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Oklahoma Legislature Calls It Quits
Thursday, May 10, 2018 7:00 AM

Oklahoma State Legislators are home after a tumultuous several months at the State Capitol. The 2018 Regular Session was one of the shortest in recent memory, wrapping up a good three weeks before the time required by the State Constitution.

Conversely, lawmakers spent much of the interim at the capitol in Special Session. Last fall, Gov. Mary Fallin called them back to the capitol to work on the 2017 budget, which had been ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. And while over 4,000 bills were available for consideration, the budget continued to dominate business in 2018.

Adding to the tension was a statewide teachers strike. Thousands of teachers, parents, and support staff brought other legislative business to a near halt when they converged on the capitol to demand increased spending for education.

Despite the unusual dynamics, Oklahoma credit unions fared well during the 2018 session.

“Even before session started, we knew it would not be business as usual at the Capitol,” said Nate Webb, president of the Oklahoma Credit Union Association. Webb said it’s why association staff decided to take a mostly defensive position in 2018. “In this type of environment, an aggressive posture is not always prudent. It’s sort of like playing whack-a-mole. Keeping your head down until it makes sense to jump into the game is sometimes the prudent move."

Association staff successfully killed or amended measures that would have negatively impacted Oklahoma credit unions. Among the success stories was the death of a bill promoted by the Oklahoma Wreckers Association. Using a procedural tactic, the OWA tried to sneak a bill across the finish line at the eleventh hour.

“The tactics employed this year by the wreckers just confirms what we have thought all along: these folks just can’t be trusted,” Webb said.

Bills loosening restrictions on firearms were also a major concern. More than 80 bills were filed this year, many threatening a credit union’s right to prevent guns on their property. The Oklahoma Credit Union Association joined a broad coalition of businesses and organizations opposing any restrictions on a business-owner’s rights.

One of the bills considered particularly aggressive by the coalition did make it through the legislature at the last minute and is awaiting the governor’s signature or veto. Oklahoma credit unions have been very active reaching out to the governor to encourage her veto. A final resolution is expected in the next few days.

Several bills threatening a lienholder’s rights were successfully amended or killed, as was legislation threatening funding and operations at the Oklahoma State Banking Department and those that would have imposed additional redundant regulations on credit unions.

According to Webb, the 2018 session was particularly challenging. “Because of the ongoing budget battle and a particularly nasty divide between the Senate, House, and Governor’s office, the course of business was especially unpredictable.”

Webb added that in many cases bills died or advanced, not based on the merits but on feuds between members.

"But I am pleased with our post-session position and want to thank our credit union advocates for their involvement," Webb said.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this article, please contact Nate Webb at nwebb@okcua.coop or 405-445-1510.