This past week the House worked on giving the “ordinary” citizen a break with their taxes.    Several pieces of legislation targeted specific tax breaks.

Legislation creating a three-day “sales tax holiday” in Oklahoma easily passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week.  Senate Bill 1665, by state Sen. Jay Paul Gumm (D-Durant) and state Rep. Greg Piatt (R-Ardmore), would lift the sales tax on clothing sold for $100 or less during an annual three-day holiday scheduled the first weekend of August. Oklahomans will save an estimated $3.5 million every year if the sales-tax holiday becomes law, Piatt noted. The state sales tax is 4.5 percent.

The estate tax could be eliminated in three years thanks to legislation by State Rep. Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa).Senate Bill 334, by Bingman and State Sen. Mike Mazzei (R-Tulsa), provides immediate estate tax relief to non-linear heirs (nephews and nieces) and completely eliminates the death tax for everyone over a three year period - in 2007, the tax would be assessed at 75 percent of current rates; for 2008 the tax would be reduced to 50 percent of current rates; and in 2009, just 25 percent of current rates would be assessed.

Oklahoma retirees could soon have a bigger tax exemption thanks to legislation by State Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) that passed the House Taxation and Revenue Committee. Senate Bill 2016, by Dorman and State Sen. Jay Paul Gumm (D-Durant), expands the state income tax exemption on retirement income to include $25,000 if filing single and $50,000 if married filing jointly, starting in the 2007 tax year.

Legislation providing a special tax deduction for individuals who care for the elderly passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week on a unanimous vote. Senate Bill 1646, by State Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa) and State Sen. Charles Laster (D-Shawnee), gives a $3,400 tax deduction for individuals who provide more than half of the financial support of an elderly relative. The deduction will go into effect January 1, 2007 if it becomes law.  Peterson said the bill requires the caregiver to have lived a minimum of six months out of the year with the relative. The bill only applies to individuals earning less than $35,000 per year and families earning $50,000 or less. Also, to qualify the relative must be 70 years or older.

 Legislation exempting Oklahoma schools from paying fuel tax for maintenance passed the House of Representatives this week on a unanimous vote. Senate Bill 1941 now return to the state Senate and is expected to then go to a conference committee.

 

This week marks the deadline for getting Senate bills heard and passed out of House committees. The deadline for passing House bills out of Senate committees was two weeks ago. Any bill not passed out of committee by the deadline is dead for the session.

Several members amended bills at my request in the Corrections and Criminal Justice Committee that I chair. They included language in bills that had passed the House, but had been killed in Senate Committees. This included some bills dealing with pro-life issues, sex offender bills, and a Farm Bureau request bill.

The pro-life committee substitute bill contained four different bills that were killed on the Senate side. The new bill by Rep Billy makes four changes. One part of the bill recognizes under law that a second victim, the unborn child, if a pregnant woman is assaulted and her child is killed. Another section of the bill provides that a woman be informed that her baby, if 20 weeks or older, may feel pain during an abortion. The last two sections of the bill give a woman the opportunity to see her baby by ultrasound through referral by the abortion facility to an outside entity that does the procedure at no cost to the patient.

Three different sex offender bills passed last week by the Corrections and Criminal Justice Committee. These bills contain several different best practices standards in the nation. One bill by Rep Fred Morgan raises the minimum standards for first time pedophile offenders to 25 years. It also provides for the possibility of the death penalty for a repeat offender. I am co-author of that bill.

Another bill by Rep Fred Perry defines a setback zone for parks and licensed child care facilities. It requires registered sex offenders not live within 2,000 feet of such places. It also requires more information for registering sex offenders and provides for a fee to cover the cost of such a registry.

A third bill authored by myself, requires a released sex offender renew their drivers license every year to keep updated photos and address information on file. It also requires that released pedophiles take a mandatory polygraph every six months to monitor their activity.

This bill also included a request bill from the Farm Bureau to help protect landowners. This sets new penalties for those who trespass on private property in rural areas.

These and other bills will be heard on the floor during this week and next week. All bills must pass out of the opposite chamber in which they originated by the end of next week. Many of the bills that pass will go into conference committee to continue to negotiate the final language.

This includes all the appropriation bills that will be negotiated during the next six weeks. Many people have contacted me about the individual appropriation measures that they would like to see passed. After the supplemental appropriations were made there is presently about 800 million left to appropriate over last years budget.

The Speaker would like to see about 200 million of that go toward tax cuts and go back into the pockets of the tax payers. That leaves $600 million for an increase over last years $6.1 billion dollar budget. That represents a 10% growth of government. That means that the remaining $600 million for growth of agencies and pay raises is all on the table for negotiations.

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