President Should Honor Campaign Promises

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

No voter likes to see a politician change position on an issue that helped him get elected. There’s something distasteful about a candidate promising to do one thing, and then proceeding by doing the opposite.

I am certain President Barack Obama disappointed many of the same voters who elected him to office when his administration decided they would not defend challenges of the Defense of Marriage law in court.

It is the job of the U.S. Department of Justice to represent the federal government and any law on the books. The constitutionality of a law is a decision to be made by our judicial branch, not by our president. The executive branch’s only part is to defend the law passed by the U.S. Congress in court. Conservatives often criticize the way many politicians disregard the Constitution and the traditional roles of the various branches of government. Obama’s decision to avoid defending a federal law is a prime example of trying to get around the system instead of working within it.

Governor Mary Fallin, by contrast, is keeping her promises and shrinking the size of government in Oklahoma. Her proposal to modernize the state’s vendor payment system was approved by the House Government Modernization Committee this past week. House Bill 1086 came about after the Office of State Finance indicated the state may be spending up to $13.50 per vendor payment for each payment made using traditional paper conveyances such as payment warrants. Electronic payments cost the state approximately 5 cents per transfer. Currently, approximately 230,000 checks are made with traditional paper payment conveyances. When House Bill 1086 is approved, it will require nearly all vendor payments to be made by electronic payment with an estimated savings of $3.6 million each year.

The legislation also includes the governor’s proposal for a shared state payroll system, which is estimated to save at least $2 million each year. The bill requires the placement of common education spending transactions on the www.data.ok.gov website, and a one-stop shop for many state documents and annual reports to be located in a searchable format for easy purview by the taxpayers at the website www.documents.ok.gov.

House lawmakers also passed legislation to make state agency rules and fee increases subject to legislative approval. Some agencies have used rules to enact fee increases to balance their budgets. Oklahomans want a smaller government, and agencies shouldn’t resist efforts to downsize through the use of rules. House Bill 1044 passed unaminously.

Legislation I filed at the request of local county clerks to have fair board candidates file with the county election board rather than the clerk’s office was approved on the House floor this past week. My other bills, House Bills 1052, 1060, 1061, and 1835 will be heard on the floor this upcoming week.

Congratulations are due to those basketball teams who made it to the state tournament. I commend the coaches, trainers, managers and players on the Woodward and Watonga men’s teams and the Fairview woman’s team. Now, bring home a trophy!

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

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mike Sanders today praised local officials and firefighters for their work fighting wildfires that raged across the state Friday.

A task force of multiple Kingfisher County fire departments helped battle the Choctaw and Harrah fires Friday. The Hitchcock Fire Department in Blaine County also contributed firefighters to aid Choctaw and Harrah and the Okarche Fire Department responded to a Goldsby fire.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank the Kingfisher, Hennessey, Cashion, Dover, Big 4, Omega, Loyal, Hitchcock and Okarche firefighters for their service and bravery Friday,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “The Kingfisher County Fire Task Force is one of the best in the state. More than 20 firefighters were sent to fight the Choctaw and Harrah fires. The Okarche firefighters were quick in their response to the Goldsby fire. I think we could have seen a greater fallout from these fires if not for the professionalism and passion of these individuals. I am proud to represent the firefighters in my district at the Capitol. The work they do is so important.”
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Committee Advances Legislation to Protect Road Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Mike Sanders
Office: (405) 557-7407

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mike Sanders today praised a House committee’s passage of his legislation to increase the safety of road workers in Oklahoma.

“Last year, the Legislature limited the use of red-and-blue emergency lights at the request of sheriffs and other law enforcement officials throughout the state,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher said. “The intent was to restrict towing services who were using the lights, but we discovered that we had also limited their use by Department of Transportation employees and other road workers. After careful consideration, lawmakers voted today to reinstate the right of road crews to use those emergency lights. I commend them for their bipartisan support.”

House Bill 1061 had the support of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, multiple fire service organizations, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, and the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma. Sanders said a total of 54 ODOT employees and eight turnpike authority employees have died while working on roads in the state. That is a higher number than for any other state agency workers, he said.

