Monday, June 24, 2019

REID issues 2019 grades for Legislators


FRESHMEN LEGISLATORS, NEW GOVERNOR DEFINE LEGISLATIVE SESSION;
LEGISLATURE SEES FIRST SURPLUS IN FOUR YEARS

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, June 21, 2019 – The Research Institute for Economic Development (RIED), a non-partisan organization and producer of the annual RIED Report, a grading system of Oklahoma legislators’ votes on key economic development and business issues, announced today its 2019 RIED Report. The scores were awarded to lawmakers who served during the first regular session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature. Over 50 freshmen served during the session 

Under the RIED evaluation system, legislators earn points when they support job creation and economic development issues or vote against legislation that is harmful to job creation and economic development.  A score of 70 and above represents a passing grade while 69 and below represents a failing grade. Sixteen measures were utilized to compile the 2019 RIED Report.

“This was an interesting session on many fronts with legislators faced with a myriad of issues, including opportunities to advance pro-business and pro-job creation legislation,” said Mark Williams, RIED president.

“The vast majority of Senate and House members received passing grades of 70 or above with 14 members scoring 91 which was the highest score of the session. One bill, HB 2632, prevented these legislators from obtaining a perfect 100 score, and other legislators from scoring higher. The bill was hotly debated throughout the session with pro and con advocacy groups weighing in throughout the process. After much negotiation, the measure ultimately passed both chambers unanimously and was signed by Governor Kevin Stitt. Despite the robust debate surrounding the bill, and its unanimous passage, the measure is anti-business on multiple levels and could not be supported by RIED. First, the bill requires contracts between private entities to be reviewed by the Oklahoma Insurance Department rather than be contracted on the open market without government intervention. Second, the bill raises the cost of health insurance for any business that provides health coverage for its employees, and it raises the cost to consumers who purchase their own policies. Lastly, the measure fails to exempt plans governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which translates into ERISA plans now being governed by state law which preempts federal law which will almost certainly lead to legal challenges. The legislature’s passage of HB 2632 unfortunately cast a negative cloud over what otherwise was a positive and pro-business session for state lawmakers.”

Overall, 109 of 149 legislators received passing scores of 70 or higher, including 40 of 48 Senate members and 69 of 101 House members. Fourteen senators and 32 representatives scored 85 or higher.

“With so many new faces in the legislature, I was curious to see how the entire body approached issues that impact Oklahoma’s business climate and economy, both positive and negative,” said Greg Love, RIED board chairman. Overall, I am pleased with the pro-business votes of the majority of legislators, however it is important to note how just one anti-business vote on a singular piece of legislation can send the wrong message outside our borders. Following the 2018 session, I stated how important it was for the executive and legislative branches to seriously address budget reform, and the manner in which fiscal decisions are made across state government.  Progress was made this session, specifically in the form of SB 1, and I urge the legislature and Governor Stitt to continue to embrace policies and procedures that advance Oklahoma economically while positioning our state as a premier business destination.”

The 2019 RIED Report is available at riedreport.com.

The Research Institute for Economic Development was founded in 1997 and promotes economic growth through the evaluation of business, job and economic growth issues considered by the Oklahoma Legislature.  RIED is non-partisan and does not lobby issues, endorse candidates or campaigns.

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