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Laws Chat

Laws Chat is dedicated to updating Oklahoma municipal officials on important changes each legislative session in state laws that could have an impact on municipal finance and accounting. Crawford & Associates stay actively involved with the Oklahoma Municipal League in monitoring and updating these state laws.

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Another  legislative session has come to an end and with it comes several new laws of interest to municipal finance, municipal court, and City Clerks.  Below is a brief summary from the OML Sine Die Document.  If you need more information, you can access the entire document from the OML website with direct links to each bill.

Finance, Debt and Purchasing:

Public Construction Contracts/Posting Bids: SB 321 by Sen. Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) and Rep. Avery Frix (R-Muskogee) amends 61 O.S. Section 104 by altering the notice requirements for proposals to award public construction contracts. The publication time is increased from current law’s at least 20 days to at least “21” days prior to the date set for opening bids. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Public Finance/Cooperative Purchasing Agreement: SB 563 by Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair) and Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) authorizes any school district including a technology school district to participate in, sponsor, or administer a cooperative purchasing agreement for the acquisition of any commodities or services with one or more public agencies. This includes joint or multiparty contracts between public agencies and open-ended state public procurement contracts. Any local public procurement unit may participate in, sponsor, conduct or administer a cooperative or piggybacking purchasing agreement under the details in the bill. A local public procurement unit is any county, city, town, state agency, and any other subdivision of the state or public unit o agency thereof. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Municipal Audit/Small Municipalities: SB 354 by Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) and Rep. Mike Osburn (R-Edmond) amends 11 O.S. Section 17-105 impacting agreed upon procedure engagements in lieu of audits of municipalities with an income of at least $25,000 and a population of less than 2,500. Removed from current law is the requirement for the AUP engagement to be conducted in accordance with “fieldwork and reporting standards in Government Auditing Standards”. The bill takes effect on August 25, 2017.

Public Trust/Audit: SB 358 by Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) and Rep. Mike Osburn (R-Edmond) amends 60 O.S. Section 180.1 regarding agreed upon procedure engagements for trusts with more than $50,000 in revenues or assets, and for whom an annual financial statement audit is not required by another law. Removed from current law is the requirement for the AUP engagement to be conducted in accordance with “field work and reporting standards in Government Auditing Standards.” The bill takes effect on August 25, 2017.

Public Funds/Bonds: HB 1949 by Rep. John Jordan (R-Yukon) and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) creates new law requiring local governments at least 30 days prior to a vote on a bond or other evidence of indebtedness to publish on their website a description of the projects or assets that will be acquired, improved or repaired together with a description of any unpaid or unfinished bond approved by the voters preceding the date of the vote on the bonds to be issued and a detailed description of the use of the previous bond proceeds. If to acquire or improve real property, the description shall include a physical address using a street number or some other method by which the location of the property can be identified. If the local government does not have a website then the information must be assessable through some other method using the Internet. If there is no reasonable method the entity shall publish at least once in a newspaper of general circulation. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Utility Relocation/Right-of-Way: SB 85 by Sen. Jack Fry (R-Midwest City) and Rep. Dustin Roberts (R-Durant) amends 69 O.S. Section 1205 regarding relocation of utility facilities for construction on the Interstate Highway System within municipalities of 5,000 or more. Federal funds, if available, may be used. In such event the municipality in which such construction is to be performed shall furnish funds to the state necessary to match the federal funds, “unless the utility requiring relocation is owned by another municipality having a population of 5,000 or more, in which case the municipal utility owner shall furnish the funds. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.

Public Utility Provider/Domestic Abuse: HB 1466 by Rep. Elise Hall (R-Oklahoma City) and Sen. A J Griffin (R-Guthrie) amends the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act regarding utility providers. To ensure those with a protective order can maintain a household utility account and an existing wireless telephone number the court may issue an order to the providers to transfer billing responsibility to the petitioner if the petitioner is not the account holder. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

City Clerk:

