Oklahoma Attorney General Declines Lawsuit

Oklahoma Attorney General Declines Lawsuit

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson says political considerations had no bearing on his decision to decline joining 19 other states in filing a lawsuit against federal health care legislation. I disagree. His claim that challenging the health care mandate is an inappropriate use of his office rings false. Most Oklahomans – including both conservative Democrats and Republicans – oppose federally mandated health care, and they would support the use of the Office of the Attorney General to challenge it.

Although we continue to face challenges, many things in our great state are still moving forward. I am proud to announce the passage of two of my bills. The first is my sex offender legislation, which passed in the Senate by a unanimous vote. Under the legislation, registered sex offenders would no longer be able to submit a P.O. Box or other address that cannot be mapped to the sex offender registry. Instead, they would have to submit a physical, map-able address. The second bill, Senate Bill 1997, creates the “Marvin Williams and Robbie Chase Whitebird County Sheriff Assistance Act.” As law currently stands a sheriff may request emergency assistance from other jurisdictions. SB 1997 will allow the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association to coordinate assistance on behalf of the sheriff currently in need. This will allow the sheriff to stay focused on the community and emergency at hand. Both measures now head to Governor Brad Henry’s desk and await his signature.

Oklahoma Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit recently introduced himself to the House Government Modernization Committee. His position was created last year in an effort to consolidate information technology services among state agencies. It’s estimated that Oklahoma employs close to 1,500 state employees dedicated to information technology and spends more than $340 million annually on IT services beyond the cost of personnel. Pettit will complete an assessment of the state’s IT systems and submit a comprehensive plan to manage and coordinate those services in a way that generates cost savings.

Lawmakers will soon be debating the budget for fiscal year 2011. I will be joining other rural legislators in fighting for the inclusion of funding for the Rural Economic Action Plan (REAP) program. Education, public safety, prisons, and roads and bridges top my list of funding priorities.

Workers’ compensation reform legislation is almost through the Legislature and awaits a vote by the full House. Senate Bill 1973 would reduce the number of workers’ compensation judges to eight and redistribute them so five go to Oklahoma City and three to Tulsa. SB 1973 also imposes a single-term limit on new judges, increases their term to eight years, and requires Senate confirmation to fill vacancies to the court. The legislation requires the workers’ compensation judges have five years of experience on the subject and also addresses how cases are handled. These simple changes would add more accountability to the workers’ compensation court.

Two state championship teams from my district were recently honored at the state Capitol. The Watonga Lady Eagles cross country team were Class 2A State Champions this past fall. I would like to congratulate the team’s hard work and Coach Coleman’s efforts. The Okarche Lady Warriors basketball team, under the direction of Coach Cherie Myers, is this year’s Class A State Champion. The last time the Lady Warriors earned that distinction was 1982. Through hard work, dedication, and sacrifice these teams have made their schools, their communities, and their families proud. They serve as great examples for young people, and I could not be more proud of these State Champions.

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.

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