Last week began another cycle in the House and Senate. This cycle is another 6 week cycle and allows the House bills to be heard in the Senate and vice versa. The bills will be heard in committees first on both sides. So the floor action in both chambers was extremely light.

During the last week to hear House bills on the House side there were several measures aimed at revitalizing rural Oklahoma including a plan to offer a five-year income tax exemption to out-of-state residents choosing to move to rural areas of the state that have lost population.

House Bill 3126, the Come Home Oklahoma Act by House Speaker Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville), passed the full House by a vote of 96-2.

The measure is as part of the bipartisan Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) launched by Speaker Hiett last year.

Participants in the Come Home Oklahoma income tax exemption would have to purchase or build a single-family home to qualify.

Other REDI measures approved that week include:

HB 2628, authored by Rep. R.C. Pruett (D-Antlers), the Small Employer Quality Jobs Act would make it easier for rural employers to qualify for the Quality Jobs program.

HB 2704, authored by Rep. Jeff Hickman (R-Woodward), the Local Development Act would help new industries build needed access roads.

HB 2812, authored by Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing), would extend a property tax exemption for continuum of care retirement communities to those located in rural areas.

HB 3079, authored by Rep. Lisa Billy (R-Purcell), provides assistance to programs for affordable housing in rural areas. HB 3079 builds on a successful program offered by Fannie Mae and Rural Enterprises, Inc. to help rural employers provide down payment assistance to their workers.

The REDI legislative package is the product of a bipartisan task force created by Speaker Hiett in August. The task force visited a dozen communities across the state in the fall, holding hearings and listening to business and community leaders about rural needs.

The REDI agenda includes measures boosting targeted investments in programs to create new jobs in rural areas, as well as measures seeking to remove regulatory barriers to growth.

The Oklahoma House also passed two major pro-life bills during the final week to hear House bills. House Bill 2614, by Rep. Kevin Calvey ( R-Del City ), requires that a woman considering an abortion be given the option of seeing her baby through an ultrasound. The ultrasound could take place at an abortion facility or another location. HB 2614 passed by a vote of 89-7.

The House also voted 94-1 to pass House Bill 2741, by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa). HB 2741 raises the penalty for the willful killing of an unborn child to the penalty for any willful killing.

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