Brenda Wright

Brenda Wright, Shareholder Crawford & Associates, P.C.

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2016 Legislative Update

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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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Brenda Wright is a Certified Public Accountant who rejoined Crawford and Associates in February 2009 as Consulting Manager and became a shareholder in 2011.  From 1991 to 2001 she worked for the firm in the auditing and consulting divisions.  Prior to rejoining the firm, she served as Finance Director for the City of Mustang, Oklahoma for seven years.  Brenda has over 24 years of governmental accounting, auditing, and consulting experience. She is a graduate of East Central University.

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