A group of 35 state legislators released an open letter Thursday voicing concerns about the possibility that many tax relief measures passed in Oklahoma over the past decade could be overturned, should the state Supreme Court rule that tax reductions must meet the guidelines of State Question 640.
Passed on a statewide ballot by voters in 1992 as an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution, SQ 640 was intended to make it more difficult for the state Legislature to increase taxes. According to the provision, all proposals increasing state taxes must either be sent to a vote of the people or receive three-fourths approval in both houses of the Legislature. Such measures also cannot be approved in the final five days of the legislative session.
At question is the fate of Senate Bill 1246, an income tax reduction measure passed by the Legislature during the 2014 session. The new statute’s constitutionality has been challenged in a lawsuit, filed with the state Supreme Court, on the grounds that it did not meet the standards of SQ 640. The Court heard arguments on the suit last month.
The 35 lawmakers who endorsed the letter hail from all four quadrants of the state. The two legislators who carried SB 1246 in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively – state Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, and state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang – endorsed the letter.
In the letter, the lawmakers make the case that it was not the aim of Oklahoma voters in 1992 to make it more difficult for the Legislature to reduce taxes. Rather, the intent was to make it harder to increase taxes.
If the Court were to rule against SB 1246 on the grounds that tax relief measures must meet the standards of SQ 640, numerous previous tax reductions could be overturned, including: income tax reductions, estate tax repeal, increases in the standard deduction, gross production tax rate reductions, manufacturing exemptions, and tax relief for retirees, military veterans and disabled veterans.
Senate Communications Division
Following the swearing-in of new and returning Senators on Tuesday, Senate Republicans met in caucus to elect their leadership team for the 55th Oklahoma Legislature. Without opposition, Sen. Brian Bingman was reelected as President Pro Tempore-Nominee of the Senate. Bingman also announced that Sen. Mike Schulz will continue to serve as Majority Floor Leader for the 55th Legislature. Majority Caucus Chair Bryce Marlatt and Majority Caucus Vice Chair A.J. Griffin were also elected without opposition.
In addition, the Senate Republican Caucus elected assistant majority floor leaders and majority whips on Tuesday.
“I’m grateful to our caucus for once again entrusting me with this responsibility, and I look forward to working together as we advance the state of Oklahoma,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The eight new members of our caucus bring a diverse array of experience and a dedication to serve the people of their districts. We will continue working to ensure Oklahoma remains a leader in economic development and job growth for years to come.”
Senate Republicans also elected the following members to leadership posts Tuesday:
Assistant Majority Floor Leaders:
Sen. Rick Brinkley
Sen. Eddie Fields
Sen. Greg Treat
Sen. Nathan Dahm
Sen. Kim David
Sen. Frank Simpson
Sen. Rob Standridge
Majority Caucus Chair:
Sen. Bryce Marlatt
Majority Caucus Vice Chair:
Sen. A.J. Griffin.
“I congratulate this fine group of Senators on their election to Senate leadership,” Bingman said. “These men and women will be instrumental in our efforts to advance conservative policy.”
The 55th Legislature will include eight new Republican Senators. Four Senate seats have switched from Democrat to Republican, including Marty Quinn (District 2), Joseph Silk (District 5), Roger Thompson (District 8), and Darcy Jech (District 26). The Senate will also welcome four freshmen in seats previously held by Republicans with the addition of Senators Stephanie Bice (District 22), Jason Smalley (District 28), Ervin Yen (District 40), and Jack Fry (District 42).
The Senate will meet for organizational day on Jan. 6, where leaders will be formally elected and rules for the 2015 session will be passed.
Earlier, friends, family and supporters looked on as newly elected and reelected members of the Oklahoma State Senate took the oath of office on Tuesday in the Senate chamber. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, President of the Senate, presided over the ceremony. The oath was administered by the Honorable John Reif, Chief Justice-Elect of the Supreme Court.
New members taking the oath of office were Marty Quinn, R-Claremore; Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow; Roger Thompson, R-Okemah; Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City; Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher; Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City; Jack Fry, R-Midwest City; and Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, was sworn in during an earlier ceremony. Quinn, Floyd, Smalley and Pittman have previously served in the House of Representatives.
Returning members who were sworn in on Tuesday included Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa; Mike Schulz, R-Altus; Mark Allen, R-Spiro; Randy Bass, D-Lawton; Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate; Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso; Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow; Kim David, R-Porter; Eddie Fields, R-Wynona; AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie; Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City; Frank Simpson, R-Springer; and Anthony Sykes; R-Moore. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and John Sparks, D-Norman, took the oath of office in an earlier ceremony.
Returning members were able to file legislation for the 2015 session beginning November 17, while new members can begin filing bills on November 19. The deadline for requesting bills is December 12. January 22 is the deadline for introducing legislation to be heard in the 2015 session.
The full Senate will officially convene for an organizational day on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, and the First Session of the 55th Legislature reconvenes on Monday, February 2.
The Senate website has streaming video from all committee rooms and the chamber. Legislation, the Senate Journal, biographical information on members, high resolution photos, committee and floor agendas, votes and press releases can also be accessed at www.oksenate.gov.
Hall Capital announced today the creation of an investor relations office to provide a focal point of communications and services for investors in the firm’s various private equity, automotive, real estate and energy investment partnerships.
