Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Food Stamp Reform Measure Earns Approval by Governor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin signed House Speaker T.W. Shannon’s major welfare reform initiative into law. 

House Bill 1909 would require able able-bodied individuals, ages 18 to 50 who are not disabled or raising a child, to perform at least 20 hours of work activities as a condition of receiving food stamps.  These work requirements come from the 1996 Welfare Reform Law. Currently, able-bodied individuals do not have to fulfill work requirements due to waivers handed out by the federal government. This bill will prohibit DHS from seeking those work requirement waivers.

“Unfortunately, some believe compassion is measured by how many people you can keep on a government aid program,” said Speaker Shannon, R-Lawton.  “We must change the paradigm to how many people we can get off government assistance. We must encourage able-bodied people to break their addiction to government subsidies and gain self-sufficiency. Through personal responsibility, hard work and a drive to better one’s situation, people can establish their independence and begin down the road of prosperity.”

Under federal law, unemployed individuals are able to receive food stamps for up to 90 days. After 90 days, these able-bodied persons must fulfill the 20 hour work requirement to continue to receive food stamp benefits.

“Oklahoma has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation,” said Speaker Shannon. “That is because we believe the best social program is legitimate work and a paycheck.”

HB 1909 will go into effect November 1 of this year. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

House Speaker Shannon Announces DHS Citizen Advisory Panel Appointees

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, is pleased to announce the following appointees to the DHS Citizen Advisory Panels:

Beverly Coon - DHS Citizen Advisory Panel for Children and Family Issues
Beverly Coon is currently an adjunct professor at UCO and a licensed clinical social worker. Coon leads a life of service. She is an active volunteer at the Crossings Community Center Mental Health Clinic. She is a former board member for the Red Cross and has served on the Child Death Review Board.

Dr. Robert Eskew - DHS Citizen Advisory Panel for Disability Issues
Dr. Eskew is president and co-owner of Physical Rehabilitation Associates where he specializes in physical therapy for those with disabilities. Dr. Eskew has cerebral palsy and has made it his life’s work  to advocate for and work with children and adults with disabilities. 

Haley Blood - DHS Citizen Advisory Panel for Administration
Haley Blood currently serves as the membership director for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.   Blood also brings inside experience to the table. She is the acting OPEA DHS Agency Relations Coordinator and works with DHS employees at all levels.

Forrest Claunch - DHS Citizen Advisory Panel for Aging Services
Forrest Claunch is a former Oklahoma state representative. He served in the Legislature from 1994 to 2004. He has also served as the executive director of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

“These men and women have the skills and passion for helping those who are most vulnerable,” said Speaker Shannon, R-Lawton. “Their experience and input will help shape policies and procedures that will positively impact the lives of many Oklahomans who are truly in need of services and attention.”

Panelists can serve in their appointed positions until July 1, 2016.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rep. Cockroft's Debate in favor of passage of SB1062; meaningful Workers' Compensation Reform.

Yesterday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to approve substantial Workers' Compensation Reform in the State of Oklahoma. Below is a link to Rep. Josh Cockroft's (R-Tecumseh) debate in favor of the bill. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oklahoma House Passes Monumental Workers Comp Reform

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1062, a measure that creates monumental reform to Oklahoma’s workers compensation system.

SB 1062 will convert the state’s current judiciary workers compensation system to an administrative system. Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states that still uses an adversarial judiciary system and businesses suffer from some of the highest workers comp insurance rates in the country due to the system’s inefficiencies.  Currently, workers who are injured on the job could wait years for a benefits judgment due to the slow and costly legal process under the current judicial system.

“This is an epic reform, decades in the making,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, the House author of SB 1062. “For far too long, injured workers have been neglected and small businesses have been punished by an adversarial system that only benefits personal injury attorneys. Today, that system is dead, replaced by a strong new administrative system that will protect injured workers and lower costs for businesses.”

Under the administrative system proposed in SB 1062, workers compensation cases will be heard by an administrative judge, and cases will receive quick resolutions.

“We must compete with other state’s in our region for skilled workers and business,” said Rep. Leslie Osborn, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and presenter of HB 2032. “That means Oklahoma must move to a system that quickly and adequately addresses workers comp cases. Neither workers nor businesses will tolerate an archaic system in a 21st century job market.”

“Businesses will be pleased but it is the workers who will see  what I believe is the greatest benefit,” said Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “The new administrative system is designed to help workers get back on the job through therapy and vocational rehabilitation so they can move on with their lives.”

