NORMAN — The Norman Chamber of Commerce is serving breakfast — and a meaty legislative agenda — to local lawmakers this morning at the Hilton Garden Inn. State Sens. John Sparks, D-Norman, and Rob Standridge, R-Norman, along with State Reps. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Scott Martin, R-Norman, have confirmed their attendance.
“We are serving breakfast and we will get into the meat of sharing our goals for the upcoming legislative session, and then we’ll hear their ideas of what the upcoming session will look like,” said John Woods, chamber president and CEO. “We did it last year for the first time at the chamber, and we’ve changed location to have a larger capacity.”
Board members approved the legislative priorities. At the top of the chamber’s wish list is legislation to restructure Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws. That was a No. 1 priority to Chamber members polled on significant issues for Oklahoma businesses.
“One of the most important issues facing the legislature this session is workers’ compensation reform,” Woods said. “We’re paying three times as much in workers’ compensation costs as our surrounding states, and we want the legislature to address that.”
In the area of economic development the chamber supports:
· Economic development incentives that create and maintain jobs and investment in Oklahoma.
· Policies that will grow technology and knowledge-based industries.
· Funding for the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund to attract new jobs.
“That (the Quick Action Closing Fund) is the governor’s fund that incentivizes businesses to come to Oklahoma,” Woods said. “It’s one of many tools that we as a state should be able to offer if we have the opportunity to bring in high-skilled, high-paying jobs.”
In education and work force development, the chamber supports:
· Development of a healthy and skilled work force and advocate for an environment that attracts such a group.
· Funding for Oklahoma’s career technology and higher education campuses to ensure affordable tuition for our citizens and encourage the growth of our jobs and our economy.
· Increasing funding levels to the education system and encouraging opportunities that assess alternative methods to fund common education.
In addition, the chamber favors updating the state’s education system to accommodate a more streamlined and efficient structure in an effort to put more money in the classroom.
“There’s a variety of things that the state could at least look at,” Woods said. “We would like them to undertake a discussion. For example, the school’s bonding capacity can only be used for capital projects.
“If a community decided it wanted to have that type of funding stream to go toward operating costs, could a community do that and it not affect their state funding formula? It could be a one time expenditure but not be a capital project.”
In the energy industry the chamber supports:
· Necessary incentives for the exploration, production and refinement of Oklahoma oil and natural gas, while also supporting policies that encourage greater development and use of those resources.
· Development of alternative energy resources to complement the use and development of oil and natural gas.
But the chamber opposes “unnecessary legislative or regulatory intrusion into energy industry.”
“Obviously, we want to make sure that Oklahoma remains competitive in the energy industry,” Woods said. “It is a funding industry for our state.”
Woods said the chamber supports enhancing production capabilities rather than inhibiting those capabilities.
Regarding health care, the chamber supports:
· Retention of viable employer-sponsored health care and opposing any efforts that may result in the destabilization of the health insurance marketplace
· Efforts to enhance the access and affordability of health care, thereby increasing the number of those retaining insurance.