Happy Birthday, Myriad Gardens

Since its birth 25 years ago, the Myriad Gardens has become Oklahoma City’s heart.   On June 20th, our community commemorated that birthday with a gala outdoor dinner in the Gardens.

I was honored to serve as co-chair of the 25th anniversary party, with Linda Haneborg as chair.   Rachel and I had a fantastic time, and it was a fitting celebration.

Senator Holt’s bill a sign of free market progress

At the 4:20 mark of this report from KWTV-News 9, Pat McGuigan makes the argument that Senator David Holt’s “Black Friday” bill (SB 550) represents a philosophical shift in Oklahoma towards the free market.

The Oklahoman: “Lawmakers get it right sometimes”

Today, The Oklahoman editorializes in favor of SB 550, Senator David Holt’s bill to allow for “Black Friday” and other low-price sales:

Getting it right

Lawmakers get it right sometimes. An example is the “Black Friday” bill approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin during the last week of the session. A state law dating to World War II forced retailers in the state to sell products for at least 6 percent more than they paid for them. The Oklahoma attorney general’s office issued an opinion in 2011 confirming that the law banned Black Friday and other low-price sales, even if they were temporary. Senate Bill 550 legalizes such sales, which is good news for Oklahoma consumers. The law takes effect Nov. 1, just in time for retailers to put it to use on this year’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

 

“OK Sen. Holt details ‘Black Friday’ reform struggle”

Oklahoma Watchdog goes in-depth to explore the philosophical struggle represented by Senator David Holt’s efforts to pass Senate Bill 550.   The story can be read here.

Sugar Free Allstars

Today, the Sugar Free Allstars played the Bethany Library in the 30th Senate District.

I was pleased to present “Boom” and “Dr. Rock” with a citation expressing Oklahoma’s gratitude for their service to Oklahoma.

They serve as ambassadors for our state, they expose our young people to an appreciation for music, and since the recent tornadoes, they have been raising money for those affected.

Coverage of Senate Bill 550

Here is coverage of Senate Bill 550, which has been signed by the Governor and will legalize “Black Friday” and other low price sales.

Norman Transcript

Oklahoma Watchdog

The Journal Record

 

2013 Session Wrap-Up

The 2013 Oklahoma legislative session is now complete.   We are scheduled to return in February of 2014.

The Governor signed over 400 bills into law.   Of those, I was the primary Senate author of 15 bills – seven from the Senate and eight from the House.

My Senate bills were:

SB 309 will protect the presidential choice of Oklahoma voters if a presidential elector violates their oath.    This is a bill that will ensure Oklahoma will never be the center of a Constitutional crisis related to the Electoral College.   For more information, click here.

SB 461 will ensure that all state agencies are following the competitive bidding process, even if they are engaging in what is commonly known as a multi-state purchasing cooperative.    Competitive bidding saves tax dollars, and there was a growing concern that some of the agencies were able to skirt the process due to a lack of clarity in the law about the new phenomenon of agencies joining together across states to make purchases.

SB 550 will lower retail prices for Oklahomans by allowing most products to be sold at any price for certain periods of time.   Since the 1940s, Oklahoma law has required all products to be sold at least six percent above cost.   SB 550 legalizes ‘Black Friday’ and other low-price sales.   For more information on this important legislation that will positively impact your wallet, click here.

SB 592 creates an alternative dispute resolution process between assisted living facilities and the Department of Health.   This should cut back on litigation by creating an alternative for resolving disputes.

SB 596 requires certain state agencies to submit reports to the Legislature documenting their efforts to do business efficiently and within their mission.

SB 887 clarifies what constitutes food stamp fraud and makes it less likely that those who have committed food stamp fraud will continue to receive food stamps.

SB 889 will require sex offenders to properly complete their registration requirements before they could possibly be removed from the sex offender registry (some offenders are sentenced to the list for 15 or 25 years). The way the law was written originally, sex offenders were automatically coming off the list even if they had not been in compliance with the registration requirements. This addresses that issue, ensuring that violators are not rewarded and that the public remains on notice, especially in regards to sex offenders who are trying to avoid detection.

