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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 ScottJuan Williams: Tim Scott should become a Democrat Clyburn says he's willing to compromise on qualified immunity in policing bill Democrats hit crucial stretch as filibuster fight looms 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 TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats cool on Crist's latest bid for Florida governor Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Fla.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections Biden to go one-on-one with Manchin MORE (R-W.Va.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungSenate to vote on bill aimed at countering China's influence this month House conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (R-Ind.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTop female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' Conservative Club for Growth PAC comes out against Stefanik to replace Cheney A bipartisan effort to prevent the scourge of sexual assault in the armed forces MORE (R-Iowa), Bill CassidyBill CassidyUtah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote Amazon blocks 10B listings in crackdown on counterfeits Cassidy on pipeline cyberattack: Congress must equip businesses with defenses against incursions MORE (R-La.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 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.