Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series detailing US Sen. James Lankford’s Tuesday community town hall at the Ardmore Convention Center.

Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R - 5th Dist., Oklahoma)  met with area citizens to answer their questions and address their concerns about the situation in Washington. The meeting date was forced to be rescheduled more than once due to the senator’s schedule at the Capitol.
“Typically, August is the one month a year that the House and Senate are not voting,” Lankford said. “But we’re very behind on some things and trying to make some additional progress on moving nominations for the president. We’re also trying to avoid what’s called an omnibus spending bill. Eighteen of the last 20 years, the spending bill for the legislature has been done all in one lump sum and we have one big vote.” He went on to say that this is supposed to be done in 12 different pieces, which creates several smaller votes to allow for more oversight and time to review the budget’s components.
“Instead, it’s basically one big fat bill that you get literally the night before and no one has read. Then you vote on it,” Lankford said. “We’re trying to kill that. There’s several of us, myself included, that asked for additional time in August to try to avoid that.”
From there, Lankford took questions from the crowd. The first question he received was about the new Opportunity Zone program.
“If you’re not familiar with this program, it’s something we put into the tax bill last year that allows private investment to go into the areas of highest need,” Lankford said. The governors of each state look at their lowest income areas and select up to 25 percent of these low income areas as Opportunity Zones. By investing in these areas, capital gains can be deferred up to five years or avoided entirely if owners keep them 10 years or longer.
“The goal was to get private money investing into low-income areas,” Lankford said. “Here’s the problem. We finished that out in December and they’re still trying to define all the rules and regulations on it. So I would expect in most areas that’s not going to kick in until next year.”
Another question Lankford received concerned the new tariffs put in place by the Trump administration and how they were affecting business in the area.
“I was very concerned for months because I couldn’t figure out the strategy from the White House,” Lankford said. “I’m in the middle of the thick of it, and I couldn’t figure it out.”
His concerns were later alleviated after having a “seriously good” conversation with the president, his trade team and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“They’ve proved they can start a fire but they haven’t proved that they can put one out,” Lankford said. “We’ve got to get some of these resolved at some point. We seem to be fighting with every other country right now on trade issues. There are trade issues especially with China or with Turkey who’s another major violator of the steel issue. So there are problems with that, but they haven’t been with Europe.
“Interestingly enough, the day I was there, the president was also meeting with the head of the European Union. That was the first time the president came out and said I want to get our trade tariffs down to zero. So the goal is not to have a tit for tat on tariffs. The goal is to get rid of all of the tariffs and to be able to have a flat field.”
Lankford pointed out that this was a new statement from the White House but that it was helpful for him to hear the administration say this. Lankford’s goal is to instead get to a “fair trade/free trade environment” with tariffs as low as possible and tariffs of zero being the ultimate goal.