Four of the House bills I authored were just “clean-up bills” (as they say in the Legislature) that hardly contained any substantive changes to Oklahoma law, though they are necessary. The remaining four were:

HB 1265 gives taxpayers who have suffered a property loss from a natural disaster more time to seek a lower property tax valuation, and therefore a lower tax bill.

HB 1672 requires notice be given to health insurance customers when a drug is removed from their plan.   This was specifically requested by the MS Society.

HB 1908 directs DHS to use some of their funding for public service announcements to air ads spreading the message of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.

HB 1909, authored by Speaker T.W. Shannon and myself, will require able-bodied adults without dependents to work at least 20 hours a week in order to receive food stamps. This is a common sense measure that ensures that people who have asked their neighbors for help are taking the right steps towards self-reliance.

I was also co-author of the landmark workers compensation reform bill (SB 1062) and the tax cut bill, which will lower the income tax from 5.25 to 5.0 percent while funding improvements to our crumbling Capitol building (HB 2032).    I have introduced a tax cut bill every year I’ve been here, and have fought for tax cuts for years, and passage of HB 2032 fulfills one of my major goals in coming to the Capitol, at least for now.

I was pleased to support those bills, along with legislation that will create a much-needed infrastructure plan for our state buildings.  I was also heartened by the Legislature’s swift response to the tornadoes that struck during the last week of session, and our unanimous votes to tap the state’s “rainy day” fund to aid the victims.

I think it was a successful session, if for no other reason than because of the workers compensation reform.    But, of course, we still have work to do.

We still have an inefficient government that ranks too high for state employees per capita, and pays the ones we have too poorly.   We still have too many school districts (24 in the city limits of Oklahoma City alone).   We are still in serious need of pension reforms.    And we are still doing very little to reform our onerous State Constitution, or shift control of tax dollars away from local government unions and back to taxpayers.   I will continue to fight these battles where I can, on your behalf.   And I will continue to work on bills that I wasn’t able to get to the Governor’s desk this year, most notable the ‘Parent Empowerment Act’.

As always, I want to thank you for the honor of serving as your Senator.    I take the responsibilities of this position seriously, and my door is always open to you.   Please feel free to contact me anytime, via phone (521-5636), e-mail (holt@oksenate.gov), Facebook (/davidfullerholt) or Twitter (@davidfholt).   Or, stay in touch through this web site and blog.

 

Lower Prices and the Free Market Have Come to Oklahoma

Governor Fallin signing Senate Bill 550

If you followed anything that I was working on this past legislative session, you know I was especially passionate about bringing the pricing of retail products in Oklahoma back into the free market.   Oklahoma has had a law since the 1940s that doesn’t allow anything to be sold less than six percent above the retailer’s cost.

Well, I am very pleased to report that Governor Mary Fallin has signed Senate Bill 550, and starting November 1st, you will pay lower retail prices for the first time in over 70 years, especially on ‘Black Friday’ (which we’ve never really had in Oklahoma).   I’ll rarely accomplish anything else at the Legislature that will affect your pocketbook this directly.   Enjoy your bargains!

In Defense of Oklahoma City

Today I write in defense of Oklahoma City.

This may not appear necessary, as nothing but love, support and praise have come to our community in the wake of the recent tornadoes.   Those tornadoes killed dozens in the Oklahoma City metro area.  We continue to mourn their loss, and will for the rest of our lives.

But, as time moves on from those events, I fear a certain false assumption about our community will take hold among non-Oklahomans, and I think it should be addressed sooner rather than later.

That false assumption is the idea that it is more physically dangerous to live in Oklahoma City than it is elsewhere.

