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Metro chambers of commerce representatives are downright giddy these days when you talk about their legislative agendas. And while most still have many of the same topics on their wish lists as years past, having a new governor teamed with a Republican-controlled Legislature has many feeling like this will be the year for change.
“We have an opportunity in Oklahoma right now for probably this governor and this legislative leadership to put this state forward like it never has been before,” says Mike Seney, senior vice president at The State Chamber. “We can bust loose from the John Steinbeck vision out there of what Oklahoma is. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
What issues are on their agendas?
THE STATE CHAMBER
• tort reform
• workers’ compensation premiums
• business incentives
• water supply
“In the next couple of months, you’ll see a five-year study undertaken and funded on the development of a water plant for the state of Oklahoma. That will tell us a lot about where we are and where we need to be in the future,” Seney says. “This is as important as our energy sector. If we don’t have water, we’ll look like we did 80 years ago.”NORMAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
• keep watch on higher education funding
• funding for Norman Public Schools
• water supply
“Long-term water supplies for everybody is really, really critical,” says Tom Sherman, president. “We’re all trying to figure out how we put ourselves in a position to take care of that. We all want to keep our options open, but everything you look at has an extremely high price tag.”GREATER OKLAHOMA CITY CHAMBER
• hard caps in amount of non-economic damages awarded
• elimination of joint and several liability
• advance discussion on sale of wine and single-strength or “high-point” beer in metro grocery stores
• hone and clarify the state’s immigration laws
“You look at states Oklahoma is competing against for jobs, and the numbers are off the charts,” says Mark VanLandingham, noting Oklahoma businesses paying the fourth-highest workers’ compensation premiums in the nation. “We have to do something to make Oklahoma more attractive for companies wanting to locate here and also protect those businesses that are here.”EDMOND AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
• move the state Medical Examiner’s Office to Edmond
• oppose any measures that call for allowing guns on campus
“We’ve got some real opportunities. If you’re in a chamber of commerce, economic development or anybody in the business community, I think everybody is really excited about the potential that exists the next four years, if not just this legislative session,” says Ken Moore, president.