Legislative Reforms to Bring Business to Oklahoma

Legislative Reforms to Bring Business to Oklahoma

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

This year, members of the House Republican caucus will be introducing major reform legislation to fix the state workers’ compensation system, correct inefficiencies in the state’s financial processing system, and attract the relocation of alternative energy companies to Oklahoma.

Workers’ compensation reform will, like last year’s historic lawsuit reform legislation, lower business expenses, and make Oklahoma more attractive to new industry. At the same time, the reform will continue to protect workers injured on the job and improve employee benefits. There is a deep dissatisfaction with the workers’ comp system, which is plagued by fraud and high costs and rarely produces consistently fair and equitable results.

Currently, attorney involvement in Oklahoma’s workers’ comp system is 50 percent higher than the national average. Even though the benefits specified in state law are comparable to workers’ comp benefits in other states, the actual cost of those benefits in Oklahoma is among the most expensive in the nation.

Government modernization legislation will include an aggressive effort to target waste in the state’s financial processing systems. Based on a study commissioned by the Office of State Finance, House Bill 2310 will set a timetable by which state officials must use technology to remedy inefficiencies in the system including the number of invoices each accounts payable full-time employee handles.

The study, conducted by the globally-recognized Hackett Corporation, found that up to $65 million could be saved each year through the implementation of a more efficient state government financials system. The Hackett study documents that Oklahoma’s accounts payable system is incurring high transaction costs and experiencing low productivity because of the under-utilization of technology. Oklahoma spends $20.05 for each invoice in the state’s accounts payable system compared to peer groups that spend $3.58 per account payable. In other words, it takes Oklahoma six times more resources for each process than similarly sized organizations.

Our state is situated to be a leader in the use of wind and natural gas, two resources that abound in Oklahoma. I recently met with representatives from OG&E, the Corporation Commission, the Farm Bureau and several wind energy companies. The subject of our meeting was HB 2973, my proposed wind energy legislation. This group came together to ensure that HB 2973 would be fair and beneficial to all parties involved. My number one priority with this legislation is to protect Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers. Our land is a valuable commodity and we must ensure that proper measures are taken when contracting with wind energy companies to protect our land and the rights of landowners.

I would like to thank you all for the overwhelming support I have received for my legislation to increase the prison time for convicted sex offenders and require a map-able address and zip code when they register.

I will keep you regularly updated on the activities of the Legislature through this column. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
Add your reaction Share

2010 Session Legislation Filed

2010 Session Legislation Filed

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Though the 2010 session has yet to begin, lawmakers have already completed their bill filings. A total of 1,153 bills and 31 joint resolutions were filed by House members. In addition, there are 901 bills and 48 resolutions that are alive from the 2009 session.

As for myself, I filed six bills and carried over one from the past session. The primary focus of my legislation is public safety, including the safety created by having updated roads and bridges. I have also filed legislation regarding the American Legion and wind energy in Oklahoma. I remain determined to continue to support the modernization of state government, the streamlining of tax dollars to our classrooms, and the protection of taxpayers from unnecessary spending.

Sex Offenders

House Bill 2968 extends the amount of time a person convicted of a sex crime against a child can be imprisoned and stiffens the reporting requirements on registered sex offenders. Current law sets the minimum sentence for the abuse or sexual exploitation of a child at 25 years. My legislation would increase the minimum sentence to 50 years. The other important provision in my legislation would require that a map-able address be on file at all times for registered sex offenders.

Use of Emergency Lights

House Bill 2969 amends current law to restrict wrecker and towing services from using red and blue light combinations. This has been requested by some of our county sheriffs who feel that overuse of the red and blue flashing light combination can cause drivers to become desensitized to what those lights really mean. When people do not slow down or pull over for our emergency workers, everyone is endangered. Under my legislation, only emergency vehicles may use red and blue light combinations. All other vehicles will be allowed to use flashing amber lights. HB 2969 also requires wrecker and towing services to notify local law enforcement when they will be towing a vehicle for any non-payment reason. The towing service would be required to furnish information concerning the towed vehicle such as: a description of the vehicle, the address or location of where the vehicle was towed and the name, address and business telephone number of the wrecker or towing service provider.

Wind Energy

House Bill 2973 will allow for the further development of the Oklahoma wind energy industry while putting in place mandates that will protect our land’s integrity and the rights of property owners who participate in the wind energy industry.

