The Tulsa region’s OneVoice coalition traveled to Washington D.C. with 70 local business and community leaders April 18-20 to lobby Oklahoma’s federal delegation and advocate on behalf of the Tulsa region and state of Oklahoma.
“Over the past nine years, the Tulsa Regional Chamber has been fortunate to work with a regional coalition that proactively engages government entities to advance Tulsa and its surrounding communities,” said Jeff Dunn, Tulsa Regional Chamber Board Chair and president and CEO of Mill Creek Lumber & Supply Company.
“The Washington D.C. Fly In is vital for fostering collaborative relationships with Oklahoma’s federal elected officials to work together to better the Tulsa region through business-friendly legislation,” he added. “We were fortunate this year to be joined by representatives from Tulsa County, Rogers County, Broken Arrow, Jenks, Owasso, Bixby, Claremore, Sand Springs, Collinsville, and Mannford, as well as business leaders from across northeast Oklahoma.”
The Tulsa contingent spent three days holding meetings and briefings at the U.S. Capitol, where business leaders spoke with all seven members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation in favor of maintenance for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigational System, positioning Tulsa for F-35 operations, the fair enforcement of sales and use tax collections for online purchases, and other key priority items on the 2016 Regional OneVoice Legislative Agenda. Regional business and community leaders also attended a private reception and small group dinners with members of Oklahoma’s federal delegation and their staffs.
“Transportation and infrastructure, national security and the Air National Guard, and collection of online sales/use taxes are among ten critical priority areas we addressed with our delegation, in addition to sharing with others outside the delegation how these issues are impactful to business and the growth of our region,” said Stuart Solomon, vice-chair of government affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber and president and COO of the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. “We also thanked our delegation for their strong support of two OneVoice priorities that have already been accomplished: passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill to fund our state’s crumbling highway infrastructure, and lifting the export ban on crude oil – a critical step to allow our energy companies to compete on an international level. We are fortunate to have strong leadership from our delegation on both issues.”
The ten items on the Regional OneVoice federal agenda have already seen some successes this year, in addition to the items mentioned above, the region celebrated victories with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act and progress being made to position Tulsa for F-35 operations.
All members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation voiced their support and commitment to help the 138th Fighter Wing for selection as an operating location for the next generation of fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lighting II.
“You do not have any delegation that is trying harder to make that (the F-35 in Tulsa) a reality than in Oklahoma,” said U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe.
Oklahoma legislators also applauded the work the region has done to positively position Tulsa for selection for the F-35.
“No one can say when it comes time for the F-35 that Tulsa does not have community support,” said U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine.
Local regional leaders also advocated for passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act or other federal legislation which will ensure that the sales and use taxes already owed from online purchases are fairly and effectively reported, collected and remitted.
Multiple members of Oklahoma’s federal delegation said that this is not a new tax that would be implemented and the problem behind this issue lies within the collection and enforcement of sales tax payment.
“This issue is hard to explain, and in a political year, people do not want to explain it, but that is why I am up here, it is my job,” said U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin. “I am all in,” he added.
Another popular topic throughout the briefings was the upcoming presidential election and the impact the election season will have at the Capitol.
“Next year in the Senate, it will be more important than ever that Republicans and Democrats work together to get things done,” said U.S. Senator James Lankford.
These legislative issues are part of the 2016 Regional OneVoice Legislative Agenda, which was crafted by hundreds of regional leaders and community members as part of the OneVoice process that culminated in the OneVoice Regional Legislative Summit last September. The 2016 OneVoice Legislative Agenda is endorsed by 70 regional entities and has become a well-respected resource for legislators, elected officials, constituents and regional partners.