Giving Thanks for Life’s Many Blessings

Giving Thanks for Life’s Many Blessings

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The novelty and wonder of having your very own child may be one of life’s greatest blessings. As this particular Thanksgiving marks my son Davis’s first, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you about how blessed our family is.

We are thankful for many blessings this year. Oklahoma has made it to the top of many lists recently. Oklahoma City has earned the distinction of most recession-proof and the best place to start a small business. Our air force bases continue to add jobs rather than shed them. I have heard recently that the Department of Commerce is fundraising to pay for a $3 million campaign to promote the state on national television and in other media, placing ads on channels where top executives get their news. I believe there are great things in store for Oklahoma and am grateful that not only will Oklahomans continue to have jobs, but that more are on the way.

My family is especially grateful for our active-duty military men and women who are abroad making the world a safer place for the rest of us. Many may not get to see their families on Thanksgiving. That is the sacrifice they are making to help stabilize the Middle East, an important step in reducing terrorism activity worldwide. I am also thankful to our veterans, who have fought for us in the past and continue to serve our communities in a variety of ways.

One of our greatest blessings is the many freedoms we enjoy. People all over the world aspire to live in the United States and recognize the high quality of life citizens enjoy here. Not only is our quality of life high, but we continue to search for ways to further improve it. Ours is truly a country of endless possibilities.

Enjoy our many blessings this Thanksgiving. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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An Underutilized Resource in Rural Oklahoma

An Underutilized Resource in Rural Oklahoma

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The prevention of wildfires, economic development in rural Oklahoma, and agriculture are three areas I am passionate about. I am pleased to say the three areas converge quite nicely when it comes to state policy regarding the Eastern red cedar.

The Eastern red cedar takes over nearly 300,000 acres of Oklahoma land each year, and a mature tree can soak up as many as 30 gallons of water a day, according to an interim study held this fall. Clay Pope, the executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts told the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee that Oklahoma is losing 700 acres a day to the invasive cedar species.

Dewey County is the county with the greatest concentration of Eastern red cedar with more than 149,000 acres overtaken. Blaine, Woodward, Major, Canadian and Kingfisher counties have more than 250,000 acres combined that have been overtaken.

Burning seemed like one solution. Then I learned that the oil that makes the trees a fire hazard also has considerable value as an insecticide and a pharmaceutical used to fight certain forms of cancer. I also learned that 100 percent of the Eastern red cedar tree can be used to create products that could provide jobs for Oklahomans and at the same time remove this hazard that is both a wildfire fuel and parasite on agricultural land.

Federal Recycling Technologies, Inc. (FRT) of Norman, Oklahoma and GC Renewable Resource Technologies LLC (GCRRT) of Commerce, Oklahoma are two companies that have developed different processes that derive marketable products from the Eastern red cedar.

FRT uses a pyrolytic process to heat shredded Eastern red cedar trees in the absence of oxygen to recover cedar oil. When refined, the aromatic oil fetches from $50-$250 per gallon on the open market and has a wide range of applications from industrial to biomedical use.

GCRRT produces residential pellets and heat logs, and commercial fuel pellets used in REC/KWh electricity generationfrom a wide variety of traditionally cellulosic organic waste materials employed in a formula that is bound by non-toxic and perpetually occurring waste petroleum plastic material through a proprietary process. David Watson, GCRRT Principal Member, says that with the price of heating fuels continuing to rise, so is the demand for the company’s bio-energy products.

We need to start looking into investing in Eastern red cedar harvesting. It is estimated that the state loses $447 million due to the Eastern red cedar, a large portion of which is because of the way it ruins agricultural land and drains water at such a terrible rate. Moreover the trees put our brave firefights at risk.

I’m hoping my fellow lawmakers will get involved in legislation to boost the red cedar harvesting. Though I’m not yet sure what that legislation will be, I assure you it will be a win-win for all rural Oklahomans.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Veterans Cornerstone to America From Start

Veterans Cornerstone to America From Start

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

“The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of the army, our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”

This statement was made by George Washington, just before the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776. Washington was a brave man who led outnumbered American soldiers into battle to secure for us the right to form our own nation on the highest values. Like many veterans today, he continued to devote himself to his countrymen even after his military service ended. He made sure the high ideals our nation was founded on were woven into the very framework of our government.

