Bill to Protect Unborn Life Headed to Governor

By Rep. Mike Sanders

A bill that would give mothers an opportunity to reconsider a chemical abortion after a first abortion pill is taken passed the House this week and will head to the governor for consideration to be signed into law.

I co-authored Senate Bill 614 that would require a physician who administers an abortion-inducing medication to provide information to the mother explaining the procedure can be reversed should she change her mind after the first pill is administered. The physician also would have to post information about this option in their office. If a physician does not provide or post the information, they could face felony charges resulting in jail time or fines.

This does not preclude women from choosing abortions but gives them information about how they could reverse the process that would result in the death of their unborn child should they change their mind before the procedure is complete. This reversal procedure has resulted in at least 500 babies being born healthy after their mothers elected this choice. While some argue the science behind this procedure, I am always on the side of preserving life.

 

Meanwhile, the governor has been signing bills into law each week. So far, he’s signed 53 bills, 33 from the House and 20 from the Senate. Bills signed this week include House Bill 2640, Francine’s Law, which requires law enforcement to put into the NamUs national database information of unidentified bodies so that families of missing persons can search for their loved ones. The bill was named after Francine Frost, a mother of two who was abducted in Tulsa in 1981. Her case was cold for more than three decades until a grandson found information in the NamUs system that later turned out to be that of his grandmother. This law will help other families identify their missing relatives quicker.

 

The governor also recently signed my House Bill 1228, which will give teachers more training and resources to help them recognize students with dyslexia so they can better help these students. This can change the trajectory of student learning for students with dyslexia. There will be no cost to local school districts. The bill was a request by the Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma working group, which will work with the State Department of Education to develop training materials for teachers and additional resources for students and parents.

 

We started this session with 2,631 House and Senate bills and joint resolutions. After a recent committee deadline by which bills had to be considered in their opposite legislative chamber, we are down to 557. So far, the House and Senate have come together to pass legislation on government accountability. We continue to work onbills that add more funding for public schools and another teacher pay raise. We also await final passage of a measure that will return funding to our County Improvement to Roads and Bridges Fund and several measures will address rural health care. At the same time, we are working on our state appropriation’s bill.

 

As always, I will keep you posted. If I can help you in any way, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tricia Pemberton

Press Secretary

House Republican Caucus

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Office: (405) 962-7623

Cell:    (405) 431.0460

tricia.pemberton@okhouse.gov

 

www.okhouse.gov/media

 

    

 

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Crime Victims’ Rights Advanced

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Sanders Honored as Healthcare Advocate by Nurse Anesthetists

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader Mike Sanders recently received a Champion Award by the Oklahoma Association of Nurse Anesthetists (OANA) for going above and beyond to advocate for healthcare in Oklahoma.

Sanders was recognized for being an extraordinary advocate for improved healthcare in the state. He received the award at OANA’s annual spring conference, March 30.

OANA is a non-profit and non-partisan organization representing Nurse Anesthetists across Oklahoma. The association advocates for improving healthcare access and health outcomes and represents over 600 advanced practice registered nurses statewide. Every spring the OANA recognizes legislators who embody the mission of the OANA to promote healthcare for the citizens of Oklahoma.

“Ensuring adequate healthcare for Oklahomans, particularly those in rural areas, is of utmost importance to me,” Sanders said. “We need to make sure our citizens have access to services and programs that will help them stay healthy and well. I’m thrilled to be recognized as someone who advocates for improved healthcare. Even if I received no award, however, I still would fight this fight.”

OANA said it appreciates the willingness of legislators, such as Sanders, to find solutions to help Oklahomans achieve better health outcomes and wellness. The groups said the state’s future is very bright with the current slate of elected lawmakers at the state Capitol.

 

 

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Bill to Provide Dyslexia Training Headed to Governor

By Rep. Mike Sanders

This week, my House Bill 1228, which will help teachers recognize and assist students with dyslexia, passed unanimously in the Senate and is now headed to the governor to be signed into law.

