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A Senate Review

By Senator Ron Justice

The past two week were hectic as we spent long hours on the floor trying to meet our deadline. We successfully worked on nearly 300 bills during that time, which was no easy task. This week, we’ll return to our committees to begin consideration of House measures. The next three weeks will be spent going through the 315 House bills that made it out of that chamber.

Having considered around 180 measures this week, we had the opportunity to tackle a lot of different issues.

SB 1264 is a debt-reducing measure that received unanimous approval. It would create the Oklahoma Debt Reduction Fund. Under the proposed bill, each July 1, or as soon thereafter as feasible, the Office of State Finance would transfer to the Oklahoma Debt Reduction Fund 30 percent of any surplus funds that are in excess of the funds required to be deposited in the Constitutional Reserve Fund (the Rainy Day Fund). If one or more of the state pension systems has a funded ratio of less than 80 percent, the Oklahoma Debt Reduction Fund would be allocated, by legislative appropriation, to reduce the unfunded liability of any one or any combination of state pension systems. If each of the state pension systems has a funded ratio of at least 80 percent, the Oklahoma Debt Reduction Fund would be allocated, by legislative appropriation, to reduce the bonded indebtedness of the State of Oklahoma.

Another measure that passed out of the Senate was SB 1019, which expands to public housing authorities the ability to collect unpaid rent or costs associated with property damage of at least $50 from former tenants’ income tax refunds. Rent in public housing is based on one’s income so there is no reason for these individuals to skip out on their rent but unfortunately it’s a very common practice.

The Tulsa Housing Authority (THA) currently has just over $5.5 million in outstanding debt due to unpaid rent and property damage, while the Oklahoma City Housing Authority (OCHA) accrued a combined outstanding debt of $575,000 during 2010 and 2011. The THA was allowed to participate in the Warrant Intercept Program in 2007 for eleven months and was able to recover $470,000, so the state’s 107 housing authorities are confident that being a part of the Warrant Intercept program will help them recoup most of their losses. This is good news for taxpayers as public housing is supported by tax dollars.

Another bill of interest is SB 1138 to support our veterans by allowing anyone to buy Prisoners of War or Missing in Action license plates. Currently, only veterans are able to buy these license plates. This is will allow all citizens who want to increase awareness of those who are currently POWs or MIA. Proceeds from these license plates will be deposited into the Prisoners of War and Missing in Action License Plate Revolving Fund, which the State Military Department will use to provide grants to the Oklahoma Chapter of Honor Flights to help send Oklahoma veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices.

To contact me at the Capitol, please write to Senator Ron Justice, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 423, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at [email protected], or call (405) 521-5537.

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