SB 1062 will now move to the Oklahoma Senate for final approval of the House’s amendments and will then move to the desk of Governor Fallin to be signed into law.

Speaker Shannon’s Pay-As-You-Go Infrastructure Plan Passes Senate Vote

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate overwhelmingly passed House Speaker T.W. Shannon’s initiative to create an a pay-as-you-go infrastructure plan to manage Oklahoma’s infrastructure maintenance needs.

House Bill 1910 creates a pay-as-you-go infrastructure plan and forms the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission (LRCPC), which will first address the repair of the state Capitol and later develop an 8-year plan to address the state’s other maintenance issues. The LRCPC will take the lead in directing the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to liquidate underused assets identified by the Omnibus Asset Consolidation Act and will prioritize what projects proceeds will go toward.

Speaker Shannon’s Omnibus Asset Consolidation Act of 2012 mandated that the Office of Management and Enterprise Services identify the state’s most underutilized assets. The State of Oklahoma is one of the largest property owners in the state.

“It’s time we address our state’s crumbling infrastructure and do so without borrowing against our children’s future,” said Speaker Shannon, R-Lawton. “For too long we have neglected state buildings to point of decay, and now we will have the ability to address these needs without taking on bonds and unnecessary debt.”

HB 1910 will now move on to the desk of Gov. Fallin where it will be signed into law.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fallin, Legislative Leaders Announce Agreement on Tax Cuts, Workers’ Compensation Reform and Pay-As-You-Go Infrastructure Plan

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin, Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman and House Speaker T.W. Shannon today announced agreement and impending action on key legislative items, including income tax cuts, workers’ compensation reform and a plan to address long-term infrastructure needs. Three bills were identified as having the support of both the governor and majorities in the House and Senate.

House Bill 2032 would cut the top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5.0 percent on January 1, 2015. It would cut the rate further, to 4.85 percent, on January 1, 2016. The second cut is contingent on total revenue growth in FY 2016 being equal to or greater than the FY 2016 fiscal impact of a 0.15 percent tax cut.  The bill also provides for a total of $120 million to fund repairs to the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Senate Bill 1062 reforms the workers’ compensation system in Oklahoma.  It reduces legal costs, medical costs, and excessive payouts to workers that have driven up costs for Oklahoma businesses and encouraged fraud. It moves Oklahoma from a court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative system, reducing the adversarial nature of the system and reducing the time needed to process claims.  It ensures that injured workers are treated fairly and compensated appropriately. 

House Bill 1910 creates a Pay-As-You-Go Infrastructure Plan and forms the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission which will first address the repair of the state Capitol and later develop an 8-year plan to address the state’s other maintenance issues. The commission’s plan will create a system for maintenance to address the state’s needs without incurring unnecessary debt. It will also include recommendations on reallocation, reuse or liquidation of state properties.

Fallin said she looked forward to signing the measures into law, saying the announcement set the stage for a productive legislative session.

“My thanks go out to the Speaker and the Pro Tem for working together with my office on these important issues,” Fallin said. “Delivering a responsible, meaningful tax cut will boost our economy and help us to create more jobs and bring more businesses to Oklahoma. Likewise, overhauling our flawed workers’ comp system will reduce costs to employers and allow them to invest in jobs and growth rather than lawsuits. Finally, our long-term infrastructure improvement plan will ensure we are maintaining and improving state assets, rather than watching them deteriorate. Today’s announcement represents an exciting, important step forward for Oklahoma. I look forward to signing these three measures into law.”

Bingman said that workers’ compensation reform would address the state’s greatest obstacle to job growth.

“Today’s announcement shows our commitment to government that is smaller, simpler, and smarter,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.  “Our broken workers’ compensation system is Oklahoma’s greatest obstacle to job growth, and I believe the time has finally come to put the brakes on our runaway costs.  Moving to an administrative system will attract quality manufacturers back to Oklahoma, and together, our tax cut and workers’ compensation overhaul plans are an important step toward creating more certainty in Oklahoma’s business environment. Additionally, our long-range infrastructure plan shows a forward-thinking approach to good stewardship of taxpayer-owned assets.  I am thankful for the leadership shown by Governor Fallin and Speaker Shannon as we have worked to craft agreements on issues of such importance to Oklahoma’s future.”

Shannon said the three bills would support Oklahoma growth and prosperity.

