Home of the Brave

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The families who are still mourning those who died in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks and on Flight 93 finally got the closure and justice they deserved when a Navy Seals team killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last week.

The War on Terror has been a particularly brutal war for our troops. I know that many of these men and women who are serving today joined the military because of the September 11 attacks. The bravery and patriotism underscored by such a choice cannot be overstated. Their sacrifices help prevent another terrorist attack from occurring. I felt great joy for both the success for our military and our intelligence organizations in their contributions to this operation.

I pray that the U.S. will not slow down in its efforts to squash al-Quaeda and other terrorist groups. With a gaping federal deficit, there must be pressure to draw down and cut military spending. I think that we should instead capitalize on this important blow to the terrorist network and do our best to get rid of a these terrorists who are still a strong threat to our national security.

On the state front, I would like highlight the House passage of a bill that is meant to address domestic terrorism. Senate Bill 285 makes it a felony to willfully and knowingly enter a restricted area where state officials are being provided protection by the Department of Public Safety. The legislation specifically mentions the Governor’s Mansion and lays down strict penalties in situations involving a dangerous weapon or that result in bodily harm. A smaller penalty would be reserved for those who break the rules but with a lesser ability to cause harm.

House lawmakers also sent legislation to Gov. Mary Fallin that will require administrators of assisted living, residential care, and adult day care facilities to be licensed or certified by the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners for Long-Term Care Administrators. The legislation has no fiscal impact, but will go a long way to help protect our more vulnerable citizens.

Finally, congratulations are in order to Melvin Bollenbach on his reappointment to the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission. Bollenbach will serve another six-year term if the Oklahoma Senate confirms his appointment. He is a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and owns a ranch in Kingfisher. He previously served as an aviator in the U.S. Navy from 1960 to 1969. I would also like to congratulate Leedey Lady Bison for winning the Class A slow pitch softball state championship. My hat goes off to coach Cory Wilson and the entire team for a wonderful season. I look forward to having yet another state championship team from House District 59 at the state Capitol next year so we can honor them on the House floor.

This week was National Teacher Appreciation and I would like to thank the teachers in House District 59 for their excellent work. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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KINGFISHER- State Representative Mike Sanders (age 35), a Republican from Kingfisher whose District 59 is composed of all or parts of six counties in western Oklahoma, has been named Elected Official of the Year by the Oklahoma Federation of Young Republicans (OFYR). First elected in 2008 and unopposed in 2010, Sanders serves in the House as Assistant Majority Whip and as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Human Services; he also serves on the Agriculture, Wildlife, & Environment, Public Safety, and Energy & Utility Regulation Committees. Prior to his election to the legislature Sanders served under President George W. Bush as Director of White House Interns and followed that role with a presidential appointment as Deputy Chief of Staff for Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. A native of Kingfisher, OK, Sanders and his wife, Nellie, reside there with their sons, Davis and Walker.

"Representative Sanders exemplifies the Young Republican values of energetic leadership and hard work. He has been a representative in the truest sense of the term of young, emerging conservatism at the State Capitol. He is a family man, a champion for rural Oklahoma, and a promoter of youth involvement in the political process," said Stephanie Milligan, OFYR Chairman.

The Oklahoma Federation of Young Republicans (OFYR) will convene its 2011 State Convention at the Hilton Garden Inn, 801 S. Meridian, in Oklahoma City at 8:00 a.m. on 7-May. The breakfast event, keynoted by United States Senator Jim Inhofe, will precede the 2011 State Convention of the Oklahoma Republican Party which convenes later that morning at the Clarion Hotel next door. OFYR is comprised of Oklahoma Republicans age 40-and-under who are working to elect Republicans in the state and to promote political engagement amongst young families and professionals. For more information including registration inquiries please contact Stephanie Milligan at (405) 269-3239 or stephaniemilligan@ymail.com .

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Sanders Comments on U.S. Success in Killing Osama Bin Laden

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mike Sanders today praised U.S. troops for successfully killing the man who planned the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

“The September 11 attacks made a deep impression on all Americans and I think we will sleep better knowing that Osama bin Laden is dead,” Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said. “Terrorism does not end with his death, but as a nation we can celebrate knowing that our U.S. troops have struck a major blow to the Al-Quaeda network. Osama bin Laden’s death adds to our resolve, while weakening that of our enemies around the world.”

