The growing list of federal mandates for businesses gets a lot of attention: Obamacare, environmental rules and a proposed minimum wage increase, to name a few. Businesses in Oklahoma, however, also need to pay attention to state government mandates. These state-generated rules and regulations also make it harder for Oklahoma to compete with other states when it comes to job creation and growth.
Take the wind industry. Oklahoma is in a prime location for building wind turbines, but so are Kansas and north Texas. If Oklahoma starts passing regulations that make it harder to invest in new wind farms, the companies that produce the power will simply build them across the border, taking with them the capital investment and the royalties that they pay.
You may think it’s a far-fetched possibility, but a bill has already passed a Senate committee that would essentially kill future investment in wind energy in the state. Senate Bill 1559 would subject the industry to additional regulatory oversight by local governments and the Department of Environmental Quality. Why have incentives to promote clean energy production and then do everything you can to stop investment in it?
Oklahoma’s hospitals are also being threatened with forced changes by state government. House Bill 2400 takes a popular idea – posting of prices by hospitals – and turns it into yet another government regulation on the health care industry. Many hospitals post prices already or are in the process of coming up with a transparency policy. However, rather than wait for the market to address the issue, a one-size-fits-all approach that regulates how a private business interacts with private individuals is being suggested.
The Legislature also needs better oversight of state agencies that develop burdensome rules. For example, the Water Resources Board is considering a pilot project for in-stream flows that could result in artificial shortages and the outflow of water from our state’s borders. This could reduce the amount of water available for industrial, municipal and agricultural use.
The State Chamber is proud of its record in making the state more attractive to business. It’s as much about educating lawmakers about why bad bills need to be defeated as it is supporting bills that need to be passed. Oklahoma companies already deal with a flood of federal regulations. They don’t need more coming from the state.
Fred Morgan is president and CEO of The State Chamber of Oklahoma.