Roads and Bridges

I have authored two bills, House Bill 2971 and House Bill 2972, that deal with our state’s emergency transportation and the manner in which our roads and bridges are repaired.

American Legion

House Bill 1471 is legislation I am carrying over from the 2009 session that grants tax exempt status to all chapters of the Oklahoma American Legion. This tax exempt status will not affect the state budget, but will allow the American Legion to put even more money back into their communities and programs.

Court Clerks Bill

House Bill 2970 updates court clerk postal and filing fees to match what they are being charged by the United States Postal Service.

I will keep you regularly updated on the activities of the Legislature through this column. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
Add your reaction Share

Sanders Files Legislation To Protect Children From Abuse

Sanders Files Legislation To Protect Children From Abuse

OKLAHOMA CITY – Those who abuse children, especially children under the age of 12, need to be kept behind bars, state Rep. Mike Sanders said today.

Legislation filed by Sanders, R-Kingfisher, would increase the penalty for the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child to a 50-year sentence. House Bill 2968 would also require sex offender registries to include a map-able address and zip code.

“It is imperative that we protect the children of Oklahoma from these child predators by keeping them behind bars,” Sanders said. “I also think we must protect our children by requiring additional information on sex offender registries, specifically an address with a zip code that can be mapped rather than a P.O. Box or an address that cloaks the location of the sex offender.”

Sanders noted that child abuse is a problem that has plagued the state and must be addressed.  

“We cannot allow such terrible crimes to  continue,” Sanders said. “Anything we can do to prevent them must be done. This legislation will increase the minimum sentence these predators must receive if convicted.”
Add your reaction Share

CHESAPEAKE ENERGY DONATES FUNDS TO SHARON-MUTUAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

N e w s   R e l e a s e 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                

Chesapeake Energy Corporation

CHESAPEAKE ENERGY DONATES FUNDS TO SHARON-MUTUAL PUBLIC SCHOOLS

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA, DECEMBER 22, 2009 – Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) donated $1,000 to Sharon-Mutual Public Schools on December 2 to help complete the lighting for the school’s athletic field, which is used for a variety of sporting events. 

 “I know Sharon-Mutual students, faculty and board will be very thankful for the contribution Chesapeake has made to the athletic facility,” State Sen. Bryce Marlatt said. “I am thankful for the company’s support in Northwest Oklahoma. This is a great example of the benefits that come from our corporate partners’ involvement in our community.”

State Rep. Mike Sanders said: “Thank you to Chesapeake Energy for this contribution to support Sharon-Mutual’s athletic facility. Contributions like this are important to our communities and schools, and we thank corporate partners like Chesapeake who help make projects like this possible. We certainly look forward to the future games and events this will help us continue to enjoy.”

Chesapeake’s Director of Community Relations said: “At Chesapeake, giving back and helping build communities are among our founding principles and vital to every area we serve. We are proud to help fund a portion of lighting for the Sharon-Mutual Public Schools’ athletic field so students and members of the community will have a safer and well-lit facility for athletic practices, games and other community events. We greatly appreciate Sen. Bryce Marlatt’s and Rep. Mike Sanders’ leadership in Woodward County.” 

 

Chesapeake Energy Corporation is one of the leading producers of natural gas in the U.S. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the company's operations are focused on the development of onshore unconventional and conventional natural gas in the U.S. in the Barnett Shale, Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Marcellus Shale, Anadarko Basin, Arkoma Basin, Appalachian Basin, Permian Basin, Delaware Basin, South Texas, Texas Gulf Coast and East Texas regions of the United States. Further information is available at www.chk.com.
Add your reaction Share

Christmas a Time to Reflect, Rejoice

Christmas a Time to Reflect, Rejoice


By state Rep. Mike Sanders



The Christmas season is upon us, providing the chance to reflect on the blessings in our lives and thank God for the gifts He gives us.

For me personally, this is a time to be extra thankful for my family, especially my son, Davis, who arrived last February.

I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, Nellie, who has made me a better man.

I have been blessed to live in rural Oklahoma and enjoy all the benefits of living in a small community. Even in a tough economy, our state remains a land of opportunity.

I have been blessed with good neighbors and friends, and I have the chance to represent their views at the Capitol working a job I enjoy.

It’s December, a time of pageants at school and church, a time to enjoy friends and family. It’s a time to be thankful for the men and women serving in our military today, many of them in places far from home – we’re blessed by their service, so please keep them in your prayers.

