It has been a few weeks since the legislature adjourned and I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on some of the major pieces of legislation of which I was the House author or principal co-author that have been signed by of Governor Stitt.

Senate Bill 961 creates Home Buyer Saving Accounts for first-time Oklahoma homebuyers to help pay for eligible closing costs such as down payments, escrow accounts, inspection fees, lender fees, appraisal fees and more on single-family dwellings. Funds in the account are income tax deductible up to $5,000 a year for individual filers and $10,000 a year for joint filers. Earning are excluded from taxable income. An account holder may claim the deduction and exclusion for an aggregate total amount of principal and earnings not to exceed $50,000. This encourages Oklahoma home-buying.

House Bill 1926 will allow school districts to install cameras on school buses to record motorists who illegally pass when the bus stop sign is flashing. Drivers caught driving around stopped school buses can be fined an extra $100 or more, with more than 75 percent of the funds going to the Cameras for School Bus Stops Revolving Fund to help schools purchase the cameras. This will save students’ lives.

Senate Bill 142 requires a nursing home resident or their legal representative to provide informed consent prior to being prescribed anti-psychotic medication unless a physician deems it necessary. Oklahoma is currently No. 1 in the nation for nursing home residents taking an anti-psychotic drug without a psychiatric diagnosis. This bill will improve the lives of Oklahoma nursing home residents who are too often prescribed medications to modify their sleep or behavior without proof they need these powerful medications.

House Bill 2516 is the result of a conversation I had with a constituent here in our district. The legislation will allow individuals with hearing impairment, autism or other communication disorders the option of providing information on these conditions when they register their vehicle or renew their registration. That information would be available to law enforcement if a traffic stop is made to inform the officer there could be a communications issue to prevent unnecessary escalation during a stop due to miscommunication.

House Bill 2520 updates Oklahoma’s alternative education programs, which have not been changed since the mid-1990s.  This changes the date from Dec. 1 to June 30 by which school districts must conduct and submit a needs assessment identifying students who are most at risk of not completing a high school education to the state Department of Education and sets a deadline on Sept. 1 of each year for districts to submit to the SDE a proposed plan for meeting the needs of these students by establishing or expanding alternative education programs in grades 7-12.

Senate Bill 402 allows one-time forgiveness of interest and penalties for delinquent state taxpayers. This will help our state collect these delinquent taxes without causing undue hardship to these taxpayers.

House Bill 2517 updates the Oklahoma Birth Defects Registry, which monitors over 1,000 birth defects across the state. This will help develop data-driven strategies for education and prevention, to monitor trends through time and investigate clusters, as well as identify families impacted by birth defects to provide them with information about available early intervention and family support resources.

House Bill 2519 is an Oklahoma Department of Corrections and an Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services request. This allows emergency services personnel to administer the opiate antagonist Narcan to save people’s lives in cases of drug overdose.

House Bill 2518 extends the maximum lease term for airports from 40 to 50 years, in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. The current statute limiting the term of contracts, leases, and other arrangements was created in 1947.  In today’s market, 40 years is often not a sufficient time for substantial capital development and investment. The longer lease term can help justify the return on investment (ROI) and make the loan payments affordable.  Developments help airports throughout the state sustain operations and promote economic development to create jobs and provide sales tax revenues for communities.

Now, we are preparing for interim studies, which give lawmakers more time to take an in-depth look at certain issues that may become the foundation for future legislation. Studies will be approved later this month and held late summer and into the fall. All the while, we are working on the budget and legislation for next year.

It is an honor to represent the citizens of District 84 in the State House of Representatives.