Law to Improve Prosecution of Repeat DUIs Takes Effect Today

OKLAHOMA CITY – A law to aid prosecutors in keeping drunk drivers off the road takes effect Nov. 1.

House Bill 3146, authored by state Rep. Mike Sanders and Sen Greg Treat, created the Impaired Driving Elimination Act (IDEA) and will move all DUI case from municipal non-courts of record to a court of record. The law would allow any municipality with a population of 60,000 or more would have the option to create a court of record. Arresting municipalities would still receive a portion of the fines.

There are 354 municipal courts in Oklahoma that handle a large volume of DUI arrests but that are not ‘courts of record.’ Oklahoma City and Tulsa are the only current municipal courts of record.  This previously allowed drivers with multiple DUI arrests to be treated in many cases as first-time offenders and receive only minimal punishment under the law, meaning they could potentially reoffend.

“This law is ultimately about protecting the lives of Oklahoma motorists,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I’m excited to see where this takes us in being able to reduce drunk driving in our state in the coming years.

“The number of drunk-driving offenses is a black eye on our state. This law is about public safety; it gives an important new tool to prosecutors to be able to better flag and appropriately prosecute repeat drunk drivers, and that will save lives.”

Sanders said the new law is four-fold in that it makes sure repeat drunk drivers are removed from Oklahoma roads and properly prosecuted. It does this by adding a database so that from this point forward every DUI on every city street, county road or state highway is recorded. And, it allows district attorneys the option of developing assessments and treatment plans for offenders.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010 Oklahoma ranked as the 46th worst state for impaired driving deaths and the 51st (including states and territories) for improvement over the previous 10-year period (NHTSA, 2012).

Sanders said he began researching the problem after his wife, Nellie, was struck by a drunk driver in Oklahoma City. His wife, fortunately, was not seriously injured, but Sanders discovered the driver who hit her car had been arrested five times for DUI in five months and was arrested a sixth time just more than a week later.

At the time the legislation was signed into law, Toby Taylor, Chairman of the Governor’s Impaired Driving Prevention Advisory Council, said of it, “This legislation marks a watershed in the history of impaired driving in Oklahoma, by creating accountability for every impaired driving arrest in Oklahoma and providing law enforcement with a much needed tool to identify those individuals who are repeat impaired driving offenders.  This is a critical piece of the puzzle in our efforts to reduce the incidence of impaired driving related traffic crashes in Oklahoma.”

Other legislators also praised the initiative.

“Drunk driving can result in terrible tragedy and repeat drunk drivers are among the most dangerous,” said Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, a former prosecutor. “This legislation fixes a system in which many repeat offenders were flying under the radar and allows us to catch more of them.”

“It is hard to overstate what a victory this is for public safety,” said state Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa. “Thousands of DUIs are falling through the cracks that could be used to get repeat offenders off the road. Congratulations to Representative Sanders and Senator Treat for working to get bipartisan support behind this legislation.”

“Repeat drunk drivers are individuals who are dangerous to the rest of us and who are unlikely to reform their ways without intervention,” said state Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso. “This loophole needed to be closed so we can get these individuals off the road.”

“This is the most significant advancement made in recent history in making our streets and highways safer from drunk or impaired drivers,” said state Rep. Ben Loring, D-Miami. “It closes a huge gaping hole in the area of public safety. Representative Sanders and Senator Treat deserve credit for leading on this issue. This law will save lives.”

Rep. Sanders discusses this and additional state law in his latest video blog:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FaXcVS5oXg.

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Volunteer Firefighter Base Expands One Year After Law Signed

Rural fire departments have more than 140 additional firefighters one year after legislation became law that eliminated the age limit for new volunteers.

House Bill 2005, authored by Rep. Mike Sanders, took effect Nov. 1, 2015. The law eliminated the 45-year-old age limit for new firefighters by giving them the option of joining the system without the requirement that they be added to the state’s pension plan.

“This is amazing progress,” said Rep. Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “We not only recognized a state problem, but we came up with a common-sense solution that benefits rural communities by saving lives and property.”

Sanders said he first became interested in drafting the legislation because research showed a nationwide and statewide decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters. Prior state law, however, barred willing volunteers over the age of 45 from becoming firefighters because the state’s pension and retirement plan could not afford them.

Sanders said he asked constituents above the age of 45 if they would be interested in volunteering and about whether or not they needed a pension. Most said they already had pensions but would be more than willing to serve. Sanders also worked with former Council of Firefighter Training (COFT) Executive Director the late Jon Hansen and with other volunteers from across the state in drafting the bill.

