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Livestock award exemption bill left unheard


A bill that would encourage Oklahoma's youth to participate in programs such as FFA and 4-H will not receive a full hearing this year. HB 1918, authored by Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, and co-authored by Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, passed an appropriations subcommittee in late February, but the bill is not slated for a hearing in the full Appropriations and Budget Committee.

"Organizations such as FFA and 4-H help pass on our state's tradition of farming and ranching to the next generation," stated Rep. Kouplen. "Rewarding young people for their hard work in raising livestock should be treated the same as rewards for hard work in the classroom. The members of House leadership who refused to hear this bill are telling Oklahoma's farmers and ranchers that their work is less important than other professions, and that does not sit well with me."

The legislation would have made cash awards given at youth livestock competitions tax-exempt from state and federal income taxes--treating those awards in the same way as scholarship money.

"We had a bill here that would have helped students and working families who are actually involved in the lives of their children through these programs," said Rep. Dorman. "It's obvious the people who decided not to hear this bill have never been to a stock show or a labor auction to see how hard these students work and how much is spent on their project areas.

Both legislators expressed concern that, given today's tough economic conditions, the students would face hardships financially with the growing costs associated with showing animals.

"In a year where the economy is forcing people to cut back, something of this nature may have made the difference for some of these students being able to show animals or display projects," said Rep. Dorman. "I feel sorry for the students who have worked so hard to get this bill heard because it shows that sometimes their voices fall on deaf ears at the State Capitol."

Due to a provision in House rules, HB 1918 will not be allowed a hearing until 2010. Provisions from this bill can be amended into another revenue and taxation bill before the session ends in May.

"I hope we are able to include the language from this bill into another piece of legislation," said Rep. Kouplen. "I will certainly be willing to work with any legislator who would like to make this a part of their bill or even see it included in an omnibus tax issue bill at the end of session that is often considered."

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