Saturday, July 20, 2024

Executive News: Legislative session rides roller coaster this year

The Second Regular Session of the 59th Oklahoma State Legislature finally came to an end – by later afternoon on May 30, both chambers had officially adjourned sine die.

The legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn session by 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May. Rarely do they ever make it to the last day in the month, but this year was different – it even included legislators holding committee meetings on Memorial Day.

Adrian Beverage, OBA President and CEO

Every legislative session is different, but this one will go down as one of the most memorable I can remember. It was an absolute roller coaster of a ride with our own legislation: We had some losses and we had some victories, which is about all you can ask for because, rarely if ever, do you get everything you want in that building.

I’ll talk more about our legislation in a minute, but I want to recap things outside our lane that had significant impact on this session.

• • •

This year’s session started off in early February with the legislature actually ALREADY technically in session. Prior to the start of the regular session, Gov. Stitt had called the legislature into a special session hoping to get a cut in the state income tax. The governor and the House were on the same page regarding the income tax cut, but you need all three chambers to be, and the Senate never joined the party.

This issue was prevalent throughout the entire session, and the Senate held its ground the entire time and never gave the governor what he wanted.

In my opinion, the biggest story of this year was the shake-up in leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The chairman and vice chairman of Senate Appropriations are the lead negotiators for the Senate when it comes to the budget. The budget process is worked on year-round, it has so many moving parts it’s not possible to only work on the budget during the four months the legislature is in session.

Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) has been the chairman of Senate Appropriations for many years while Sen. Chuck Hall (R-Perry) has been vice chairman. The budget process in both the House and Senate starts to heat up come May 1 – you can pretty much set your watch to it every year. Early in May, out of nowhere, Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Edmond) removed Thompson as chairman and immediately named Hall as the new chairman. This meant Hall was put in charge of negotiating a $14 billion budget in only a couple of weeks.

And just when you think the craziness was behind us, it was only just beginning. In a normal legislative session, the budget would be negotiated between the House, Senate and the governor’s staff behind closed doors. In a new era of more transparency, this year’s negotiations would be held in public, though.

While it was fascinating to watch the process in public, it did take time and ultimately delayed the process in getting a negotiated budget. I do know it is important for the public to have an opportunity to see how laws are created and passed as it ultimately impacts everyone. I wouldn’t be surprised if the public budget hearings are here to stay – with a little tweaking and lessons learned from this year it could be even better next session.

• • •

As I alluded to earlier, it was a roller coaster of a ride this session for the OBA. Many ups and downs regarding legislation we introduced, as well as legislation that wasn’t ours originally, but we were involved in the process. I’ll list the majority of the bills we were involved with and go into greater detail on some of them.

Bills signed into law:

HB 3962 — this bill was a moderate re-write of the Oklahoma Trust Code. A group of bankers, attorneys and trust advisors worked all session on making changes that would make Oklahoma a trust destination.

HB 2776 — About every three years we have an update bill to the UCC. We ran this one last year, but the language regarding Central Bank Digital Currency was an issue. We made the appropriate changes this year and the bill was ultimately signed into law.

HB 4062 — This bill removed the sunset on the SBA tax credit. Rather than having to go in every three years to extend the sunset, we removed it permanently.

HB 4069 — This bill adjusts criminal penalties for persons found to be in possession of multiple magnetic cards containing stolen credit or gift card data, imposing more severe penalties for possession of more cards.

SB 1819 — The Uniform Special Deposit Act, which defines special deposits and outlines associated agreements, procedures for distribution to beneficiaries, interests and obligations.
Dead bills we will bring back:

HB 4092 — This bill was introduced by the OBA. The Oklahoma Ag Lending Act of 2024 would allow any financial institution that made a certain type of ag loan in a community of 5,000 or fewer to deduct the net interest income from net income. The bill sailed through the House with no issues at all. We made some changes to the bill in the Senate like adding a cap and a three-year sunset we felt made the bill even better. A handful of metro senators piled onto the bill, however, and kept pounding our Senate author that individuals in the metro areas should receive the same opportunities as those in the rural areas. The bill didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate and is dead for the year. During the process, we learned a lot and made the bill even better, and we will absolutely be bringing it back next year.

SB 1510 — This bill exempts municipalities from the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act of 2022. Several years ago, when the Act went into place, one of the unintended consequences was the cost to municipalities. This bill was intended to remove them from the Act. Unfortunately, though, one House member thought he would try to expand it to other industries. Most of the House realized it wouldn’t be a good move and rejected the new bill, which resulted in the entire bill dying.

SB 1903 — This started out as the buyer’s premium bill and grew to address other issues. Oklahoma County is the only county that does its sheriff sales online. A 1.6% buyers’ premium is added to the sale price of property to cover all the costs of the online company hosting the auction. The buyer’s premium is high enough it sometime discourages people from bidding as it drives the final cost of the property out of their comfort level. We were able to agree on language to cap the buyer’s premium at $400 per property. As a result of a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma county against the online provider, however, all sheriff sales have come to a screeching halt. We attempted in the last two weeks of session to change the law so Oklahoma County could start moving properties again.

We were too late into the session, though, to make the necessary changes, and as a result, we lost the entire bill including the buyers’ premium language.

• • •

This legislative session was busy, as we had all types of legislation to work with this year. I would say it was a pretty good year for the OBA: We didn’t get everything we wanted, but we got some good bills signed into law and kept bad bills from seeing the light of day.

I want to take a minute and thank all of you for your help. We had to call on you to reach out to your elected officials and you stepped up.

Just a friendly reminder we have primary elections around the corner. On June 18, Oklahomans will go to the polls for the primaries with a lot of House and Senate seats to be decided. It’s important you get out and vote.

We’ll have a full wrap up of the primary elections in the July newspaper. I hope everyone has a great summer – I’ll be hitting the road for the next couple of months and hope to see you at your banks soon!