The joint civic luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary Clubs convened for lunch and a legislative update on Wednesday, June 14 at Freddie’s banquet hall with 85 attendees present.
Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Shirey kicked off the event, thanking Legislators for their service and welcomed District 12 State Senator James Leewright (R) as well as District 29 and 30 Representatives Kyle Hilbert (R) and Mark Lawson (R).
Audience members included previous District Senators and Representatives; Ted Fisher, Mike Tyler, Brian Bingman and Mark McCullough.
Leewright, who transitioned from Representative to Senator this year, stated last session was “all about the budget” as he expressed his pleasure in the pieces of legislation passed.
The Senator ran seventeen bills in the 56th Legislature, only one was vetoed by the Governor.
Not usually a proponent of raising taxes, one measure met his criteria; the gasoline tax. “A usage tax designated to core services for roads and bridges. Roughly 40 percent of it comes from out of state drivers which are new dollars coming into the state.” The average driver would see a yearly increase of about $37.50 per year, based on driving 15,000 miles with average fuel economy. “The increase still puts Oklahoma below the regional average.”
To the GOP’s dismay, “The goalpost kept getting moved and I was very disappointed the gas tax wasn’t able make it through,” he said. Citing a unique situation with the Democrat’s House Minority Leader Scott Inman announcing his race for Governor. “It didn’t allow for a lot of across the aisle work. It was more about how bad the other party is doing.” Alluding to the Democrat’s posturing claims they could do a better job leading in the Governor’s office.
Touching on the “the sensation fee” or tobacco tax which only requires 51 votes, “I don’t think that’s how we should be doing business at The Capitol,” he said.
Commending leadership for their efforts, “At the beginning of the session, if you had asked me if we were going to fill the shortfall, I probably would have said that it is not possible.”
Authored by Representative Hilbert in the House and Leewright as the principal Senate author, House Bill 1427—summarized for revenue and taxation—is an Out-of-State Tax Collections Enforcement Act. HB 1427 directs the Oklahoma Tax Commission to form an Out-of-State task force dedicated to focus on out of state compliance, which will bring uncollected revenues to the state from non residence that are not complying and unfairly competing against Oklahoma companies.
One of the Senator’s main themes was P3: Private, Public Partnerships. “The way the government is starting to run now, is not all is done through government funds. Instead of creating large government bureaucracies, we should be using the private sector to do what they do best.”
SB 430 puts in statutes how partnerships contract between all parties, which in turn gives the private sector certainty on how particular partnerships will function. Contracting out with a private industry which does these things better, more efficiently, and at a lower cost is said to convey Legislators as good stewards of the tax payer’s dollars. “I think it is how we should operate and how most business folks would, and I am very proud of the private, public partnerships legislation that we ran,” he stated.
Generally distanced from “feel good” Legislation, the Senator also ran a bill for Blue Lives Matter in the wake of the two law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during session. “I felt it was very important for Oklahoma to set their values out there and make a statement. If you are going to kill a police officer in the line of duty there will be tough consequences for it.” He disapproved of the automatic death penalty language. “I amended it to where it was either the death penalty or life without possibility of parole to allow a Jury that may not convict if the only option was the death penalty.”
Leewright closed his update on legislation that decreased the Medicaid error rates, lawsuit reform and the tire recycling act which employs over 80 creek county residents.
Look for more updates from District 29 and 30 Representatives; Kyle Hilbert and Mark Lawson in upcoming stories on sapulpatimes.com