Big ticket items beat the March 15 deadline

March 22, 2012
By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Greater transparency, a better business climate, more jobs, reforms to poorly-run agencies and protecting the interests of the rural communities in my district are always the focus of my efforts here at the Legislature. Taxpayers deserve to have their money spent prudently and with core services given priority over non-essential spending. So far this session, I think my efforts, combined with the efforts of like-minded colleagues, have paid off. We are on our way to a more efficient state government with improved services.

The most important legislation we passed on the House floor before the March 15 deadline was modernization reforms to save the state money. We voted to further consolidate central service agencies, meaning those that do not provide services directly to taxpayers, but instead to other agencies. A report released by the Office of State Finance demonstrates that the taxpayers will save $6 million each year from the consolidation. We also approved the State Government Reorganization Act, which puts an end to the practice of double-filling state employees’ positions for long lengths of time. Double filling is a practice in which there are two employees in the same position so that one employee can train the other. One state agency alone has been observed to have double-filled in excess of 700 positions with the average double-filled position being occupied for over 400 days, much longer than the time needed for training. We also approved further consolidation of the state’s information technology infrastructure and voted to expand purchasing reforms that have saved approximately $22 million over the past two years.

Water and wastewater projects will have more funding and loans available through legislation we passed on the House floor. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board already supports local projects with funding and loans, but these bills will increase the grants and loans available. House lawmakers also passed important increases to road and bridge funding, as well as the governor’s plan to increase the aid we give to county road and bridge projects. Transportation infrastructure is both a public safety issue and an economic concern. I was pleased to see the passage of this infrastructure funding.

I am happy to report that due to my outspokenness on the issue of putting accountability back into the child welfare system, House Speaker Kris Steele has assigned a Department of Human Services reform accountability bill to me. I will be the principle author and plan to insert new language that will make it a felony to falsify agency records in cases where that fraud led to the death of a child. I have been calling for accountability for nearly 2 years and I am pleased to be recognized for it. I believe the legislation we pass this year will improve our child welfare system.

I think there will be significant positive changes that come out of the 2012 legislative session. I look forward to telling you of our progress. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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