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Legislative session called good for business

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ This year's legislative session was a successful one for business issues, according to an Edmond-based economic development research group.

More than half of the lawmakers in both legislative chambers received a passing score for their voting record on bills that had a positive impact on the state's businesses, according to a report released by the Research Institute for Economic Development.

Nearly three-fourths of all members of the House and Senate got a passing score of 70 or higher on the RIED report. The research group reviews pending legislation and gives bills a point value based on their benefits to the business community.

``I think this is the best year that we've had as far as having pro-business-advocate legislators,'' said Vince Robison, president of the research group. ``I don't think there's a state in the country that can match that. I haven't seen numbers this high in any legislature at this point.''

RIED only monitors legislation in Oklahoma, but meets with similar research groups in other states throughout the year.

Some of the top pro-business issues in the previous session include workers' compensation reform, tort reform, and getting federal matching funds for health care in rural areas.

In the newly Republican-dominated House, 20 lawmakers got perfect scores of 100, including House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville.

``I've made it no secret that our top priority is to stimulate the economy and attract more better-paying jobs to Oklahoma,'' said Hiett, who is running for the post of lieutenant governor. ``The job's not over. We have a lot more to do on lawsuit reform. That will be the top priority in the coming session.''

Traditionally, winners on the RIED scale have been Republicans, but Robison said party affiliation is not a factor in rating a lawmaker's performance.

``We don't keep our records on the basis of the political party thing,'' Robison said, pointing out that 46 percent of Democrats in the Senate and 42 percent of Democrats in the House got a passing score of 70 or better.

However, the basement dwellers in the survey were Democrats. Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, got a score of minus 33. Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, got the lowest score in the Senate with 30.

Robison said low scores were a result of lawmakers voting against pro-business issues or carrying legislation that did not meet the group's criteria. Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, who helped push the lottery, cigarette tax and tribal gaming to a vote of the people got a failing score of 43.

``Thank goodness,'' Hobson said when told of his score. ``I was concerned with the 700,000 uninsured Oklahomans or building a cancer treatment center. Those are pro-business issues. I doubt any of those got plus points or even made their list.''
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