OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Max Wolfley, R-Oklahoma City, has advanced two bills benefiting seniors in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. On Tuesday, Rep. Wolfley passed House Bill 2020, which increases the Oklahoma income tax exemption for retirement benefits from $10,000 to $20,000 beginning in the tax year 2024. "The exemption for retirement income hasn't been increased in 16 years," Wolfley said. "Inflation has severely eroded the purchasing power of those on fixed incomes." HB2020 passed the House 90-0. It is authored in the Senate by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton. House Bill 2027, approved recently, provides a state sales tax rebate on the sale of hearing aids. "As it stands now, a senior citizen could take five of their grandkids for two days to the waterpark at Great Wolf Lodge in Texas and pay for everything, including gas, food, and lodging, with the money they save by buying their hearing aids in a state that doesn't tax medical devices," Wolfley said. The taxpayer must file a claim with the Oklahoma Tax Commission within one year of the purchase date, and the commission will refund the state sales tax portion to the taxpayer. HB2027 passed 89-1 and now heads to the Senate, where it is authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan.
Legislation modifying who appoints members to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives this week. Rep. Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh, authored House Bill 2263 to give equal appointment authority to the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore and the Governor, who, if the bill becomes law, will appoint two members each to the six-member board. Currently, the Governor appoints all six members. "House Bill 2263 would evenly divide the appointment power between the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore and the Governor to bring more transparency to the board," said Sterling, who held an interim study on the OTA in 2022. The measure reduces member term length from eight years to six years but allows current members are allowed to serve out the rest of their original term, even if it exceeds six years. Appointed members can be removed at any time with cause by the appointing authority. HB2263 also prohibits members from voting on any issue in which they have a direct financial interest. Having passed the House 89-3, the bill now moves to the Senate.
Legislation updating the Landlord Tenant Act to protect renters living in unsafe living conditions was approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday. House Bill 2109, authored by Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, protects tenants from retaliatory actions taken by landlords and allows courts to require landlords to make needed repairs for health and safety. "The vast majority of Oklahoma's landlords work hard to keep their rental property in good shape, but unfortunately, tenants whose landlords are not maintaining a healthy, safe living environment have very little protection in our current statute," Pae said. "House Bill 2109 provides tenants with the tools necessary to ensure their housing conditions are restored to a safe baseline." HB2109, which applies to landlords renting more than 10 units, protects tenants from common types of landlord retaliation, including raising rent, threatening eviction, or decreasing services. It also gives courts the authority to require a landlord to make a repair needed to ensure a rental property is safe and habitable when they refuse to make the repair otherwise. The measure passed the House 71-23. It is authored in the Senate by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton.