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Attorney Asks Oklahoma Supreme Court To Dismiss His Challenge To Oil And Gas Law

Sep 16, 2014

Oklahoma City attorney and legislative watchdog Jerry Fent, who has successfully challenge laws in the past, comes out of a hearing room at the State Supreme Court, where a referee heard his lawsuit over House Bill 2562.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An Oklahoma City attorney who challenged the constitutionality of a bill that changed the effective tax rate levied on oil and gas drillers asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday to dismiss his lawsuit.

From The Oklahoman‘s Rick Green:

Jerry Fent, of Oklahoma City, told the court that “upon further consideration and for the benefit of those herein and hereout” he was filing for the lawsuit to be dismissed, with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled. He said he still has a separate lawsuit pending against an income tax reduction measure.

Fent did not immediately return StateImpact’s call for comment. When reached by The Oklahoman, Fent “said he would have no comment on why he filed for dismissal.”

When Fent defended his lawsuit before a court referee on July 29, he argued House Bill 2562 should be invalidated because it was passed without meeting the extra legislative procedures afforded to “revenue bills.”

Fueled by resentment to tax hikes and last-minute deal-making, Oklahoma voters in 1992 approved a state question that placed extra procedural hurdles on revenue bills.

At the July hearing, Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick argued the intent of the bill — which would replace an expiring tax incentive with one that lowers the effective tax rate levied on oil and gas production to 2 percent from 7 percent for the first three years of production — was to avoid tax increases and stimulate the economy, and therefore shouldn’t be considered a “revenue bill.”

Gov. Mary Fallin’s office and the bill’s author, Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman of Fairview, defended the HB 2562 as an economic incentive measure, not a revenue bill.

From The Oklahoman:

Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, welcomed the dismissal.

“As the attorney general has maintained, the law is constitutional because it dealt with the lowering of taxes rather than an increase in taxes,” Cooper said. “Though we had confidence in the outcome after defending the law, the AG’s Office is pleased the challenger has filed for a dismissal of his lawsuit.”

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