These agencies work hand in hand in many crises and routine situations to keep the public safe, often backing each other up when needed. To have one agency not be able to perform safely in those situations when the need arises is taking a huge public safety risk.

“I understand the concerns of some of our law enforcement officials and I share those same concerns. We do not want to use red-and-blue emergency lights any more than what is truly necessary. By reinstating the use of emergency lights by road crews in a limited manner, I believe we will fulfill our moral obligation to take care of these public employees,” Sanders said. “I appreciate everything our law enforcement officials do to keep us safe and plan to continue to support them here at the Legislature.”

House Bill 1061 now awaits consideration on the House floor.
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End of First Round

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Thursday, March 3, marked the end of House committee consideration of legislation originating in our chamber. For the next few weeks, House bills now go to the floor for consideration and a vote. The House committees will now consider Senate bills and Senate committees will be examining legislation we have passed.

Immigration reform was passed out of committee three days before the deadline. House Bill 1446 would make it a felony to engage in human trafficking and a crime to pick up illegal immigrants for the purpose of employing them. The legislation would also bar illegal immigrants from receiving state aid for their post-secondary education, allow state agencies to report illegal immigrants who apply for state or federal aid, require employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees, and outlaw the practice of illegal immigrants seeking work as an independent contractor.

An important cost-savings reform was also approved by the House Government Modernization Committee this past week. House Bill 1304 would consolidate information technology services under the Office of State Finance. The state currently uses 76 separate redundant financial tracking systems, 22 unique time and attendance systems, 17 imaging systems, 48 reporting and analytics applications, 30,000 desktop computers of which 2,000 are not in use, 25 different desktop operating systems, 133 email systems, and 27 SQL Server and Oracle systems. Oklahoma is spending $35.6 million more on IT than the average spent by other state governments. The goal is to save $140 million through this legislation.

One of my bills is headed over to the Senate after House lawmakers voted unanimously in favor of it. House Bill 1051 would make each elected county officer responsible for their inventory records, files and reports. Currently, this responsibility rests solely with the county clerk. My other bills have passed their respective committees and will now go to the full House. I am also the House author on nine Senate bills, which I will explain and talk about in detail in future columns.

The Senate continues to pass lawsuit reform measures, including the latest, Senate Bill 862. The legislation will ensure that defendants remain responsible for the portion of damages for which they are at fault. Under current law, defendants can be responsible for paying a higher percentage of awards to plaintiffs, beyond the percentage of their fault, based on their ability to pay. Basically, the richest guy in the room is the one who pays all the damages, even if he is only 10 percent liable. I believe you should pay for the damages you caused, and not those caused by another’s actions.

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

The full Senate has approved a measure to name the southbound I-44 bridge over the Red River in honor of President George W. Bush. Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, is principal author of Senate Bill 304, which was approved on a bipartisan vote of 40-5 on Tuesday. The vote came on the same day as the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum announced the President, his wife and daughters will be honored this April with the 2011 Reflections of Hope Award.

“This is a big day in Oklahoma for President Bush. He’s always had tremendous support in our state, and I believe our respect for the former President and his family will only grow stronger through the years,” Holt said. “As a member of the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum Foundation, I was also very pleased that the former President and his family will be honored here next month.”

The Reflections of Hope Award is in recognition of Bush’s efforts to spread freedom and democracy, while his wife Laura, along with daughters Barbara and Jenna, are being honored for their humanitarian efforts.

Co-authors of SB 304 include Sen. Don Barrington, R-Lawton, who represents the area where the bridge is located, and Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher. Both Holt and Sanders were White House staffers during the Bush Administration.

“Since Oklahoma maintains the southbound bridge going into Texas, President Bush’s home state, I think it is geographically appropriate to name it in his honor,” Holt said. “Oklahomans are a patriotic people, and I have received strong bipartisan support for this recognition of our former President’s service to our nation.”
SB 304 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
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Contract Awarded for Road Improvements in Dewey County

For Immediate Release:

Contact: State Sen. Mike Schulz
Capitol: (405) 521-5612
Email: schulz@oksenate.gov

Contact: State Rep. Mike Sanders
Capitol: (405) 557-7407
Email: mike.sanders@okhouse.gov

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

According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the project involves asphalt resurfacing along SH-51 from the US-270 junction, extending east.

