DHS Down $2.4 Million in Lawsuit

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Two recent Tulsa World articles examined the ongoing lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The state agency has spent a whopping $2.4 million to defend itself since April 2008.

Meanwhile, the agency may furlough employees for four hours a week for 46 weeks if the Commission for Human Services approves the plan on April 27.

The lawsuit accuses DHS of placing foster children in harm’s way when they assign too many cases per worker, fail to make enough home visits, make multiple placements, and undertrain foster parents. DHS says the accusations are false.

On the one hand, Children’s Rights is a perpetual-lawsuit machine that appears more interested in press and contingency fees than in truly helping children. The group has sued child welfare systems in at least 12 other states. Many of these states have settled, signing consent decrees agreeing to reforms and providing millions to Children’s Rights’ attorneys.

On the other hand, legislators are aware the agency needs reform, and we have passed legislation to improve DHS based on an independent study.

I believe the inept management at DHS has put Oklahoma in a no-win situation. The state is being forced to waste millions to defend itself. Settling could result in even more money lost. The money could have gone to help children in foster care and avoided a furlough of  the staff in charge of caring for those children.

Based on their track record, it appears Children’s’ Rights might have sued Oklahoma no matter what, but we would have been in a better position to beat that lawsuit if DHS officials had just done their jobs.

On a somber note, the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing should give us pause. Most of us remember the tragedy of that day and the brave efforts of firefighters, volunteers, and other Oklahomans who responded to it. It was a very difficult day, but we came together on it. I urge everyone to reflect on the lives lost in the bombing. A total of 168 people died in the official count, three of whom were pregnant with unborn children. Those 171 individuals were everyday heroes in their communities and are greatly missed.

I’m proud to be the House author of Senate Bill 1997, which has been signed by Governor Brad Henry. The new law will allow any Oklahoma sheriff to contact the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, tell them how much help he needs, and let them coordinate that help from surrounding jurisdictions. The law allows for a more coordinated flow of assistance. It also allows the sheriff to stay focused on the community and emergency at hand.

I was also the House author of Senate Bill 2093, which passed 96-1 and now heads to the governor for his signature. The bill clarifies that shooting into private land from a public road is considered trespassing and a misdemeanor.

I was happy to have the fourth grade students from Okarche visit the state Capitol this past week. They wore their Okarche colors! I also wanted to congratulate area students that have been named Academic All-Staters: Carmen Sander of Seiling High School, Peter VanGee of Hennessey High School, Chelsea Williams of Woodward High School, and Paul Inman of Okarche High School. These fine young adults have demonstrated excellence in the classroom, and I commend them for this great honor.

I also wanted to congratulate John Michael Johnson of Kingfisher for achieving his rank of Eagle Scout. His dedication and hard work is a model for others.

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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Lawmakers Experience Firefighter Training

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Mike Sanders and Joe Dorman today received a first-hand taste of the rigorous training Oklahoma firefighters undergo to protect state citizens.

The bipartisan duo toured the OSU Fire Training Facility in Stillwater today and then participated in a “live burn” training exercise.

“As a state legislator who fights for greater firefighter funding at the Capitol, I felt it was important to personally experience the challenges of their educational process,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “If the men and women who do this work are willing to put their lives on the line for us, the least I could do is share in some of their training experiences.”

“I have always had great respect for Oklahoma firefighters, but I have to say I am even more impressed after today’s training,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “Even dealing with fire under a carefully controlled setting is pretty intense, and it really made me appreciate the courage of these men and women.”

The state lawmakers toured the OSU Fire Training Facility in Stillwater today before participating in the training exercise.

The training involved an interior fire demonstration where the lawmakers – wearing the roughly 45 pounds of equipment and gear typically worn by firefighters – received instruction on how to assess the situation and apply water to douse the flame.

“It’s one thing to talk about fighting fire in the abstract, and another to view it up close,” said Sanders. “This was a great opportunity to gain insight into the daily lives of firefighters.”

“Oklahoma firefighters are one of our greatest public safety assets in Oklahoma,” Dorman said. “They deserve all the honor and respect we can give them – and then some.”

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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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Contract Awarded for Road Repair in Major County

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

According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the project involves asphalt resurfacing on US-281 beginning 5.5 miles north of the US-60 JCT, extending north.

Sen. Marlatt, (R- Woodward) said the State Transportation Commission awarded a $526,392.28 contract on the project to Caswell Contracting, Inc. The Elk City  company was the lowest of three bidders for the job, said Rep. Sanders, (R-Kingfisher).

