OKLAHOMA – Oklahoma has been in the national media a lot in recent weeks – and not in a good way.
Decisions by our state lawmakers, from the budget to controversial bills, have made headlines for weeks.
Now, the business community is concerned.
The Chamber of Commerce does perception surveys, where they ask out of state business leaders what they think about Oklahoma.
They said the negative media attention is simply bad for business.
By now, you’ve probably seen one of the headlines.
‘Oklahoma Makes the Poor Poorer’ was the headline of an editorial in Sunday’s New York Times.
It criticized the Oklahoma legislature for targeting the working poor by cutting the earned income tax credit but keeping hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for oil and gas companies and focusing on social issues, like the transgender bathroom bill.
“Sending a message with negative legislation just hurts the state,” said Cynthia Reid, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Marketing and Communications.
When the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce does its perception surveys, our state legislature comes up.
“People see the Oklahoma City area as possibly an area where people are intolerant so, if you’re from a diverse population, they perceive this would not be a welcoming environment, even though we know that’s not truly the case,” Reid said.
A recent Washington Post article pointed out, while many of our schools are going to four-day weeks because of the budget crisis, lawmakers focused on criminalizing abortion and trying to impeach President Obama.
“There’s definitely a low perception of the quality of our education offerings in Oklahoma, so some of these bills could be playing into that,” Reid said.
There’s also what didn’t happen this legislative session.
There were no teacher raises, and the final equal pay for women bill never got heard in the Senate because it adjourned early.
“They had the chance to make a difference that would have been revenue neutral. It would have made huge difference for women across this state, and they chose not to do it,” said Kendra Horn, Executive Director of Sally’s List.
Horn’s team trains women to run for political office in Oklahoma.
She has a slew of candidates now because of what’s happened to education and healthcare.
“There’s a pretty big disconnect between a lot of the members of the legislature and the people on the ground,” Horn said.
NewsChannel 4 reached out to several lawmakers who authored the most controversial bills of the session, but our calls were not returned.