Thoughtful legislation makes a positive difference outside the spotlight (Capitol Update)

In the August edition of the Oklahoma Economic Report, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel profiles House Bill 2178 that was passed at his request in the last session of the legislature. The bill creates a tax break allowing qualified persons with disabilities to get a deduction for contributions to a savings program known as the STABLE (State Achieving a Better Life Experience) program. They can later withdraw the money for such disability expenses as education, housing, transportation, health care, assistive technology, employment needs, and basic living expenses. 

In addition to the deduction when the money is deposited, it is tax free when it is withdrawn. Earnings on the accounts can grow tax-free and are not subject to federal or state income tax as long as the money is spent on qualified disability expenses. People with disabilities that began by age 26 are eligible to open and use a STABLE account. The bill implements a federal law creating the tax breaks, but Congress left it up to the states to create and administer the program at the state level. Legislation is under consideration in Congress that would raise the disability onset age to 46 for participation in the program.

HB 2178 was authored by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton. I think we should always offer a tip of the hat to state officials and legislators who make the effort to pass this type of legislation. There’s not a big political payoff for this work but it makes life better for those dealing with situations most of us don’t realize and rarely think about. Rep. Hilbert was first elected to the House in 2016 at the ripe old age of 22. He moved up the ladder quickly to the vice chairmanship of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, a good perch from which to develop into the workhorse he has become. 

Sen. Montgomery was also barely age eligible when elected to the House in 2014 at age 23. After four years in the House, he moved over (some would say “up,” I say “over”) to the State Senate where he serves as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Transportation. If you look at his body of work in the legislature, you’ll find a lot of thoughtful legislation that doesn’t create publicity but does a lot of good. Both of these young men are good examples of what representative government ought to be and can be. Only a few people this legislation affects will ever know about it, but Rep. Hilbert and Sen. Montgomery will know that they did a good thing.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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