Once construction begins, the project is estimated to be completed by June 30, 2010.
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Census Participation is Critical

Census Participation is Critical

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

If every Oklahoma household were to fill out and mail back the 2010 Census forms, which they should have received by now, we could receive additional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. A correct count is needed to assist in services like those provided by non-profit organizations, and draw increased interest from employers and large retail stores who may want to relocate to the area.

According to a recent story by the Tulsa World, Oklahoma’s mail response rate is less than 52 percent and below the rate of 35 other states. Even though the 2010 Census will affect the state for the next decade, not enough of us are participating. I have also learned that some individuals have not received the form and can call 1-866-872-6868 to receive one after April 12. I urge everyone to please fill out this critical form.

I am proud to announce that one of the bills I have filed at the request of local county sheriffs has been signed into law. Our local sheriffs believe that the overuse of the red and blue flashing light combination endangers the public because it desensitizes people and leads them to no longer associate it with true emergencies. The new law is set to take effect Nov. 1. It will allow Class AA wreckers to use red and blue light combinations at the scene of an emergency. Other towing and wrecker services would be allowed to use amber lights instead.

Last week, a House committee passed important legislation that will increase election fraud penalties. Senate Bill 1921 increases the maximum punishment for felony violations of the election code from a fine of $5,000 to $50,000 and from two years imprisonment to five years. SB 1921 increases the penalty for misdemeanor violations of the election code from a fine of $1,000 to $10,000. Additionally, the bill makes it a felony of the election code to: vote with and submit an absentee ballot issued to another person, make  false application for an absentee ballot, cause the cancellation of a qualified voter’s registration, cause the submission of voter registration forms with false information, or conspire to commit election fraud.

Last year, several ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) employees were accused of submitting false voter registration forms – including some signed “Mickey Mouse” and several in Nevada listing Dallas Cowboys players’ names, though none of the players live in the state. Another Nevada ACORN worker was caught filling out voter registration forms using names and addresses copied out of the telephone book.

I would like to commend Governor Brad Henry’s signature this week of three bills that aim to protect life in Oklahoma. Senate Bill 1890 forbids an abortion based solely on the sex of the child. Senate Bill 1891 protects the right of health care professionals to refuse to take part in the destruction of innocent human lives. Senate Bill 1902 makes it illegal for a person other than a physician to provide or administer the chemical abortion pill, RU-486, for the purposes of inducing an abortion.

The Oklahoma Chapter of America Mothers Inc. chose two winners from Kingfisher County this year. The organization chooses a Mother of the Year and hosts an essay content annually. This year, Stacy Cline of Hennessey was chosen as Young Mother of the Year. Maddie Myers of Kingfisher Middle School took first place in the statewide essay contest with “What My Mother Means to Me.” Congratulations to both Stacy and Maddie on their outstanding achievements.

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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Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association 2010 Advocate of the Year - Representative Mike Sanders


For immediate release – March 31, 2010

Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association 2010 Advocate of the Year -   Representative Mike Sanders

The Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association held its 4th Annual Convention and Legislative Reception on Monday March, 29 at the Harn Homestead in Oklahoma City.  After a day of business and educational meetings, including a presentation by Wildlife Commissioner John Groendyke, the meeting concluded with a Legislative Reception and awarding of the Wildlife Advocate of the Year awards.  This year’s recipients State Representative Mike Sanders of House District 59, Representative Ken Miller, District 81, Senator Ron Justice – District 23 and State Senator Todd Lamb – District 47

 Oklahoma Wildlife Management Association (OWMA) was formed in 2007 by a group of ranchers and wildlife managers dedicated to the conservation, management and enhancement of wildlife and wildlife habitat on private lands.  OWMA serves as an advocate for the benefit of wildlife and for the rights of sportsmen in educational, scientific, political, regulatory, legal and legislative arenas.

OWMA interacts with the State Legislature to preserve Oklahoma’s outdoor and rural heritage. Dedicated to educating all persons especially the youth of Oklahoma, about the conservation, management and enhancement of wildlife and wildlife habitat on private land to ensure the preservation of our cherished rural heritage for future generations.

Sportsmen, hunters and landowners fund nearly all of Oklahoma’s wildlife management through licensing, fees and land stewardship. Most wildlife actually lives on private lands. Thus, future maintenance of hunting, good land stewardship and strong private property rights are essential for the future of Oklahoma’s wildlife.