I like to think of our first president on Veterans Day because he serves as a prime example of the caliber of men and women who serve our country in the armed forces. They sacrifice their time with loved ones, forgo the protection they ensure, live in often inhospitable parts of the world, delay their education and careers and risk their lives to protect Americans and deter dangerous dictators and groups seeking to prey upon the weak and the oppressed.

Most veterans continue their service to their communities after their return. Organizations such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars raise money for scholarships, fundraise for charities and community causes, mentor young men and women, and look after their fellow veterans who return from service with disabilities.

All Americans owe a tremendous debt of gratitude and respect to the countless citizens who have sacrificed in heeding the nation’s call to service. They command the respect of the American people, and they have our lasting gratitude.
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Sanders Announces $6,675 Grant to Hitchcock Fire Department

Sanders Announces $6,675 Grant to Hitchcock Fire Department



OKLAHOMA CITY (November 6, 2009) – State Rep. Mike Sanders announced today that the Hitchcock Fire Department would receive a $6,675 80/20 cost-sharing grant through the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Fire Protection Matching Grant Program.

“Rural firefighters are vital to the protection of our smaller communities in Western Oklahoma and I am pleased to see them receive this grant,” Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said. “These individuals are the only line of defense against frequent wildfires.”

The rural fire protection grants are intended to upgrade the capabilities of local fire departments so they can better protect life and property. These state-funded grants will assist fire departments with construction of fire stations or the purchase of equipment.

“Even in a tight budget year, there will always be money to help these rural fire departments keep their communities safe,” Sanders said.
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Sanders Announces $1,904 Grant to Okarche Fire Department

 Sanders Announces $1,904 Grant to Okarche Fire Department



OKLAHOMA CITY (November 6, 2009) – State Rep. Mike Sanders announced today that the Okarche Volunteer Fire Department would receive a $1,904 80/20 cost-sharing grant through the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Fire Protection Matching Grant Program.

“Rural volunteer firefighters are vital to the protection of our smaller communities in Western Oklahoma and I am pleased to see them receive this grant,” Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said. “These individuals volunteer their time and efforts solely to help those in their communities remain safe.”

The rural fire protection grants are intended to upgrade the capabilities of local fire departments so they can better protect life and property. These state-funded grants will assist fire departments with construction of fire stations or the purchase of equipment. Fire departments must first spend local funds and are then reimbursed 80 percent of their qualifying expenses through the grant.

“Even in a tight budget year, there will always be money to help these rural fire departments keep their communities safe,” Sanders said.
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Senior Nutrition Cuts Show Need for Greater Budget Oversight

Senior Nutrition Cuts Show Need for Greater Budget Oversight

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

This past week, I have received multiple phone calls from constituents concerned about the reduction of funds for the senior citizen nutrition centers. The Department of Human Services, which provide the money for free or near-free meals for seniors, decided that due to recent cuts to their agency budgets, they would reduce the funding.

I have visited a number of nutrition centers across my district and understand how essential it is to help provide a hot, nutritious meal and regular social interaction to our population of senior citizens. Providing for our elders is also a moral obligation. It was their generation that raised us and took care of us and it is now our turn to make sure they are comfortable.

The budget for DHS is $480 million. Of that, about half is dedicated to federal requirements. Therefore, there is about $240 million worth of discretionary spending available to the agency. Lump this in with the fact that top administrative staff at DHS received almost $200,000 in pay raises in the past year and it becomes clear that their priorities are misguided.

Records show 29 of the top 36 administrators at the agency received raises in the past year. The pay raises ranged between $135 per month to an additional $1,894 per month. The pay raises totaled $16,380 per month and $196,560 per year.

I think the choice may have been made to provide the biggest political outcry and put pressure on the Legislature to spare the agency future budget cuts. So, instead of finding judicious cuts to spending and ways to make their services more efficient, the agency has created a hardship.

A change is needed in the way agency funds are spent and requested. One idea would be to start with a zero-based budget for each agency and have the agency justify every expense in creating their budget. The Appropriation and Budget subcommittees can also line item the use of funds more specifically than has been done in the past. Lawmakers represent their constituents’ wishes. They should make spending decisions, not bureaucrats.

