By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The upcoming state legislative session promises to be a busy one, with one out of every 10 bills pertaining to gun rights and gun laws, a legislative backlash against “federal overreach.”
State Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, has filed gun bills. One is the same post-traumatic stress disorder bill that he filed last year. The bill states that if an individual diagnosed with PTSD has been successfully treated, they should not be precluded from carrying a gun.
Another bill calls for a sales tax holiday on guns and ammunition, and another would increase the student-teacher ratio of conceal-and-carry classes. Enns said there is a serious backlog of people waiting to get into the classes.
Enns also will keep pushing for a way to freeze stem cells after someone has given birth. Those cells would be placed in a nationwide data bank to be matched by people who need to use them. This will be the second year he introduced the bill. Last year, the bill ended up in an appropriations committee, where it was killed. However, through negotiations, he appropriated $500,000 for research.
“The major issues this year will be gun rights, but also the governor is looking for a way to eliminate state income tax,” Enns said. “That’s a hard deal. It must be done right.”
Enns also expects the Legislature to attempt to nullify a number of federal regulations, such as the new national health care law, nicknamed “Obamacare.” State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, is introducing the bill in the Senate and Enns in the House. He said they also will tell the federal government to “back off” on Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
There also will be discussion of infrastructure needs, Enns said.
State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, is House Speaker Pro Tem this session, and said there are many bills that have been introduced. One of Jackson’s bills would change administrative rules process. The legislation would strengthen the process an agency goes through when passing rules. It would develop a process where the governor is involved in making sure an emergency rule, which normally goes into effect immediately, could be delayed until the Legislature reconvenes.
“Sometimes those rules are implemented June 1 and they have the benefit of having it for a year, before the Legislature returns,” Jackson said.
Jackson also has a workers’ compensation bill going through the process. Jackson said it is a leadership bill.
Another Jackson bill deals with the state’s aerospace program, set up within the Quality Jobs Act. The proposed legislation would separate the aerospace program out.
“We are working with the Department of Commerce so the aerospace technology companies and contractors can take better advantage of the program,” Jackson said.
Jackson also has a bill dealing with the Department of Human Services. He said he is trying to find a way to find solutions to the NORCE/SORC program.
“One thing very important as we move forward is that we don’t eliminate all state beds. It’s a mistake to have no safety net. That’s always been my position,” Jackson said. He is not sure what shape the bill will take, but he plans to work with other legislators and the lieutenant governor’s office to try to find a solution.
Other major issues include workers’ compensation and transportation infrastructure, and the capitol building will be part of that discussion. Other issues include tax structure, including tax incentives. Water will be an issue the Legislature will address. Other big issues are federal overreach and guns.
Education also will be discussed to ensure common schools are properly funded, and possibly funding some unfunded mandates from the past.
Republican Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, an Enid native, recently commented on the attempt to close NORCE.
“Being from Enid — outside of my role as senator or now — I’m aware of the quality services that have been provided to some of our most developmentally disabled, and the men and women who have provided top-notch, quality care over the years. They are consummate professionals.
“I look forward to continuing discussions with Sen. Anderson and Pro-Tem Jackson about the subject.”
Anderson is proposing a major change in the state tax system. The Enid Republican proposes a flat tax he is hoping will get much discussion in the Legislature.
The state income tax would be changed to a flat rate of 2.95 percent.
Anderson said the bill is revenue-neutral and would not result in budget cuts.
“That would give us the lowest tax rate of any of the 43 states that have income tax in the country,” Anderson said.
The change would be funded through elimination of tax exemptions, tax credits and deductions that currently exist in the system.
The bill does not increase state funding, because it is reducing the rate at the same time as eliminating tax exemptions and credits. The same amount of money that currently comes into the state will continue to flow in.
“The tax code has a lot of problems in it,” he said.
Anderson also proposes a bill to nullify federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates. As a state, Oklahoma would make the statement that those regulations are beyond the authority of the federal government and the state will not abide by them, he said.
He also has a bill with Rep. John Enns, the Firearms Manufacturing Relocation to Oklahoma Act. The idea is to welcome firearms manufacturers, who may not be as welcome in the state they are in, and they would be encouraged to move to Oklahoma. Anderson said there are firearms manufacturers in Illinois and in Connecticut that may be persuaded to move to the state.
Anderson also is chairman of a new group looking into state agencies that do not receive state appropriations, but exist on fees. He said the committee will look through those agencies to see if any can be consolidated. Agencies such as the State Board of Accountancy, State Barber Board, the Peanut Commission and others charge fees for licensing to do business in Oklahoma.
His committee will be looking at those agencies to see if there can be consolidation.