By Rep. Mike Sanders
House lawmakers have wrapped up their four weeks of committee work on House bills. Now, we will spend the bulk of our time in debate and discussion of these measures on the House floor. We’ve made a few headlines in the process. I want to talk to you about those headlines and also about the progress of some of the policy proposals I submitted this year.
An Oklahoma lawmaker and House committee received national coverage this past week over a proposal dealing with the Advanced Placement U.S. History course and test. The author has told us his intent has been to have the course reviewed by state education officials, but the language of the bill could have resulted in harm to the AP program. For that reason, the bill is now being rewritten. The Oklahoma House of Representatives will not allow any measure to pass on the floor that would do away with the AP U.S. History course.
I also wanted to mention the House passage of a bill to create 25 Rural Opportunity Zones. I am the primary co-author of House Bill 1747. I believe it will give the counties I represent a shot in the arm in the area of economic development. Other states like Kansas have done this and they have seen an increase in population due to economic activity in their rural counties.
I filed legislation this year to address a loophole in the law regarding assaults on a law enforcement officer. Currently, there is a much lighter charge if the officer is not in a uniform or on-duty. House Bill 1318 allows for a tougher charge if it can be proven that the assailant knew his or her victim was in law enforcement. The legislation was approved by the House Public Safety Committee and is now ready for a hearing on the House floor.
A second measure I authored would remove the current age limit of 45 for new volunteer firefighters. I had constituents who wanted to serve their communities and who aren’t interested in enrolling in the firefighter’s pension system. The age limit was set up because the pension system could not afford to allow for volunteers that began their service at older ages. House Bill 2005 allows these volunteers to forgo the benefits and serve if they wish. The intent behind my law is to recruit and retain new members to the volunteer fireman’s roll. There has been a steady decline over the last 15 years nationally and statewide. This is great way to reverse that trend. The legislation was approved in committee and is available on the House floor for debate and a vote.
I had two transportation bills that also advanced to the House floor. The one bill that will not advance is my bill to create a sales tax exemption for the American Legion. The explanation for why my colleagues will not hear House Bill 1090 is that we are in a $611 million shortfall year. This bill had a $429,000 fiscal impact on the state, so I am disappointed in that decision. The brave men and women who comprise the American Legion have fought to give us these liberties and the dollar amount on the bill is small potatoes compared to their sacrifice. I will never give up on this legislation. I will run it every year until it is passed and signed into law. That is my commitment to our veterans and their families.
I will talk to you more about the progress of legislation in next week’s column. My door is open to you at all times. You can reach my legislative office at (405) 557-7407, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by Room 205 at 2300 North Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City.