In addition to saving lives and property, Sanders said the law will also help lower insurance rates.

“My intent was to expand the volunteer firefighter base to reverse the current trend of declining volunteers,” Sanders said. “One year later, I’m happy to report that we’ve done that, and we will only see more new firefighters in the future as a result of this law.”

The legislation was approved unanimously in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and approved by a vote of 32-13 in the Oklahoma Senate before being signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in April, 2015.

Rep. Sanders discusses this and additional state law in his latest video blog:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FaXcVS5oXg

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Interim Studies Shed Light on Need for Legislation

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Earlier this month I took part in an interim study on the funding for regional juvenile detention centers.

The 18 centers provide more than 300 beds for youthful offenders in places as scattered as Hooker, Oklahoma, in the panhandle, to the LeFlore County Juvenile Detention Center in Talihina. Our own Canadian County Juvenile Justice Center was held up as a very successful model of how counties can partner with the state to meet the needs of detaining troubled youths in their own communities.

The study was requested after the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) earlier this year threatened to close several of the smaller centers after a change in the agency’s funding formula put it at odds with the operators of the centers.

During the study, lawmakers heard from detention center operators, law enforcement and judges who described the need for these centers. We also heard from the director of the OJA. Several presenters explained that without these facilities, they would be forced to use law enforcement to shuttle youth to even further corners of the state, far from family members and any community support they might hope to have during and on exit from the programs.

It’s clear that we need to find a way to work with OJA while maintaining the funding for these centers. The work they do toward rehabilitating and educating our detained youth is significant.

Other studies have focused on recouping the outstanding debt owed to state agencies, which will help shore up the state budget; improving healthcare outcomes, particularly in rural communities; and whether there is a need for special licensing or increased fines for hunting and fishing game guides who illegally trespass on privately owned land.

I’ll be reading notes from each of the studies and listening to the audio from the presentations as I prepare for the next legislative session to help guide the legislation I plan to file as well as to determine which measures I will support.

Also this week at the Capitol, AAA hosted its first Impaired Driving Summit to examine issues related to substance-impaired driving, particularly resulting from the abuse of prescription painkillers and illegal drugs. The hope is to develop a strategy to reduce the number of accidents on Oklahoma roads resulting from impaired driving.

The event planner pointed out that there already are measures in place to detect and reduce alcohol-impaired driving, but drug-impairment recognition presents unique challenges.

As with the interim studies, I will be taking a close look at the discussions resulting from this study and any action steps suggested as I consider future legislation.

To see a calendar of future interim studies by committee, click the link below, then select to view by the week or month: http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/MeetingNotices.aspx

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.

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Join Me in Celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day

OKLAHOMA CITY – As a House Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, and as a member of the 48-state National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses network, I am honored to join like-minded sportsmen-legislators from across the nation in celebrating the 44th National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday, September 24.

In celebrating this day, we recognize the time-honored traditions of hunting and angling, as well as the historical and current contributions of the original conservationists – hunters and anglers – in supporting sound, science-based fish and wildlife conservation.

Through purchasing licenses, tags and waterfowl stamps, and by paying excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing tackle, motorboat fuel, and other hunting and fishing equipment, sportsmen and women drive conservation funding in the United States. Collectively, these funding sources constitute the American System of Conservation Funding (System), a completely unique “user pays – public benefits” System. Authorized in 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act, and later the Dingell-Johnson Act in 1950 and the Wallop-Breaux Amendment in 1984, provide funds from the aforementioned excise tax revenue to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Last year alone, Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson combined contributed $25,729,133, while hunting and fishing licenses brought an additional $17,923,566 to fund conservation efforts in the state.

All Oklahomans benefit from these monies through improved access to public lands, public shooting facilities, improved water quality, habitat restoration, fish and wildlife research (game and non-game), private and public habitat management, hunter education, angler access area construction, and numerous other Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation projects funded through this System. 

I am proud to recognize the contributions of the state’s sportsmen and women to conservation and public access. From the outstanding habitat and hunting opportunities for waterfowl and dove at the Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area, to the newly expanded boat ramp on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees near Grove Oklahoma, which has now launched two Bassmater Classics in the state, Oklahoma’s sportsmen and sportswomen have directly contributed to the abundant fish and wildlife populations we have today, as well as our vibrant outdoor economy.

In addition, I want to thank the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for their tireless efforts to support hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping in our great state.

Today we celebrate the many and varied benefits that hunting and angling provide for the Sooner State. Enjoy this special occasion and the vast opportunities to hunt and fish in Oklahoma. The outdoor traditions of hunting and angling should not be taken for granted, and opportunities to hunt and fish should continue to be abundantly available for future generations.

