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Virtual meetings increase public access

By C. Eric Davis

This article appeared as a Guest Column in The Journal Record on April 21, 2021.

As schools and businesses increasingly met virtually over the past year, so too did Oklahoma’s governmental bodies, including boards of education, city councils, and state commissions. Today, largely as a result of the pandemic, online governmental meetings are commonplace, available to anyone with access to the internet. This increased accessibility has made it easier for Oklahomans to participate in government at all levels, an outcome that is in keeping with Oklahoma’s laws designed to ensure governmental transparency.

attorney Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

In particular, Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act requires public access to governmental meetings in order “to encourage and facilitate an informed citizenry’s understanding” of their government. The act requires that the meetings of all governmental boards and commissions be open to the public, and that advance notice of the time, place, and purpose of meetings be posted in advance. Prior to 2020, the Open Meeting Act mandated a majority of a public body’s members be physically present together to hold a meeting. However, amendments since March 2020 have given public bodies temporary flexibility to meet virtually, leading to an increased presence of meetings online, and thus increased public accessibility.

The recent amendments to the Open Meeting Act, however, have otherwise left the act’s preexisting requirements in place. For instance, meeting agendas must still be publicly posted in advance, votes of individual members must be recorded, and meeting minutes must be kept and made available. Moreover, meetings must continue to be accessible to all those who wish to attend. Thus, if a meeting is held via videoconference, those who wish to watch may not be excluded due to the online room’s capacity limits. Instead, accommodations must be made so that all those who wish to participate can.

Recognizing the benefits of online access to public meetings, Oklahoma lawmakers are now considering legislation that would mandate, to the extent practicable, that all public meetings include a livestream. Similar efforts to modernize open meeting laws are underway in states across the country.

Whether it be school redistricting or local zoning decisions, actions taken at public meetings affect all of us. If travel or time conflicts have deterred you from attending public meetings in the past, consider taking advantage of the increased access via the internet. As public engagement grows, so too will the diversity of viewpoints, providing public bodies with increased input and, perhaps, leading to more durable public policy.


For more information on how the information in this article may impact your business, please call 405.606.4757 or email C. Eric Davis.

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Davis to explore Oklahoma Public Utility Division’s procedures, rules of practice

Eric Davis

Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

C. Eric Davis, an attorney in the Firm’s Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group, will give a presentation on Dec. 6 for Continuing Legal Education individuals.

Davis will present at 8:30 a.m. at HalfMoon Education Inc.’s seminar titled “Issues in Oklahoma Energy and Electric Utility Regulation,” discussing Oklahoma Public Utility Division rules of practice and procedure.

“The Corporation Commission determines what many of us pay for electricity and natural gas, and it influences utility companies’ multimillion dollar investment decisions ranging from building new power plants to deploying advanced meters,” Davis said. “Because of its impact, it’s useful to understand how the Commission makes decisions and how its hearings work.”

The seminar will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday in Oklahoma City. Those interested in registering can find more information here. Attendees receive CLE credit for participating.

Phillips Murrah attorneys team up to win big at annual chili cook-off

Phillips Murrah chili team

Phillips Murrah’s chili cook-off team celebrates another successful year.

The new year signals a new race to claim a trophy at the annual Oklahoma County Bar Association Chili Cook-Off.

Phillips Murrah attorneys competed in teams against local law firms in OCBA’s Young Lawyers Division to show off their chili-making prowess Jan. 25 at Twisted Spike Brewing Co.

Representing Phillips Murrah were attorneys Hilary Hudson Clifton, Cody J. Cooper, C. Eric DavisTravis E. Harrison, Mark E. Hornbeek, Martin J. Lopez IIISamuel D. Newton, Morgen D. PottsAshley M. Schovanec, and Monica Y. Ybarra.

The competition formally kicks off the YLD’s year-long commitment to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, raising funds and awareness within the community to support the mission of the Regional Food Bank and the Oklahomans who rely on its services.

Attorneys Travis Harrison, Mark Hornbeek, and Ashley Schovanec

Attorneys Travis Harrison, Mark Hornbeek, and Ashley Schovanec get festive for the annual chili cook-off.

“This year’s chili cook-off was a huge success for the OCBA YLD and its year-round fundraising efforts for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma,” Clifton said. “It’s always a fun event with a great turn-out, and this year Phillips Murrah definitely showed up.”

Teams were judged in different categories including Best Overall, Traditional, Non-Traditional, and Hottest Chilis.

“In addition to having two serious chili contenders, Ashley Schovanec brought a smorgasbord of sides and toppings, Mark Hornbeek kept it festive with a light-up chile necklace, and we had an awesome turnout of other associates there wearing PM aprons and talking up our entries,” Clifton said. “It seems like our team gets bigger and more enthusiastic every year, which is awesome, because it’s a really fun event for a great cause.”

