2014 Session Preview

2014 Session Preview - January 19,2014

State Representative David Perryman

February 3 marks the beginning of the second regular session of the current Oklahoma legislature.  Throughout the year, Representatives are often contacted by constituents who have experienced recent personal or business issues as a result of state statutes.  We take those questions and suggestions and review current law to determine if the problem is widespread among citizens and whether a change in a statute could alleviate the problem without causing more problems.  I have received a number of these calls and have prepared legislation for the upcoming session accordingly.  Today, I would like to provide information about those bills so that you may track them through the upcoming session.

One issue that was brought to my attention dealt with the taxability of purchases made by civic clubs for distribution or donation to our youth or needy families.  Specifically, the Anadarko Kiwanis Club, a qualified 501(c)(3) entity purchased a substantial amount of food for distribution during the holiday season.  Of course the funds used by the club come from money raised by the volunteer efforts of the organization or by donations to the club.  Despite there being literally scores of exemption from the imposition of sales tax, there was no exception that would allow a civic club to purchase a turkey tax free to give to a family that would not otherwise have a Thanksgiving dinner.  I have filed HB 2430 so that groups like this hardworking club and Lions, Optimists, Rotarians across the State will be able to let the funds serve more needy persons.

Another area of concern that has been brought to my attention by tenants who were displaced by the 2013 tornados and relates to statutes that impose a criminal penalty on landlords for relatively minor infractions that harm the rights of tenants.  These statutes provide that the violator is subject to prosecution by the district attorney; however, most district attorneys in our state are literally overwhelmed protecting the public from criminals who commit major crimes.  One example is a statute requiring landlords to place rental damage deposits into a trust account that is segregated from the landlord’s personal funds.  The comingling of the rental damage deposits with the landlord’s personal funds is a crime and subjects the landlord to criminal prosecution.  While it is very important that those damage deposits be kept separate, it is counterproductive to burden the district attorneys with the prosecution of such minor cases unless the landlord habitually commits that crime or unless that crime is one of many committed by the landlord.

Another example of this problem is the statute that requires an employer to be prosecuted if he does not pay an employee according to Oklahoma law. Once again, the statute that requires compensation to be paid according to the level required by law, states that in the event the employer fails to do so, the employer will be prosecuted by the district attorney.  While prosecution may be appropriate under some circumstances where the employer has intentionally and systematically harmed employees in this manner, there is normally no need to clog the docket of the district attorney with that type of case.

Consequently, I have filed HB 2432 and 2431 to address these issues and provide a civil remedy for the person who has suffered loss.  The civil remedy does not eliminate the criminal action and the wrongdoer is still subject to that prosecution if the damaged tenant or employee has not received compensation according to the new bill.

I also have filed HB2992, a bill to remove some obsolete language from the statutes that allows district courts to empower municipalities to have jurisdiction over minor, first offense juvenile violations.  This change will eliminate troublesome language that has allowed some defense attorneys to question the validity of existing municipal juvenile courts.  I will discuss that bill and other bills next later, including a bill that has been requested by the law enforcement community to prevent a new scheme that has been occurring involving fraudulent liens being placed on automobiles for work that was never performed or performed at an unreasonably high cost.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.