“Our offices have come together to ensure a better future for Oklahoma,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “These three crucial measures prove that the conservative leadership of this state is committed to government efficiency, reducing the tax burden and becoming better stewards of our citizen-funded infrastructure. Through implementing monumental workers’ comp reform, cuts in the personal income tax, and a Pay-As-You-Go infrastructure plan, we are moving forward with responsible policies that will produce growth and prosperity for the people of our great state. As I have said many times before, we will not go down the same path of Washington, D.C., by continuing an endless cycle of taxing, spending and borrowing against the future of our children.”

House Passes Nursing Home Video Camera Bill

OKLAHOMA CITY – Under legislation approved unanimously by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, families of nursing home residents will be able to monitor the care of their loved ones.

Senate Bill 587, by state Sen. Ron Justice and state Rep. Harold Wright, would require nursing homes to allow cameras to be placed in the rooms of residents without penalty or retribution. The consent of the resident or a family member would be required for the placement of the camera to ensure the protection of resident privacy rights.

“Even with safety measures in place, nursing home residents are vulnerable to abuse because they are not always able to defend themselves nor speak out when abuse occurs,” said Rep. Wright, R-Weatherford. “The unanimous approval of this bill is a sign of the hard work of AARP-Oklahoma, the Silver-Haired Legislature and countless aging advocates.”

AARP-Oklahoma is a supporter of the legislation.

“Today, we applaud the Oklahoma House of Representatives for overwhelmingly voting for this legislation,” said AARP-Oklahoma State President Marjorie Lyons. “This measure is an important step toward protecting Oklahoma’s most frail and vulnerable citizens – nursing home residents – by allowing them to use video cameras for increased safety. We greatly appreciate Rep. Wright for his steadfast advocacy on behalf of this crucial measure and we urge the state Senate to adopt the House amendment to Senate Bill 587 and send this measure to Governor Fallin.”

Senate Bill 587 will return to the Oklahoma Senate, where they can choose whether or not to accept House amendments. If amendments are accepted, it will proceed to the governor’s desk.

Crafting Budgets is Tricky Work

The state budget is in many ways the most difficult task for lawmakers every year. I, like many Oklahomans, am never satisfied with all the decisions that are made, but I do acknowledge the fact that the budget is a collaborative process, with many cooks in the kitchen. It will therefore never make anyone happy, but at its best reflects a general consensus of priorities rather than simply rubberstamping agency requests.

The budget we craft this session will be the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013 and ending June 30, 2014. The Oklahoma Constitution requires lawmakers to create a balanced budget for the state, based on revenue projections.

In December, the State Board of Equalization estimated the amount lawmakers will have to appropriate during the upcoming session for the next fiscal year. In January, we received funding requests from agencies and other appropriated entities.

In her February State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin set a starting point of negotiations with lawmakers.  That same month, the State Board of Equalization officially certified the final amount lawmakers may appropriate, approximately $7 billion for fiscal year 2014.

The budget takes the form of multiple bills, including a General Appropriations bill to fund state government at an agreed-upon base level in the event a final budget cannot be approved. Soon, House and Senate leaders will appoint a joint General Conference Committee on Appropriations, which will negotiate the budget with the governor.

The budget is then presented to the members of the House and Senate in their respective chambers. Once the budget has been approved by both chambers of the Legislature, the bill is sent to the governor for approval or veto. If the governor vetoes the budget, the Legislature can override the veto by two-thirds majority vote in each chamber.

I know that I will disagree with many of the choices made in the budget. Last year, I created my own budget to show constituents what my priorities would be and I will do so again this year. My biggest priorities are funding for K-12 schools, corrections, public safety and roads.

As always, it is my pleasure to hear from you and if I may ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 557-7349.

Friday, April 19, 2013

New Law Bans Application of Foreign Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that would prohibit the application of foreign laws when the application violates either the Oklahoma Constitution or U.S. Constitution has been signed by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Under House Bill 1060, by state Rep. Sally Kern and state Sen. Gary Stanislawski, Sharia law could not be applied, for example, Kern said.

“The language of this new law is modeled on the laws of Tennessee, Kansas, Arizona and Louisiana, which have all stood without court challenge,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City. “Oklahoma voters approved a ballot question that singled out Sharia law by a 70-percent margin. That was ruled unconstitutional because it singled out Sharia law. This new law is written broadly in deference to the ruling.”

House Bill 1060, which passed by wide margins in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate, takes effect Nov. 1.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Firefighter Pension Reforms Approved by House

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma lawmakers voted today to put the Oklahoma Firefighter Pension and Retirement System on a path to long-term stability. House Bill 2078 is authored by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City.

