It's tough being a Democratic legislator these days at the state Capitol.
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, complained Thursday that a bill he had written encouraging Oklahoma employers to hire veterans that failed to advance this year was resurrected on the House floor in a measure that was written by a Republican House member.
Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, who voted against Proctor's bill in a subcommittee hearing last month, denied she stole Proctor's idea.
Her bill, which contained no substantive language until last week, is different because it encourages employers to hire veterans, while Proctor's bill would have disqualified businesses from receiving an incentive, she said.
“I was working with the Department of Commerce on some other workforce bills and it just so happened that that was the way we decided to go, with a free-market approach on that principle,” she said.
House Democrats, outnumbered 72-29 by Republicans, were skeptical.
“It certainly was Rep. Proctor's idea, but it's got Rep. Hall's name on it because she decided that she could vote against it in committee and then actually amend one of her other bills that carried the legislation verbatim in her own bill,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City.
Proctor, D-Tulsa, said he is nonetheless grateful his idea is moving forward again.
“It's going to help military veterans get hired and that's the important thing,” he said. “Whether it's an R or a D in front of the name that gets the credit, that's irrelevant for me.”
Proctor said he is frustrated because one of his constituents, Marine Sgt, Shane Hannaford, who served seven tours of duty in Iraq and is the recipient of two Purple Hearts, had helped with the legislation but was denied an opportunity during the subcommittee hearing to speak.
Proctor's bill, House Bill 1064, would have required companies to have at least 10 percent of military veterans as new employees if they were to receive incentives from the state's Quality Jobs Act.
Hall's measure, HB 1416, would modify the net benefits related to the Quality Jobs Act by increasing the rate from 5 to 6 percent for companies that have at least 10 percent of their gross annual payroll going to veterans.
The House of Representatives on Thursday voted 87-6 to pass HB 1416; Proctor voted for it. HB 1416 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
I was working with the Department of Commerce on some other workforce bills and it just so happened that that was the way we decided to go, with a free-market approach on that principle.”
Rep. Elise Hall,