Below are highlights from the 2014 Regular Session of the Oklahoma Legislature. These laws go into effect on November 1, 2014 unless otherwise noted.
SB 1246--lowers the state's top income tax rate from 5.25% to 4.85%. The reduction will take effect for the 2016 tax year if the state's general revenue meets benchmarks set in the legislation. The reduction will save families an average of $158/year, per Governor Mary Fallin's June 2, 2014 "Oklahoma Now" column.
HB 2562--establishes permanent tax rates for oil and gas production in Oklahoma. A 2% tax rate applies for the first 36 months of production. Thereafter, a 7% rate will apply. Historically, Oklahoma has imposed a 7% tax rate on most oil and gas production. The law applies to all new wells drilled after July 1, 2015. This law went into effect no later than July 1, 2014.
The law has been lauded by the oil and gas industry, as providing certainty in the tax rate, and thus encouraging further investment in production activities in Oklahoma.
Others criticize the law. According to a statement released by Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt: "This bill continues a huge, unnecessary subsidy for drilling that would have happened without the subsidy. It sides with a few well-connected oil executives and their lobbyists, whose views do not represent the majority of Oklahomans or even many members of the industry."
HB 2509--extends an employer and employee tax credit for aerospace engineers.
HB 2630--moves future state employees from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401k plan. Proponents of the bill argue that this change will help address Oklahoma's over $11 billion unfunded liability in its pensions.
HB 1416--amends the Quality Jobs Act to ensure that the payments made to an Oklahoma military installation stay in Oklahoma. Specifically, this bill was passed to help Tinker Air Force Base add 1,300 civilian jobs related to its new air refueling tanker program.
HB 2956--expands the Small Business Quality Jobs program to all counties in the State. Intended to expand the number of small businesses that may qualify for subsidies tied to job creation. This law went into effect no later than July 1, 2014.
HB 3399--repeals the Common Core standards in Oklahoma. The proponents of this bill argue that Common Core should be repealed because standards of education in Oklahoma should be set by Oklahomans, not by the federal government. However, this repeal may have the opposite effect. While the Common Core was in place, Oklahoma had a waiver of certain No Child Left Behind Act provisions. There are many Oklahoma schools that do not meet the standards set in the No Child Left Behind Act. If Oklahoma loses that waiver, there are many implications, not the least of which include poorly performing schools would be forced to implement plans for school closure or replacement of the principal and 50% of the staff, and millions of dollars that school districts can now spend as they choose would have to be spent as the federal government mandates. This law went into effect on June 5, 2014.
HB 2625--creates a role for parents and teachers in deciding whether to promote or retain students who failed the third grade reading exam. This law went into effect on May 21, 2014.
SB 1023--prohibits cities and towns in Oklahoma from increasing the minimum wage to an amount higher than the State. The State has adopted the rate of $7.25/hour. This law became effective no later than July 1, 2014.
HB 2372--prohibits employers from requesting or requiring access to employee's social media accounts.
HB 2505--changes the definition of what constitutes "misconduct." If an employee is fired for misconduct, he is not eligible for state unemployment benefits. The bill further requires employees to sign an affidavit that states they were not terminated for misconduct when they apply for unemployment benefits.
HB 3365--creates a rebuttable presumption of no liability for product sellers and manufacturers that meet or exceed federal regulations and laws. The law further defines which entities may qualify as "innocent sellers" who cannot be sued under a products liability theory.
SB 1744--removes statutory contribution limits, and instead, references the limits established by the state Ethics Commission. The measure also prohibits contributions from corporations, labor unions, LLCs, and partnerships except as allowed by law or in the Ethics Commission Rules. The effective date is January 1, 2015.
SB 1745--gives the Ethics Commission jurisdiction over municipal races and establishes enforcement mechanisms to coincide with local campaign finance laws. The effective date is January 1, 2015.
SB 1746--deletes statutory lobbyist registration and reporting requirements and, instead, references Ethics Commission Rules. The effective date is January 1, 2015.