More information on National Hunting and Fishing Day is available at www.NHFDay.org or on the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation website at http://sportsmenslink.org/policies/federal/ascf.

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Interim Studies Affect Legislation/Budget

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Interim studies have started at the Capitol. The first two focused on building and roofing contractor, subcontractor and consumer issues. In the next few weeks, there will be studies on lease revenue bonds, agency streamlining, outstanding debt owed to state agencies, a review of the state’s pension system and others.

Some of these titles might seem of little interest to the average person. When you consider, however, that each measure could potentially have an impact on the state budget – which could mean greater savings to taxpayers and more funding for core government services, then they start to sound more important.

On Sept. 14, I will co-sponsor an interim study that deals with funding for juvenile detention centers. Earlier this year, the Office of Juvenile Affairs threatened to close several regional juvenile detention centers in the state, saying the agency didn’t have the money to continue operations after changing their funding formula.

I and other lawmakers found out about the proposal in time to stop it. I would welcome the day we had no further need for such centers, but unfortunately the fact is sometimes youth break the laws in a significant enough way that we owe it to the rest of society to detain them until they can be rehabilitated.

Keeping our small, regional juvenile detention centers open keeps these youth closer to their families and provides our rural communities with needed job opportunities.

During the upcoming study, I and the other legislators will examine OJA’s funding formula to help determine potential savings as well as ways the state can possibly offer better funding solutions for the agency as they continue their work.

The regular legislative session is so jam-packed with reading numerous bills, keeping track of changes as each vote takes place, preparing for and attending committee meetings, and meeting with numerous concerned parties, it’s sometimes hard to study an issue as thoroughly as we’d like. Interim studies give us time to really delve into topics and hear from constituents and consumers as well as industry or agency experts. They give us a chance to study an issue from all sides to see the consequences of legislation on all populations. Many budget decisions are made in this interimstudy period. Many belief systems are formed or reinforced. It’s an important time for lawmakers, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate on issues that have great impact for my district.

To see a calendar of interim studies by committee, click the link below, then select to view by the week or month:http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/MeetingNotices.aspx

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.

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Protecting Water Resources a Priority

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Chiefs of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, the city of Oklahoma City and the state reached what many are calling an historic agreement last week over access rights to water from Sardis Lake in Southeastern Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board on Friday approved the settlement and the Oklahoma City Council followed suit on Tuesday, but it still needs the approval of each of the tribal governments, theWater Utility Trust, the governor, the state attorney general and the U.S. Congress, as well as the signature of the president.

While this agreement doesn’t affect people in District 59, it does remind me of the near draining of Canton Lake in 2013 to quench the needs of Oklahoma City, which owns the water rights to the lake.

The fight over Lake Sardis has been a long one and had the potential to be even longer and more costly if it continued to be fought in court.

The two First Nations filed suit in 2011 over Oklahoma City’s plan to transfer water from Sardis Lake, saying they owned the water rights as part of the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek signed in 1830. The state argued a pact signed in 1866 negated the terms of the earlier treaty and gave the water resources board the right to allocate the water.

What is significant is that major entities were able to come to an agreement that promises to help meet the future needs of Oklahoma City and the metro area while maintaining water levels at Sardis Lake. This water is an important resource for Southeastern Oklahoma for recreation and economic development as well as conservation and to take care of the needs of area residents. The settlement gives the tribes – on whose land the water is located – a voice in what happens to the water going forward.

For Canton Lake, 30,000 acre feet of water was released to Oklahoma City in 2013. This hampered local conservation and recreation efforts and was a concern to the 200,000 local residents that rely on the lake as a water supply. It has taken three years to get water levels to come back to normal. I’ll be looking closely at the Sardis agreement to see how I can work to similarly protect Canton Lake in the future.

There are some things in the Sardis Lake agreement that bear some close scrutiny by lawmakers. Language in the agreement establishes a commission to evaluate and govern any possible future watersales to out-of-state interests. This has long been prohibited and can only be sanctioned by the Legislature. It’s important that we maintain this moratorium.

Some would argue that water is more important than oil at this point in our nation. It’s certainly a more costly resource. It must be protected for the benefit of our state residents now and in the future.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or(405) 557-7407.

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Area Rural Fire Departments Receive Operational Assistance Grants

Rural fire departments across the state – including 20 in House District 59 – are receiving Oklahoma Operational Assistance Grants in the amount of $3,817.42 to assist with expenses such as firefighting equipment maintenance and purchases, insurance premiums and personal protective equipment.

