Over the past few years, the State Legislature has passed right to work and tort reform measures designed to make Oklahoma more attractive to business, but now the state has a law on the books that negates those efforts. That’s according to Sen. Harry Coates, Co-Chair of the Senate Business and Labor Committee and the only Republican in the Legislature to vote against HB 1804. Coates announced he would file legislation to repeal portions of the bill approved during the 2007 session aimed at illegal immigrants.
“I think people in the legislature, the business community, private citizens and churches of many denominations are beginning to realize that this legislation is having an extremely negative impact on our state in many areas,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “I know there are those who felt this measure would not be good for Oklahoma but they supported it anyway because they worried that a no vote would be used against them in the next election. It was the classic case of good politics resulting in bad policy.”
Coates said the bill would likely include provisions to repeal sections of 1804 dealing with the harboring and transporting of illegal immigrants. He said the bill is causing a tremendous hardship for property and business owners alike. In addition, HB 1804 has caused difficulty for churches and humanitarian organizations although many have said they would continue to help anyone who comes to them for assistance. Coates said he would also file legislation to give some relief to businesses offering jobs that pay at least twice the minimum wage, but can no longer fill those positions.
“This law was passed out of frustration with the federal government for not doing their job of closing off our borders and enforcing current laws,” Coates said. “But one of the reasons for lack of movement on a federal level is the fact that tens of billions of dollars flow into government coffers from social security and from W2 withholdings that illegal immigrants do not claim. And regardless of what HB 1804 supporters say, jobs that pay twice the minimum wage are going unfilled because too many American citizens simply won’t do hard, physical labor.”
Coates said since HB 1804 became law last month he has received numerous phone calls from farmers, business owners and contractors.
“They want to know where the replacement workers will come from to fill the jobs resulting from the recent exodus of the immigrant worker and they are angry with the legislature for putting good politics ahead of good policy,” Coates said. “Furthermore, many of the same legislators who claim to champion the rights of the unborn child have flip-flopped when the child is being born to a mother who is here illegally. How can they not see the hypocrisy of their wish to refuse pre-natal care to those babies and their mothers?”
Coates said it was also hypocritical for lawmakers to claim to be a friend to business and then essentially throw farmers and business owners under the bus.
“I do not believe the citizens of this state sent us to the legislature to focus on getting re-elected,” Coates said. “Our job is to provide leadership in creating public policy that will help, not hurt Oklahomans.”
“It is my deepest hope that my fellow members will have the courage to help correct the many problems we’re already seeing as a result of the passage of HB 1804,” Coates said. “I also hope that my legislation will pass with an emergency clause so the bill can become law as soon as the Governor signs it. We need to reverse the damage while we still can.”