Sanders was in the White House, serving as Director of Interns, on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he remembers the terror and uncertainty everyone felt at the time of the attacks.

“People were deeply disturbed by the implications of the attacks and those of us who were so close to it were devastated by the loss of life,” Sanders said. “Our nation may be divided along political lines, but I believe there were few Americans who did not feel the impact of that terrible day.”
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Report Shows Road Funding Pays Off

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Roads and bridges have been prioritized by conservative lawmakers as one of the core areas of appropriate government spending. Oklahomans have consistently called for road and bridge improvements. According to a report released by Washington, D.C.-based The Road Information Program, we are on track to address the many improvements that need to be made.

The TRIP report found that the increased road funding approved over the past five years has dramatically reduced the number of deficient bridges and possibly saved lives.

The report shows we have reduced the number of structurally deficient, state-maintained bridges by 32 percent. Over the last five years, lawmakers have pumped an additional $700 million into the state’s transportation system and an addition $1 billion is scheduled to be provided over the next five years.

Based on an anticipated $1.1 billion in state appropriations for road and bridge repair through 2015, the report projects Oklahoma will reduce the number of structurally deficient state bridges to 504 by 2015, a 57 percent reduction from 2005 levels.

New funding also allowed the installation of median barriers along hundreds of miles of roadways, improving road safety. The number of people killed in traffic accidents on Oklahoma roadways dropped from 737 in 2009 to 625 in 2010 – the lowest number of traffic fatalities in the state since 1992, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Speaking of bridges, I am proud to report that legislation to designate the southbound Interstate 44 Red River bridge as the President George W. Bush Bridge is on its way to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk. I’d also like to mention two bills I carried that will help counties to repair county roads and bridges. House Bill 1060, which will give county commissioners greater flexibility in repairing county roads and bridges, has been signed into law. Senate Bill 241 is headed to the governor’s desk. It will remove a requirement that a county-built bridge must achieve a load rating of 23 tons or greater to qualify for reimbursement from the state.

Senate Bill 902, a request bill from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, also passed the House and is now headed to Governor Fallin’s desk. The legislation contains agreed upon language between RV dealers and manufacturers and the Oklahoma Motor Vehicle Commission. The intent of the bill is to separate out the laws that affect the RV industry from the laws that address automobiles. The bill was previously passed in the Senate unanimously.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Bill naming Red River Bridge for Pres. Bush heads to Gov.

A bill naming the southbound I-44 Bridge over the Red River in honor of President George W. Bush is on its way to Gov. Mary Fallin for consideration. On Monday, the House of Representatives joined the Senate in approval of Senate Bill 304 by a vote of 66 to 25. Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is principal author of the measure.
“President Bush led our nation with courage, and I am pleased that our Legislature has given its approval to this legislation,” Holt said. “Oklahoma has always had a strong relationship with President Bush, and naming this bridge that connects our states is a fitting tribute.”

Holt served in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs under President Bush from 2002 to 2004.
State Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, authored the legislation in the House. He said that having worked on the president’s 2000 campaign and having served in the Bush administration, he was honored to carry the bill.
“It was an honor to serve an American president who oversaw such a difficult period in our history. President Bush oversaw two wars against global terrorism, passed sweeping tax cuts and tax code revisions and was a committed supporter of traditional values,” Sanders said. “I think the majority of our state’s residents would be proud to recognize him and our part in his election.”

Sanders served as a national volunteer and intern coordinator on the 2000 presidential campaign. He served as the Director of Interns at the White House and as the United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Chief of Staff for Rural Development and Senior Advisor for Natural Resources and Conservation Service.
SB 304 will now be sent to Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature.
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Personal, State-Level Developments

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

I would like to start by announcing some important personal news. Walker Tayloe Sanders was born April 15. He weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and was 20 inches long. We are very blessed to have a second, healthy baby boy.

There is a lot of talk right now around the country about health care exchanges.

Some states are looking to set up free-market health care exchanges. The idea is to open a website where individuals can compare and purchase health coverage from a wide selection of private-sector options using pre-tax dollars.

Many of Oklahoma’s political leaders have recently voiced their desire to set up a free-market health care exchange in our state.

Meanwhile, however, the federal government, under the new federal health care law – ObamaCare – is taking steps to require all states to establish health care exchanges that are not based on the free market.

These ObamaCare exchanges would stifle competition by forcing individuals to choose from a narrow selection of health plans and providers. The result would be a rise in health care costs and increased government regulation.