Open Meeting Act/Minutes: HB 2181 by Rep. Charles Ortega (R-Altus) amends 25 O.S. Section 115 requiring municipal clerks and minute clerks of the school board to produce tentative minutes of regular and/or special meetings. The minutes must be furnished “no later than the close of the business day” within “four (4) business” days, “excluding the day of the meeting,” after “the meeting.” Business days shall mean “Monday through Friday and does not include Saturday, Sunday or holidays legally declared by the State of Oklahoma.” Please note, current law allows five (5) days. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Open Records Act/Record Reproduction: SB 191 by Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) and former Rep. David Brumbaugh amends the Open Records Act by prohibiting a record from being unreasonably relayed until after completion of a prior records request that will take substantially longer than the current request. A delay is limited solely to the time required for preparing the requested documents and the avoidance of excessive disruptions to the public body’s essential functions. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Open Meeting/Public Notice: SB 403 by Sen. David Holt (R-OKC) and Rep. Elise Hall (R-OKC) amends the Open Meeting Act at 25 O.S. Section 311. At least 24 hours prior to the “regularly scheduled” meetings, all public bodies shall display public notice “by at least one of the following methods: posting at the principle office or at the location of the meeting if no office exists; on the public body’s Internet website in accordance with 74 O.S. Section 3102. In addition, the public body “shall offer and consistently maintain an email distribution system for distribution of such notice and any person may request to be included without charge, and their request shall be accepted. In lieu of these posting requirements, a public body may elect to follow the requirements found in subparagraph b of paragraph 9 of this subsection, provided that 48 hour notice is required for special meetings and that the 48 hour requirement shall exclude Saturdays, Sundays and holidays legally declared by the State. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Insurance/Surplus Lines Tax: SB 438 by Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) and Rep. Glen Mulready (R-Tulsa) amends 36 O.S. Section 1115 by providing the policies sold to any city or town in this state, incorporated pursuant to law, shall be exempt from the surplus lines premium tax. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Municipal Court:

Municipal Court/Domestic Violence: HB 1121 by Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) and Sen. Stephanie Bice (R-OKC) creates the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Court Act of 2017. Subject to the availability of funds, any district or municipal court of record may establish a domestic violence court program as a specialized judicial process for domestic matters both civil and criminal under the bills requirements. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Municipal Court/Forensic Science Improvement Revolving Fund: SB 38 by Sen. Roger Thompson (R-Okemah) and Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston) amends 20 O.S. Section 1313.4 to increase the Forensic Science Improvement Assessment from $5 to $10 per applicable offense. This fee is collected by municipal court clerks. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Human Resources:

Employment/Unemployment: HB 1110 by Rep. Randy McDaniel (R-Edmond) and Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) amends the Employment Security Act of 1980 in a number of ways including changing the definition of “experience period”, “computation of benefit amount”, and alterations to the benefits for employees of governmental or nonprofit employers, changes to professional employer organizations and the like. In addition, new law provides for a rate reduction for technology reinvestment apportionment, the creation of a technology fund and provisions for administration of the technology fund. The bill repeals 40 O.S. Section 3-809 regarding group accounts for two or more employers. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.

Workers’ Compensation: HB 2423 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) and Sen. Kimberly David (R-Porter) amends 40 O.S. Section 418 regarding each insurance carrier writing workers’ compensation insurance and each self-insured employer authorized to make workers’ compensation payments directly to employees. These entities shall pay to the OTC up to a sum equal to three-fourths of one percent (3/4 of 1%) of the total workers’ compensation losses, excluding medical payments and temporary total disability compensation, based on the records of the Workers’ Compensation Court of “Existing Claims or the Workers’ Compensation Commission.” The bill adds this payout is based on the proceeds being reasonable and necessary to accomplish the objectives of the Oklahoma Occupational Health and Safety Standards Act. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.

 

Sales Tax Changes:

Sales Tax/Veterans: HB 1198 by Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Madill) and Sen. Frank Simpson (RArdmore) amends the veteran’s sales tax exemption by adding the requirement that the veteran is registered with the new veterans registry created by the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. An exception is made for those veterans who have previously received the sales tax exemption. Section 1 of the bill takes effect on November 1, 2017. Sections 2 through 12 will take effect on November 1, 2020.

Sales Tax/Remote Sales: HB 1427 by Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Depew) and Sen. James Leewright (R-Bristow) creates the Out-of-State Tax Collections Enforcement Act of 2017. It states the Tax Commission may establish the Out-of-State Tax Collections Enforcement Division. The Commission may contract with or employ out-of-state auditors. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Sales Tax/Noncompliance Procedures: HB 2343 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) and Sen. Kimberly David (R-Porter) amends 68 O.S. Section 1268.3 (A) regarding noncompliant taxpayer “operating under a sales tax permit” who within any consecutive 24 month period, has failed to file two reports or remit tax due for any two (2) months, as required under the provisions of any tax law. The taxpayer shall not be deemed noncompliant for nonpayment of income taxes. Paragraph (B) is amended by broadening current law to include the “provisions of any tax law”. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.