Fred J. Hall, Managing Partner of the third-generation family owned investment business, said David Holt will head the new office as Director of Investor Relations and Wendy House will expand her role at Hall Capital to include Associate Director of Investor Relations in addition to her position as Vice President of the Fred Jones Family Foundation.
“Our success the past 95 years in creating partnerships with other family owned enterprises as well as working with entrepreneurs and innovators across the country to provide them the capital to grow and build their businesses resulted in a steady increase in the number of investors,” Hall said. “I have come to recognize that Hall Capital should initiate an office of Investor Relations to build on the momentum we have created from investing in small to medium size companies.”
Hall continued, “David will play an important role in strengthening and executing our investor communications and relationship strategies. His broad and diversified background in law, business and public service makes him well suited and qualified for this new position. David is well respected locally as well as nationally, and I am pleased he has agreed to join our growing firm to provide leadership for our newly established investor relations group.”
In response to joining Hall Capital, Holt commented, “I’ve been privileged to work with the Hall family for the past several years on civic initiatives while watching the tremendous growth of the family’s investment business. I am honored to join this dynamic company and accomplished team and look forward with high anticipation to supporting our investors.”
Holt, an Oklahoma State Senator, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from The George Washington University and Juris Doctorate from Oklahoma City University. His public service career includes working with former United States Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and United States President George W. Bush. Before his election to the Senate in 2010, Holt served in the administration of then Lt. Governor Mary Fallin and as the longtime chief of staff to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. Holt recently ran unopposed for a second term.
“I am also pleased our longtime associate Wendy House has chosen to expand her role with our company by joining David in our investor relations group,” Hall said. “Wendy has done an exceptional job managing our Fred Jones Family Foundation. Her impressive communications, organizational and administrative abilities will serve our investors well.”
House joined Hall Capital in 2007. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma. Respected in the Oklahoma City community, House has voluntarily served in leadership positions on several non-profit organizations.
About Hall Capital
Hall Capital is a third generation family-owned business with operations in Automotive, Private Capital, Real Estate, and Oil & Gas investing as well as the Fred Jones Family Foundation. The company continues to embody the entrepreneurial vision and “forward unlimited” spirit that launched its founder, Fred Jones, into business. Hall Capital is owned and managed by Fred J. Hall, Brooks Hall Jr. and Kirkland Hall with offices in Chicago, Dallas, Nashville and Oklahoma City.
House Media Division
Returning and newly elected members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives will take their official oath of office during a special ceremony on Tuesday.
Chief Justice-elect John Reif will administer the oath of office at 10:30 a.m. in the House Chamber.
Doors will open at 10:20 a.m. for general public seating in the fifth-floor gallery. Members of the media are invited to use the fifth-floor press box overlooking the House Chamber. There are seven XLR outlets available in the press box to access the live-audio feed. Print photographers may use the press box or find a permanent position in one of the corners of the public viewing gallery on the fourth floor. Print photographers will not be permitted to roam the gallery and obstruct the view of guests.
The ceremony will be streamed live and can be viewed at www.okhouse.gov.
Senate Communications Division
Oklahoma’s school districts can redirect more funding to teachers and classrooms by streamlining and consolidating administrative costs, offering parents more choices for their children and eliminating waste, Senator Kyle Loveless said today.
The Senate Education Subcommittee on Appropriations held an interim study Wednesday spurred by legislation authored by Loveless last session. The bill would have consolidated administrative spending for more than 200 Oklahoma school districts with 250 or fewer students, which Loveless said could have resulted in more than $35 million in savings to be redirected to classrooms.
“Today was just to look at all the efficiencies that need to be improved in public education so that we can get more tax dollars to actual teaching,” said Loveless, R-Oklahoma City.
Heather Kays, a research fellow specializing in education with The Heartland Institute, said school districts can share costs on a regional basis in some administrative functions and capital expenses to provide the benefit of scale.
“Places where that makes a lot of sense are things like payroll administration, human resources, employee benefit coordination, accounting, printing services, state aid planning, textbook and substitute teaching coordination, safety and risk management and staff development,” Kays said.
Kays also outlined in-depth studies that analyzed examples of school choice programs such as charter schools. The studies showed students in public and charter schools achieved educational benefits and taxpayer money was spent more efficiently in a number of existing models available for Oklahoma to follow.
“You have very specific examples of it working well, and the laws already exist elsewhere,” Kays said. “You can model them after that, and you can just make it so that it fits Oklahoma better.”
The panel also heard a presentation from Brent Bushey, executive director of the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides member school districts with subsidies and other programs aimed to stretch funding dollars and provide better educational opportunities for students.
“We have a very simple mission: to work with public schools, to empower them and to find ways to both improve their school performance as well as drive down costs,” Bushey said.
The resource center assists school districts with programs including financial management, instructor training, technology systems management and legal services.
Loveless pointed to information provided by speakers at the study that indicated school district consolidation and eliminating waste could lead to significant savings by school districts, which could directly benefit Oklahoma students.
“The issue here is the duplication. If there’s just a little bit of waste, multiplied over 500 districts, that needs to be addressed,” Loveless said. “Looking at it and discussing it and not just ignoring the problem is what we need to move forward.”