Oklahoma lawmakers address State Chamber about marijuana banking, other issues
WASHINGTON — Oklahoma lawmakers addressed marijuana banking, the minimum wage, impeachment, politics and other issues on Wednesday as they briefed state business leaders visiting the nation's capital.
Freshman Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, making her first appearance before a State Chamber of Oklahoma congressional briefing, was thanked for opposing a bill hiking the minimum wage and for supporting one to allow companies involved in state legalized marijuana production and sales to use the U.S. banking system.
All five U.S. House members from Oklahoma opposed a bill in July to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. It is currently $7.25 an hour. The bill was approved but is unlikely to see Senate action.
Horn said she considered “the impact that it would have on business in Oklahoma.”
“In places where the minimum wage is already at $15 an hour, that lift is not very much, but in Oklahoma — where the cost of living and the cost of housing is a fraction of what it is in Los Angeles or New York or other places — that burden is significantly heavier.”
Horn and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, split on the issue of banking for the marijuana industry.
Horn is a co-sponsor of a bill that would give those in the industry access to federal banking; most banks are reluctant to accept deposits from them because marijuana is still illegal under federal drug laws. That has forced all manner of companies in the supply chain to deal in cash.
Roger Beverage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, thanked Horn for her support and said the issue had become one of public safety.
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Horn said the banking bill doesn't solve all the problems in the industry "but it’s a really critical issue. It’s passed out of the committee with overwhelming bipartisan support and we’re working really hard to ensure that it gets to the House floor."
Horn added, "To me, it’s an economic issue with health and safety because if we’ve got people who are having to carry around large sums of cash, that poses a threat. And (banking) also means that we can track that money and make sure that the taxpayer dollars are going where they should be going.”
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, opposed the bill in committee but said he expects it to pass the full House, which is controlled by Democrats. The legislation could have a more “complicated future” in the Republican-led Senate, Lucas said, adding that he didn’t agree with granting a “wink-and-a-nod” exception to a product that is illegal under federal law.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said the last two administrations have willfully ignored the federal law on marijuana and had not proposed changes.
It has been “a failure of political leadership not to deal with the marijuana issue,” Cole said.
Cole, who requested a moment of silence in remembrance of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, recalled the day of the terrorist attack and the legacy. He noted that Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Horn serves on the House Armed Services Committee and he is a member of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees defense spending.
Oklahoma has five major military installations.
“This delegation is remarkably well-positioned to defend the United States of America,’’ Cole said.
Inhofe also spoke of 9/11, recalling that he was talking to the State Chamber that morning and saw smoke from the direction of the Pentagon.
“I think about it all the time,” he said Wednesday.
Inhofe credited President Donald Trump for boosting the Defense Department budget back to where it was before deep cuts during the Obama administration.
Addressing the possibility of impeachment of Trump, Lucas said Democrats might want to be cautious.
“I was here the last time we impeached a president,” Lucas said, referring to the 1998 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton. “I watched the Senate acquit, and it’s just a tough process.”
Freshman Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Tulsa, addressed the Chamber session for the first time after a career in fast food franchises and other companies.
“I don’t know that we’ve had any conversations about things that would affect business in a positive way since I’ve been here,” he said.