This bill requires school districts to offer teachers a professional development program about dyslexia once per year, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The measure requires the program to include training in identifying students with dyslexia, training in meeting the needs of those students, and will provide resources about dyslexia for teachers, students and parents.

Research clearly shows identifying students with dyslexia early and getting them the proper classroom supports will help them learn to read and perform arithmetic and other subjects on grade level at a quicker pace. The bill was a request from the Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma working group, which will provide training and materials to local school districts at no cost.

Tuesday was Oklahoma Agriculture Day at the state Capitol. This is a day to celebrate farming and ranching in our state and to reward students in multiple contests under the Ag in the Classroom banner as well as to honor the newest member of the Oklahoma Ag Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Harrel a rancher, farmer and banker from our area was inducted into the Hall of Fame and received Gov. Stitt’s Outstanding Achievement in Agriculture Award. Harrel is the CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Western Oklahoma in Elk City and Vici. He previously served as high school principal, vocational agriculture instructor and basketball coach at Taloga Public Schools. Congratulations to him for this honor.

Also this week, I received word that the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s April 1 meeting included an announcement by Gov. Stitt that Oklahoma’s bridges on the state highway system are finally nearing the top of the list for the best in the nation. In its recent annual bridge inspection report, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation identified 132, or less than 2 percent, of the 6,800 total bridges on the highway system as rated structurally deficient or poor. The highway system includes non-tolled state, U.S. and interstate highways maintained by ODOT. Bridges on city streets and county roads are maintained separately by local governments.

In 2004, an all-time high of 1,168, or a full 17 percent, of bridges were rated structurally deficient and Oklahoma had been ranked at the bottom nationwide in bridge conditions. When Republicans won the majority in the Legislature, we made transportation a top priority. Thanks to our appropriations to ODOT’s eight-year Construction Work Plan, the department has replaced or rehabilitated more than 1,400 bridges. Nearly all remaining structurally deficient bridges are either currently under construction or scheduled in the Eight-year Plan to begin construction in the next year.

Transportation has long been a priority for me. Ensuring our citizens can travel safely and we can move products to improve our local economies is an important function of government. This news is sweet to report!

As always, I would love to hear from you about these or any other issues. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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Senate Passes Bill to Increase Teacher Training on Dyslexia

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate today passed a bill authored by House Majority Leader Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher,that will add professional development training for teachers to help them better recognize students with dyslexia and get them needed educational supports. The bill now moves to the governor’s desk to await being signed into law. 

House Bill 1228 requires school districts to offer teachers a professional development program about dyslexia once per year, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The measure lists minimum requirements for the program and requires the program to include training in identifying dyslexia, training in meeting the needs of students with dyslexia, and training on resources about dyslexia for teachers, students and parents.

The bill passed with a vote of 46-0.

“Identifying students with dyslexia early and getting them the proper classroom help can change the trajectory of their learning,” Sanders said. “I want to thank the lawmakers who supported this important bill and the students it represents.”

Sanders said he particularly thanks Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, for carrying the bill in the Senate.

Sanders said students with dyslexia often present as having a learning disability, but they actually just learn in a different way than other students. If teachers are trained to recognize dyslexia for what it is, they can get these students the help they need in a timelier manner. This proves a great benefit to students and their parents and allows teachers a greater role in their students’ success.

The bill was a request from the Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma working group. Sanders said the training would be at no cost to the local school district. The working group is developing training materials and a handbook with the State Department of Education that can be shared with districts, teachers, parents and students. The task force will make additional recommendations in July. Members of the group also will travel to districts to help train teachers. The training could also be accessed online. It will be up to the local districts to decide the best timing.

Sanders worked with fellow Reps. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, and Kelly Albright, D-Midwest City, on the language of the bill and thanked them both for their leadership on this bipartisan issue.

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Bill to Restore County Roads and Bridge Funding Clears Senate Committee

By Rep. Mike Sanders

A bill that will restore $30 million to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges fund recently passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill previously passed the House. The title is on this bill, which means once it passes the full Senate it can proceed straight to the governor to be signed into law.

