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December 20, 2013

STATE

New Look Coming for 2014! — This will be the last CEO Briefing until January 10, 2014. That issue will debut a new look for the CEO Briefing that we think you will find more pleasing to the eye and better organized. Later in the month, the State Chamber will unveil its new website. All the same great information plus new features that we will talk more about as we get closer to the rollout. We hope you have a happy and safe holiday season and we will see you again in 2014!

ChamberMarket Information Now Available — This week the State Chamber opened the ChamberMarket website with new details about the program and plans that will be offered through this new service. Visit www.OkStateChamberMarket.com for more information about this exciting solution to reduce administrative headaches and to help control costs. Read our press release for more information.
Contact Jonathan Buxton

Revenue Estimate For Next Fiscal Year Approved — The State Board of Equalization approved the revenue estimate for fiscal year 2015 that Governor Fallin will use to draft a budget to submit to the legislature. The Board approved an estimate of $7.0 billion to be available for appropriation for the next fiscal year. This is $170.8 million or 2.4 percent less than the current year’s budget. The estimate includes the amount that would have been used for State Capitol repairs and saved by taxpayers had the approved income tax cut gone into effect in 2015. The Oklahoma Supreme Court found the tax cut and capitol repair funding bill unconstitutional this week due to logrolling or violation of the single subject provision.
Contact Gwendolyn Caldwell

Supreme Court Upholds Workers’ Compensation Restructuring — Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld last session’s historic rewrite of Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws, Senate Bill 1062, as a valid exercise of legislative authority. The court ruled that the act did not violate the single-subject rule of Article 5 § 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution and could take effect in February. With this ruling, the Commission is able to continue working on creation of the rules for the new administrative system.
Contact Jonathan Buxton

DEQ Names New Director — The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) named Scott Thompson as the new agency director this week. Scott Thompson has previously served as DEQ’s director of the land protection division since 2000. DEQ has been conducting interviews and searching for a new director since Steve Thompson retired in October after 11-years at the helm. As director of the land protection division, Scott Thompson handled Superfund sites, solid waste, hazardous waste, permitting issues and engineering and design projects.
Contact Arnella Karges

Oklahoma Improves Score on Tax Appeal Requirements — The Council on State Taxation (COST) evaluates every state on their statutes and rules that govern how much access taxpayers have to an independent appeals process and how taxpayers perceive the procedure.  Oklahoma improved from a grade of C- in 2010 to a B+ on the recently released 2013 Scorecard.  This improvement is mainly due to the state providing an optional de novo review of appeals at the district court, which gets closer to meeting COST’s standard of a fair, efficient and independent appeals process.  To read more on COST’s 2013 Scorecard about state tax administration, click here.
Contact Jonathan Buxton

New Videos Highlight Lawton-Fort Sill Area — The Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation is getting attention for two videos it has produced. According to its press release, “One video highlights Lawton’s education system from pre-K through college, including the system-wide implementation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, while the second is designed to draw events, groups, meetings and visitors to the Lawton-Fort Sill region.” The videos can be seen on http://lawtonedc.com/.

State Chamber Spring Internships - Now Accepting Applications — The State Chamber is excited to offer an internship program for Oklahoma City metro area college students seeking to gain experience in legislative advocacy and communications. We are currently looking for qualified students to fill internship positions in our Government Affairs, Political Projects, and Communications departments for the spring semester. Interns can gain experience shadowing registered lobbyists, communicating on a statewide level with both business leaders and elected officials or working on political campaign research and messaging – depending on the position. They also benefit by networking with industry professionals and business leaders. Click here for more information and an application.
Contact Larisha Peterman

Business Roundtable Set Graphic

This Week on the State Chamber of Oklahoma's Business Roundtable — Scott Wells, President and General Manager of Remington Park will be on the show discussing the benefits of the horse racing industry to the state of Oklahoma. Watch at 10:00 a.m. Sunday mornings on Cox channel 3 or 703 in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa Metro areas. Become a fan on Facebook for all the latest updates, behind the scene pictures and more! To see all past episodes, visit our website!

FEDERAL

USDA Overhauls Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a series of sweeping changes to a popular loan program for rural homebuyers. The changes are part of an extensive overhaul that will strengthen rural housing markets, increase the availability of rural home loans and spur the construction of new homes in rural areas. "These improvements will help create jobs and enable more people to participate in the rural home loan guarantee program," Vilsack said. "The changes will add significant capital to rural areas and give rural Americans more opportunities to make financing decisions that lay the groundwork for the future prosperity of their families."
Contact Mike Seney

NATIONAL

Public Pension Fund Investments Becoming More Risky — Since 1975, pension assets have almost tripled from 49% of annual government expenditures to 143% of government outlays today.  This is primarily due to the aging of our workforce.  Today the ratio of active employees to retirees has fallen to 1.75 to 1, compared to 7 to 1 in 1950.  According to Andrew Biggs, “public pensions pose roughly 10 times more risk to taxpayers and government budgets than in 1975.”  While this risk will not vanish with pension reforms, structural changes that include increased risk-sharing between plan sponsors and public employees may help lessen it.  To read more of Andrew Biggs’ assessment of risk and public pension funds, click here
Contact Jonathan Buxton

Chinese Yuan Overtakes Euro — The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication reported that the Chinese yuan has overtaken the euro as the second-most used currency for foreign trade transactions. In October, the yuan was used 8.66 percent of the time in such transactions, up from just 1.89 percent in January 2012. This suggests a substantial increase in the use of the yuan in trade in a very short period of time. The U.S. dollar continues to be the dominant currency used in trade finance, with parties using the dollar 81.08 percent of the time. However, it does illustrate the changing nature of international commerce and the rising stature of China on the trade front.
Contact Mike Seney

Rockefeller Institute Releases State Revenue Report — The Rockefeller Institute has released its latest State Revenue Report, finding that overall state tax collections are up 9% in the second quarter of 2013, spurred on by strong personal income tax collections. The report cautions, however, that overall state revenue collection is in a period of marked volatility as states have been applying only temporary solutions to their budget problems. The report also finds that, while the states have not made significant gains beyond pre-recession levels, inflation-adjusted state revenues are at a five-year high.
Contact Jonathan Buxton

CONGRATULATIONS

State Chamber member Scott Rice has been named one of the Top Workplaces in the state in The Oklahoman. The honor is based solely on employee feedback given in a survey by Workplace Dynamics, LLP, a leading research firm on organizational health and employee engagement. It’s the sixth time Scott Rice has made the annual list.

 

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The State Chamber of Oklahoma is a statewide, nonprofit business membership organization that serves as the most credible legislative voice for Oklahoma's business community at the state and federal capitols. We work on behalf of the Oklahoma business community to affect legislative change and create a pro-growth climate with a statewide unified voice. We build meaningful coalitions and collaborative partnerships that influence the law-making process. We have the ability to leverage impactful relationships with political leaders to achieve legislative results.
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