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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — There’s been no waiting around for freshman state Representative José Cruz. In just over a month, Cruz authored two bills and co-sponsored a third that recently passed out of the House since the first session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature began in February.

Democrat Cruz won the race for House District 89 in the Nov. 3 election with over 65 percent of the vote.  His district covers the near southwest side of OKC, a predominantly working-class section of the metro that includes the Stockyards. 

Cruz became the first Latino ever to represent the district, which has a Hispanic majority. HD-89 is located on the southside of the city, with over 65 percent of the population identifying as Latino or Hispanic. 

Both measures that he authored alone, House Bill 1950 and House Bill 1948 were approved by the State House of Representatives during the week and are now ready to be heard on the Senate floor.  

HB 1950, a bill that allows a tax credit for landlords who assisted tenants during the pandemic, passed out of the chamber on Thursday with 54 votes in favor and 20 votes against the measure. 

The House unanimously passed HB 1948, authored by Cruz and Senator Kay Floyd, with a vote of 94-0 Tuesday night. This measure modifies a definition to extend protections for domestic abuse victims. 

HB 1948 – Victims Protective Order 

House Bill 1948 will broaden the definition of family or household members as defined in the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act to include family members related by blood or marriage who do not live in the same household as the victim. 

In an interview with the Free Press, Cruz said the bill offers more protection for victims in certain domestic situations. 

“Currently, you can only file that [VPO] if the family member lives in the house with you,” said Cruz. “But if your brother lives across the street from you, and he’s harassing and threatening you, then you can’t do anything.”

HB 1948 will advance in the legislative process and must be approved by the Senate before it becomes a law. The bipartisan bill would become effective by November 2021. 

“Domestic violence affects Oklahomans every day,” Cruz said in a press release. “With this unanimous vote, hopefully, we can bring some peace of mind to victims suffering across the state.” 

HB1950 – Landlord Tax Credit

House Bill 1950 would offer a 100% tax credit to landlords who provide assistance to tenants who are unable to pay rent due to pandemic-related circumstances. 

To qualify, the landlord must be able to prove that the loss of rental income did not result in the eviction of the tenant. The tenant must show a loss of income that has impacted their ability to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic. The credit would be available for tax years 2020 through 2022.

According to an Oklahoma Court Tracker by Open Justice Oklahoma, plaintiffs in Oklahoma County have filed 9,716 evictions and nearly 30 percent of those have been granted since Oklahoma’s emergency declaration on March 15, 2020. 

“One of the things we wanted to make sure was that the tenants actually lost income, that the landlords never evicted, or that they didn’t file suit,” Rep. Cruz said “All of this is an effort to avoid evicting people.” 

The credit has a total capacity of $5 million dollars per year, with an annual maximum of $1,250 per individual. The credit has a cap of 4,000 claimants. 

According to the bill, the Tax Commission is to create a registration program for qualified individuals. It will allow the Commission to retract authorized credits if it finds that the property owner recovered rental income loss through late payments or civil action. 

HB 1950 is now eligible to be heard on the Senate floor.

Last Updated March 14, 2021, 9:34 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor