners and frustrated lawmakers are desperate to entice compliance. We also approved a proposal to look at the consolidation of county administration, place county spending online for all to see, and place term limits on commissioners.
The committee approved multiple transparency proposals including cataloguing the state’s data collection practices so the citizens may view what data is being collected by government, mandating state agencies to place video recordings of their board meetings online for everyone to see, allowing the public to request the dash cam footage from Oklahoma Highway Patrol units, requiring the actual state budget to be placed online through documents.ok.gov, and a proposal requiring local governments to list the salaries of their employees on their websites.
We continued our work to consolidate duplicative processes and overhead. This includes a renewed focus on streamlining shared services–those services which are identical but currently split amongst state agencies and a continued focus on consolidating and selling off state-owned real property assets.
We also approved proposals to lower state employee healthcare costs through encouraging the use of healthcare providers which provide transparent health service pricing online and approved allowing for conceal and carry license applicants to pay for their license renewals online through electronic funds transfer.
Finally, perhaps the most important reform considered by the committee would completely modernize and transition the antiquated state employee merit system to something which better strikes a balance between protecting employees from political influence and enabling agency officials to hold poor performing employees to account.
In all, the committee approved more than 40 measures.
These ideas came from both members of the public and those who work within state government and who requested the modernization. Many of the proposals were sponsored by the members of the committee who have taken their commission to modernize government very seriously.
It’s been a neat experience to work with those other Representatives in this endeavor and this concludes what may be the most productive committee hearing schedule since the committee was first created in 2009.
For me, this work will now come to a close as I have been re-assigned by the new House leadership. It’s been an awesome honor to be the Modernization Chairman for the last five years and I thank you for reading these emails and sharing that experience with me.
I would also like to thank all of those who joined me and House Speaker-Emeritus TW Shannon at last week’s town hall meeting. I enjoyed getting to meet and speak with you and your attendance was much appreciated.
The Oklahoma House has — on its second try — passed a bill to extend a tax credit for the film industry.
The House voted 65-28 for the measure Tuesday after reconsidering the bill. It had fallen three votes short of passing on Monday.
The state provides rebates to filmmakers amounting to $1 for every $3 dollars they spend on movie productions in Oklahoma, up to a total of $5 million. The program is scheduled to expire July 1. The bill by Republican Rep. Todd Thomsen of Ada extends the credit for 10 years to 2024.
Opponents say the program is a wasteful use of tax dollars. They also say the Oscar-nominated film “August: Osage County,” which used the rebate program, portrayed Oklahoma negatively.
Two Senate bills to help better address the needs of Oklahoma’s veterans will soon be considered in the House. Senator Frank Simpson is the principal Senate author of Senate Bills 1610 and 1970, which both received unanimous approval in the Senate last week.
SB 1610 redefines “veteran” in Oklahoma statutes to include all honorably discharged veterans regardless of how long they served. The measure makes all veterans eligible for state benefits including admission into the state’s seven veterans centers. Currently, only those who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf are eligible for state benefits or are allowed into the veterans centers.
“By simply clarifying the definition of a veteran in Oklahoma, we’ll be allowing an additional 78,000 veterans to be eligible for state benefits and have the opportunity, if they wish, to spend their final days in a state veterans center with their brothers in arms,” said Simpson, R-Ardmore.
SB 1970 changes the name of the War Veterans Commission of Oklahoma to the Oklahoma Veterans Commission to expand the representation of the commission to include a broader demographic of Oklahoma veterans. The bill specifies that at least eight of the nine members of the commission will be honorably discharged veterans, one of the members will be a Persian Gulf War veteran and another will be someone who has a family member residing in one of the state’s veterans centers.
“The current membership of the commission doesn’t properly represent the interests of all of Oklahoma’s veterans,” explained Simpson. “These changes will ensure that all veterans have a voice and representation in this commission, which will hopefully help the state better address their needs.”
The bills will next be heard in the House Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs.
“I hope the House will take up and approve these important measures quickly so that we can get our veterans the services they need and bravely earned fighting for their country and state,” said Simpson.