A bill related to jobs and unemployment taxes passed the House of Representatives today.
House Bill 2505 contains some significant reforms, said state Rep. Randy McDaniel, chairman of the Economic Development and Financial Services Committee.
“This bill addresses a number of key issues related to employment matters in Oklahoma,” said McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City. “The measure will help prevent waste, fraud and abuse. Therefore, it is critical in our efforts to support fairness as well as more economic opportunities in the state.”
HB 2505 passed today with amendments from the state Senate, 81-2. It originally passed the House on March 3 and the Senate on April 22.
The Senate added three amendments to the bill. The first being claimants sign a form that they will not commit fraud in claims. Additionally, this will require the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission promulgate rules to review five percent of unemployment benefit cases where misconduct was alleged. Finally, the third amendment clarifies what an agency can do when it comes to presumption of misconduct.
Also, several Oklahoma statutes were repealed. These sections dealt with the Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program, which had gone unused. The federal government wanted to expand the program. The Oklahoma Legislature rejected this encroachment to ensure long-term sustainability and lower taxes.
“Another important reform will close a benefit breach that allows federal government employees in Oklahoma to double dip when payback is granted to federal government employees during furloughs or shutdowns,” McDaniel said. “This is a situation that needs to be corrected, and this bill closes that loophole.”
“We should remain vigilant in our efforts to close loopholes that allow public benefit systems to be exploited,” said state Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa. “This proposal will reduce waste, ensure benefits are directed to those who truly need them, and provide important tools to combat misconduct. I am grateful to the House for their support of legislation that will increase accountability and oversight of public funds.”
“HB 2505 is a great bill that will help Oklahoma employers cut their unemployment costs while still protecting laid off workers,” said Mike Seney, Senior Vice President of Policy Analysis and Strategic Planning at the Oklahoma State Chamber.
Another change contained within HB 2505 is amending language to make it easier to claim separation from employment due to domestic violence. Currently, any case that goes to appeal must be verified by reasonable and confidential documentation. Typically, that has meant the victim needing to go to a shelter quickly and then providing written documentation of the abuse. Under this legislation, the language would be changed to allow for verbal testimony as well as any kind of documentation that is available at the time to support the domestic violence claim.
“I was pleased this bill passed with many protections for employers and employees,” said John Miley, General Counsel of OESC. “I am especially thankful for the amendment in the bill that will assist victims of domestic violence in obtaining benefits that will help them out of dangerous situations.”
In several days, HB 2505 will be sent to the Governor.