Sales Tax/ Vendor Deductions: HB 2367 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) and Sen. Kimberly David (R-Porter) repeals 68 O.S. Section 1367.1 and 1410.1 removing current deductions from sales and use tax collections respectively. The deduction from taxes due is 1% of tax due (with maximums) for vendors keeping records, filing reports and remitting taxes when due. The bill takes effect on July 1, 2017.

Agriculture Fees/Municipal Exemption Removal: HB 2392 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) and Sen. Kimberly David (R-Porter) amends 2 O.S. Section 3-82 regarding license/certification fees for pesticide applications. The measure removes the fee exemption for governmental agencies and increases the annual registration fee from $160 to $210. The bill increases the maximum amount designated for the State Department of Agriculture Unwanted Pesticide Disposal Fund from $100,000 to $300,000. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2017.

Motor Vehicles/Sales Tax: HB 2433 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) and Sen. Kimberly David (R-Porter) amends various sections of law to enact what appears to be a sales/use tax of 1.25% on the sale of motor vehicles. This is done by amending exceptions in current law. The wording is awkward. Specifically stated: “the sale of motor vehicles shall not be subject to any sales and use taxes levied by cities, counties or other jurisdictions of the state”. Amended is: 68 O.S. Sections 1355, 2106, 1361, 1402 & 1404. The bill went into effect on May 31, 2017.

 

 

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The Second Session of the 55th legislature recently came to a close bringing several new laws of interest to municipal finance.   Below is a brief summary from the OML Sine Die of the laws.

Unemployment Benefits: HB 2253 makes a number of changes to the Employment Security Act including definitions of “wages”, “taxable wages”, “assigned tax rate” and “earned tax rate”. In addition, changes include appeal rules, benefit overpayments, benefit wage ratio, rate reduction for technology reinvestment apportionment, rate of employer unemployment tax and the like. In addition, the bill creates the OESC Technology Fund which from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2021 shall be funded by each employer subject to 40 O.S. Sections 3-109, 2-110.1 and 3-113 equal to five percent of the unemployment taxes that would be owed to the OESC before any rate reduction is made pursuant to Section 9 of this Act. This apportionment shall be in addition to any contribution which that employer is required to make pursuant to the employment Security Act of 1980. The bill also contains a repealer section. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

Cable Television/Municipal Authority: HB 2358 amends 11 O.S. Section 22-107.1 and 107.2 regarding municipal authority concerning ordinances, certificates, licenses, permits or franchises for cable television. Among the changes in this detailed bill: “video services is substituted for “cable television”, rental payment for use of the public ways and grounds within the municipality shall not exceed 5% of the annual gross revenues derived by the video services provider from the provision of video services within the municipality, provision is made for ordinances regulating video services pursuant to the police power. The bill defines “video services”. The bill went into effect on April 12, 2016.

Open Records/Social Security Numbers: HB amends the Open Records Act 51 O.S. Section 24A.5. It provides that all social security numbers included in a record "may" be confidential regardless of the person's status as a public employee or private individual and "may" be redacted or deleted prior to release of the record by the public body. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

Employment/Disability Insurance: HB 2785 amends 74 O.S. Section 1335 to authorize a city to participate in the Disability Insurance Program administered by the Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board. A city, upon adoption of a resolution by the municipal governing body, may participate in the Disability Insurance Program administered by the Oklahoma Employees Insurance and Benefits Board. Upon the filing of a certified copy of the resolution with the Board, the city shall become a participant on the first day of the second full month following the filing of the resolution. All employees of any city electing to participate in the Program shall have disability insurance coverage. The city shall forward to the Board, at such times as determined by the Board, the contributions necessary to pay for the disability insurance coverage of the employees of the city. The Board shall determine the amount of contribution required for the disability insurance coverage. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

9-1-1 Reform: HB 3126 creates the Oklahoma 9-1-1 Management Authority Act with rule making authority given to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. The bill specifies the Authority’s organization, duties and limitations. A monthly fee of 75 cents is created on each wireless telephone connection and other communication device or service connection with the ability to dial 9-1-1 for emergency calls, services that are enabled by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Internet Protocol (IP) and prepaid wireless retail transactions. Funds shall be used by public agencies only for services, equipment and operations related to 9-1-1 emergency telephone systems. The definition of “public agency” is expanded to also include “public district, public trust, sub-state planning district, public authority or tribal authority located within this state”. It repeals 63 O.S. Sections 2821, 2841, 2842, 2843, 2843.1, 2843.2, 2844, 2847, 2851, 2852 and 2853. Sections 1 through 13 take effect on November 1, 2016. Section 14 repealing numerous sections takes into effect on January 1, 2017.