Over the last 15 years or so, Oklahoma City’s population growth has been tremendous.   Our metro grew some 14 percent between the 2000 and 2010 Census counts, a rate that exceeded the nation’s growth.    It is documented that young people are coming here in droves.   USA Today recently wrote about Oklahoma City as a hot destination for “millennials”.  The Census confirms this, as do your own eyes as you pass through any of Oklahoma City’s many emerging neighborhoods, such as MidTown, Uptown, Paseo, Capitol Hill, or the Asian and Plaza districts.   If you doubt that Oklahoma City is now a hotbed for youth culture, have lunch downtown on a weekday, or visit the deadCENTER film festival this weekend.   Or just stand back and appreciate that young Oklahoma artists and athletes are ubiquitous in American pop culture right now.   And then consider that the infrastructure investments that inspired this renaissance are soon to be followed by much more, including a 70-acre downtown park and a downtown streetcar.

But this growth is fragile, and I don’t want to see it slowed by a myth.   And it is simply a myth that Oklahoma City is a dangerous place to live.

If you live elsewhere and you only know Oklahoma City and its suburbs by watching national television coverage of tornadoes, you are to be forgiven for assuming that the whole city has been destroyed.    But though thousands have been personally affected, hundreds of thousands have not.   Unlike a hurricane or an earthquake, tornadoes hit only a limited area.    When they are really bad, such as the two recent EF-5 tornadoes, they can affect several square miles.    But there have been only eight F-5 or EF-5 tornadoes in the history of our entire state, and two of those eight occurred in the last month.   A more average tornado might hit just a few houses, but even an average tornado is not a common tornado.   To put all of this into perspective, the Oklahoma City metro area covers over 4,000 square miles.   The city limits of Oklahoma City proper cover about 620 square miles.   For comparison’s sake, the island of Manhattan is just 22 square miles.   About 1.3 million people live in the Oklahoma City metro.   Most of us, including myself, have never seen a tornado or lived through a tornado’s direct path.

One of photographer Cooper Ross’s many incredible shots of OKC. For more, visit goivm.com.

We all feel the impact when they come, as we are all watching the news, and we may end up knowing someone who is affected (OKC is kind of a big small town).   And after the fact, we all step up to help, whether we knew someone or not.  But the reality is that the vast majority of people in our community will live a full life here without actually having a tornado pass over their home.   My house was built in 1968, and it’s still here.    Downtown Oklahoma City is surrounded by lovely historic neighborhoods full of homes built up to a century ago.   And they’re still there.    Downtown has an ever-growing skyline (see picture), and even after two EF-5s, it’s still there.  Though severe weather in the spring is a part of life here, for most it’s a pastime rather than a threat.

Of course, it is a common counter for residents of Oklahoma City to point out that other locales have their own problems, like earthquakes or hurricanes.     That is true, but there’s even more that should be considered.    You are much more likely to be murdered in many American cities than you are to be killed by a tornado in Oklahoma City.    In fact, you are statistically eight times more likely to be murdered in St. Louis than you are to be killed by a tornado in Oklahoma City in 2013.    And unlike earthquakes and murders, at least you get a warning when a tornado is coming.   And if you buy a storm shelter, even though you are statistically unlikely to need it, you will have 100 percent confidence that you are not going to die in a tornado.   Can you say the same for other risks of life?   Every time you get in a car, you are placing yourself in a more statistically dangerous situation than storm season in Oklahoma.

My wife and I are raising our kids in Oklahoma City because it is a wonderful place, especially now.   The qualities that Oklahoma City has had for a long time – friendly people, low cost of living, clean air and water, sparse traffic - have recently been matched by world-class amenities, retail, restaurants, culture, and of course the Thunder.    This city can now stand toe-to-toe with any city in the United States for quality of life.    Before, during, and after the tornadoes.    I understand that may not be the impression media reports have left you with, but that’s why I write today in defense of Oklahoma City.   We invite you to keep joining us.

 

Myriad Gardens 25th Anniversary

Senator David Holt is co-chairing the 25th anniversary of the Myriad Gardens on June 20th.   Here is video of Senator Holt and Linda Haneborg talking to Helen Wallace of The Oklahoman about the event.