Sen. Schulz, (R-Altus) said the State Transportation Commission awarded a $2,495,827.41 contract to The Cummins Construction Co., Inc. The Enid company was the lowest of seven bidders for the job, said Rep. Sanders, (R-Kingfisher).
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Major Legislation on the Move

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

This legislation session is off to a fast start. New House rules have sped up the process and several major pieces of legislation are already on the move.

House Bill 2140 would consolidate seven state agencies into one. The consolidation is modeled after the central services governance structures used in Montana, Indiana and Utah. Lawmakers are hoping that it will save the state millions of dollars. Central services agencies provide employee benefits, purchasing, and financial services to other agencies. Their function is strictly bureaucratic.

Eminent domain reform and workers’ compensation reform are also making their way through the legislative process. House Bill 1226 gives property owners the right to buy back property taken through eminent domain if the property goes unused. They could buy it back at the price they were given for it or, if it had lost value, at the current appraised value. Senate Bill 878 would overhaul of the current workers’ compensation system in order to reduce litigation costs and speed up the resolution of cases.

Uninsured motorists will be unable to sue for pain and suffering if they are in an accident if House Bill 1045 passes. I could not be more pleased to see such a bill. It would protect law-abiding citizens from frivolous damages from individuals who are currently breaking the law.

I am pleased to announce the passage of several bills I have authored. House bills 1050, 1051, 1052, and 1060 passed through committee last week.

Lastly, some of you may have received a recorded call from Alabama criticizing my vote against a proposed House rule. The rule would give every bill a hearing, a practice that would be impractical and inappropriate because we have more bills filed than we have time to hear during the legislative session. There are also bills that Oklahomans wouldn’t expect us to hear. For example, a senator filed a bill this year to legalize marijuana. A bill like this doesn’t even deserve the time of the House to consider it, when we have very serious issues we need to be sure to spend time discussing like our current budget crisis and lessening the impact it will have on our state.

I did vote for new House rules that end the practice of using a chaotic process to sneak through unpopular proposals. The rules increase the opportunity lawmakers and citizens have to review proposals. We also ended the use of non-voting joint conference committees so that everything that we do would be open to public scrutiny.

I believe strongly in what you elected me to do as your state representative and want you to know how seriously I take each bill that I vote on. There isn’t one vote that I cast without being fully aware of the impact it has on each of you and Oklahoma. I’m sure this will be the first of many calls to come, considering the current political climate we’re in but please don’t hesitate to contact me about the facts. I have an open door policy and want you to know that I’m always here for you if you need me.

I would like to thank my pages this week, Scott and Shelby Dobrinski of Okeene. They are both freshmen at Okeene High School. I would also like to wish our district high school basketball teams good luck in regional and area tournaments. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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Restricting Funeral Protests

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

An important piece of legislation passed this week. It would help protect grieving families by expanding restrictions against those who cruelly picket funerals.

House Bill 1074 has come about in response to the Westboro Baptist Church and their protests at soldiers’ funerals. The church is a radical group unaffiliated with any denomination, which claims the deaths of U.S. military personnel are a sign of God’s judgment on this country. These incredibly insensitive protesters also recently showed up at the funeral of a victim of the Arizona shooting. The legislation would make it illegal for them and anyone else to picket within 1,000 feet of the property line of a cemetery, funeral home, church or other place where any portion of a funeral service is held. The prohibition would begin an hour before and end an hour after the service. Violators could receive a $500 fine or 30 days in jail.

I wish that we could ban their picketing altogether, but unfortunately they are protected in their right to free speech. I can’t stand the idea of the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice having to endure this viciousness on top of mourning the loss of their loved one. Our hope is that the distance at which they will be restricted will help shield the funeral attendees from taking too great a notice of these individuals.

I am also happy to report that lawsuit reform bills have passed out of a Senate committee. The goal of this legislation is to get a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. By passing it, we will be helping to do away with one of the factors that lead to high health care costs.

