“Prosperity Districts” won’t create prosperity for all…

The Oklahoma legislature is currently considering a bill, HB 2132, that would create “a grassfire of prosperity” in our state according to Representative Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia). But Oklahoma doesn’t need another grassfire.  They are unpredictable, dangerous, and usually leave behind a great deal of damage.

Under HB 2132, any landowner or group of landowners could file a petition with their county to create a district on their land – and once the district is created, they can make most of their own rules.  They would negotiate a revenue covenant with the state instead of paying state and local taxes, and the district would be governed by a governing board.

If county officials do not act to deny a petition to create or expand a “Prosperity District,” citing specific deficiencies within 20 days, it will automatically go into effect. That creates a lot of potential for powerful special interests to force through these Districts by overwhelming county officials with applications. Basically, this bill could allow corporations and other special interests to create their own governments – all they need is a bit of land.

“Right to Farm” by other means?

Once created, a Prosperity District could be used to get around the wishes of local government and voters. For example, a factory farm could create a Prosperity District that allows them to ignore state and local rules about waste disposal and food safety. The idea that Oklahoma should shackle its ability to regulate industrial agriculture was clearly rejected by voters last fall, when SQ 777, the so called “Right to Farm” State Question, was defeated at the polls.

Unfair competition for Oklahoma businesses

With Prosperity Districts, landowners could exempt themselves from the rules that apply to the rest of us. Besides the threat to neighbors of the district, Prosperity Districts could create even more complications for Oklahoma businesses.  Businesses inside the district could be given a big competitive advantage from being exempt from many state and local regulations, while other businesses would still be subject to all these rules.

This is not an Oklahoma idea

Bills to allow “Prosperity Districts” have been introduced, but not passed, in multiple states this year. That’s not a coincidence — it’s because the bill language comes from Compact for America, a Houston-based advocacy organization that’s also behind a push to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. If this outside group is writing the bill, we should ask what other outside groups might be lining up to take advantage of the giant loophole in Oklahoma laws this bill would create.

HB 2132 has passed the House and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. Supporters of HB 2132 have argued Disney World was created through a “Prosperity District”.  But HB 2132 goes dramatically beyond this special example. The Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) was created by the Florida Legislature at the request of the Walt Disney Company in 1967.  The districts that would be allowed by HB 2132 could be created by anyone for almost any purpose.  As much as we might enjoy visiting Disney World, do we really want to let anyone build a theme park, casino, or hog farm next door and exempt them from oversight by our state, city, and county?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Cullison joined OK Policy in March 2017 as a policy analyst focusing on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

12 thoughts on ““Prosperity Districts” won’t create prosperity for all…

  1. What a stupid bill! I can’t believe it got this far. And we wonder why our state is in trouble. Please defeat loudly!!!

  2. Insane to say the least. The author of this bill should be impeached, they are the creatures of the special interests and no longer represent the people.

  3. Thank you for the information. As usual , translation required for true meaning. I plan to call my senator today to ask for No vote.

  4. After reading what this bill is about, I agree with of the previous comments that this bill is ludicrous and serves no purpose to the future of Oklahoma. Please vote NO and quit trying to enact stupid legislation …..this bill would not benefit Oklahoma citizens as a whole.

  5. WE THE PEOPLE spoke when we resoundingly voted down SQ777. You legislators have forgotten who hired you, WE THE PEOPLE DID! You are supposed to legislate OUR will, not yours, not your contributors. This bill is not for the state or us. It also may be illegal as it imposes fees and raises revenues. Don’t we have to vote on this type of a proposal? Wait, we already did vote on SQ777. Forget this and other frivolous issues and figure out what you clowns are going to do about EDUCATION for our children and the state budget!

  6. So, our state government once again tells us that “WE THE PEOPLE” are to stupid to decide what is in our own interests. As Kurt Krans has pointed out, we the people of Oklahoma voted most of what HB2132 contains down in the last election. How much money was slid under the table to our legislators to get this travesty even considered. You need to be finding money for education and infrastructure improvements not putting money into the wallets of fat corporations. Hopefully you corrupt politicians up at the state capitol remember Athens, Tennessee.

  7. Yes to all the comments above!
    Now all of you need to click on the link to “Compact with America”. Read slowly what it says its mission states. You don’t need to be a conspiracy nut or wear a tinfoil hat to see how dangerous this group is.

  8. I agree with every comment! I’ve called my senator. Of the many ridiculous legislative proposals, this is one of the worst!

  9. We said no to 777,now their running at us with another no!
    I suggest we find which legislator wrote The bill,and the co Arthur’s,then check
    the money trail.
    Like it or not,that’s the way they do things.

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