Guns and butter.
While the old adage is that the government ought to focus on guns during wartime and butter during times of peace, the Oklahoma House of Representatives tried to do both this afternoon.
House members spent hours considering two controversial measures — SB 888 and SB 1212 — that mark both boxes.
One bill would eliminate the refundability of wind energy tax credits while the other would allow Oklahomans to carry firearms openly without having to apply for a license. That bill, SB 888, passed 51-46.
The House also advanced SB 1212, which allows people to carry firearms openly without licensure.
Butter: Refundability of wind tax credits
SB 888 by Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate) and Rep. Jeff Coody (R-Grandfield) would eliminate the refundability of wind energy tax credits beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Coody successfully tabled an amendment from Rep. David Perryman (D-Chickasha) that sought to replace the refundability language with a proposal to create a gross production tax on new wind energy projects.
The Wind Coalition has routinely said there will be lawsuits filed against the state if SB 888 passes and is signed by the governor, but Coody argued Wednesday that he believes the state has solid legal standing to repeal the refundability of the wind tax credits.
‘Growing pains’: Wind industry has different views on tax proposals by William W. Savage III
“Anybody can file a lawsuit on anything, but we have precedent on this,” Coody said during the question period on the bill. “When we repealed the refundability of the earned income tax credit, there was litigation (and the state won).”
Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) followed up.
“Except we didn’t have signed legal documents like we do on this that we drew,” she said, arguing that companies will think twice before investing in the Sooner State moving forward. “They’ll say, ‘Don’t go to Oklahoma. They’ll change the contract on us. We’ll litigate and we’ll win, but don’t go to Oklahoma.'”
During debate, Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-OKC) implored Republican members of the House to reconsider their support of SB 888.
“This measure is not fiscally conservative,” Bennett said. “If we want to create a competitive marketplace that indemnifies Oklahoma’s budget from waving and crashing when oil does, we should try to diversify.”
Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) debated in favor of the bill, saying critiques of “big oil” were ironic compared to support for “big wind.” He said the companies with wind investments in Oklahoma are much larger than the state’s biggest oil and gas companies.
“And we’re worried about taking away their refundability,” McBride said. “They’ve been getting this for 18 years. It’s time to stop. Let’s put this money into general revenue so we can put more money into education.”
But Rep. Carl Newton (R-Cherokee) said passage of SB 888 would jeopardize existing wind projects, which the Wind Coalition has said may default if the tax credits are no longer refundable.
“We could have wind-farm graveyard tours as these turbines are falling down in people’s pastures,” Newton said sarcastically.
The bill ultimately advanced after almost three hours of discussion. It would have to be heard again in the Senate before advancing to Gov. Mary Fallin for consideration, as it was amended while property of the House.
Guns: ‘constitutional carry’
SB 1212 passed 59-28 with no debate, though many questions were asked.
(Update: This story was updated at 6:32 p.m. with the vote results on SB 1212.)