Rep. Mike Sanders
The federal shutdown ordeal and resolution has dominated headlines, but the focus of state lawmakers has been legislative studies to improve the operation of state government. These studies give us the opportunity to bring multiple voices to the Oklahoma State Capitol to discuss policy issues and hone legislation for the upcoming legislative session. The interim study period began in September and will conclude in November.
Two proposals that we will likely see in the next session emerged from a study focused on improving the business climate in Oklahoma. The first proposal is to eliminate the state sales tax on dyed diesel, a fuel often used by agricultural producers. In addition to being a burden on producers, the tax is inefficient, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. What this means is that it is costly to collect despite the $18 million in revenue it yields. The second proposal is to amend the current billboard permit process. Currently, even if unused, a billboard permit remains in effect, barring the use of the space by other businesses. The idea that emerged from the study is to set a time limit in place to ensure businesses have the opportunity to use the space if it is going unused.
Another proposal that will be considered in the upcoming session is to consolidate the state’s transparency websites. Since 2007, the Oklahoma Legislature has mandated at least eight separate transparency websites that have dramatically increased transparency into state government. However, transparency could be further increased by streamlining the existing websites into a central portal where all transparency information could be easily accessed, according to a recommendation made to the committee by OMES.
Another study examined a proposal to consolidate the Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid and the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley rather than proceed to close both centers – the current plan. Presenters argued that while some individuals will be better served by the private providers of community-based centers, there are some individuals who are too severely disabled to get the service they need anywhere other than the state’s current resource centers. I have constituents with family members who have severe disabilities, and I am watching this proposal closely.
The Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Transportation that I chair has a study coming up at 10 a.m. on November 5. The study will examine the difficulties faced by smaller municipalities in funding their roads and bridges. The two questions I hope to have answered are: what problems do these communities face and whether or not the state should play a small role in helping them by either further empowering them to raise money to fund local streets and bridges or providing a small amount of funding.
I invite those of you who would like to follow the studies to do so by clicking the room number of the meeting where the study will take place at http://www.okhouse.gov/Video/MeetingRoomAudio.aspx. As always, I can be contacted at (405) 557-7407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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