To incentivize states to begin implementing ObamaCare exchanges, the federal government is awarding “early innovator” grants to several states. In February, Oklahoma was awarded a $54 million “early innovator” grant – the largest of any state.

Since the grant was announced, we have learned more about what it entails. The findings are not good.

Basically, the $54 million “early innovator” grant would lock Oklahoma into constructing the framework for an ObamaCare exchange. This would then be the framework the other 49 states would be encouraged to use to set up their own ObamaCare exchanges.

The grant would only be accessible to Oklahoma should we set up an ObamaCare exchange; a free-market infrastructure would not qualify.

In light of all this, I am pleased that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced last week that our state is rejecting the $54 million ObamaCare grant.

She realized, correctly, that accepting and implementing the grant would have locked our state into early implementation of ObamaCare.

Under the federal health care law, states have until 2014 to fully comply with ObamaCare’s mandates. Between now and then, we have the 2012 elections, which could open the door for ObamaCare to be repealed.

As well, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule the ObamaCare mandates to be unconstitutional. Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit against the federal health care law with this possibility in mind.

To be clear: It is worthwhile for Oklahoma to consider setting up a free-market health care exchange that would allow individuals to purchase private coverage with pre-tax dollars. Such a move could expand competition in the marketplace and allow for greater individual choice.

At the same time, though, we should continue to use all available means to push back against the oppressive ObamaCare mandates until all options have been exhausted.

For Oklahoma to accept and implement federal funds earmarked for the early implementation of ObamaCare would be counter-productive to efforts to overturn ObamaCare. And it would clearly be bad public policy for Oklahoma.

Finally, I want to take a moment and acknowledge the 16th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. We can never forget that terrible day in which so many Oklahomans lost their lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with those families that were affected and with the troops who are currently fighting against global terrorism.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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New Laws Mean New Jobs

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

A conservative principle that has been proven time and time again is that treating businesses with respect will lead to a healthier economy and more job opportunities. Two bills that followed that line of thinking have made it through the legislative process and were signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Beginning Nov. 1, 2011, non-economic damages in all civil actions will be capped at $350,000. Once House Bill 2128 takes effect, Oklahoma will join the numerous other states that have enacted hard caps on non-economic damages. This will be our third attempt at true lawsuit reform. Our first was struck down in court because it was tailored to one industry, which the court found unconstitutional. The second attempt was watered down to a compromise bill and though it was never implemented, could have forced taxpayers to cover the cost of awards above the $400,000 cap set.

I am excited about the passage of this legislation. A 2008 study by the Perryman Group reports that after implementing non-economic damage caps, the state of Texas created 223,700 new jobs, increased annual consumer and business spending by $55.3 billion, and grew state revenues by $1.4 billion. I expect to see Oklahoma’s cap benefit our state through a decrease in health care costs because of fewer medical lawsuits and cheaper medical liability insurance. I also expect that it will lower the cost of doing business in the state.

For those of you who might have reservations about the new law, keep in mind that plaintiffs can still receive an unlimited amount for actual economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses. The cap will also be lifted in cases where the defendant is determined to have acted with gross negligence or with reckless disregard.

Promoting the aerospace industry through tax credits has been proven to attract new jobs in Oklahoma. Prior to being placed on moratorium, the credits were fully intact for one year. During that time, 348 new engineers were hired in Oklahoma with a direct economic impact of more than $270 million. Gov. Fallin has now signed House Bill 1008 into law, which restores the Aerospace Engineer Workforce and Recruitment Tax Credit. The legislation removes the aerospace job creation incentives from a list of tax credits placed on moratorium as of July 1 of this year.

Education is an important factor in attracting businesses to our state and early intervention for students that are reading below grade level is critical to greater student achievement. One bill that is making its way through the process focuses on intervention at an early age.

Under Senate Bill 346, students entering first grade in the 2011-2012 school year would have to pass a reading test or an alternative assessment when they complete the third grade to be promoted to the fourth grade. The bill requires schools to notify parents in the first, second and third grades if their children were reading below their grade level, creating the possibility that they may not be promoted to the fourth grade. Finally, the schools would have to develop a plan to address a student’s reading difficulties.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Contract Awarded for Road Improvements in Woodward County

OKLAHOMA CITY – A contract was awarded for road improvements in Woodward County, Sen. Bryce Marlatt and Rep. Mike Sanders recently announced.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the project involves repairs to bridge and road approaches along County Road over Hackberry Creek, 4.4 miles east of the SH-34 junction.

