A measure that would provide about $200,000 to the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission to avert possible litigation over pay-per-view martial arts fighting events won unanimous approval Wednesday by a legislative committee.
The House of Representatives Appropriation and Budget Committee voted 15-0 to pass Senate Bill 1533. It now goes to the full House.
Rep. Tom Newell, House author of the measure, said the appropriation will replace earnings the Athletic Commission gets from a 4 percent fee charged to promoters for the pay-per-view events.
“We're the last state in the country that has a fee like that,” said Newell, R-Seminole. “It's either been ruled unconstitutional or other legislatures have simply repealed that fee before it was ruled unconstitutional. So we're just trying to be ahead of the curve and do the same thing.”
The commission has temporarily suspended granting any new permits for boxing, professional wrestling or mixed martial arts events in the state because of threatened litigation by the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Bouts that already have received permits from the commission can go on as scheduled.
The cable providers collect the 4 percent fee and forward the money to the Athletic Commission. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest promoter of mixed martial arts fights in the country, has threatened to sue the state if the fee is not revoked.
The Athletic Commission does not receive any appropriation from the Legislature; it is funded entirely by license fees, a 5 percent fee on gross ticket sales from live gates in Oklahoma and the pay-per-view money.
The commission earns about $240,000 from the pay-per-view events, which is about two-thirds of the commission's budget.
Newell said the legislative appropriation for the 2013 fiscal year, which begins July 1, would not be permanent.
The Athletic Commission will have to restructure its fees, which will take about a year, he said.
“This is simply going to hold them harmless during that year that they're trying to restructure the fees,” Newell said. “They're looking at raising the in-state fees (on promoters).”