GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements

GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements
© Greg Nash

A group of GOP senators on Friday rolled out a new bill to expand reporting requirements about investments in "opportunity zones" as the program aimed at revitalizing economically distressed communities has faces mounting scrutiny, particularly from Democrats.

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman Tim Scott: Sanders would be toughest challenger for Trump House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (R-S.C.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said in a news release that the measure's "reporting requirements will help show communities and investors that the initiative is working, as well as help root out any fraud or abuse."

"This is an important piece of the puzzle to help the more than 31 million Americans living in Opportunity Zones experience a brighter future,” Scott added.

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The opportunity zones program, established under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE's 2017 tax-cut law, allows investors to receive capital gains tax breaks for investments in designated economically-distressed communities. The provision in the 2017 tax law was based on bipartisan legislation, and there remains some bipartisan support for the program's goals.

In recent weeks, however, Democrats have expressed increasing concern about the program, after several reports that wealthy developers were influencing and benefiting from the program.

Some Democratic lawmakers have asked federal watchdogs to probe the implementation of the opportunity-zone provision. Democrats have also offered bills to make substantive changes to opportunity zones and even to repeal the program.

Scott, an author of the initial legislation that proposed opportunity zones several years ago, has taken issue with Democratic legislation to make substantial changes to the program, arguing that those bills would decrease the program's effectiveness. But he and other Republicans have been supportive of boosting reporting requirements for the program so that the public can see the impact of investments in opportunity zones.

The initial standalone legislation on opportunity zones included reporting requirements, but those requirements were not included in the GOP tax law because of the budget rules that the Senate used to pass the law. Scott also introduced a bipartisan bill on reporting requirements earlier this year, and the bill he offered this week would establish more expansive reporting requirements.

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Scott's latest bill would codify requirements for investors and funds to report information about investments made in opportunity zones and adds penalties for individuals and funds that fail to appropriately file required forms. It also would require the Treasury Department to make information about investments in opportunity zones public and would require the Treasury to work with other agencies to issue reports about new businesses, household income and housing in opportunity zones and to compare that data with data about low-income areas that weren't designated opportunity zones.

Co-sponsors of Scott's new bill include Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MacGregor confirmed as Interior deputy chief GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman MORE (R-Fla.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTrump hammers Manchin over impeachment vote Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Democrat Richard Ojeda announces Senate bid after dropping out of presidential race MORE (R-W.Va.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungLobbying World Republican Senate campaign arm hauled in over million in January The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (R-Ind.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Senate Majority PAC launches first statewide TV ad for Democrat running against Ernst Overnight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks MORE (R-Iowa), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (R-La.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (R-Colo.).

"This legislation will help make sure the federal government has the information it needs to track the success of Opportunity Zones,” Grassley said.