This is good news for our county roads and bridges. Restoring this funding will help get our county projects back on track. The money was diverted in a previous year to help solve budget shortfalls in other areas, but I’ve watched like a hawk to make sure it was restored to this needed area.

When Republicans gained the majority in state government in 2004, we made transportation a priority. We’ve drastically reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges in our state and completed thousands of miles of road projects. At one time, there was more than 1,800 structurally deficient bridge in Oklahoma; now there are less than 200.

In other news, my House 1228, which will help teachers recognize and assist students with dyslexia, passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee and now is eligible to be considered by the full body.

This bill requires school districts to offer teachers a professional development program about dyslexia once per year, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. The measure requires the program to include training in identifying dyslexia, training in meeting the needs of students with dyslexia, and training on resources about dyslexia for teachers, students and parents.

Research clearly shows that identifying students with dyslexia early and getting them the proper classroom supports will help them learn to read and perform arithmetic and other subjects on grade level at a quicker pace. Students with dyslexia often present as those with a learning disability, but they actually just learn in a different way than other students. If teachers are trained to recognize dyslexia characteristics, they can get these students the help they need in a timelier manner. This will be a great benefit to these students and their parents, and will allow the teachers to play a greater role in their students’ success.

The bill was a request from the Decoding Dyslexia Oklahoma working group, which will provide training and materials to local school districts at no cost.

My House Bill 1003, which will provide a tax exemption to the Oklahoma American Legion, passed the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. The American Legion has been in Oklahoma for 100 years serving our state veterans and their families as well as our youth through a variety of patriotic education programs and outreach ministries. The Legion also promotes a mission of strong national security. It deserves the same tax-exempt status that other organizations with similar missions already have. The title is off the bill because it is a revenue measure. This means it will have to go through the full Senate and come back to the House to have title restored before it can be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

As always, I would love to hear from you about these or any other issues. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 ormike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

 

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Governor’s Desk Next Step for Accountability Measures

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The governor this week signed into law five measures that will help the Legislature keep much better track of how taxpayer money is spent and better monitor programs and services. The bills represent historic government reform.

State agencies have at times worked against the Legislature trying to pass common sense reform. Not all agencies have been responsive to the Legislature in showing transparency in expenditures. This will ensure the agencies answer directly to the state’s chief executive and his cabinet.

The governor will have hiring and firing authority over five of the largest appropriated state agencies: the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Department of Corrections, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Transportation Department and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The governor also will have appointment power of five members on each board, pending advice and consent of the Senate. The Legislature will be able to appoint four members – two by the speaker of the House and two by the Senate president pro tempore. The Legislature also will have the ability to remove these agency heads with two-thirds of the vote.

The House this week also passed a bill to create the Office of Government Accountability. This office would hire 15 financial examiners who would routinely audit agency budgets and spending and evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs and services. One of the problems we’ve had with term limits in the Legislature is we have so many new members it is incredibly hard for them to come up to speed on the more than 60 agencies that receive state dollars and each of their budgets and programs. This office would help by providing detailed information to help inform our decisions as we budget the state’s money each year.

The House passed several other bills this week of note.

House Bill 2502 will give classroom teachers a $1,000 tax credit when they buy their own classroom supplies and or for renewal of their teacher certificates.

House Bill 2632 is known as the Patients Right to Pharmacy Choice Act. This bill evens the playing field for our local pharmacies and their customers. It establishes an advisory council of professionals with expertise in pharmacy to oversee pharmacy benefit managers. PBMs currently enjoy benefits such as access to lower-priced drugs, reimbursements after sale and they have been accused of using anti-competition and deceptive marketing tactics that disadvantage our smaller, local pharmacies.

House Bill 2304 will provide a 4 percent cost-of-living increase to retired teachers, firefighters, police and other law enforcement officers, justices and judges and public employees. The increase would take place January 1, 2020. It has been more than a decade since our retirees have had a COLA. With rising health care and other living costs, this is needed.

This is third-reading deadline week, meaning all bills have to be passed out of their chamber of origin in order to stay alive this session. House members have heard hundreds of bills this week and last, staying many late nights to consider each piece of legislation. I’ll provide the number of bills we passed in next week’s column. Next, we will consider Senate bills while that chamber considers House bills.