Potts won the Best Non-Traditional Chili category on behalf of Phillips Murrah’s teams at this year’s cook-off with her and her husband’s recipe which includes elk, deer, chorizo, coffee, molasses, and different types of peppers.

Attorney Morgen Potts and her husband John

Attorney Morgen Potts and her husband John hold their trophy for Best Non-Traditional Chili.

“The chili was inspired by all the hunting trips my husband and my brother-in-law take together,” Potts said. “The unique flavors of the different types of wild game combined with coffee and molasses always make their long days of hunting worth it.”

Phillips Murrah has had at least one team compete in the Chili Cook-Off each year since it first started more than ten years ago.

Cooper and Ybarra currently serve on OCBA’s Board of Directors.

For more information on the OCBA and the Young Lawyers Division, click here.

The wrong approach

Gavel to Gavel appears in The Journal Record. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on June 1, 2017.


Eric Davis is an attorney in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group. He represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters.

By Phillips Murrah Attorney C. Eric Davis

Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain – and if some lawmakers have their way, it will be further taxed as it blows through.

For the wind industry, the tax landscape in Oklahoma changed dramatically in 2017. First, the five-year exemption from ad valorem taxes was allowed to expire beginning Jan. 1. Then the Legislature repealed the tax credit for electricity produced from zero-emission facilities powered by wind. These two tax changes represent millions of dollars annually, which will now be applied to mitigate the state’s revenue shortfall.

Now, a third major proposal has emerged: a per-kilowatt-hour production tax on wind energy, a rarity in the United States. At first blush, a production tax on wind energy may seem sensible. After all, natural gas is used to generate electricity, and it is subject to a gross production tax, so why not also impose such a tax on wind? A closer look, however, shows that the comparison is clearly strained.

Presently, the state’s gross production tax, or severance tax, as state law interchangeably refers to it, applies to the production of mineral resources. Such activities are extracting, or severing, non-renewable mineral resources. However, wind is not severed from the land. Theoretically, Oklahoma can benefit from wind energy for as long as the wind blows.

Also, Oklahoma’s gross production tax on mineral production is imposed in lieu of ad valorem taxes. Wind energy is presently subject to ad valorem taxes, which represent a major source of funding for local governments and schools. Oklahoma State University researchers have estimated that, when considering past and forecasted payments for planned projects, the wind industry will pay more than $1 billion in ad valorem taxes to local communities. If a production tax is levied on wind energy in lieu of ad valorem taxes, this could reallocate that revenue away from local communities.

If a production tax were imposed in addition to ad valorem taxes, it would amount to a double-tax on wind energy. This could discourage further capital investment and raise electricity bills for Oklahomans.

Tax policy is not easy. However, imposing this tax on wind energy because others in the energy industry pay a gross production tax is the wrong approach.

C. Eric Davis is an attorney with Phillips Murrah. His practice focuses on clean energy as well as government relations and compliance.

Phillips Murrah attorneys address wind energy impacts on real property

Jim Roth and C. Eric Davis are attorneys in the Energy and Natural Resources Practice Group at Phillips Murrah.

Phillips Murrah Director Jim Roth and attorney C. Eric Davis spoke about clean energy in Oklahoma at recent presentations hosted by the Oklahoma Bar Association.

The OBA’s Real Property Section hosted the Cleverdon Round Table event on May 18 in Oklahoma City and on May 19 in Tulsa.

The presentation outlined Oklahoma’s potential as a national leader in wind resources noting that Oklahoma generates the third most electricity from wind energy nationwide.

In discussing real property law impacts, Roth and Davis noted wind energy can be viewed as involving competing interests of landowners and how to respectively balance the rights of those landowners receiving compensation versus those out of proximity of wind facilities or turbines.

Roth presented in Oklahoma City, and Davis presented in Tulsa.

Phillips Murrah welcomes two new oil and gas attorneys

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Molly E. Tipton

Phillips Murrah is proud to welcome Molly E. Tipton and C. Eric Davis as oil and gas attorneys.

Tipton represents both privately-owned and public companies in a wide variety of oil and gas matters, with a strong emphasis on oil and gas title examination.

In her practice, Molly has prepared numerous drilling, division order, and acquisition title opinions and conducted due diligence in the acquisition and divestiture of oil and gas properties.

Born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, Molly moved to Oklahoma on an athletic scholarship to compete on the Women’s Equestrian Team at Oklahoma State University.  Molly now lives in Oklahoma City where she enjoys running, cooking, and cheering for the Thunder, the Cowboys and the Sooners.

C. Eric Davis

C. Eric Davis

Davis represents clients in a range of regulatory and energy matters in the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group and the Government Relations and Compliance Practice Group.

His governmental experience includes serving as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Oklahoma. Davis was also an attorney for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

Born and raised in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Eric now lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Nadine, and their son, Nathan. He enjoys music, hiking, and spending time with family.