This week marked the first major deadline for the 2023 Legislative Session. Thursday was the final day for all bills except budget bills to be passed out of their assigned committee from their chamber of origin. While numbers are not yet finalized, there are around 1,000 bills and joint resolutions left alive after the Thursday deadline.
SB 669 – Non-resident driver’s licensing
One bill that was passed out of committee this week was SB 669 by Sen. Michael Brooks. SB 669 would allow non-residents who file state taxes to utilize their individual tax identification number instead of a Social Security number to apply for a driver’s license. The driver’s license would be marked with a “NR” notation to indicate that the license holder is a non-resident.
The bill has received widespread support from the law enforcement community as it will allow some 33,000 people in Oklahoma to be documented in the driver’s license system, which is the primary database used by law enforcement officers at all levels across the state. Additionally, other states that have implemented this legislation have seen their uninsured motorist and hit and run numbers drop dramatically.
There has been concern expressed that allowing non-residents to apply for a driver’s license will result in non-residents being registered to vote. However, the bill explicitly states that those using an individual tax identification number shall not be provided voter registration services. Additionally, the bill goes to great lengths to ensure that individuals utilizing the individual tax identification number to apply for a driver’s license are vetted through the State Election Board at least quarterly to ensure that those individuals are not intentionally or accidentally obtaining a voter registration card.
This bill will be beneficial to farmers and ranchers across the state who hire immigrant laborers to work on their farms and ranches by providing a path for those workers to receive a driver’s license. It will lower the numbers of migrant workers driving without a license, which risks liability to the farm owner and causes significant delays if a farm vehicle driven by an unlicensed worker is impounded or detained.
HB 1921 – Hazard Mitigation Assessment Districts
HB 1921 by Rep. Lonnie Sims was approved by the House County and Municipal Government committee this week. HB 1921 seeks to allow counties to create Hazard Mitigation Assessment Districts to raise revenue that might be used to leverage funds from the Federal government to assist with a variety of disaster mitigation uses.
The funds would be accumulated by an increased property tax to all property within the county. An amendment has been made to the bill to exempt all agriculturally assessed land in the county, however, private residence and business would still be subject to the property tax increase and it is unclear how equipment would be impacted. Oklahoma Farm Bureau remains opposed to the bill in its current form because it still has the possibility to increase property taxes for farmers and ranchers.
HB 1921 is now available to be considered by the full House of Representatives.
For an update on weekly happenings at the Capitol and an outlook on what is ahead, be sure to tune in to Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Weekly Public Policy Update Zoom call each Friday at Noon.