The third week of Oklahoma’s legislative session was cut short due to the winter weather that made its way through the state, causing both the House and Senate to close on Wednesday and Thursday. Additionally, the House was out of session on Tuesday to allow members to attend a funeral.
Thursday, March 3 – the first deadline of the 2022 legislative session – is the set cutoff date for all bills to be passed out of their assigned committee in their chamber of origin. With a deadline week following a shortened work week, OKFB expects to see unusually long agendas to make up for the lost time.
County zoning authority, one of OKFB’s priority issues, has been prominent this session. On Feb. 21, a do pass motion on HB 2990 by Rep. Carol Bush was defeated in the House County and Municipal Government committee with a vote of 4-6. The bill remains property of the committee and could be revisited until the first deadline. Conversations are ongoing between stakeholders on both sides to rewrite the bill so the scope would be limited to only allow counties the ability to amend and adopt rules and guidelines that pertained to county personnel and office policies. The Senate version, SB 1182 by Sen. Dave Rader, was not heard in committee this week due to the shortened workweek. Both SB 1182 and any revisitation of HB 2990 must be passed out of their assigned committees by Thursday, March 3 in order to receive further consideration.
In 2021, Farm Bureau members expressed concern with ad valorem protests by energy companies and the strain it was placing on school budgets. Schools rely heavily on ad valorem revenue from properties in their district, and their budget is often built based on their portion of the assessed land value. When a taxpayer protests their assessed ad valorem tax, the protested funds go into escrow. When protests are made by energy companies – one of the largest contributors of ad valorem revenue – the money tied up in escrow is not available for use by the local school district for their operating budget. Adding to the issue, legal battles over ad valorem valuation protests can drag on for years. An interim study was held between the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions to determine the cause of the increased ad valorem protests and identify potential solutions to ensure those relying on ad valorem funds received them in a timely manner while preserving a taxpayer’s right to legally protest an ad valorem valuation.
The study found a significant driver of the increased and extended protests came from the third-party assessors that county assessors utilized. HB 4413 by Rep. Dick Lowe would prohibit a third-party assessor from participating in negotiations, protests or appeals over the valuation of a property while retaining the ability of the county assessor to utilize the assistance of a third-party appraiser in establishing the valuation of the property.
HB 3901 by Rep. John Pfeiffer would require that complaints regarding ad valorem valuation from the county board of equalization be scheduled for conference within 20 days of the county board of equalization filing an answer. In addition, HB 3901 moves ad valorem valuation appeals from District Court to the Court of Tax Review. Both HB 4413 and HB 3901 are awaiting consideration in the House Utilities committee.
Discussions with oil and gas companies regarding changes to Oklahoma’s Production Revenue Standards Act (PRSA) continue to progress this session. Oil and gas companies seek to change current law to delay interest accruing on payments to royalty owners until the royalty owner has first sent a properly executed division order to the company. OKFB is concerned that there is no time requirement on the oil and gas company to send notice of royalty interest to a legally entitled royalty owner. Farm Bureau will continue to monitor the two pieces of legislation regarding PRSA changes – HB 3394 by Rep. Anthony Moore and SB 1524 by Sen. Zack Taylor – while working with stakeholders to ensure any potential changes made to PRSA continue to protect the interests of royalty owners in Oklahoma.
For an update on weekly happenings at the Capitol and an outlook on what is ahead, be sure to tune in to Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s weekly public policy update each Friday at noon via Zoom. Contact your field representative for more information.