“This reform will make the firefighters’ pension system more stable and assure future firefighters will have a pension they can count on receiving,” said Speaker T.W. Shannon, R- Lawton. “I applaud Representative McDaniel for his efforts in this important reform measure.”

House Bill 2078 would increase the years of service for new firefighters from 20 to 22 years, the years to become vested from 10 to 11 years and increase the minimum age to receive retirement benefits to 50.

The contribution rates paid by firefighters increases from 8-percent to 9-percent, the municipalities contribution rate increases from 13-percent to 14-percent and the state percentage of the insurance premium tax allocated increases from 34 to 36. Moreover, the Deferred Retirement Option Plan is reformed by eliminating the guaranteed return of 7.5-percent after 5 years in the program. 

“The passage of the firefighter pension reform bill required teamwork and resolve,” said McDaniel, chairman of the House Pension Oversight Committee. “The downward trend of the plan will be negated. The future of the system will be significantly more secure.”

The system is currently funded at 61-percent. The unfunded liability grew by $100 million last year and currently has an unfunded liability of $1.1 billion. House Bill 2078 addresses the annual funding deficiency and puts the plan on a path to be 75-percent funded in 30 years.

House Bill 2078 passed the Senate with a vote of 43-0 and the House by a vote of 96-1. It now awaits the Governor’s approval. 

House Approves ‘Black Friday’ Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – “Black Friday” legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives would make low-cost and discount sales legal in Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 550, by state Sen. David Holt and state Rep. Tom Newell, which passed by a vote of 69-23, will allow retailers the opportunity to offer deep discounts on everything from big-screen televisions to computers, iPads, furniture and clothing, Newell said. It is a major victory for Oklahoma consumers, he said.

“Why should we penalize Oklahomans for wanting a good deal?” said Newell, R-Seminole. “The old law was outdated and put Oklahoma at a competitive disadvantage to other states that could lure shoppers with significant bargains. This bill is good for our economy, it’s good for retailers and it’s certainly good for consumers. We’re basically removing a government hurdle for businesses and allowing the free market system to work for Oklahoma.”

The old law was enacted in 1941 and forced retailers to mark up merchandise by at least 6 percent. A December 2011 Oklahoma attorney general opinion confirmed that current state law bars all “Black Friday” and other low-price sales, even if they are only temporary. As a result, many retailers shut down their “Black Friday,” “Back-to-School” and other sales events.

Newell said the current bill does not impact fuel, prescription drugs or groceries.

If signed, the law will go into effect Nov. 1, just in time for holiday shopping.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Governor Mary Fallin Signs School Security Measures into Law

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today signed four bills into law designed to improve school security and keep Oklahoma children safe. She was joined at a public bill signing by Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, who served as chairman of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security, other commissioners, and legislative leaders.

“The state of Oklahoma has a duty to do everything we can to keep our children safe,” Fallin said. “The bills signed into law today will ensure that schools are well prepared for emergencies of all kinds. They’ll also help to provide more training and better coordination between law enforcement and education professionals. These measures could help to save lives. My thanks go out to Lieutenant Governor Lamb, the Legislature, and all the members of the Oklahoma Commission on School Security who worked to develop this legislation and send it to my desk.”

The bills signed today by Fallin included:

·         -SB 256, requiring school districts to conduct lockdown drills in addition to fire, intruder, and tornado emergency drill
·         -SB 257, directing the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security to designate a division within the agency as the Oklahoma School Security Institute. The Institute would act as a central hub of information and resources related to school security and risk assessments to campuses. Objectives and goals of the Institute include: maximization of school security and training; implementation of safety drills and facilitation of information related to school safety.
·        -  SB 258, creating an annual deadline of Nov. 1 for institutions of higher learning to provide reports to emergency responders and agencies with details of updated plans for protecting students, faculty and visitors from disasters and emergencies.
·         -SB 259, requiring school authorities to immediately report to law enforcement if a firearm is discovered on a student that is not a minor or an adult that isn’t authorized to possess a firearm on school property. Also, the bill dictates the weapon in question to be delivered to law enforcement.

“I thank the Governor for her signatures on these bills which stemmed from the recommendations from the Oklahoma Commission on School Security,” Lamb said.  “I thank the members of the commission that came from all across Oklahoma and sacrificed their time and provided expertise.  The primary goal of any government is to protect its people.  These bills will do just that.”

Governor Signs Home Bakery Act

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday a bill that would allow home bakeries to operate without a food preparation license.