This year’s funding is being provided to 861 fire departments across the state that serve communities with populations of less than 10,000.  The funds will be sent to fire departments electronically, as required by law, and made in two payments of $1,908.71 this year.  These funds are appropriated by the state legislature, authorized by Governor Fallin and administered by Oklahoma Forestry Services.  The operational grant funds have been awarded to the state’s rural fire departments since the 1980’s with the intention to help them with the cost of day-to-day expenses. 

“Our rural fire departments are the backbone of our communities,” said Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher.  “I’m thankful to every one of our paid and volunteer firefighters who protect lives and property. I’m thankful as well for their families who make this willing sacrifice of their service.

“I’m a strong supporter of these funds, knowing they are critical to our long-term success in maintaining and improving our state’s fire service.  Grants like these can make a big difference to a small department.”

The Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, is the state’s lead agency for wildland fire fighting and works with rural fire departments across the state to coordinate fire suppression efforts, provide training and improve fire capacity. 

For a complete list of the fire departments being awarded operational grants and for more information visit Oklahoma Forestry Services’ website at    http://www.forestry.ok.gov/rfd-operational-assistance-grants

 

Below is a list of rural fire departments from Oklahoma House District 59 receiving grants:

Fire Department

Grant Amount

COG

County

HR District

City of Watonga for Watonga Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Eagle City Rural Fire District

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Town of Canton for Canton Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Town of Greenfield for Greenfield Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Town of Hitchcock for Hitchcock Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Town of Longdale for Longdale Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Town of Okeene for Okeene Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Blaine

59

Town of Okarche for Okarche Fire Department

$3,817.41

ACOG

Canadian

59

City of Seiling for Seiling Fire Department

$3,817.41

OEDA

Dewey

59

Oakwood Volunteer Fire Dept. Inc.

$3,817.41

OEDA

Dewey

59

Taloga Fire and Ambulance

$3,817.41

OEDA

Dewey

59

Town of Camargo for Camargo Fire Department

$3,817.41

OEDA

Dewey

59

Town of Leedey for Leedey Fire Department

$3,817.41

OEDA

Dewey

59

Town of Vici for Vici Fire Department

$3,817.41

OEDA

Dewey

59

Big 4 Rural Fire District Association

$3,817.41

NODA

Kingfisher

59

City of Kingfisher for Kingfisher Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Kingfisher

59

Town of Dover for Dover Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Kingfisher

59

Town of Hennessey for Hennessey Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Kingfisher

59

Town of Loyal for Loyal Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Kingfisher

59

Town of Omega for Omega Fire Department

$3,817.41

NODA

Kingfisher

59

Town of Sharon for Sharon Fire Department

$3,817.41

OEDA

Woodward

59

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Evaluating Economic Incentives

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission met this past week to begin discussing proposedevaluation criteria for 12 state economic incentives scheduled for review this year.

A 2015 state law requires each state economic incentive to be independently evaluated once every four years. The evaluations, performed by independent contractor Public Financial Management Inc., will help determine the effectiveness of each incentive and recommend whether it be retained, reformed or repealed.

This year’s incentive evaluations will be delivered to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the state Senate and the governor before the start of the legislative session.

This work would happen even in the best of budget years. But, in a year when we had to work hard to come up with enough money to fill a $1.3 billion budget hole to support core state services, the commission’s work becomes even more pronounced.

Incentives to be evaluated this year include ad valorem tax exemptions for certain  types of new and expanding manufacturers, including researcher and development companies, computer services and data processors, aircraft repair companies, oil refineries and wind power generators; the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Act, which is hoped to spur job creation, bring dollars to Oklahoma businesses and enhance the state’s image; as well as tax credits for electricity generated by zero-emission facilities, for historic rehabilitation, and for aerospace engineering employees, among others. One incentive would provide access-road building assistance for certain industries needing to connect to state roadways.

As with all incentive and tax credit programs offered by the State of Oklahoma, we need to make sure they make sense for our taxpayers and for the preservation of core state services such as transportation, education, health care and public safety.

One of the commission members on Thursday said the criteria should include the effects that similar incentives have had. It’s also good to look at the state’s changing environment. What might have made sense 10 years ago when an incentive was legislatively approved may no longer be reasonable as the state’s industrial climate changes.

Commission members stressed that we need to ask questions about impact such as do these incentives bring jobs, skilled workers, tourists or others to our state to do business, build our communities and contribute to our tax base. Do they increase our sales tax collections? Does an incentive actually aid a company’s, and therefore the state’s bottom line?

One commission member pointed out that we want to make sure we stay competitive with other states. That’s important.

