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Oklahoma Legislative Update

AGGREGATE BILL PROPOSED

A bill has been introduced in the Oklahoma legislature that would allow counties to levy a severance tax on rock, gravel, granite, sand, limestone and other natural minerals mined in the county by for-profit businesses for the purpose of producing aggregate. Currently there is an exemption for sand extracted for use in hydraulic fracturing operations; however, groups such as the Oklahoma Aggregates Association oppose the bill because it creates a potential patchwork of taxes across the state. The bill proposes that before the tax can be levied, it must be approved by county voters and cannot exceed $.10 per ton.

The proceeds of the tax can only be used for road and bridge improvements and in cases where the mining operation overlaps a county and municipality, both entities must split the revenue. Supporters believe this tax is similar to the gross production tax that is levied against oil and natural gas that is extracted. House Speaker Charles McCall (District 22), who introduced a similar bill in 2015, argues that an estimated 80 million tons of aggregate materials are mined across the state each year and much of it is exported to other states and countries with no financial benefit to the localities.

UNITY BILL SIGNED BY GOV. STITT

The Unity Bill, which provides additional regulatory controls over medical marijuana use, was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt on March 14. The new law contains an exception that allows employers to discipline employees in safety-sensitive positions for positive marijuana tests. This discipline can include termination even if the employee is a licensed medical marijuana cardholder. However, the Unity Bill now faces a legal challenge that could delay the bill’s effective date. The suit alleges the Unity Bill violates Oklahoma law by denying due process, violating equal protection under the law and is unconstitutionally vague. The lawsuit seeks temporary and permanent injunctive relief which could delay rollout of the new law or void it all together. Barring any extensions to the legislative session, the new law goes into effect on August 30. Employers should plan according to that date keeping in mind that employees must be notified ten days prior to the law taking effect.