In past years I was the recipient of frustrated correspondence from the local constituency. Oklahoma residents were being denied access to Black Friday sale items and they wanted the Legislature to do something about it.
Since the 1940s, Oklahoma law has contained socialistic price control provisions that prevent Oklahoma retailers from selling an item at a price less than the cost originally paid for the item plus a 6 percent markup. Unbelievably, this antiquated law actually makes it a crime for a retailer to sell the item for an amount below this threshold.
This not only puts Oklahoma retailers at a disadvantage to retailers in other states but denies consumers access to savings.
A local resident might find a great bargain on a Black Friday item only to be thwarted when attempting to make the purchase. They were either not given access to the item or had to pay a higher price than they could receive in other states.
Retailers could offer the discounted items in other states but couldn’t offer them in Oklahoma.
Those Oklahoma residents who lived near the border of a more free-market minded state were greatly incentivized to drive across the border on Black Friday and spend their money in other states. The law greatly discriminated against those Oklahomans who didn’t live near the border as they were stuck with either higher prices or no access to the Black Friday item.
Things will be different this Friday. Earlier this year, state Sen. David Holt and state Rep. Tom Newell sponsored, and the Legislature and the governor approved Senate Bill 550. This bill creates an exemption from the law for Black Friday sales.
The inquisitive reader may rightly wonder why the Legislature didn’t simply repeal the antiquated law instead of creating the Black Friday exemption.
Believe it or not the proposal was rather controversial as there were a significant number of defenders of the status-quo. Fifteen senators and 16 representatives voted against the bill and there were a number of others in both political parties who likely would have opposed a direct repeal of the law.
One common strain of sentiment expressed by the opposition was reportedly stated as follows. “We believe in free markets except when it applies to big businesses!”
Many of Oklahoma’s elected officials won office on a platform of free market conservatism. This has made it possible for reforms like SB 550 to advance. However, the intensity of the opposition to even this most basic of reforms should serve as an eye-opening item of concern to Oklahoma voters. The effort to transition Oklahoma’s legal structure to one which allows the free market to work isn’t an easy endeavor. It is an ongoing task and one to which the voters must hold their elected officials to account.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.