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 ScottMississippi mayor defends officers in George Floyd's death: 'If you can talk, you can breathe' The truth behind Biden's 'you ain't black' gaffe Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic 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 TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' 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 GrassleyGrassley, Leahy urge Roberts to permanently air Supreme Court arguments Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog Former Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Trump administration designates B of PPP funds for community lenders The Memo: Trump's Scarborough tweets unsettle his allies MORE (R-Fla.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoTrump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - In reversal, Trump says he won't disband coronavirus task force McConnell under mounting GOP pressure to boost state aid MORE (R-W.Va.), Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Lawmakers introduce bill to invest 0 billion in science, tech research MORE (R-Ind.), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Cuomo rings the first opening bell since March House Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states MORE (R-Iowa), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act MORE (R-La.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation McConnell: Next coronavirus bill will be final COVID-19 package Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA 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.