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Capitol Insider: LEAD Act approved to incentivize large-scale economic development

Oklahoma state capitol
Jacob McCleland

Almost $700 million in rebate incentives will be available soon to attract a new large business to the state.


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with Quorum Call publisher Shawn Ashley. Governor Stitt has announced he will sign a bill that was passed in less than a week to create a cash rebate incentive for the purpose of attracting large scale businesses to the state. Shawn, it's called the Large-scale Economic Activity Development Act of 2022, and this would provide a rebate of about $700 million over five years to encourage capital investment and creation of jobs. First, who administers this program and second, who is it intended to benefit?

Shawn Ashley: Well, like many of the state's existing incentive programs, the Department of Commerce and the Oklahoma Tax Commission will be responsible for administering the program. And that means making sure the companies that apply meet the capital investment requirements and employment requirements spelled out in the legislation, and those requirements are quite high. A minimum $3.6 billion in capital investment and minimum employment requirements starting at 500 employees and increasing to 4,000 in the fourth and fifth years. That means the incentive targets what Stitt and some legislators called a “mega business,” specifically Panasonic's planned new electric vehicle battery factory.

Dick Pryor: Why is a battery manufacturing plant getting this huge incentive while other businesses and industries that might like some incentives are not?

Shawn Ashley: You know, that's the question always asked when the Legislature considers an incentive, and it was asked in this case: Is the state somehow picking winners and losers? Senator Bill Coleman, a Republican from Ponca City, probably provided the best answer to that question. He said the game of attracting businesses is incentives. “Either you're going to get in the game or you're going to get out. We are in the game bigtime and I think it's the Super Bowl.”

Dick Pryor: On Thursday, Governor Stitt signed a new law creating a committee to study free speech on college campuses. What's this law intended to address and how will it be implemented?

Shawn Ashley: Representative Chad Caldwell, a Republican from Enid, told a House committee in February that he hoped House Bill 3543 would result in colleges and universities adopting best practices to protect free speech rights of students, faculty and staff. Now, at that time, Representative Caldwell pointed out that there was no one incident in particular that had resulted in the bill being filed. Now, how it's going to be implemented will really be up to the State Regents for Higher Education to determine. The bill really only provides minimal guidelines for its implementation. It does not, for example, even list who will serve on the committee. Representative Caldwell said he expected that the regents would draw on representatives of each college and university to serve on that committee.

Dick Pryor: On Tuesday, the State Election Board will hold hearings on all contests of candidacy for this year's elections. That includes an interesting challenge to a candidate's name in the state labor commissioner race. What's the issue in the challenge?

Shawn Ashley: Well, one of Commissioner Leslie Osborne's Republican challengers in the labor commissioner race is Representative Sean Roberts. Now in his declaration for candidacy, Roberts asked that his name appear on the ballot, as Shawn “The Patriot” Roberts.

Dick Pryor:  Which is unusual, and for the most part, state statute is silent on the name a candidate can use on the ballot, only preventing names that can be confusing or include a title. Now, Shawn, the use of nicknames of this sort is predictable, given the lack of statutory standards. How does the election board determine what nicknames are appropriate for the ballot?

Shawn Ashley: Well, the State Election Board has an administrative rule that expounds on the state statute regarding how names appear on the ballot. The rule requires a person generally be known by or do business under that name. Osborne notes that Roberts had never appeared on the ballot that way in his various runs for the State House of Representatives, and he has no businesses registered under that name. So, she is asking, not simply that he not be allowed to use that name, but that he be removed from the ballot. Now, in the past, we've had a number of individuals who have run with nicknames. Perhaps most well-known was Virginia Blue Jeans Jenner.

Dick Pryor: What's on the upcoming legislative agenda?

Shawn Ashley: Thursday is the deadline for bills to be heard in the opposite chamber. House bills and joint resolutions in the Senate and Senate bills and joint resolutions in the House. So, it's going to be a busy week of forward for both chambers.

Dick Pryor: All right, Shawn. Thanks very much.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And we would like to hear from you. E-mail your questions to news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @QuorumCallShawn. For more information, go to quorumcall.online. You can find audio and transcripts at kgou.org. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 30 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November 2016.
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