By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman business and city leaders flew into Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and will return late today after meeting with elected officials about matters of concern to the city and its businesses.
City Council member Chad Williams said he is enjoying the trip. Williams, along with Council member Lynne Miller and City Manager Steve Lewis, joined several Norman Chamber of Commerce members and other local leaders on the Chamber’s annual legislative fly-in to the nation’s capital.
“It’s been a really good trip,” Williams said. “Today was a really full day.”
The Norman visitors are in Washington to talk with Congressmen Tom Cole, Markwayne Mullin and James Lankford and senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe.
“We started out in Tom Cole’s office and then went to representative Mullin’s office, then Lankford and ended with Coburn,” Williams said. “We got to spend quite a bit of time with each of them except Coburn because he was voting.”
Williams said he spoke to the lawmakers about specific issues of importance to the city. He asked for support on the e-fairness bill, legislation that would allow cities and states to collect sales tax on out-of-state online sales based on the point of delivery.
Currently, online businesses only have to pay local taxes in places where they have a physical location. With giants like Amazon dominating a large share of consumer dollars through online business trade, that leaves local brick and mortar businesses struggling to compete. Some say the e-fairness bill will help level the playing field.
Williams said he was told the legislation has lost some traction, but interest could pick back up after April.
He said several members of the Oklahoma delegation voiced support for the initiative.
Williams also asked for continued support on municipal bonds, water issues and transportation funding.
“We hit on water and water reuse,” Williams said. “Anyone from Oklahoma is supportive on that.”
While the Oklahoma delegates are supportive of the transportation reauthorization bill, Williams said the problem is money — the bill needs creative funding to do everything it needs to do.
While oil and gas taxes support transportation infrastructure funding, that money is down slightly with electric and natural gas vehicles on the rise. And while tax collections may be slightly depressed, competition for transportation funding by states is strong.
“All of them are just continuing to figure out that funding and how to filter it to the state,” Williams said of his discussions with Oklahoma lawmakers.
Williams said he also thanked Oklahoma’s elected officials for keeping the towers open on the Max Westheimer Airport.
In addition to Williams, Miller and Lewis, the full contingent of Norman visitors to Washington include: John Woods, Robin Allen, Tessa Breder, Andy Sherrer, Mike Fowler, Kelley Grace, Chuck Thompson, Kyle Allison, Maxkenzie Britt, James Chappel, Patrick Grace, Michael Lee, Rick Nagel, Jeff Peters, Dan Schemm, Tom Sherman, Walt Strong, Angie Wright and Devery Youngblood.
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