The committee process ramped up this week at 23rd and Lincoln as legislators face an upcoming deadline on Thursday, April 8. Several bills of interest to Farm Bureau members were among those receiving approval from their assigned committees.
Farm Bureau members are no strangers to the language found in SB 838, as similar legislation has been proposed over the past five years. If passed, the bill would allow municipalities to create public safety protection districts funded by a new ad valorem tax. While OKFB members have longstanding policy opposing increases in ad valorem taxes, this year Farm Bureau has worked closely with legislators and state leaders to protect farmers and ranchers from new property taxes.
In the version that passed the Senate and has now received approval by its House committee, Farm Bureau helped secure exemptions for all real property zoned for agriculture use and livestock employed in support of the family, as well as implements of husbandry including tractors, combines and sprayers. OKFB also worked to ensure the legislation would require municipalities to receive approval from 60% of voters – the same requirement as school bonds – to create the public safety district. Previous versions only required 50% approval from voters and Farm Bureau believed the new tax should not be easier to achieve than school bonds. Farm Bureau also argued that a 60% threshold is necessary to buffer the instances in which individuals own land within a municipality and would be taxed but do not live within the municipality and therefore would not be able to vote on the tax increase.
As SB 838 continues to advance, Farm Bureau also is tracking SB 825 which has yet to pass out of its committee. This legislation would prohibit a municipality from levying a voter-approved tax for a certain purpose – such as public safety districts or other governmental purpose – and then redirecting those funds to an unauthorized purpose without gaining voter approval. The bill has been assigned to the House Rules Committee and must receive approval from the committee by Thursday to remain alive.
SB 939 would prohibit a county or municipality from constituting any action by a critical infrastructure sector – including agriculture – as a nuisance when they are operating in compliance with all government rules, guidelines or laws applicable to their sector. Farm Bureau policy strongly supports prohibiting nuisance lawsuits against producers when they are conducting normal agriculture practices. SB 939 has received approval from the full Senate body and now only needs approval from the House before going to the governor’s desk for consideration.
The Senate Finance Committee approved House Speaker Charles McCall’s HB 2089, a rural doctor tax credit. The bill would give doctors who have been licensed within the last year and have either graduated from a college of medicine or osteopathic medicine, or have completed residency within the state, a tax credit of up to $25,000 if they serve in a rural area or a tribal health facility. A qualifying rural area must have a population of fewer than 25,000 people and be further than 25 miles from the nearest community with a population greater than 25,000 people. Farm Bureau policy supports using incentives such as tax credits to encourage doctors to practice in underserved rural areas.
For more information about OKFB’s efforts at the state Capitol, tune in to the weekly member-only legislative update calls every Friday at 12 p.m.