Even though OWMA is a relatively new organization, it has successfully  supported legislation in 2008, 2009 and again this year to curtail illegal hunting activities, including increased fines for trespassing, vandalizing and dumping waste on private land; removing agricultural land fencing or posting requirements for trespassing; increased fines for poaching on big game commercial hunting areas; and increased fines for poaching privately owned deer and other animals and increased fines for shooting across a roadway or railroad on to private property.

For more information about OWMA, or to join or support the organization, call Executive Director Adam Winters at 580.471.8264, or email info@ok-wildlife.com, or visit the OWMA Web site: www.ok-wildlife.com.   For Legislative Information, Contact:  Karel Brewster, 405-834-0834
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Session Midpoint Reflections

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Now that I’m halfway through the 2010 legislative session, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how the other branches of our state government will come into play alongside our legislative efforts.

I noted last week that Oklahoma lawmakers are pressing Attorney General Drew Edmondson to file a lawsuit against the recent Congressional passage of a federal health care mandate. Unfortunately, he has yet to do so. Edmondson has failed to state his position on the federal health care mandate while Governor Brad Henry has implied that the mandate is a step in the right direction.

Nico Gomez, an official with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, has outlined the mandate’s effects on Oklahoma. He estimates that the mandate will expand Medicaid to cover one-third of the state’s population or 1 million Oklahomans and that half of the population will be on either Medicaid or Medicare. Meanwhile, physicians taking SoonerCare patients will have their payment rates cut by 3.25 percent. The mandate will force Oklahomans who cannot afford private insurance to use Medicaid, while at the same time it becomes harder for physicians to accept it.

Lawmakers are going to force the Oklahoma Supreme Court to take a position in the abortion debate. Though two Oklahoma laws passed by the Legislature in recent years contained multiple provisions on the single subject of abortion, the court struck them down for violating the single-subject rule. This year, lawmakers have made those provisions into individual bills so the court must rule on the constitutionality of pro-life legislation. The Freedom of Conscience Act would protect health care professionals’ freedom of conscience by upholding their right to refuse to participate in the taking of a human life. A second bill would regulate the use of RU-4866, the chemical abortion pill. Another measure would ban sex-selection abortions in Oklahoma. The Center for Reproductive Rights has said they are likely to file suit against pro-life legislation passing this year. I am hoping the court will take the side of most Oklahomans who believe in the sanctity of life.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services continues to face a class-action lawsuit from a national organization representing children in the state’s foster care system. Lawmakers have enacted reforms in the system that have begun to show some success, but the agency may still face internal problems with how it handles children. U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell has indicated that June 2011 could be when the trial begins.

A House committee has passed legislation to allow Department of Public Safety officers, including highway patrolmen, to take part-time jobs during any future furlough. Current law prohibits officers from taking a part-time position elsewhere. Under the legislation, they would be allowed to take on part-time jobs during furlough periods.

I would like to congratulate Valeri Evans on her new position as the family and consumer sciences 4-H youth development extension educator in Kingfisher. I believe she is the ideal person for the job. I would also like to congratulate Travis Bernhardt of Kingfisher. Travis is one of 20 students from Oklahoma colleges chosen as one of the best and brightest undergraduate researchers in Oklahoma. He is competing for more than $9,000 in scholarships and cash prizes. He also participated in Research Day at the Capitol.I want to thank the Canton Chamber of Commerce for putting on a great banquet recently. I enjoyed seeing everyone out there and commend Chamber President Troy Everett and the entire board for a job well done. I would also like to thank the fifth grade students from Sharon Mutual Elementary School for visiting me at the Capitol.

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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Oklahoma Fights Federal Health Care Legislation

Oklahoma Fights Federal Health Care Legislation

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The Oklahoma Legislature has entered the fight against federal health care mandates. Not only have legislative leaders asked Attorney General Drew Edmondson to file a lawsuit to block the legislation, but they have also prioritized legislation to allow the people to vote to exempt Oklahoma from mandates and the tax burden that accompanies them.

I believe a federal mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Forcing American citizens to purchase health insurance is one of the greatest fouls against freedom this country has ever witnessed. Our private health care system is not perfect, but that does not mean it should be replaced with an unaffordable and unconstitutional system when other means to correct it are available. This bill will trigger the largest tax increase in the history of the United States. Many have projected that the IRS will be expanded by 17,000 workers. This bill will cut Medicare by $520 billion. Though its supporters say it will cost $940 billion, I know from my work on the federal level that this means it will be well over a trillion dollars when all is said and done.