Sen. Marlatt, (R- Woodward) said the State Transportation Commission awarded a $510,647.50 contract on the project to OBC, Inc. The Edmond company was the lowest of eleven bidders for the job, said Rep. Sanders, (R- Kingfisher). Infrastructure is a vital part of our states economy, Sanders adds.
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Senate Legislation

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

This legislative session, I will be carrying Senate legislation in the House for several senators, just as there are senators who are carrying my House bills in the Senate. I am particularly proud to be sponsoring a Senate bill that will help our rural firefighters. They have been indispensable in fighting wildfires and ensuring the general safety of the Western Oklahoma communities in my district.

Senate Bill 685 instructs the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to administer the Rural Fire Coordinator Program. Under the legislation, a rural fire coordinator will work with rural fire departments to provide expertise in equipment, staffing and funding issues. The coordinator would provide technical assistance in the development of equipment, communications systems, training programs, and the administration of state and federal grant programs. The coordinator would also organize rural fire departments in periods of emergency.

Senate Bill 304 designates a creates the “President George W. Bush Bridge.” Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly for this president in the Republican primaries and general elections. I was proud to carry this bill because I have worked for both his campaign and administration. I served as a national volunteer and intern coordinator on the 2000 presidential campaign. I served as the Director of Interns at the White House from 2001 to 2004 and went on to serve as the United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Chief of Staff for Rural Development and Senior Advisor for Natural Resources and Conservation Service from 2004 to 2007.

Senate Bill 241 is a county request bill by state Sen. Cliff Branan. This legislation removes a requirement that a county-built bridge must achieve a load rating of 23 tons or greater to qualify for reimbursement from the state.

Senate Bill 738 grants the Oklahoma Liquefied Petroleum Gas Research, Marketing and Safety Commission the authority to contract for services and employ personnel to carry out the purpose and provisions of the Oklahoma Liquefied Petroleum Research, Marketing and Safety Act. Under the legislation, the commission can contract for the services of a director.

I am pleased to have the confidence of my Senate colleagues, who entrusted me with these bills. I expect that all four will pass in the House.

I would like to congratulate Kingfisher Middle School student Andrea Perez, who was honored at the state Capitol on Monday, April 4. She placed first in the state for the American Mothers Inc. State Essay Contest, “What My Mother Means to Me.” Her essay has now been entered into the national competition. The national winner will be announced later this month. Andrea is in the fifth grade.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Oklahoma-Style Health Care Reform

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Legislation moving through the Oklahoma Legislature will do far more to address health care problems for Oklahomans than the federal health care legislation passed a year ago.

The discussion of House Bill 2130 has created some confusion, because it involves the makeup of the board that will oversee the implementation of a federally-funded online exchange that will help consumers choose the best coverage options available to them.

This online exchange idea comes from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It originated in 2000, long before the federal health care plan. The request was made to the federal government to return part of the funds to be used for the federal health care law to states in order to allow them to establish an exchange.

I do support the idea of an exchange as it is a cheap and efficient way to build a better health insurance marketplace, one that truly empowers individuals and small-business owners to purchase plans that best meet their needs.

Governor Mary Fallin has said that she is accepting the grant because the alternative is to allow the federal government to set up their own exchange without the input of Oklahoma. The grant consists of millions of dollars, which is far more than is needed, but she has vowed to return any unused funds.

Two other bills will also help Oklahoma take care of its health care issues as Republicans in Congress try to repeal Obamacare. The idea behind House Bill 2075 and Senate Bill 722 is to operate outside of the federal health care law. The first is the Health Insurance Purchasing Group bill, which will help small businesses by allowing them to form associations to buy health insurance. Senate Bill 722 is the Healthcare Compact Bill, which will allow us to compact with other states and actually supercede federal law if approved.

I would also like to highlight a Senate committee’s passage of my legislation to increase the maximum authorized amount for blanket purchase orders that counties may issue from $2,500 to $5,000. The intent of House Bill 1052 is to give counties flexibility in addressing day-to-day expenses. I was also able to get a Senate Bill passed that will designate the Interstate 44 bridge that crosses the Red River on the way to Wichita Falls as the President George W. Bush Bridge.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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