Senator Proposes Transportation Cut

By Rep. Mike Sanders

There is a battle this year between the House and Senate just like in 2015 over the issue of transportation funding. An Oklahoma City senator has proposed to redirect $59.7 million that was scheduled to go to the state’s roads and bridges fund to instead help with the budget shortfall. Although I appreciate his efforts to solve the shortfall problem, taking money from a core service of government is the wrong approach.

Under current law, the funding for the eight-year transportation plan is increased by $59.7 million annually until funding reaches $575 million in Fiscal Year 2018. This “off-the-top” process was created back in the day because the state was so far behind in maintaining its roads and bridges. In order to get back on track, we had to figure out a long-term plan and commit to long-term funding.

Senate Bill 1394 threatens that long-term funding by blocking the automatic increase to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety Fund (ROADS fund). The measure adds a trigger mechanism for future increases based on the revenue picture each year.

Our district will be especially affected by this decrease, because of the many road and bridge projects scheduled. These future projects include shoulder work on State Highway 33 east from Kingfisher to Highway 74, shoulder work on State Highway 51 to I-35, a project to add lanes and turning lanes to Highway 270/51 at the Canton turnoff, an ongoing project on 270 south of Seiling and a bridge repair project on State Highway 3 between Watonga and Kingfisher. The critical safety and access needs being addressed by these projects are not isolated to my district, but are widespread across our state and many such improvements would be stalled or simply eliminated by his legislation. Oklahoma is investing in our transportation infrastructure to keep our traveling families safe and to position our communities to be economically viable now and for future generations. We simply must find a way to stay the course because our work is far from complete.

But, I don’t want to just talk about bad ideas. I am pleased to announce the House passage of an important prolife measure. House Bill 3128 enacts the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016, which would prohibit the performance of an abortion due to a diagnosis of Down syndrome or genetic abnormality of an unborn child. If signed by the governor, Oklahoma would become only the second state in the nation to provide protections specifically for unborn children who have been diagnosed with these abnormalities.

Statistics show that children who are prenatally diagnosed with a genetic abnormality are 73 percent more likely to be aborted. The protections which are currently extended to children outside of the womb would be extended to those who are only being terminated because of a genetic abnormality that is no fault of their own.

I’m also happy to report that the Senate Education Committee gave unanimous, bipartisan support to legislation to eliminate state-mandated End of Instruction exams.  Under current law, high school students must pass four of seven EOIs in order to graduate from high school. Under Senate Bill 1170, it would be up to each school district to certify that graduating high school students had mastered the curriculum requirements.

Finally, I want to mention the committee passage of House Joint Resolution 1062, which I am co-authoring. The legislation will create a state question that will ask voters to remove the Blaine Amendment from the Oklahoma State Constitution. This amendment was part of a nationwide anti-Catholic effort that required that nothing religious be allowed on state property. The Blaine Amendment was cited in a ruling last year that removed the Ten Commandments monument from state property, even though it was paid for with private monies.

In next week’s column, I will continue to discuss the progress of bills and budget discussions. As always, I can be reached at(405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.


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