DHS was audited not long ago and the Legislature enacted new reforms based on that audit this past session. One problem that has been successfully addressed by reducing the number of children being put through the foster care system needlessly. However, the agency has allowed some foster parents who have acknowledged and admitted abuse in their homes to keep children. There has also been a problem of the agency shutting down daycares that have existed for decades without a single injury or complaint. Common sense should prevail in these certain cases.

How the agency handles budget cuts is just another item that will need scrutiny in the coming tough budget years. The budget year for FY2011 will be even more difficult if the revenue collections continue in their present trend. The $7 billion state budget may be reduced to a $5.25 billion budget in the next year.

I would love to continue to discuss the problem with constituents. If you have any questions or concerns I can be reached at my office at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Lawsuit, Health Reform In Effect

Lawsuit, Health Reform In Effect

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Oklahomans can now enjoy the fruits of our legislative labors from the past session. More than 190 bills took effect November 1, including health and lawsuit reform. The legislation now in effect is the Oklahoma Legislature’s answer to the economic downturn, uninsured Oklahomans and a variety of other problems that you, our constituents, asked us to address.

House Bill 2026 creates an insurance hub to help match Oklahomans to private insurance plans that fit their needs. The bill also creates a core benefits package for young, healthy Oklahomans to purchase cheaper insurance policies free of the cost increases created by the state’s 36 mandates.

House Bill 1603 puts in place landmark lawsuit reform, which will also serve to reduce health care costs for all Oklahomans, reverse a trend in doctor and nurse shortages and attract business to our state. The bill caps noneconomic damages except in cases of gross negligence, cutting down on frivolous lawsuits and doctors’ insurance premiums.

Of special importance to windy Western Oklahoma, House Bill 1953 will make companies that support, repair and maintain service activities for wind industry energy companies eligible for the state’s Quality Jobs Act. This will help attract companies involved in the wind energy to one of the windiest regions in our nation.

Senate Bill 833 also deals with energy, in this case, energy conservation. To save your valuable tax dollars, the new law encourages all state agencies to develop and implement an energy efficiency and conservation plan. The law also asks each agency to designate a current employee to develop an energy plan.

Human cloning in Oklahoma is now banned, thanks to House Bill 1114. Regulatory barriers to small, family businesses have also been removed by House Bill 1003. Furthermore, schools struggling to find the right teachers have one less barrier, thanks to House Bill 394. The new law eliminates barriers to alternative teacher certification.

Unlike the federal government, which is playing loose and fast with our taxpayer dollars, Oklahoma lawmakers have tackled a variety of their constituents’ concerns without tax increases or deficit spending. Now that our legislation has become law, Oklahomans can start feeling the benefits.

If you have any questions or concerns I can be reached at my office at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Sanders to Sign Supreme Court Petition to Lift Gun Bans

Sanders to Sign Supreme Court Petition to Lift Gun Bans

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 23, 2009) – State Rep. Mike Sanders will add his signature to a brief that will be submitted by the plaintiff in an upcoming Supreme Court case challenging state and local bans of the right to keep and bear firearms.

McDonald v. Chicago challenges the constitutionality of the Chicago gun ban and will soon be heard by the Supreme Court. Sanders said as a card-carrying NRA member, he is joining the organization's effort to collect as many signatures from state lawmakers as they can to include in an amicus curiae  (or “friend of the court”)  brief.

“The Supreme Court has already struck down the District of Columbia’s gun ban and said that the Second Amendment guarantees our right to have guns in the home for self-defense,” Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said. “Oddly, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Chicago gun ban, but I believe the Supreme Court will reverse the lower court ruling and again uphold our Second Amendment rights. The NRA is asking state lawmakers to add their signatures to a brief to establish that many officials across the country support the removal of these state gun bans that needlessly and unconstitutionally restrict the rights of ordinary citizens.”

Sanders said he believes it highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would uphold state gun bans after striking down the District of Columbia’s ban, but that he thinks the NRA is right to focus on the issue.

“I have heard stories of citizens who were prosecuted after using an “illegal” firearm to save their own lives or their families or even perfect strangers,” Sanders said. “In Oklahoma, we understand how important the right to bear arms is and believe that the same right should be protected throughout the nation. I am calling on all Oklahoma state lawmakers to add their signature to the brief.”

Lawmakers can let the NRA know they want to be a signatory on the brief by sending an e-mail toILAlegal@nrahq.org indicating the desire to be included and including the lawmaker’s district and contact information by Oct. 30.