The House Common Education Committee passed legislation that will grade schools on their performance. House Bill 1456 is modeled after Florida’s grading system that resulted in gradual improvements in student performance. Accountability goes a long way, especially when that accountability is out there for parents to see.

Finally, House Bill 1199 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would allow judges to grant former legal guardians visitation rights to see the children that used to be under their care. The intent is simple. For a child, family is whoever looks after them. Oklahomans support keeping families together.

I would like to end by congratulating Grey Berry from Seiling, who served as my page and was named Page of the Week.

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

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Governor Mary Fallin’s eloquent State of the State address touched on a number of important topics for the 2011 session. I was pleased to hear her commitment to a reduction in state government spending. She believes, as I do, that Oklahoma’s government has grown too big and bureaucratic. I also agreed with her call for a pro-business climate, workers’ compensation reform and true lawsuit reform.

The governor received a standing ovation when she called on state agencies to voice what they could do to become more efficient rather than their opposition to cuts. Her proposed state budget would reduce most agency budgets by 5 percent, reduce education and human services funding by about 3 percent, and reduce health spending by 1.4 percent. While there will be areas of disagreement over budget details, I support the overall 5.4 percent spending cut she has proposed and look forward to the Legislature’s collaboration with her on the creation of a responsible, balanced budget. We’re facing a serious budget crisis and although it’s hard to see cuts made to any important areas, they are necessary with the current economic landscape we face as a state.

The workers’ compensation system in our state has been plagued with problems that hurt our business climate and do too little to actually help injured workers. Frivolous lawsuits have also hurt our state by raising health care costs and negatively affecting businesses. I was grateful to hear that Governor Fallin will support legislative efforts to reform both these systems.

The governor discussed the need for education reform and the fact that in opposing the federal health care law, we must come up with state solutions to local health care problems. I believe that opening the state up to greater competition and true tort reform are important steps to accomplishing our health care goals. I think that we must find ways to get more education dollars into our classrooms and find ways to ensure that those dollars are used effectively.

We celebrated the 100th birthday of President Ronald Reagan this past week. He too advocated for making the government work for the people, not the other way around. The governor’s address confirmed that we have common conservative goals and a similar plan of action. I am looking forward to the Legislature’s collaboration with her in moving our state forward.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.
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My 2011 Legislation

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Although my primary focus during the 2011 legislative session will be the state budget, I have filed four bills at the request of local county governments and two bills that will increase community safety. I have also re-filed legislation to create a sales tax exemption for the American Legion.

The American Legion is the only auxiliary group in Oklahoma that does not qualify for a sales tax exemption to help them in their excellent tradition of community service. House Bill 1325 would create a targeted sales tax exemption which doesn’t amount to much money in the overall scheme of things, but helps out a service organization that is known for its positive effect on communities throughout the state.

You may remember my legislation to limit the use of emergency lights with the red-and-blue combination. After House Bill 2969 was signed into law, I realized that state and county road workers would no longer be able to use those lights. I filed House Bill 1061 this year to correct that problem and ensure the safety of those workers from being hit by vehicles.

Two of my bills change the county clerk’s responsibilities. House Bill 1050 changes the process of electing a fair association board of directors. My legislation would require candidates to the board to file with the county election board instead of the county clerk. House Bill 1051 makes each elected county officer responsible for their inventory records, files and reports. Currently, this responsibility rests solely with the county clerk.

House Bill 1052 will aid counties in making day-to-day purchases. Blanket purchase orders basically allow repetitive purchases without having to approve each and every purchase. My legislation will increase the maximum amount that a county can issue on a blanket purchase order to aid counties in taking care of their day-to-day business. House Bill 1060 will give county commissioners greater flexibility in repairing county roads and bridges.

My final piece of legislation for this year will better define the levels of firefighter training that are eligible for existing tax credits. Rural firefighters are sometimes unpaid or only part-time and these tax credits give them an incentive to work towards the same level of training firefighters in larger fire departments would generally receive. To me, this is a public safety issue, plain and simple. Better training ensures better safety in our rural communities.

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