By Rep. Mike Sanders
Interim studies are underway in the Legislature. Several are being held each week on a wide variety of topics from economic growth to agriculture, utilities, energy, education, health care and much more.
Once session starts in February 2020, lawmakers will hear dozens of bills in each committee meeting and then vote on hundreds of pieces of legislation over a short period. These interim studies give us time to slow down and ask questions of different experts on each topic and analyze costs and other factors of proposed legislation.
I will be holding my own interim study this fall on funding for dyslexia screenings for students as part the Reading Sufficiency Act.
In this particular interim study, the Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education will take a look at adding screening for these students and how it could be funded. We’ll hear from the experts on this matter, including those from Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma Task Force, so we’ll know how to move forward on any potential legislation.
I was able last year to pass a bill to provide professional development for teachers to help them recognize students with dyslexia and to help them determine how best to help these students to put them on a better pathway toward learning on pace with their peers.
An interim study I attended last week at the Capitol tackled a completely separate issue – Oklahoma’s formula for calculating corporate income taxes.
This study examined what it would mean to shift from Oklahoma’s current three-factor formula for corporate tax liability calculations to a single-factor formula. The current formula uses each corporation’s property tax, sales tax, and payroll tax in a three-factor calculation, whereas a single-factor formula would only use each corporation’s sales tax for such calculation. Many states have adopted the single-factor structure touting it as a way to incentivize corporate relocation and growth
Legislation to change Oklahoma’s structure was presented last session but then laid over after the State Chamber voiced concerns about the bill.
Tony Mastin, executive director of the Oklahoma Tax Commission suggested lawmakers take a closer look at Oklahoma corporations that may be affected by a corporate tax structure change. He suggested change would have a negative impact such as revenue loss for at least the first year with more analysis needed. Director Mastin also discussed some analysis of states that have already changed, including Pennsylvania and Georgia.
I’ll be attending other interim studies this fall, including several that will be heard in the Agriculture Committee. One will seek to identify the bureaucratic and statutory problems Oklahoma beef producers face and identify legislative measures that could benefit them. We also want to look at ways to educate Oklahoma beef consumers of the benefits of choosing Oklahoma beef products. Another study will examine changes made by OSU to the extension program and the role of county extension offices in cooperative extension in the future.
On the energy front, one study will look at investment in renewable energy sources to help continue to diversity Oklahoma’s economy.
A study before the Transportation Committee will look at potential conflicts between state statute and the administrative code on funding and maintenance of the state highway system and county highway system.
One study that will come before the Utilities Committee, which I chair, will involve the topic of eminent domain as it relates to wind transmission lines. This is being sponsored by the representative from the Panhandle where this has become an issue with property owners in that area. Another will look at expanding the broadband network to rural areas and communities.
Another study before the Utilities Committee that could have an impact for rural communities will examine Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) grants, looking at the structure, funding level and effectiveness of the grants for rural communities to see if there are opportunities for growth or improvement to the program.
I’ll keep you posted on things I learn.
In the meantime, if I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.