As always, I would love to hear from you about these or any other issues. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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More Government Accountability Measures Pass Committee

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Five government accountability measures passed committee this week that would allow the governor and the state Legislature more direct appointment authority over agency directors and boards.

House Bills 2479, 2480, 2481, 2482 and 2483, by House Speaker Charles McCall, would give the governor direct appointment power over the executive directors of the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Department of Corrections, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state Department of Transportation and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services. These five agencies receive a large portion of state appropriated dollars, yet their boards do not have to directly answer either to the current executive or to lawmakers elected by the people.

The governor’s appointments would be subject to advice and consent of the state Senate. The measures also would give the governor and the Legislature the ability to rebalance the boards, giving the governor four appointments and the Legislature four appointments to each board – two from the House and two from the Senate. The measures also would allow for an impeachment and conviction process, much like the federal government has.

Under our current system, board members are appointed to a term and not by the state’s top executive. Nor do the boards have legislative oversight. In other words, people elect an executive, but then that person is forced to work with boards that are appointed by a previous administration. It would be five years before Gov. Stitt would have enough appointment power over the Board of Corrections, for instance, to make any real changes in the direction of that board. Citizens have no authority to fire agency board members. They do, however, have the ability to elect lawmakers and the governor. With that election power they should also get more accountability over how their money is spent.

On the health care front there are several bills I want to highlight.

One is Speaker McCall’s bill that would give doctors serving in rural areas a $25,000 income tax exemption. House Bill 2511 recently passed in the Appropriations & Budget Committee. This bill would help recruit doctors to serve in our rural areas where they are most needed by allowing them to claim the first $25,000 of their income as tax free.

Another is House Bill 1902, that would increase the Medicaid nursing home reimbursement rate to improve the quality of care for our nursing home residents. It also would improve staffing ratios, increase staff training, and incentivize nursing homes to improve care using a pay-for-performance model.

Several more of my own bills have passed committee and will be heard on the House floor soon. One is a bill that will allow retired firefighters to come back as volunteers without it stopping them from receiving their current pensions. Another is a bill that will grant a sales tax exemption to the Oklahoma American Legion. This organization helps our veterans in so many ways, and it should enjoy the same tax-exempt status as other groups of similar mission.

In future columns, I’ll give greater detail on each of my bills.

This week was the deadline for bills to be heard in committees in their chamber of origin. We now have two weeks to hear all House bills on the floor. Then we will begin hearing Senate bills.

As always, I would love to hear from you about these or any other issues. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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Legislative Budget Office Bill Passes House Committee

By Rep. Mike Sanders

A bill that would create a legislative office to evaluate agency budgets and programs passed this week in the House Government Efficiency Committee. The measure now can be considered by the entire House.

House Bill 2484 would create the Office of Government Accountability (OGA) within the existing Legislative Service Bureau (LSB), which serves both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The OGA would be similar to the federal Government Accountability Office.

The OGA would have approximately 15 financial examiners who would routinely audit agency budgets and spending and evaluate the effectiveness of agency programs and services and report findings to the Legislature. The OGA would also have subpoena and investigation authority.

House leadership and Gov. Stitt have said since the beginning of this year that more accountability of spending taxpayer dollars would be a priority. This is a positive step towards that goal.

In other news, Teachers will get a $1,200 additional pay raise this year if House Bill 1780 passes the state Senate. The bill already passed in the House. As a part of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Education Initiative, he has promised to sign the measure when it reaches his desk.

This is on top of $6,100 average pay raises given state public school educators last year. In addition, we are working to secure additional money to go to our public school classrooms.

We have many needs in state government, but education is of great importance. Education leads to better outcomes for our citizens such as better opportunities for employment, better health and less chance of incarceration.