Municipal Courts/DUI: HB 3146 is a detailed bill creating the Impaired Driving Elimination Act (IDEA) impacting municipal courts not of record. It preempts municipal ordinances relating to DUI or operating a motor vehicle while impaired. The preemption will not apply to municipal criminal courts of record for these offenses. A new $15 fee is assessed for the Oklahoma Impaired Driver Database Revolving Fund via amendments to 11 O.S. Section 14-111 and 28 O.S. Section 153. In addition, 28 O.S. Section 153.1 is amended to decrease from one-half to 25% the costs paid in these cases to municipalities with 25% also paid to the DA’s Council. New law is created to require municipal law enforcement officers who make an arrest to enter an impaired driver arrest report into the impaired driver database. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

Unemployment Benefits/Seasonal Workers: HB 3164 creates new law regarding unemployment benefits by a seasonal worker performed in seasonal employment. Benefits are payable only for weeks of unemployment that occur during the normal seasonal work period. Benefits shall not be paid based on services performed in seasonal employment for any week of unemployment that begins during the period between two (2) successive normal seasonal work periods under certain conditions. The bill contains details including the application procedure to be designated a seasonal employer, notice requirements and definitions. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

Sales & Use Tax/Refund Claims: HB 3205 amends 68 O.S. Section 227 by authorizing a taxpayer to claim a refund for erroneously paid sales tax and use tax “within two (2) years from the date of payment”. The Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) may accept an amended sale or use tax report or return as a verified claim for refund if they established a liability less than the original report or return previously filed. The bill takes effect on August 25, 2016.

Bidding/Public Trusts/Emergency: SB 154 amends 60 O.S. Section 176 by increasing the bidding requirement for an emergency from $50,000 to $75,000. The bill was signed by the Governor on April 6, 2016. Since the emergency clause failed in the House, the bill will go into effect August 25, 2016.

Municipal Audits/Income: SB 888 amends the municipal audit requirements of 11 O.S. Section 17-105. Municipal income shall not include any grant monies provided to a municipality from any federal, state or other governmental entity. The bill takes effect August 25, 2016.

Public Trust/Indebtedness: SB 1011 amends 60 O.S. Sections 176. A municipality with a governing body consisting of fewer than 7 members shall be required to approve the creation of an indebtedness or obligation by a three-fifths (3/5) vote of the governing body. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

Water/Delinquent Account: SB 1029 creates new law regarding termination for a delinquent account where water service is provided to real property by one public entity but that property receives sewer or waste water service from another public entity. Under conditions in the bill, the governing body providing sewer or wastewater service may request the public entity providing water service to terminate water service. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2016.

 

Public Finance/City Manager: SB 1102 amends 11 O.S. Section 8-116 impacting a municipality with a population of less than 5,000 who employs a part-time city manager or a part-time city planner. 26 © 2016 Oklahoma Municipal League, Inc. The financial assistance via the Department of Commerce in current law is removed. The bill takes effect August 25, 2016.

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The 2015 Legislative session ended a few months ago and with it brings a few changes related to municipal finance.   Below is a brief summary from the OML Sine Die of those laws.

 

HB 1376 limits the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System exception section requiring a defined contribution system for those hired on or after November 1, 2015. This amendment to the exception in 74 O.S. Section 935.2, which includes municipal employees, limits participation in the defined benefit plan “only as long as he or she continues to be employed in a position” described in the exception. In addition, the employee and employer contributions are changed. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

HB 1734 requires any person, firm or entity required to pay a tax, fine or other cost to the state or a local government to make the instrument payable to the state office of government and not an individual who holds public office. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

HB 1825 modifies the list of governmental entities that may file certain claims to collect delinquent balances to include as qualified entities such as state agencies, municipal courts, district courts, public housing authorities and district attorneys seeking to collect unpaid court-ordered monetary obligations. It also repeals Title 68, Section 205.2, which is similar language in this same section. The bill went into effect on May 8, 2015.

