Two pieces of legislation supportive of Osage military veterans received unanimous votes from the Fourth Osage Nation Congress during the Hun-Kah Session.
Congressman and military veteran James Norris sponsored ONCA 15-21 which is a bill allowing for 100 percent disabled Osage veterans to receive sales tax and lodging tax exemptions at Osage-owned business entities under the Nation’s jurisdiction. The Nation’s Tax Commission collects a 5 percent sales tax and 5 percent lodging tax from those Osage entities.
Norris also sponsored a resolution (ONCR 15-10) requesting the Executive Branch to establish a registry for the voluntary identification and registration of Osage veterans.
According to ONCA 15-21, the bill amends the Osage Tax Commission law to allow for the 100 percent sales and lodging tax exemptions at stores and businesses under the Nation’s jurisdiction for those veterans certified by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to receive disability compensation at the 100 percent rate. If the veteran is deceased, surviving spouses are also eligible provided he/ she is not remarried.
The bill also states the Tax Commission will make an exemption card to the spouse of an eligible person and the 5 percent sales tax exemption does not apply to tobacco purchases.
The Nation collects the lodging tax from the hotels at the Osage Casinos in Skiatook and Ponca City. Under, ONCA 15-21, veterans who are hotel guests will also be exempt from paying the tax.
Norris said he had a difficult time gathering numbers on Osage veterans while doing research for the bill, which prompted the ONCR 15-10 resolution asking for a voluntary registry.
According to ONCR 15-10, the intent of the voluntary registry is to help determine need for military benefit and service needs, as well as an opportunity to recognize veterans for their service and sacrifice.
Norris said his research turned up a low count of veterans that would be eligible for the tax exemptions and a Congressional fiscal analysis of the bill also said the tax exemptions would have a “negligible” effect on the tax revenue collected by the Tax Commission.
Both legislative items passed with unanimous Congress votes during the Hun-Kah Session and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed both documents.