The Oklahoma Legislature is moving full steam ahead. Thursday, March 2nd is the deadline for reporting House bills and joint resolutions from House committees.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing is actively tracking issues related to the Governor’s proposal to tax services. Nearly 50% of the proposed services to be taxed are related to real estate and would cause an increase in costs for affordable housing from pre-development all the way through operations. The Coalition is also monitoring HB1519 (Cockroft) the Home Buyer Savings Account which would allow individuals to create a financial savings account specifically designed to pay for eligible closing costs when purchasing a single family residence. The beneficiary may be the account holder or someone other than the account holder, such as children or grandchildren.
The Second Annual Affordable Housing Day at the State Capitol will be held Tuesday, March 7th. Governor Fallin has issued a Proclamation that March 7th is Affordable Housing Day. Coalition members will be recognized by both the Senate and Housing during their sessions. It is imperative that we show a strong presence. Please make sure to register yourself and send all your staff that afternoon! It is free to attend the Capitol and advocacy training is included. Deadline to Register is Monday, February 27. There will be a Legislative Reception immediately following our Affordable Housing Day at the Capitol Cost to attend the reception is $50 for members and $75 for nonmembers.
Additional state legislative issues that may be of interest:
Economic Development, Taxation and Retail; Workers’ Compensation
Senate Bill 769 passed out of the Senate Business & Commerce Committee this week. This bill updates Oklahoma’s General Corporation Act and the Limited Liability Act for the first time since 2008. This bill brings our business statutes in line with the gold standard, Delaware, and helps keep Oklahoma a competitive place to create a business.
This week also saw several bills attacking business incentives pass out of House and Senate committees. Bills eliminating or changing these valuable economic development tools are targeting manufacturing, wind, quality events, aerospace and other industries.
House Bill 1855, creating the State Obligation Recovery Center, failed in committee this week for lack of a motion. This bill would create a collections agency within the state government to collect monies due to the courts, higher education, local government and executive branch agencies. The bill also prevents individuals who owe money to the state from renewing or being issued occupational licenses.
Energy/Natural Resources; Military Affairs; Transportation
HB 2187 requires all oil and gas operations to eliminate noise and vibration as far as possible. Some view this bill as creating additional regulation on industry and feel that it sets extremely vague standards to follow.
On the transportation front, there are two bills: SB 335 caps the money available to infrastructure in the state and seeks to put dollars into the General Revenue Fund after a certain threshold. The State Chamber opposes this bill, since sufficient infrastructure funding is vital to our state’s economic development efforts. SB 201 affects turnpike bonding and sets it up to be harder in the future.
Aerospace, Technology and Telecommunications; Health Care; Workforce Development
The House recently approved HJR 1028, the legislation to finally allow a college entrance exam such as SAT or ACT to become the test given to high school students for graduation. Pursuant to legislation passed last year, a resolution adopting the new testing regulations must be passed within the first 30 calendar days of session. HJR 1028, which was just filed this week, is the vehicle to do that. With a deadline of March 7, the Senate is expected to take up the resolution on the floor next week. By replacing our current suite of high school assessments with a college entrance exam, we will have a better idea of whether or not Oklahoma’s students are truly graduating college- and career-ready. Just as importantly, a college entrance exam allows us to see how our students are doing in comparison with other students nationally.
Possible Blueprint for ACA Repeal and Replacement
Last Thursday, House Republicans circulated a blueprint among lawmakers that outlines a possible replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The blueprint is substantially similar to "A Better Way," the plan released by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) last summer. It would immediately eliminate the tax penalties associated with the individual and employer mandates, create individual tax credits based on age instead of income, expand the rules around health savings accounts, create State Innovation Grants and overhaul the Medicaid program.
Under this blueprint, the Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adult enrollees would be repealed in its current form and after a certain date the federal matching rate for the expansion population would be reduced to the overall matching rate for that state. In addition, per capita allotments would be installed, with different amounts for different beneficiary categories and states could have a choice to receive federal Medicaid funding in the form of a block grant or global waiver. Furthermore, the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) cuts included in the ACA would be repealed.
For more information on possible replacements for the ACA, you can view an interactive comparison from the Kaiser Family Foundation here: http://kff.org/interactive/proposals-to-replace-the-affordable-care-act/
The Real Importance of the REAL ID
After perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks used fake documentation to board their flights, the federal REAL ID Act was passed to create better standards for identification. The Oklahoma Legislature opted out of this federal act in 2007 over privacy concerns. That decision, however, now places ordinary Oklahomans in jeopardy of no longer being able to access a plane or military base using their driver’s licenses.
HB 1845, a REAL ID bill, is currently being fast tracked in the Legislature. The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee (34-9) on Wednesday and is expected to pass. With federal extensions expiring soon, swift approval is needed to bring our state into compliance, protect our citizens and save Oklahomans from needless costs and delays.
Please join us Tuesday, March 7th during the Second Annual Affordable Housing Day at the State Capitol! We need your voice!