Also on the education front, my House Bill 1228 passed unanimously with a vote of 96-0 in the House and now goes to the Senate. This is a big victory for students with dyslexia. This measure would provide additional dyslexia professional development for state teachers. This professional development will include information to help teachers distinguish between students with dyslexia and those with other learning disabilities. Once a student with dyslexia receives proper help, they often learn to read and do other school work on level with their peers. This is important for those students and will give teachers the tools they need to recognize these students early and help them. I was pleased this bill passed on Dyslexia Awareness Day. Many students, parents, educators and others interested in this important topic were in the House gallery to hear the bill presented.

In addition to education, transportation is a priority for state dollars. Several bills passed in the House or in committee over the past few weeks that seek to restore County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) Fund.

House Bill 2676 attempts to restore $30 million of the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) fund that was taken when Gov. Fallin vetoed the Legislature’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget. The governor’s action swept additional money from the fund, and this would replace a portion of that. As you all know, I’m an avid supporter of the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program. This is badly needed. I was happy to co-author this bill.

House Bill 1406 would create an encumbered revolving fund for CIRB projects once they are approved. These funds would then be protected when lawmakers go looking for extra money in future economic downturns.

To help achieve these funding priorities, the state Board of Equalization this week certified we will have a $574.5 million revenue surplus for state appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020. Much of this surplus will be spent on education, transportation and health care, but we will be evaluating other uses as well – including adding to the state’s savings account.

As always, I would love to hear from you about these or any other issues. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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Legislation Passes Committees

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The first four weeks of the legislative session is primarily devoted to the committee process. Once bills pass committee, they are eligible to be heard on the House floor and voted on by the entire chamber.

I have several bills making their way through committees currently. One is my bill that would grant the Oklahoma American Legion tax-exempt status.

With our revenue up this year, I am hopeful I can accomplish this. There are 180 American Legion posts in Oklahoma. It is the largest and oldest military organization in the state that does not have tax-exempt status. Other organizations, such as the VFW and Daughters of the American Revolution, have this status. It is time to give it to the American Legion. This organization helps our veterans who have obviously helped us. They hold coat drives and pancake suppers and so many other events that help raise money and support for veterans in need. The bill passed out of the House Appropriations & Budget Finance Subcommittee with a vote of 7 to 0. It will now move to the full Appropriations & Budget Committee.

Another bill of mine, House Bill 2052, passed in the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee. The bill would prohibit the misrepresentation of products created in a laboratory from being labeled as meat. We want the public to know when they are buying something labeled as beef, for instance, that the product is directly harvested from a four-footed, living animal that ate grass in a rancher’s field and not something grown in a lab dish. The bill passed with a vote of 19 to 0.

Another very important piece of legislation, House Bill 2591, has passed the House and moved to the Senate. This is a pro-life bill that prohibits government funding of medical providers that are found guilty of failing to report statutory rape of a minor child. 

I have always stood on the side of life. This includes for babies in the womb to the elderly. I am for the protection of life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death.

I eagerly await the day the atrocious abortion and assisted suicide laws other states – like Virginia and New York – are passing are overturned and that the law of our great nation once again protects all life. Until that day, I will always vote for pro-life bills.

There are a number of pro-life bills I will support this year. These include bills that facilitates the provision of federal or state funds for pro-life pregnancy resource centers that help vulnerable women during their pregnancies and after their babies are born; that provide women to be given information about the possibility of reversing the intended side effects of a chemical abortion as part of their informed-consent process prior to undergoing such a procedure; and that guard against assisted suicide by requiring accurate reporting of the cause of death on death certificates.

Another bill that has passed in the House that caught some people’s attention is House Bill 2597, also known as Constitutional Carry. This bill would allow anyone who is legally allowed to carry a firearm to do so without having to obtain a separate license through the state. It evens the playing field for Oklahomans as the state already allows law-abiding citizens from other states to carry in Oklahoma without a state permit. This measure precludes felons, people with an adjudicated mental illness or a domestic violence conviction or illegal aliens from possessing or carrying firearms. It also continues the restrictions of firearms where carry is already prohibited. It allows private businesses and higher education facilities to decide for themselves if carry will be allowed.

On a final note, thank you for the great responses to my survey. I’ve received many. If you haven’t already, send yours back to me. This will help me make decisions about legislation going forward.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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