“Guns are as common in Oklahoma as the deer they’re used to shoot,” Sanders said. “Oklahomans believe strongly in their right to bear arms and few understand why such gun bans have existed as long as they have.”
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Health Care Priorities

Health Care Priorities

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

I believe that all Oklahomans should have the oppurtunity to have insurance, yet I do not support the federal proposals to create either a government-run system or a government-funded non-profit system. Our private insurance and health care system isn’t perfect, but I am not yet ready to replace it with another system when there are so many ways to improve it without a complete overhaul.

The public option, which thankfully found opposition in both conservative Democrats and Republicans, would cripple small insurance businesses in rural Oklahoma – hurting the local economy and taking away high-paying jobs. The federal government always passes some costs to the state, which would take state dollars away from education and other vital areas of our budget. Both federal proposals are bad; the public option is the worse of the two.

Though the compromise legislation that was drafted in the Senate does not include a public option, it does include government-funded non-profit cooperatives and costs  more than $800 billion. Like the public option though, it will draw customers away from the private insurance companies in rural Oklahoma – forcing some to close their doors and others to raise their premiums.

Meanwhile, as both terrible proposals are being pushed by liberal lawmakers, Oklahoma has been taking great steps to find ways to insure the uninsured. New basic plans for young, healthy Oklahomans are also being created at lower premiums by allowing certain plans to be exempt from state mandates. More importantly, lawsuit reform has passed and will drive down the cost of doctors’ insurance, lowering health care costs in the state.

I believe that the next step is to open up more private competition by allowing out-of-state health insurers to offer their services to Oklahomans and finding away to allow individuals to carry their insurance from one job to the next. Changing the tax code to end discrimination against self-employed individuals would also help, particularly in the agricultural field in rural Oklahoma.

Making sure all who need insurance have it is an important goal. However, the federal proposals are too expensive and unnecessary. Democrats and Republicans battle daily over funding and what rules industry and individuals have to follow. Do we really want to bring that battle into our health care system by putting the government in charge of it?

If you have any questions or concerns I can be reached at my office at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Say No to Cap and Trade

Say No to Cap and Trade

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Regular citizens from across the country made it known that current federal proposals to institute a government-run health care system were neither responsible nor welcome. My hope is that citizens will again make their voices heard once they are aware of the federally proposed “cap and trade” legislation that threatens to skyrocket energy prices in the Midwest, including Oklahoma.

What may concern regular folks the most is that the bill’s supporters defeated House Republican amendments over the summer to discontinue the program if gas hit $5 a gallon, if electricity prices rose more than 10 percent over 2009, or if unemployment rates hit 15 percent. Supporters of the legislation have clearly acknowledged the potential for those results and have made their disregard for average citizens pointedly clear by striking down such amendments.

Like the health care legislation, not only will the “cap and trade” system have adverse effects, but will also use our taxpayer dollars to do it. Unsurprisingly, the states that stand to benefit the most – California and Massachussetts – have senators and representatives who strongly support the legislation. Because their electrical power is not derived from energy intially generated by coal, they will not be burdened in the same way Midwestern states that do receive coal generated energy will be.

The tax increases made to pay for the legislation will partly go to Third World countries for the creation of clean energy sources. Oklahoma is already a “donor state,” which means that we contribute more to federal revenue through taxes than we receive in services. Why should we also help to fund development in Third World countries when there are Oklahomans who struggle?

What is the benefit we are to receive from all this? Protection from the dreaded global warming? Even though some scientist concur that it is occuring and that it could be manmade (a point disputed by other scientists), there is little evidence that its effects will be devastating and no proof that we have any reason to fear. The media has seized on the “gloom and doom” of the more extreme projections. Meanwhile, some predictions that concern dates that have already come and past have shown to be utterly inaccurate. Even if, out of caution, we were to try to reduce carbon emissions, there is no reason to do so in a drastic way that will hurt this country’s citizens.

The Oklahoma Legislature has been looking into wind energy as a potential source of some energy and been pushing the use of compressed natural gas as a more environmentally-friendly and cheaper source of vehicle fuel. Oklahomans, surrounded by so much natural beauty, aren’t anti-environment. I believe though that we might have just a bit more common sense than our federal government.

If you have any questions or concerns I can be reached at my office at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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