Most of all, this is a time to reflect on the birth of our savior.

So I won’t talk about politics this week, but will simply end this column with one simple wish: I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas.

And as always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
Add your reaction Share

Shortfall Could Lead to More Efficiency

Shortfall Could Lead to More Efficiency

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently said that 70 percent of all the jobs created in 2008 were in Texas. This can be attributed in part to the many Fortune 500 companies they have attracted through public policies that have included no personal income tax and a manageable regulatory climate. Oklahoma’s current conservative majority and I hope to stay competitive with our neighbor to the south and this so-called budget crisis may be such an opportunity.

While Oklahoma's revenue shortfalls can be difficult to handle they allow us the opportunity to make our state government smaller and more efficient. One of the problems of downshifting too quickly is the negative impact it can have on fellow Oklahomans who work in the public sector. The current shortfall brings us to the matter of how to deal with less revenue to pay salaries. We want to do right by our public employees. Luckily, we have been working on a solution that may include voluntary buyouts for those who are nearing retirement and asking that some agencies not fill vacated positions.

A recent budget hearing with the Department of Public Safety serves as an example. We posed questions about the number of employees near retirement and about the idea of allowing Oklahoma’s two largest cities to patrol their own highways. If these larger cities began patrolling interstate highways it could allow for reassignment of the approximately 100 troopers currently serving in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa area. Less densely populated areas such as Dewey, Kingfisher, and Blaine Counties could benefit from such a plan. This would not involve dissolving the troops nor laying off any troopers. Instead, we would be looking to buy out any near retirement thus reducing troop size.

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has endorsed a plan to offer buyouts and deferred compensation as an alternative to furloughs and layoffs. I am proud that the Legislature is putting forth the plan, which will protect public employees while also contracting state government. It has been projected that the state could save as much as $67 million if the plan is implemented in all state agencies.

As you can see, we may be headed in the direction of a smaller state government without any negative effects on either public employees or services. The aim of conservatives like myself is to keep the state government at a reasonable size once we are out of the recession, rather than growing it back. Extra revenue could be used to enact new tax cuts in the future or even do away with a personal income tax.

Which begs the question, could Oklahoma have a tax policy that rivals that of Texas? I believe we can and should begin now the process of looking at other revenue streams such as a fair tax or consumption tax to replace the income tax. It’s the direction many of my constituents have repeatedly asked for me to try to take and it’s the direction that could help attract new business and jobs to the state.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
Add your reaction Share

How State Agencies Can Help

How State Agencies Can Help

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Though the economy could pick up and state revenue return to normal levels, there is little indication that will be the case next year. State agencies are currently seeing automatic cuts as the revenue shortfall continues. Even if the Rainy Day funds are used and lawmakers do all they can to preserve certain funding streams, these agencies are going to have to streamline services if revenue continues to be short of what is projected.

One suggestion to state agencies is that they discontinue the practice of sending glossy, unsolicited mailers. Significant money is spent printing and mailing paper versions of newsletters, journals and other publications. By publishing this information online or mailing it only on request, taxpayer dollars could be preserved for more important services. Examples of publications include the Oklahoma Historical Society’s “Mistletoe Leaves” publication and the many mailings the Health Department sends unsolicited to healthcare professionals. I would like to commend the Department of Public Safety for having the foresight to cancel their distribution of driver’s manuals to those soon to be taking the driving test.

Moving printed information to an online format represents a type of improved use of technology in state government. State agencies must pursue a variety of cost-saving measures to help address the revenue shortfall and technology is the key. The right technological tool can increase a worker’s capacity to accomplish tasks in a shorter time, an important solution to the increase in the need for a particular service that agencies sometimes see.

Increased work capacity brings me to the issue of administrative staff. I believe it is likely that in many of these state agencies, there are administrative staff positions that could be cut. Salaries are highest at the top and so it makes sense to look first to these positions for consolidation.

Though lawmakers will certainly weigh in on how agencies should spend their money, those agencies may still face some hard decisions if revenue levels fall below what lawmakers base their budget on. The ability of state agencies to prioritize their individual budgets is critical. I previously touched on what I think was a failing of the Department of Human Services to prioritize correctly when they cut the senior nutrition program. Hopefully, other agencies will make more prudent choices.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
Add your reaction Share

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.
Add your reaction Share

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.
Add your reaction Share

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.
Add your reaction Share