Home food establishments would be defined as businesses that earn less than $20,000 a year and produces baked goods for sale that do not contain meat or fresh fruit, under the House Bill 1094, which is entitled the Home Bakery Act of 2013.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Dustin Roberts, said he was grateful for the governor’s support.

“This legislation is really a nonpartisan bill that originated with a petition by Oklahomans,” said Roberts, R-Durant. “Small home baking operations do not need to follow the same rigorous standards as commercial kitchens and other food establishments that serve foods that might be highly harmful to the public. The legislation specifically requires the businesses that qualify for the exemption to avoid products that contain meat or fruit that could go bad and potentially be a health hazard. I think it is a great way to support small businesses in Oklahoma.”

House lawmakers approved the legislation unanimously in March. Senate lawmakers voted in favor of the bill 38-6.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Weekly Cockroft Column: April 8, 2013

Lawmakers began this week by carrying Oklahoma flags and placing them on the south side of the Oklahoma State Capitol to raise awareness of child abuse in the state. Each of the 41 flags represented a child that died from abuse in 2012.

Pottawatomie and Cleveland counties are among counties with high incidents of child abuse. We often come together on a nonpartisan basis on this issue and I was proud to see both Democrats and Republicans among those who carried the flags Monday morning.

There are a number of bills addressing child abuse this year. Senate Bill 639, the most critical of these, would create a child abuse response team under the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Child abuse is difficult to investigate and prosecute because of the nature of crimes committed within families. A specialized response team will be a strong weapon against child victimizers and I think there is little resistance to this bill in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 460 requires the Department of Human Services to record all incoming calls to the child abuse hotline and store the recordings for 90 days. It is a simple bill, but just another example of the scrutiny this issue is receiving.

A raise for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers is also seeing little resistance from lawmakers though the budget process is always a bit more complicated. House Bill 2145 most recently received a 23-0 vote by a Senate committee. It was already passed by a wide margin by House lawmakers. The legislation will give the state’s 774 troopers a 16.3 percent pay raise for the cost of about $7 million. A trooper with one year of experience would receive a salary of $44,194, under the bill.

Unfortunately, those of us who pushed hard for correctional employees to receive a pay raise ultimately lost the battle to the governor, who quietly requested the bill be laid over until a study of state employee pay could be completed. However, we have been able to get $1,000 bonuses for select employees approved so far and there is still the possibility of a pay raise being sought through budget negotiations.

Please provide any feedback and thoughts that you may have on policy. Please never hesitate to contact me at (405) 788-9160 or Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Follow me on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Senate Sends Bill to Aid County Roads to Governor

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation approved today by the Oklahoma Senate would redirect 5 percent of the motor vehicle collection tax to pay for “major collector” roads.

House Bill 1080, by state Rep. Mike Sanders, deals with county roads that connect communities, highways and industries. These so-called “major collector” roads make up a total of 15,000 miles of county roadways, according to Sanders.

“While lawmakers have made great strides in updating state road and bridge infrastructure, county roads and bridges continue to be both a public safety and economic development concern, especially where they have been compromised due to natural disasters,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “My bill helps fund them to ensure driver safety and economic prosperity. County road and bridge work is one of the top concerns of the residents of Western Oklahoma.”

State Rep. Jason Smalley, who co-authored the legislation, said it is a priority for his district.

“This legislation is very important to my constituents,” said Smalley, R-Stroud. “We have a real need for additional county road and bridge funding to ensure the safety of residents and convenient travel for business and residential needs in the district.”

From 2006 through 2010, Oklahoma has had yearly devastating disasters such as floods, snow and ice that destroy county roads and bridges. Damage to county roads and bridges are not eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, Sanders said.

House Bill 1080 now awaits the signature of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

Monumental Workers Comp Reform Moves Forward In House Committee

OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 1062, a measure that creates monumental reform to Oklahoma’s workers compensation system.

SB 1062 will convert the state’s current judiciary workers compensation system to an administrative system. Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states that still uses an adversarial judiciary system. Currently, workers who are injured on the job could wait years for a benefits judgment due to the slow and drawn out legal process under the judicial system. The costly legal proceedings also raise workers compensation insurance rates for Oklahoma businesses.

“It’s time Oklahoma solves an old problem with a modern solution,” said House Speaker T.W. Shannon, the author of SB 1062. “We need a strong system that protects workers and drives down costs, and I applaud my fellow legislators for taking on this massive effort.”

“The time for baby stepping our way to reform is over,” said Rep. Leslie Osborn, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “Oklahoma needs to take decisive action and SB 1062 does just that.”

