Legislators last week met another deadline at the state Capitol as bills were required to pass out of committees in the opposite chamber of origin. Oklahoma Farm Bureau saw progress on a number of bills including legislation regarding the agriculture sales tax exemption, nuisance claims and trespass law.
Since early on in the legislative session, Farm Bureau has tracked HB 1682 by Rep. Jim Grego and Sen. Mark Allen which would have prohibited the requirement of a Schedule F form to determine eligibility for the state agriculture sales tax exemption. Though the bill did not pass out of committee this week, legislation with new language regarding eligibility for the exemption advanced instead. SB 422 by Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Dell Kerbs would provide three options for applicants to prove eligibility for the agriculture sales tax exemption permit including providing a Schedule F or other equivalent form, a three-year business plan, or a farm exemption tax form provided by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
After hearing concerns from members about difficulties securing the exemption permit, OKFB leaders and staff have been working with state legislators and the Oklahoma Tax Commission to find solutions that ensure farmers and ranchers will continue to retain access to the critical ag sales tax exemption. While Farm Bureau understands the need to verify that individuals utilizing the exemption are producing agriculture products for the purpose of sale, the use of a Schedule F alone to prove eligibility was too narrow in scope and would exclude producers with legitimate reason to obtain an exemption card. The new language in SB 422 would provide producers with three options to show eligibility and would allow beginning farmers, as well as producers who do not file a Schedule F, to be eligible for the ag sales tax exemption.
SB 939 by Sen. Zack Taylor and Rep. John Pfeiffer – which prohibits critical infrastructure industries like agriculture from being deemed a nuisance when in compliance with all laws, guidelines and rules – narrowly passed its committee by a 5 to 4 vote. While farmers and ranchers strive to be good neighbors, Farm Bureau members believe the ability to use proven production practices – within the confines of the law – must be protected. While Oklahoma has largely avoided frivolous nuisance lawsuits, several agriculture states have not been so fortunate. SB 939 is preemptive legislation to help ensure vital sectors of Oklahoma’s economy can operate in the most needed capacities rather than fighting senseless lawsuits when they are operating within all laws and regulations. Farm Bureau members should let their legislators know how important the protection offered by SB 939 would be to the agriculture industry.
A bill that originated in the House with language allowing for purple posts to signify “no trespassing” passed its Senate committee with language stating that if a person is in a garden, yard, pasture or field that does not belong to them, and they did not receive permission to be on, that person is trespassing regardless of whether “No Trespassing” signs are posted or not. The language in HB 1135 by Rep. Scott Fetgatter and Sen. Zack Taylor mirrors another section of statute that prohibits persons from trespassing onto land used for farming, ranching or forestry regardless of the presence or absence of posted signage. Farm Bureau is supportive of this new language, which removes the burden from the landowner to post signs to prevent trespassing and eliminates a loophole for someone to trespass onto private property legally. This bill would not take away a landowner’s ability to post signs on their property voluntarily. Since the language was amended from what the House approved, HB 1135 must pass the Senate floor and then be re-approved by the House before it is sent to the governor for consideration.
Also of note, neither of Speaker of the House Charles McCall’s tax credit bills were heard by Senate committees this week. HB 2041 by Speaker McCall and Sen. Julie Daniels would have reduced personal income tax by 0.25% and was projected to cost the state $181 million and save Oklahomans an average of $131 per year. HB 2083, also authored by McCall and Daniels, would have phased out corporate income tax over the next five years and was expected to cost the state $377 million. Both of these bills were expected to be a part of legislative budget negotiations; however, Senate leadership has signaled that members of the Senate are not willing to consider the corporate tax credit.
As always, Farm Bureau members are encouraged to continue engaging with the OKFB’s legislative work by signing up for legislative action alerts, participating in weekly policy update calls and watching weekly Lincoln to Local videos. For more information, please contact the OKFB Public Policy staff at (405) 523-2300.