OKlahoma State Capitol

The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that would give municipalities access to more property tax revenue. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World file

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation that effectively allows municipalities to use property taxes to pay for public safety services made it through the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday after years of opposition by tax hawks.

House Bill 1992, by Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, gets around current limits on municipal government use of ad valorem revenue by allowing the creation of special taxing districts authorized to assess up to 5 mills in property taxes for police, fire and emergency services.

Creation of the districts and assessment of the additional tax would require a vote of the people and a 60% majority.

The last provision was inserted on the floor Thursday to appease opponents, mostly from rural areas. The bill expressly excludes agricultural and industrial property, and the districts could not exceed municipal corporate limits.

Tulsa and the Tulsa Regional Chamber had been among those pushing for HB 1992, which was originally filed last year, and predecessor bills that stalled in various stages of the legislative process.

Unlike other states, Oklahoma municipalities may access ad valorem revenue only for sinking funds used to pay off bond issues and other debts. They may not use ad valorem for regular operating expenses.

Instead, they are almost entirely dependent on sales tax revenue, which has barely kept pace with inflation over the past decade.

HB 1992 now goes to the Senate.

Also Thursday, the House Public Safety Committee held a marathon session during which it approved measures that would allow prison inmates legal access to tobacco, launch a needle exchange for drug addicts and require youths between 8 and 17 to wear seat belts while riding in the back seat of a vehicle.

Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, said a ban on tobacco products in state buildings has created unforeseen problems in prisons. His bill would allow inmates to smoke or use smokeless tobacco in prison yards.

HB 3223, by Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, would allow body parts donated to science to be used for training cadaver dogs. The bill seemed to make a few members squeamish but they all voted for it upon Echols’ assurance that the bodies or parts of bodies would not fall into the hands of “the occult” or a “secondary market.”

Gallery: Bills proposed for Oklahoma's 2020 legislative session

Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365


Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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