Oklahoma lawmakers fear potential company’s ‘woke culture’

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Oklahoma lawmakers return for a special session to, in part, consider ways to recoup $700 million allocated to Project Ocean, a tax incentive program requested by Governor Kevin Stitt on April 18 to lure a manufacturing company in the state. (Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers say they may not win — or may not want to win — the battle to lure a manufacturing company seeking a $4 billion investment.

The Oklahoma Legislature will return to the Capitol during the summer, after the regular session adjourned on Friday, to transact some business in a special session. Although the main reason cited for the special session is to oversee the spending of federal pandemic funds, lawmakers will also have the opportunity to recoup the $700 million allocated for the Ocean Project.

“We are confident that Project Ocean will choose Oklahoma, but if it does not, this mechanism allows for the rapid recovery of the legislative action necessary to ensure that allocated funds are quickly recovered,” the House Speaker said. Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, during the announcement of the special session. .

Earlier in the session, Gov. Kevin Stitt had pushed lawmakers to quickly pass a package of tax incentives to lure a manufacturing company Stitt wouldn’t mention by name, saying he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.

Several lawmakers called the company’s name “the building’s worst-kept secret” because Panasonic was known to be seeking sites in Oklahoma and Kansas for a new manufacturing plant in the United States. Oklahoma and Kansas have been touted as ideal locations for the company to supply batteries to Tesla electric vehicles built in Texas.

Lawmakers introduced the tax incentives package within the week, although several lawmakers expressed displeasure with the secretive way negotiations were conducted between a handful of government officials and business executives.

Additionally, during a debate on the floor of both chambers, some lawmakers questioned whether the business they were seeking to attract to Oklahoma was a good fit for the state. The legislative session produced several bills discouraging the state from entering into contracts with companies that have policies inconsistent with the values ​​declared by lawmakers. Measures have been passed to support the gun industry and the oil and gas industry, and to discourage schools and libraries from sharing materials in support of LGBTQ identity.

On Friday, a group of 11 Republican lawmakers signed a letter addressed to “the company in question, known as ‘Project Ocean’.” The company “has taken positions in the past that clearly run counter to our shared Oklahoma values,” reads the letter.

Republicans highlighted the company’s support for environmental, social and governance policies and a “global social credit industry,” which they described as an embrace of “woke culture.”

“In light of this, we hope that this company, and all others using tax credits provided by our constituents, will refrain from promoting and funding any type of lifestyle that the vast majority of Oklahomans believe contrary to the Bible and do not argue. “, we read in the letter.

Panasonic has yet to announce the state it has chosen for the factory, but on May 11 Hirokazu Umeda, chief financial officer of Panasonic Holdings Corp, said Tesla Inc. is asking the company to speed up development of its next-gen 4680. Battery. The new technology is expected to open doors for automakers other than Tesla in the future.

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