Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 18, 2013

Keeping a close eye on big issues

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — For Pauls Valley’s chamber of commerce it’s a kind of partnership with state chamber officials that guides them when it comes to legislative issues each year.

It was only recently when the State Chamber of Oklahoma announced its legislative agenda for the 2013 year.

That agenda is something local chamber officials not only pay close attention to but play a role in helping to formulate.

At the heart of that role is the chamber’s legislative committee.

“This group is very active and it is intricate to what we do,” said Della Wilson, president of PV’s chamber.

“Chambers are so many things, have so many layers,” she said. “When it comes to legislation we look at how it pertains to pro-business.”

Both Wilson and legislative committee chairperson Sharon Burgin say the state chamber gets plenty of input from chambers like the one here and even many business members to come up with its lengthy legislative agenda, which is really just its legislative goals to work toward during the year.

“They say they want to address these issues this year,” Burgin said, referring to the state agenda.

“We bring them back and ask if they’re important to Garvin County,” she said about the local legislative committee. “We’re all working for the betterment of Pauls Valley.

“This is a good grassroots way to get the ball rolling.”

A top state chamber issue this year is legislation meant to improve Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system, something Wilson and Burgin believe is in desperate need of help.

“They made quite a few changes last year but there’s still so much more needed,” Wilson said.

“The whole system is out of control and that’s not something that attracts business,” she said.

“The whole system is anti-business friendly.”

Burgin says the local chamber’s committee works to stay informed with legislative issues, and members meet monthly to discuss local, state and national topics on their radar with talks sometimes on the lively side.

One issue on the minds of committee members is water.

“One thing our legislative committee has focused on is water,” Burgin said.

“The drought has emphasized the importance of water, both for individuals and business.”

Members have such specific concerns as water restrictions locally or on a larger scale lawsuits involving water transfers.

The committee provides input on legislative issues to the state chamber and takes a close look at the items on the state agenda.

From there members make a recommendation on those issues for the local chamber’s board of directors to consider for a vote.

“Our board has never rejected a recommendation from our legislative committee,” Wilson said.

“This kind of support just makes sense for business.”

An example of that support came with last year’s state questions put before voters during the general election.

One of those questions focused on a proposed tax for intangible property, which was ultimately defeated.

“The state chamber led the way to oppose that legislation,” Wilson said.

“It would have cost business unfair taxation. We prevailed on that,” she said.

“The state chamber knows who to call when they need to rally support for an issue, and we’re one of the chambers they call.”

Another example came this week when members of PV’s chamber joined others at the state Capitol to release a joint jobs agenda on a day devoted for economic development.