 

HB 1965 creates the Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act. The bill bans the use of hand-held electronic devices to “manually compose, send or read an electronic text message” while operating a motor vehicle. The bill makes it a primary offense to text while driving. The bill levies a $100 fine and prohibits the Department of Public Safety from recording or assessing points on any license. It also makes exceptions for a device that is physically or electronically integrated into a motor vehicle, or a voice-operated global positioning or navigation system that is affixed to a motor vehicle, or a hands-free device that allows the user to write, send, or read a text message without the use of either hand except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function. Municipalities may enact and municipal police officers may enforce ordinances prohibiting and penalizing texting while driving. The ordinances shall not be more stringent and the fine and court costs for municipal ordinance violations shall be the same or less than the $100 fine. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

HB 2005 amends the Firefighter Pension System regarding volunteers. It states a person 45 years old or older, as of the first date volunteer services are performed, shall not be eligible for the Pension System for any purpose and shall not receive any benefit or service credit. The Fire Chief shall make the final determination on applicants for volunteer firefighter services if the applicant is over age 45 based on local rules, ordinances and standard operating procedures. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

HB 2119 permits the Division or awarding public agency to extend a contract award period no more than 120 days from the bid opening date upon the mutual written agreement between the lowest responsible bidder or bidders and the awarding public agency. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

SSB 297 creates the Heritage Preservation Act creating a grant program for financial assistance to cities, counties, nonprofit 21 © 2015 Oklahoma Municipal League, Inc. organizations and tribal governments to operate and improve effectiveness of museums and historical organizations. The bill takes effect on August 20, 2015.

 

SB 327 repeals a number of sections in Title 8 regarding cemeteries, including cemeteries in towns, cemetery associations, cemetery funds and county cemetery associations. Of particular importance is the repeal of 8 O.S. Sections 81-87, 90, 91, 94, 111-115 and 131-141, which is language related to deposit of funds and County Cemetery Associations except references to invalidity clause and acceptance and use of monies and other items. In addition, any county of this state may use its employees and equipment for opening and closing graves and maintaining and improving any publicly owned or other cemetery within the county not owned and maintained by an individual or private organization. A reasonable fee may be charged. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

SB 336 creates a sales tax exemption for organizations exempt from taxation via Section 501(c)(3) related to a fundraising event sponsored by the organization or entity when the event does not exceed any five (5) consecutive days and when the sales are not in the organization’s or the entity’s regular course of business. Provided, the exemption provided in this paragraph shall be limited to tickets sold for admittance to the fundraising event and items which were donated to the organization or entity for sale at the event. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

SB 376 allows a municipality or a public trust with a municipality as its beneficiary to charge a convenience fee. The convenience fee shall be limited to bank processing fees and financial transaction fees, the cost of providing for secure transaction, portal fees, and fees necessary to compensate for increased bandwidth incurred as a result of providing for an online transaction. The bill also applies to the Uniform Consumer Credit Code. The bill takes effect on November 1, 2015.

 

 

Municipal Finance in Oklahoma is constantly changing, make sure your check the blog frequently for updates on Oklahoma Statute changes and the latest from GASB.  

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Have you ever been confused about the legal and operational relationships between Oklahoma public trusts (commonly referred to as authorities) and their municipal beneficiary? Mike Crawford has prepared a white paper entitled Oklahoma Municipalities and Their Public Trusts that provides useful information in a question and answer format to help bridge this gap in understanding. The white paper covers such issues as why municipal public trusts were created by law, how they are created, the separation of formal actions and accountability between public trusts and their beneficiary municipality, governing body differences between the two separate legal entities, and operational and financial management similarities and differences. This white paper is available for viewing and download from the Useful Tools page of our web site under the section entitled Legal.

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HB 1875  Reduces OTC sales tax collection retention fee paid by cities and towns to 0.5%.

HB 2405  Limits tort liabilities based on Oklahoma constitution or state law to the limits of the Governmental Tort Claims Act.

HB 2480  Allows regional economic development authorities to levy a sales tax not to exceed 2% for economic development or transportation needs.

HB 2630  Requires OPERS to establish a defined contribution plan for state employees on or after 11/1/2015.

HB 3217  Amends statutes regarding a petition for the State Auditor audit of any political subdivision. Petition signatures will now require 25% of those voting is last general election.

HB 3251  Amends Public Competitive Bidding Act by increasing expenditure limit for emergency purchases from $35,000 to $75,000.

SB 212  Authorizes Police Pension System to refund municipal contributions when paid by mistake of fact.

SB 1023  Prohibits cities and towns from setting minimum wage and employee benefit requirements for employers within its jurisdiction.

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