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56th Legislative Session presents challenges

Chris Meyers

Thirty-two of the 101 House members —or 32 percent—were new. In the Senate, 21 of the 48 Senators—or 44 percent—were freshmen. The large turnover alone presents challenges, but this session also brought eight resignations, three from the Senate and five from the House. Collectively, the resignations and members who will term limit in 2018 (12 from the House and 6 from the Senate) will bring more change to the Oklahoma Legislature.

Electric cooperatives stand ready to educate new members on our unique role of powering rural Oklahoma. Throughout the session, we diligently worked on behalf of the 550,000-plus consumers of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives. We helped legislators understand the full impact of proposed legislation and how it might affect end consumers. This session was no different. There were several House bills and Senate bills that had the potential to adversely impact electric cooperatives and our member-owners. Through diligent work, cooperation with legislators and other utilities, we were successful in protecting the interests of rural electric cooperatives and their member-owners.

One item of particular concern for legislators was the revenue shortfall of $900 million. While the legislature introduced new bills replacing the term “tax” with “fee” and passed budget measures, many believe the process utilized to pass the budget is likely to be challenged in court. The constitution mandates all revenue-generating legislation pass the House of Representatives with no less than 76 votes of approval; this session, the budget passed by simple majority. On June 7, 2017 a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed state budget. The budget concerns as well as the large turnover and resignations have added to the complexity and challenges of this session.

Regardless of the outcomes, you can be assured your electric cooperative will continue to work on your behalf in our commitment to provide safe, affordable and reliable electricity to you, our valued member.