Antitrust Law Reform Advances as Committees End Work

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Regular committees of the Senate and House completed their work for the second session of the 46th Legislature this week. Thursday was the final day for reporting bills and joint resolutions from committees. Those remaining in committee cannot be considered this session without a suspension of the joint rules by both houses. What further committee work that is done will be by conference committees. Several key bills were moved ahead for floor consideration and in many cases, probable conference committee action. The Senate and House both advanced tax reduction measures.

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee, chaired by Rep. Ron Langmacher, D-Carnegie, approved Senate Bill 1167 by Sen. Dick Wilkerson containing Gov. Frank Keating's tax cut proposals for this year. It had passed the Senate intact earlier by a vote of 41 to 4. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Wilkerson, responded by adopting several tax-cutting House measures including House Bill 2940 by Langmacher reducing state income taxes. All of the measures are destined to go to conference, where the leadership will decide which if any of the tax cuts will be allowed. That decision will be made, of course, after both houses have made a record of voting for all of them. Antitrust reform act On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved SB 1357, by Sen. Howard Hendrick, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, who chairs the committee. The Oklahoma Antitrust Reform Act is the result of combined efforts of industry leaders, the attorney general's office and the authors who worked with D. Kent Meyers with the law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy. He teaches antitrust law at the University of Oklahoma Law School. Attorney General Drew Edmondson appeared before the committee in support of the legislation, which he said is designed to develop a modern state antitrust act that conforms significantly with federal antitrust laws. Assistant Attorney General Mickey Moon outlined three primary things the bill will accomplish. It will encourage entry into Oklahoma's consumer markets for new businesses seeking to compete for consumer demand. It will protect consumers against future anticompetitive conduct, and third, it will enable the AG's office to investigate potential anticompetitive conduct without having to formally and publicly initiate an antitrust suit. The legislation amends only those antitrust provisions in Title 79 of the Oklahoma statutes. It brings Oklahoma law into conformance with four basic parts of the federal law: Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, Section 7 of the Clayton Act and Section 2 of the Robinson-Patman Act. It also brings under review certain public trusts such as airport and water, trusts which have municipal corporations as beneficiaries. Under the present law they can engage in anticompetitive actions. Also included are the Grand River Dam Authority and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority to the extent their goods or services are not regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Questions One of the key questions about the bill came from Rep. Bill Settle, D-Muskogee, who asked if the new law would change existing case law. Meyers said it would not because there have been so few cases under Title 79. Most of the questions from committee members centered on Section 4 of the bill which deals with price discrimination and tracks the Robinson-Patman Act. Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Oklahoma City, noted the section has only two sentences but the first one covered 25 lines (252 words). Citing Wal- Mart as an example, he asked about price differentials for different quantities. He posed a question as to whether a manufacturer could sell a million "widgets" at a lower per unit price than it sells a 100 "widgets." Meyers explained it would not affect the Wal-Marts and other large marketers. In fact, he said this section is less than what is in the present law. …