Though the winter weather caused a few disruptions, legislative work continued this week as legislators spent the bulk of their time in House and Senate committees.
After legislation moved last week to allow municipalities to levy ad valorem taxes, a second ad valorem bill began advancing through the committee process this week. Senate Bill 189 by Sen. Dave Rader would allow counties to create a new property tax for the purpose of hazard mitigation. OKFB expressed concerns over the broad nature of the applicable tax and as a result, several senators worked to make changes and procedurally opened the bill for closer scrutiny. This could be a long and difficult process, but OKFB will keep members updated as the process evolves.
Another attempt by Speaker Charles McCall to create a tax credit for doctors in rural areas advanced through committee this week and now heads to the House floor for consideration. Doctors that have graduated from an Oklahoma college of medicine or osteopathic medicine or have completed residency within the state would be eligible for the incentive. The bill defines a rural area as one with fewer than 25,000 residents and further than 25 miles from the nearest municipality with a population of 100,000 or more. The qualifying doctor must live in the same county in which he or she works. The doctor could claim up to $25,000 of the credit but could not have a tax liability of less than zero because of the credit. The credit could be used for up to four consecutive years. Farm Bureau member policy supports measures such as a tax credit which would incentivize doctors to serve and practice in rural communities throughout the state.
To prevent a municipality from outlawing certain animal activities, Rep. Garry Mize is advancing HB 1620 on behalf of a horse drawn carriage operator. OKFB has worked with a coalition to expand the protections to other forms of agritourism operations. The bill advanced out of a House committee and will move toward floor consideration.
Sen. Brent Howard has a proposal that would allow county assessors to utilize oblique satellite imagery, orthoimagery, or high resolution street level imagery to assess the value of taxable property within their jurisdiction. Upon written consent from a property owner, the county assessor would also be allowed to use a drone to evaluate the property. OKFB is working with Sen. Howard to ensure the rights of property owners and Farm Bureau members are protected during property assessment.
Senate Bill 704 by Sen. Rader would remove sentence enhancements for certain crimes. Under current law, a felony conviction can be used to enhance the sentence of a subsequent felony offense to an imprisonment time exceeding that of a maximum sentence of a first time conviction. State Question 805, which was defeated by Oklahomans in November 2020, would have made a similar change in the Oklahoma Constitution for any felony that was not considered a “violent felony.” SB 704 would not prohibit sentence enhancement for several felonies such as violent crimes, assault and battery, domestic abuse, crimes against animals, and crimes involving injury accidents caused by intoxicating substances. Farm Bureau policy supports the consideration of felony records in future court proceedings. SB 704 is on the agenda to be discussed in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Monday, February 15.
As the legislative process continues, Farm Bureau members interested in more information are encouraged to tune in to update calls with public policy staff every Friday at 12 p.m. Contact your field representative for details on joining the call.