With most major legislative deadlines now in the rearview mirror, much of the state Legislature’s attention now turns to state budget negotiations and final amendments on remaining bills.
Finalizing legislative redistricting is also at the top of the list for state legislators before sine die at the end of the month. After months of work to create the maps, the new districts now must be passed through the state Legislature like a normal piece of legislation. Last week, the bills carrying the proposed legislative district maps were approved by the Senate and House redistricting committees and are now ready for consideration by the full chamber before being sent to the opposite body to continue the approval process. After much concern about population shift from rural to urban areas over the past 10 years, Farm Bureau was pleased to see rural communities retain significant representation in the newly drawn Senate and House districts.
Early last week, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed SB 838 by Sen. Darrell Weaver and Rep. Jadine Nollan, which allows municipalities to create public safety protection districts funded by a new property tax upon approval by voters in the district. After monitoring similar legislation for years, Farm Bureau leaders and staff this year worked to protect farmers and ranchers from increases in ad valorem taxes by ensuring all land zoned for agriculture use, as well as livestock and implements of husbandry, are exempted. Farm Bureau also negotiated the required threshold for approval by voters from 50% to 60%. School bonds also require a 60% approval rate, so the added 10% serves as a buffer for landowners that may own property within a municipality but are not eligible to vote on the proposed assessment.
On the same day, Gov. Stitt also signed SB 825 by Sen. Rob Standridge and Rep. Kevin West, which prevents municipalities that levy a tax approved by a vote of the people for a designated purpose – such as funding public safety – from redirecting those funds without approval by voters. Farm Bureau members have long been concerned that cities and towns would assess an additional tax for police and fire and then redirect those dollars to fund other governmental responsibilities. SB 825 will serve as a protection for taxpayer dollars and as an added check on municipal governments.
Legislation seeking to help producers secure an agriculture sales tax exemption permit – SB 422 by Sen. Frank Simpson and Rep. Dell Kerbs – now heads to conference for final negotiations before receiving ultimate approval from the state Legislature. SB 422 came as a response to a change by the Oklahoma Tax Commission to require a Schedule F alone to prove eligibility for an agricultural sales tax exemption permit, which excluded producers who were eligible by state law. Farm Bureau worked throughout the legislative session with other agriculture groups to find a solution to the issue and will continue to ensure a pathway to a permit for all producers deemed eligible in state statute.
For questions or more information, please contact the OKFB Public Policy division at (405) 523-2300.