Executive News: Sudden resignations spark interest at state capitol

Last month, more than 60 bankers attended the OBA’s 2021 Senior Management Forum in Las Vegas. While the temps were close to 115 degrees, it was still great to see so many bankers.
It was a record crowd and just coming off our annual convention, which also had record numbers. It’s clear bankers are ready to be back in person and looking forward to any opportunity to spend time with their peers.

We had a lineup of outstanding speakers, covering a multitude of topics: cybersecurity, credit trends, risk management, impact on the allowance for loan losses, calculated risk, legal/regulatory update, balance sheet strategies and strategic planning.
As you can see, there was a lot of great information and everyone left with plenty to take back to their banks. The OBA education department won’t have any in-person events until they fire back up in August, but there are numerous webinars available in July.

Adrian Beverage, OBA President and CEO

Usually there isn’t much to talk about in early July concerning the state legislature, but it’s not true this year. Since we last spoke, Attorney General Mike Hunter has resigned, and Oklahoma State Treasurer Randy McDaniel has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2022. We’ll take a moment to dive into each of these a little more and explain why each is important to you.

On Wednesday, May 26, Hunter made an announcement nobody – and I mean nobody – saw coming. He announced he would be resigning from his post effective June 1. I’m sure you’ve all heard rumors and speculation as to why he resigned, but I don’t want to spend the ink confirming, denying or speculating on any of that in this article. What I do know is we, as an industry, are losing an ally in Hunter.

When Frank Keating was president and CEO of the ABA from 2011-2015, Mike Hunter was his chief operating officer. During this period, bankers from across the state built relationships with Hunter and he learned the importance of community banks, especially in Oklahoma.

With Hunter resigning, the governor now has to appoint someone to fill the office until the 2022 elections. As of print for this month’s article, Gov. Stitt has yet to make an announcement as to whom will be the acting AG. There are several names swirling around as to whom he may pick, and from the names I’ve heard, all will do a good job.

Not long after Hunter announced he was resigning, a familiar name announced his candidacy for attorney general: Gentner Drummond. You’ll recall back in the 2018 elections, Hunter and Drummond had a battle for the ages. Both sides were well funded and it got a little heated at times, but in the end, Hunter won the primary runoff defeating Drummond by only 271 votes.

Drummond is the only person who has announced as a candidate for the office. Should Drummond win, we would have another ally in the office as Drummond is a bank owner and also has an active law practice.

When State Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced he wasn’t seeking re-election, I know I was shocked.

Randy has been a great friend since he entered the legislature in 2007 and was termed-out in 2019. He was the pension expert in the capitol and also knew a lot about banking. He also carried several OBA bills while he was in the legislature.

Randy was a perfect fit for the Treasurer’s office: He just showed up every day, did his job to better the state and went home to his family.

But, that’s the reason why he isn’t running again as his kids are getting older and the time it takes to run a state-wide campaign is exhausting. I will never fault anyone for wanting to spend time with their family, I sure hope Randy considers getting back into public service down the road as he’s a great asset for the state of Oklahoma.

Usually, this race doesn’t get much attention, but my guess is there will be several folks who throw their hat in the ring for this one. I know of two for sure who are running – Todd Russ a termed-out legislator and former banker from Cordell; and Mike Mazzei, a former state senator and secretary of budget.
Todd is also a good friend of ours even before he went into public service. At one time he was on the OBA’s board of directors and very active in the association.

Mike was also good to us while he was in the legislature, as he was in leadership and very supportive of the banking industry.

I feel safe saying there will be more people getting into this race before it’s all said and done, but as of right now we are in a good spot with these two gentlemen.

We are getting very close to the August recess at the federal level – both chambers will work through the end of July and won’t return to Washington until the third week of September. While we don’t anticipate anything major happening in the next couple of weeks, we did receive some good news at the end of June. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), introduced S. 2202, the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act 2021 (ECORA).
This bill is very simple, but has the potential to be a game-changer to our rural banks and especially their customers. It exempts interest on loans secured by agricultural real estate from taxation, and it also exempts interest on residential mortgages in communities of less than 2,500 population, provided the home is the primary residence of the borrower.

A similar bill was introduced in the House earlier this year and has yet to receive a hearing. We are working with members of our delegation to educate and explain the importance of this legislation. We’ll continue to do so until we have all members signed on as authors to both the House and the Senate bill. We’ll continue to keep you updated should anything change on this important legislation.

I hope you saw in our most recent OK Banker Direct, Megan McGuire was named the new vice president/government relations. Megan will handle the state level and will also be another voice at the federal level. Megan has been going with me to the capitol in Oklahoma City for several years and has a very good understanding of how the Oklahoma legislature works. She has an incredible talent for building relationships, which is the most fundamental skill you must have to be successful in this field.
I’m looking forward to watching Megan grow in her new role at the OBA, and I know she’ll do a great job representing the OBA.

Things are starting to line up for an exciting fall here at the OBA as we’ve got lots of education opportunities and we’ll resume our regular fall Bankers’ Night Out events.
We are all looking forward to traveling the state and seeing our friends. I can promise you we’ll be out to your bank in the near future, and look forward to hearing from you about what’s going on at your bank and in your community.

As always, should you ever need anything from us, please let us know.