Saturday, May 25, 2024

Executive News: Looking ahead to legislative session

We all knew Washington was going to slow down once we were a year out from the 2022 elections.
With a 50/50 split in the Senate, and the Democrats holding onto a razor-thin margin in the House, nobody wants to give anyone a victory or perceived victory this close to the elections. While some would argue it’s a good thing for the banking industry, it’s not good for the country as a whole.

Adrian Beverage, OBA President and CEO

There was a little bit of good news on the legislative front last week as the House passed the SAFE Banking Act (for the fourth time!) as an amendment to its version of the America Competes Act. It will now head to the Senate where it will most likely receive the same attention as its predecessors. Until Leader Schumer decides to hear the bill, it won’t go anywhere.

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While things are quiet on the legislative front, there is plenty of action with President Biden’s nominees. His nominee for vice chair of supervision, Sarah Bloom Raskin, received her first confirmation hearing last week. Raskin is a former member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and a former U.S. deputy secretary of the Treasury. She also served as the chief financial regulator for the state of Maryland.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Raskin was questioned about previous comments she made regarding climate change and her opinion on fossil fuels. Raskin reiterated her views the Fed does not have authority to reallocate capital away from the banking industry. While Raskin has some views that differ from what a good portion of our bankers believe in, I did talk with an Oklahoma banker this week who was personally assisted by Raskin when his/her bank needed some clarification. He/she personally wanted me to know that Raskin would be good for community banks.

Right now confirmation for Raskin has no margin for error, and we received word from the ABA that it doesn’t know of any Democrats who will oppose her nomination. We may not see any votes on this nomination for a couple of weeks. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) is recovering from a stroke and isn’t expected back in Washington for several weeks. His vote is vital to Raskin’s nomination moving through the Senate.

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Friday, Feb. 4, was FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams’ last day in office. Acting Chairman Greenberg hit the ground running, and make no mistake he will take advantage of the Democrat-controlled FDIC Board of Directors. You can read the priorities Gruenberg announced on Feb. 7 on the front page of this issue of Oklahoma Banker.

We are watching and monitoring all the hearings of the nominees as well as any movement from any agency or regulatory body.

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On Monday, Feb. 7, the Oklahoma legislature was officially underway. As is the tradition, Gov. Stitt delivered his fourth state of the state address. Stitt touched on several issues during his speech, from the McGirt decision to school funding.

Here is a quote from Gov. Stitt in regards to McGirt:

“Today, the state of our state is at a crossroads. We have a choice between two paths. One path leads toward a top-10 state. It’s a familiar road, and it’s paved with unity, fairness and equal protection under the law. The other path leads to a jigsaw puzzle of jurisdiction. From the beginning, I’ve sounded the alarm on the Supreme Court’s decision. Because I knew then, and I know now, that even a narrow Supreme Court ruling can fundamentally change a state. Oklahoma has been robbed of the authority to prosecute crimes.”

Stitt also touched on a couple of policy issues he will be pushing this session. One that has made some headlines is the elimination of sales tax on groceries. This idea has been floated out there every year, it seems, and rarely makes it far in the process.

Another proposal is directing additional funding towards retaining and recruiting teachers. I’ve heard there is talk of paying teachers up to $100,000 annually if they meet a certain criterion.

Another education proposal from Stitt would create “empowerment accounts” where parents can use their child’s portion of state education funding to pay for private school tuition. The bill that would allow this to happen is SB1647.

Stitt also supported investing $13 billion in transportation upgrades over the next 10 years. One particular project he is passionate about is making the Turner Turnpike six lanes from Tulsa to Oklahoma City.

Stitt also proposed a joint statewide training facility for law enforcement and a consolidated, unified command structure within a single department. Forty-three other states have a very similar structure already in place.

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Megan McGuire and I have been reading through all the bills filed this session, with the number being close to 2,400 pieces of good intentions. Every year, it doesn’t take long to determine what the “hot topics” will be, simply by the sheer number of bills filed.

This year there were an obscene amount of bills either marijuana-related or vaccine mandate-related. My best guess is there were at least 100 bills filed for both subjects. After we hit the first deadline, which is March 3, we’ll know which mandate and marijuana bills are still alive and beginning to even more closely track those bills.

We’ve really hit the ground running as we are tracking over 200 bills this session. There are several we have initial concerns about, and are working with leadership on those bills. We are already looking forward to the March 3 deadline when, I guess, probably 60% of the bills will fall of our list and be officially pronounced dead.

It’s going to be a great session and we are glad it’s finally here. We’ll continue to track everything that may have any impact on your bank.

Should you ever need anything from your OBA, don’t hesitate to contact us.