OK state legislative session 2021: Q&A with Mark VanLandingham
We recently sat down with Mark VanLandingham, the Chamber's Government Relations and Policy senior vice president, to help us take a brief look at some of the biggest issues and expectations for the upcoming session.
VeloCityOKC: What are the biggest topics or issues that might dominate the session?
Mark VanLandingham: We anticipate some of the major issues will be: 1) State Budget (the State Board of Equalization will meet on December 18 and provide a preliminary estimate of funds available for the FY ’22 budget; 2) Medicaid Expansion (approximately $165 million annually will be necessary to fund the state’s share of this program approved by voters in SQ 802); and, 3) Redistricting – redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries following 2020 census.
This is the requisite question, but -- how will COVID affect the overall process this year, and how will that change what you and your staff does?
COVID will certainly present a challenge; however, during the 2020 session legislative leadership demonstrated impressive flexibility in establishing responsible safety measures to ensure the legislature could perform its work. I have the highest level of confidence they will do an excellent job again in 2021. In terms of my division, we will engage as safely, effectively and as much as possible at the State Capitol while adhering to state and CDC guidelines.
How will the results of the various 2020 elections change or affect things?
In terms of State Questions, the passage of SQ 802 (Medicaid Expansion) in June 2020 directly impacts the legislature in terms of the need to identify and provide funding for the program. Republicans will continue to maintain super-majorities in both the Senate and House; however, elections and turn-over always inject new energy into the Capitol. Our Government Relations staff was busy throughout the summer and fall meeting with as many of the newly-elected and existing legislators as possible. In total, we participated in approximately 60 meetings all across the state during that period. Building relationships is important and we put a lot of time into it.
What are our biggest Chamber legislative priorities for the year you’d like our readers to know about?
We will look to defend critical state economic development incentives (roughly 6-7) our chamber uses to recruit new companies and help existing companies expand. We will also oppose gun legislation that would limit the ability of businesses and high economic-impact events to control weapons on their property. We believe more remains to be accomplished on criminal justice reform at the state level and will continue to advance safe/responsible criminal justice reform initiatives. Additionally, we are taking the lead again this year on regional transit legislation supported by the City of OKC and five other metro area cities to move forward discussions on constructing commuter rail in central Oklahoma. We also have a number of legislative priorities in the areas of Health Care, Transportation and Education we will pursue. Our entire Legislative Agenda will be published in mid-January.
What are the best ways for people to get involved in supporting our legislative efforts?
First, I would encourage all Chamber members to stay informed on issues at the Capitol important to the Chamber and their businesses. The Chamber’s Business Advocate emails provides updates throughout the session on those issues (Editor's note: sign up for that here). It’s also beneficial to get to know your legislators in both the House and Senate – you never know when you’ll need them. Finally, the Greater OKC Chamber PAC is active in helping elect pro-business legislators from across the state. We appreciate all the support we receive for that program. (Note: If you’d like to support it, please click here).