At no time in our nation’s history has a piece of legislation of this magnitude passed with zero support from one of the two major political parties. Medicare, voting rights, Civil rights, and Social Security legislation all had bipartisan support. More importantly, the passage of this legislation went against the 56 percent of the American people who came out against it in polling.

President Barack Obama was able to obtain a narrow majority of U.S. House lawmakers by issuing an executive order that states the legislation will not be used for federally funded abortions. Unfortunately, that executive order is no more than a piece of paper that can be rescinded at any time. President Obama is the most pro-abortion president our nation has ever had.

Oklahoma will severely suffer as a result of this law. Rural doctors will likely close their doors or refuse to accept insurance. Our state already has a shortage of doctors and this will only exacerbate the problem.

I know that my constituents do not want the government to control their “right” to have health care.  Our rights come from God, not government, as enshrined by the Declaration of Independence.

 The Oklahoma Legislature is capable of addressing problems in the health care system. In past years, we exempted plans from state mandates so that young, healthy Oklahomans could get lower premiums. We passed lawsuit reform to drive down health care costs. I believe that the next step is to open up more private competition by allowing out-of-state health insurers to offer their services to Oklahomans and finding away to allow individuals to carry their insurance from one job to the next. Changing the tax code to end discrimination against self-employed individuals would also help, particularly in the agricultural field in rural Oklahoma.

I did experience a bright spot in the health care realm this past week. Friday, I had the honor of touring the Town of Vici Nursing Home. Meeting LaRessa Hutchens and Michael Boone was a pleasure. I was very impressed with Ms. Hutchens and her staff. The town of Vici and the people who depend on this nursing facility are truly blessed.

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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Lawmakers Begin Work on Senate Bills

Lawmakers Begin Work on Senate Bills

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

House lawmakers are gearing up to review Senate bills in committee. I will be carrying five Senate bills in the House. As for the legislation I filed this year, I am pleased to report that every bill passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate.

I was proud to support the passage of legislation that will clarify Oklahoma’s position regarding the federal regulation of firearms made and kept in the state. House Bill 2994 states that firearms, accessories, and ammunition made and sold in Oklahoma are not subject to federal regulation. The federal government only has the right to regulate interstate commerce, according to the U.S. Constitution.

For the firearm to get protection under the bill, it must be clearly marked “Made in Oklahoma”. The intent of this provision is to avoid an unnecessary burden for law enforcement officials.

Under another bill recently passed, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would be able to withhold from the public certain information on autopsy reports if distributing that information could compromise an ongoing homicide investigation. House Bill 3155 would amend the Oklahoma Open Records Act to allow the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to withhold certain information in autopsy reports where the stated manner of death is homicide, unknown or pending until it is discoverable by law. Though I value our open record laws, I believe most Oklahomans would prioritize the arrest and conviction of a murderer above total access.

I also supported legislation to ban a legal alternative to marijuana that has been found in some Oklahoma schools. House Bill 3241 adds five new drugs to the list of Schedule I controlled substances. All are found in K-2 smoke blends, which mimic the effects of marijuana. Schedule I drugs are those with high potential for abuse and that are not accepted for medical use in the United States. This list includes drugs like heroin, LSD, and marijuana.

A Senate bill to eliminate the state grocery tax concerns me. Our smaller towns depend on this sales tax to fund wastewater systems and provide for police and fire protection. As a staunch conservative, I am in favor of ridding ourselves of unnecessary taxes. However, the lifeblood of our smaller communities in Western Oklahoma depend on the tax. I would greatly appreciate your input on this issue.

I would like to congratulate the Watonga Eagles and the Woodward Boomers boy’s basketball teams for making the state basketball tournament.

Census workers are beginning to visit Western Oklahoma. I urge residents to fill out the requested information and send it in as soon as possible. This is not the census of old. There are about 10 simple questions that should take you less than 10 minutes to fill out.

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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Contract Awarded for Pedestrian Improvements in Dewey County

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

According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the project involves pedestrian improvements on SH-51 from Speck Street and extending East in the town of Vici.

Sen. Schulz, (R-Altus) said the State Transportation Commission awarded a

$315,420.00 contract on the project to Rudy Construction Co. The Oklahoma City company was the lowest of three bidders for the job, said Rep. Sanders, (R-Kingfisher).

Once construction begins, the project is estimated to be completed within two months.
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