301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

3.27.22 – Oklahoman 

For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma House gave final approval to bipartisan legislation that aims to prevent technology and telecommunications companies from sharing Oklahomans’ digital data without their consent

Rep. Collin Walke, the author of the Computer Data Privacy Act of 2022, touts the measure as the first in the nation to include an “opt-in” provision the would require companies to get explicit approval from users before they can harvest or sell their data

The State Chamber, which has significant influence at the state Capitol, opposes House Bill 2969 and that could make it difficult for the bill gets a hearing in the state Senate. 

Walke, D-Oklahoma City, said the legislation is in response to Big Tech companies like Amazon and Facebook and only applies to companies that collect data, not businesses that solely use a customer’s data to complete a purchase or other transaction.

5 ways to keep your data safe:Fortify your passwords, back up your files

“The movie from Netflix, ‘The Social Dilemma,’ really woke people’s eyes up to it,” he said. “They realize, ‘it’s not like I’m just getting pop-up ads. I’m literally being manipulated by things.'”

On the House floor, he gave the example of the game Pokémon Go that physically sends users to various locations to catch virtual creatures. Most people think they’re playing a game, but through data harvesting, the company is really getting paid by advertisers to send users to certain locations, Walke said.  

HB 2969 would give individuals the right to see what information a company has collected on them. A person could then ask for that data to be corrected or deleted across any companies that collected, sold or bought the information. 

“I think we would all want the right to say where our data goes,” Walke said. 

HB 2969 would apply to companies with at least $15 million in gross revenue or that earn more than 25% of their revenue from selling data. 

Similar legislation introduced last year by Walke and Rep. Josh West, R-Grove, would have applied to companies with more than $10 million in gross revenue. They increased the threshold after some small business owners expressed concerns about being affected.

Chad Warmington, CEO of The State Chamber, called HB 2969 “overreaching” and said states should defer to Congress on this issue because the federal government is steadily working toward a comprehensive data privacy standard. 

Walke said there appears to be no political will to tackle this issue in Washington, D.C., which is why states must act. Similar data privacy legislation, albeit with no “opt-in” provision, has been implemented in Virginia, California, Utah and Colorado.

“These regulations will not offer consumers comprehensive protections and creates a confusing hodgepodge of laws for businesses to sort through,” Warmington said. “The bill doesn’t focus on inappropriate data practices, instead it takes a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to data collection and disregards mutually agreed upon terms between businesses and consumers.”

HB 2969 advances to the state Senate, where Walke and West’s previous bill stalled last year. 

Questions about tax relief timing

House Democrats questioned the timing of proposed tax rebates that would send cash directly to Oklahomans weeks before the Nov. 8 general election. 

The House Wednesday passed a bill from Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, that would send checks of $125 to single taxpayers and $250 to couples who file jointly.

Proponents say the bill is intend to offer Oklahoma families some direct tax relief at a time when inflation remains high. 

If approved, the payments would be issued on Oct. 15, which led Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, to question if the checks could be accompanied with a letter from Gov. Kevin Stitt, who will be on the ballot this year.

Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, who presented the legislation, said that seems unlikely since the checks would be issued from the state treasurer’s office. He also said the timing coincides with the state’s tax extension deadline. 

“I think returning the money to people at any time is good policy,” he said. 

Before ultimately voting for House Bill 1358, Fugate tried unsuccessfully to amend the legislation so the checks would be issued on Nov. 9. 

Citing the financial hardships some Oklahomans faced during the pandemic, Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, suggested GOP lawmakers care more about their re-election bids than helping Oklahomans.

“All of a sudden, in an election year, we have scheduled payments to all taxpayers less than a month from the election,” he said. “I am incredulous. I think we can do a whole lot more for the people of Oklahoma.”

HB 1358 comes with a $321 million price tag.

The House last week also passed a package of bills to phase out corporate income taxes, cut all individual income tax rates, temporarily suspend the state’s grocery tax and increase a tax credit intended for low-income residents. 

Medicaid managed care conversations ongoing

Senate Majority Floor Leader Greg McCortney unveiled legislation that could allow the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to enter into contracts with third-party providers or companies to oversee care for some Medicaid recipients. 

The latest version of Senate Bill 1337 would allow the agency to pursue medical and dental managed care contracts for subsets of the Medicaid population.

The bill is the result of a legislative working group that worked with the Health Care Authority to discuss moving the state’s Medicaid population to a “value-based system,” in which payment is based on patient health outcomes. 

SB 1337 is still a work in progress and far from a done deal, McCortney, R-Ada, said Wednesday.

The bill is likely to be closely watched by many Capitol observes because managed care has been a controversial topic since Gov. Kevin Stitt started pushing for it in 2020

Quote of the week

“I’ve been in this building long enough that I know that if people want something bad enough we can get it done,” Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said after his Oklahoma Empowerment Act failed in the Senate

Other notable bills that died

Here’s a look at some of the high-profile bills that died because they didn’t get a full chamber hearing by Thursday’s floor deadline.

Although these specific bills are dead, lawmakers could try some legislative maneuvering to revive the language contained within later this session.