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Oklahoma’s Legislature Adjourns Amid Controversy
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 7:00 AM

This last Friday, the gavel dropped to signal the end of the 2017 regular session of the Oklahoma State Legislature. But that doesn’t necessarily mean lawmakers are done for the year, said Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb.

"The budget agreement presented in the final days of session creates a very real possibility of lawmakers being called back for a special session," Webb said. "Because of a budget shortfall of almost $1 billion, budget negotiators were forced to develop some creative ways to raise revenue while also cutting expenditures. It is the revenue-raising portion that is very much in question and could very well result in a constitutional challenge."

At the center of the controversy was an attempt to raise the state tobacco tax $1.50. The House of Representatives, where all revenue-raising measures must originate, was unable to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to pass any tax increase. So leadership began a game of semantics and changed the proposal to a “fee” increase.

"By changing that one word, only a simple majority was needed for approval," said Webb. "This creates very serious questions about the constitutionality of the spending plan. Should the State Supreme Court determine a constitutional conflict exists, the governor will be forced to call lawmakers back for a special session and attempt to pass a budget that meets constitutional muster. All of this must be accomplished before the start of the FY 2018 budget cycle on July 1."

Despite the black cloud over the process and the general dysfunctionality of this legislative session, Oklahoma credit unions fared very well, reports Webb. In the coming weeks, we will provide a detailed session summary, but following are a few highlights:

Tow Trucks
SB 0698, died in committee. It would have eased regulations governing the state’s wrecker industry and, among other things, modified language related to consensual towing and the application of specific statutes, and it would have increased the time period in which an applicant may resubmit the title application for a special lien from 15 business days to 30 business days.

Financial Literacy
HB 1694 modifies provision of information to be included in the personal financial literacy education course taught in public schools. It requires the course to be taught during grades 7 through 12 before the 2019-2020 school year and from grades 9 to 12 thereafter. (Amended by Senate, Emergency Measure, Committee Substitute)

Effective Date: 07/01/2017   

Status: Governor Action – Signed   

Payday Lenders
HB 1913, by Rep. Chris Kannady (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow), creates the Oklahoma Small Loan Act. It prohibits a person from making small loans unless licensed and requires a nonresident person seeking a license to apply with the administrator of the Department of Consumer Credit. It creates requirements for individuals applying for licenses and establishes information that must be on each form. It establishes a $200 filing fee, a $515 license fee, and a $500 supervision fee. It allows for background and criminal history checks and establishes requirements for posting the license and renewal periods.

Status: Governor Action – Vetoed   

Employment Verification
HB 1597 requires subpoenas issued by a judgment creditor, which requires disclosure of information to be deemed valid. It was deemed this proposal as written would have conflicted with federal regulations and was laid over to next session as we investigate alternatives.

Status: Dormant (interim study planned)

Trailer Title
HB 1915 includes a definition for living quarters when relating to the Oklahoma Vehicle License and Registration Act and modifies the definition of vehicle to include livestock trailers that include living quarters. The proposal encountered strong opposition from the agricultural community and will be the subject of an interim study.

Status: Dormant (interim study planned)

Title Application
HB 2314 modifies the time allowed for resubmission of a title application.

Status: Governor Action – Signed   

Affidavit of Heirship
Introduced on our behalf, the bill fixes inconsistency in statute by increasing to $50,000 from $20,000 the amount of money deposited in a bank or credit union account that the institution may transfer to the known heirs of the deceased upon receipt of an affidavit sworn to by the known heirs of the deceased, which establishes jurisdiction and relationship and states that the owner of the account left no will when the account has no designation of a payable-on-death beneficiary. The bill also provides any person who knowingly submits and signs a false affidavit will be fined not more than $3,000 or imprisoned for not more than six months or both. It requires that restitution of the amount fraudulently attained be made to the rightful beneficiary by the guilty person.

Effective Date: 11/01/2017   

Status: Governor Action – Signed   

Pace Loans
Two separate attempts were made to amend legislation to allow so-called green loans to be made in Oklahoma. We were able to defeat both efforts. Had these attempts been successful, homeowners would have been allowed to obtain loans for the purchase of such items as solar panels and energy efficient appliances. These loans would have been superior to mortgage liens.

Status: Dead

Banking Department Funding
As lawmakers scrambled in the final days of session to find revenue necessary to fill the budget gap, an idea surfaced to raid the banking department’s reserve account. The account is funded by assessments paid by state-chartered credit unions and banks and is not appropriated by the legislature. Work began immediately behind the scenes to kill the proposal, and it was off the table within a few hours of it surfacing.

More than 40 bills related to the regulation of firearms were introduced this session. Of concern was the prospect of business owners losing the right to prohibit firearms on their property. Working with a coalition of other concerned parties, all bills either died or were amended to our satisfaction.

"Many of our successes this year were due in large part to the willingness of credit union advocates to get involved and contact their legislators to weigh in on important issues," said Webb. "For that, we are extremely grateful."

If you have any questions about this information, please contact Oklahoma Credit Union Association President Nate Webb at or 405-445-1510.