We need to ask questions about why we’re offering certain incentives. Is it a matter of pride? Is it to remove blight, to bring jobs, to boost local or state economies?

These are all things that will go into the criteria the Incentive Evaluation Commission develops for its next meeting before the evaluators get to work studying each of these 12 incentives.

These evaluations will then let me and other state representatives know which incentives we will need to preserve for the future and which will either need to be revised or repealed in our upcoming legislative session.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at (405) 557-7407.

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Have a Great Fourth of July

By Rep. Mike Sanders

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. The Fourth of July is the most American of holidays, a time we celebrate the unique path our nation took and the sacrifice and efforts of countless individuals to earn the freedoms we enjoy today.

According to the U.S. Census web site, there were an estimated 2.5 million people in the United States in July 1776. Today, there is more than 300 million people in the U.S. Our country inspired millions of immigrants over the years to make long voyages to taste the way of life and freedom created in the U.S. Our nation’s growth made us the deciding factor in both World Wars. From that point forward, our nation has been heavily involved in world affairs, helping to resolve conflicts abroad and eliminating threats to our national security.

Right now, our troops are striving to stabilize the region in which terrorists are bred. Their efforts will lead not only to our protection but to the protection of future generations of Americans.

Not only has our nation grown on courage and conviction, but on the sure judgment our Founding Fathers had in writing our constitution and in creating a check-and-balance system of government. Many men who were devoted to forming a better nation strove to write unparalleled ideals into the way this country operates. Leaders throughout our nation’s history have worked to improve our government’s respect for its citizens and to lead them through difficult times.

On this July 4th weekend, I would ask that we all take time to ponder the freedoms that we have and thank and remember those who have contributed to or who continue to contribute to our security and liberty today. We are a nation of free thinkers and courageous freedom lovers and enjoy the protection of a robust military force. For that we should all celebrate.

Take care and have a safe July 4th weekend with family and friends.

I will regularly tell you about the goings-on at the state throughout the summer. As always, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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District 59 Road Projects, Part 2

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Last week, I discussed several current and future road and bridge projects in the district. There are a few more future projects I would like to tell you about this week. My intent is to continue to emphasize the importance of transportation funding in our state as it is a frequent target in budget negotiations.

First, numerous projects in the district will add shoulders and increase the safety of our local roads. Shoulders will be added to State Highway 33 east out of Kingfisher to State Highway 74. Shoulders will also be added to State Highway 51 east out of Hennessey. A project was also added last year to do the same, but to the west out of Hennessey on State Highway 51 to State Highway 132. It is not fully funded, but the right-of-way and utilities are in the 2023 plan. These projects are on the eight-year road and bridge plan and in time will be scheduled and completed.

Secondly, the Kingfisher Creek Bridge north of Kingfisher will be replaced and the northbound lanes of US-81 will be reconstructed with shoulders while the southbound lanes will be rehabilitated between Kingfisher and Okarche. Both of these projects are scheduled to start in 2016 and 2017.

Thirdly, I also want to tell you about where we are at the state level. Our state has one of the largest transportation systems in the nation. We are ranked 17th nationally – right between New York and Florida. The state highway system encompasses 12,264 centerline miles and contains more than 6,800 bridges.

Oklahoma’s transportation system was severely underfunded from 1985 to 2005. More than 1,500 of our highway bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. There were 137 structures that could not bear a legally loaded truck.

In 2005, legislators began to reverse this trend and for 20 years now we have been making great progress, even during tough budget years. Of those 1,500 bridges that were structurally deficient, we’ve replaced many, but as we repair old ones, other bridges fall into structurally deficient status or are simply determined to fail to meet increasing traffic needs. There are only about 300 left of those original deficient bridges. With that moving number, it’s always a struggle to make up for the underfunding of the past, but we are getting there. We also have about 4,600 miles of highways that need shoulders to increase safety.

Despite our progress, the point is that we must continue to treat transportation as a core service in the budget. Maintenance and repair for such a vast system as we have in Oklahoma takes a lot of focus to stay on top of. Even a year’s worth of funding decreases can set us back significantly.

Back in the day, politics played a role in where a bridge or road was constructed. That no longer happens at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Unsafe roads and unsafe bridges are marked and dealt with based on needs only. As the chair of the budget subcommittee on transportation, I have heard of a desire to politicize those decisions again. I can assure you that as chair I will vehemently oppose any such effort to reinsert politics in the process. It simply isn’t appropriate when we are talking about the life-saving necessity of repairing our worst roads and bridges first.

I will regularly tell you about the goings-on at the state throughout the summer. As always, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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