Note: This article was first published in The Journal Record on Dec. 23, 2019.
The holiday season marks that special time of year when we reflect on all that we’re thankful for and ponder the opportunities in the coming year. As we celebrate, it’s clear that Oklahoma’s business community has plenty to be thankful for this year and be optimistic about in 2020.
This year, we witnessed plenty of positives from the state Capitol, including funding for transportation and infrastructure, investing in economic development, employer protections related to the medical marijuana law, and continuing criminal justice reforms.
In addition, we’re very thankful that government transparency and accountability took priority as Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law five bills that will give him the power to hire and fire the directors of the state’s five largest agencies.
But perhaps the best gift to the business community this year was House Bill 2367 by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, and Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City. After months of hard work and good faith negotiations, lawmakers struck a deal resulting in a competitive workers’ compensation market that encourages job creation and allows injured workers to get prompt medical treatment.
As we look to 2020, we see opportunities abound. In fact, the business community got a sneak peek at the upcoming legislative session during the State Chamber’s Public Affairs Forum earlier this month.
Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, both indicated they plan to build on the momentum from last year, continuing to make state agencies fiscally transparent and accountable. Even better, they signaled advancing that same reform mindset to education, the judicial system, and our antiquated merit protection system.
To help protect our state during future economic downturns, House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, both emphasized diversifying our economy and noted the importance of further developing other industries to ensure continued investment in core services.
Of course, the holidays aren’t complete without a wish list. Other items we’d like to see this year from lawmakers include business-friendly tax reform, restructuring unemployment benefits to reflect the state’s economic conditions, modernizing the Incentive Evaluation Commission, developing accountability measures when the state retains private legal counsel, and much-needed reforms to the water permitting process.
Yes indeed, there’s a lot for the business community to be thankful for this year. And, best of all, there’s plenty of optimism for the year to come.