Under the administrative system proposed in SB 1062, workers compensation cases will be heard by an administrative judge, and cases will receive quick resolutions.

“The old system neither benefited the worker nor the employer,” said Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “This new administrative system is designed to help workers get back on the job through therapy and vocational rehabilitation.”

“The current judicial system is a huge stumbling block for workers and businesses in Oklahoma,” said Osborn, R- Mustang. “Right now, Oklahoma has one of the highest work comp insurance rates in the nation because of its inefficiency.  Workers deserve a better process and businesses do not need to be scared away by overwhelming insurance costs.”

SB 1062 will now move on to be heard on the House Floor.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tax-related measures continue through legislative process

Tax issues continue to be extremely important topics for our constituents and continue to gain a lot of attention every session as we try and find ways to reduce costs for our citizens without having to make any drastic cuts or ignoring our core functions. This year we’ve seen a large number of bills reach both the House and Senate floor to look at several types of taxes. Please note that the bills listed below are by no means final, and many will be changed from their current format.   

Recently, the House passed House Bill 1716, which repeals the Oklahoma franchise tax imposed on corporations doing business in Oklahoma. Currently, we are reviewing Senate Bill 341 which would repeal the provision for levy of franchise tax. The belief is that both of these measures will encourage economic opportunity and that even more businesses will find their way to Oklahoma

There has been a large amount of legislation regarding the state income tax that has moved to the Senate after passing the House. House bills 1348 and 1357 would repeal tax exemptions for business enterprises engaged in rearing specially trained and exempt the value of any prize or award won by an individual in the Olympic Games. We also have passed House Bill 2032 which would lower the top marginal individual income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.

House bills 1612 and 2232 will allow donations to be made to two brand new foundations for an individual or corporate income tax return form. The Hearts for Hearing Revolving Fund is a new foundation that would provide hearing health programs for adults and children that offer auditory-verbal therapy. The second foundation created is the Constitutional Challenge Litigation Cost Revolving Fund in order to defend constitutional challenges to Oklahoma Statutes.

House Bill 1919 allows for foster care expenses to be deducted from an individual’s income tax with a $2,500 cap for individuals and a $5,000 cap for married couples. The belief is that these deductions will see an increase in foster care families and an increase in donations to these truly important funds.

Senate bills regarding income tax have also come to the House and are being decided on in the weeks to come. Senate bills 166 and 167 repeals tax credits for installation of energy equipment or for certain qualifying investments and deductions for certain gains from sale of property. Senate bills 323 and 585 modify the time period in which various tax preferences can be claimed or utilized.

Lessening the tax burden your family feels is important to me, but I also want to be responsible with every dollar that the state deals with. I believe our state can be just as effective with restrained, measured and controlled taxes, while making sure services like Education, Transportation, and Public Safety are properly funded. We have a spending problem in this country and I will work hard to ensure that Oklahoma’s tax code is reformed for the better.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at (405) 557-7349, or email me at josh.cockroft@okhouse.gov

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Speaker Shannon Supports OMES Sale of Unused Properties

OKLAHOMA CITY - House Speaker T.W. Shannon applauds the Office of Management and Enterprise Services latest efforts to liquidate unused state properties.

This week, OMES announced the acceptance of bids for the old OETA studio in Tulsa. The property was deemed to be underutilized under Speaker Shannon’s Omnibus Asset Consolidation Act of 2012 and therefore can be liquidated to decrease the state’s property footprint and costs.

“Director Preston Doerflinger and the OMES staff’s quick action to identify and liquidate these unused assets shows their dedication to better servicing the citizens of Oklahoma,” said Shannon, R-Lawton. “This auction is just the first step toward making the state a more responsible property owner.”

The State of Oklahoma is one of the largest property and building owners in Oklahoma, and many buildings remain underused and or empty creating a money pit in insurance costs for the state.

“We must be better stewards of the taxpayers’ facilities and their tax money,” said Shannon. “Burning tax dollars on empty buildings and underutilizing state assets is a wasteful mismanagement of funds. We need to sell these properties and use the dollars in a more responsible manner.”

Shannon’s House Bill 1910, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, calls for an eight-year plan to prioritize asset repairs and maintenance to which liquidated property funds will be directed.

The building up for auction is located at 811 N. Sheridan Rd. Tulsa, OK. The appraised value of the property is $165,000 and may not be sold for less than 90 percent of the appraised value under state statute. Bids will be accepted until April 26.

For additional information on the building, auction or bid packet, go to:
or call (405) 521-3819 and or email inforeals@omes.ok.gov.

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