Foster Care Support Measure Signed by Governor
A measure focused on helping Oklahoma foster care families was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. House Bill 1919, authored by House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Senator A.J. Griffin, provides a tax credit for foster parents.
“Most foster parents spend way more on their foster children then they receive from DHS. The monthly supplemental simply isn’t enough to keep up with the cost of supporting a child,” said Griffin.“The state is working hard to find ways to attract more foster parents and the best way to do that is through financial incentives.”
“Foster parents can’t list their foster children as dependents on their tax returns like they do for their own children,” she said. “This bill … allow(s) foster parents to apply for a tax credit, which will help them save money that they can then use to support their foster children.”
HB1919 authorizes an income tax deduction for foster care expenses beginning January 1, 2014. The deduction is capped at $2,500 for single persons and $5,000 for married individuals filing a joint return.
“Oklahoma can never reach its potential until we live up to our moral imperative to see after the least among us, and these children are our most vulnerable,” said Shannon. “These children face tough situations not having a true home environment for safety, security and sustenance.”
“This deduction will help Oklahomans who have opened their homes to children who are in desperate need of love and hope,” he said.
Fallin also signed Senate Bill 200 by Sen. Griffin, and Rep. Jason Nelson into law. SB200 directs the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) to establish a foster care program for children in custody.
Under SB200, a child may not be placed in a foster care placement unless it meets licensing standards. OJA must enter into a written contract with every foster care placement and must provide certain information to each contracted foster parent at the time of placement.
Oklahoma lawmakers show compassion for victims of human trafficking
Three measures signed into law this year show legislators are rethinking past approaches to criminal activity tied to human trafficking. House Bill 1058 allows the victims of human trafficking to have prostitution-related offenses expunged from their criminal records.
House Bill 1067 requires law enforcement officials to notify the Department of Human Services whenever a child victim of human trafficking is located.
The law requires police to work jointly with DHS personnel when investigating those crimes. It also requires criminal charges to be dismissed against any child victim of human trafficking.
HB1067 requires that in cases of teenagers facing prostitution charges, “There shall be a presumption that the actor was coerced into committing such offense by another person in violation,” of human trafficking laws.
House Bill 1508 states the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control has subpoena powers for crimes relating to human trafficking.
Governor Signs Bills to Alter End of Instruction Tests
Governor Fallin signed a measure into law to help struggling students graduate from high school. Senate Bill 226 allows students who fail to meet high school graduation testing requirements to re-enroll in the school district that denied the diploma.
The district must then provide the student with remediation or intervention and the chance to retake the test until the student makes a proficient score so a diploma can be earned. Students will be exempt from the hourly instruction requirements elsewhere in state law. The law begins July 1, 2013.