Number of Volunteer firefighters up three years after law signed

OKLAHOMA CITY – Almost 300 new volunteer firefighters have joined rural fire departments three years after successful legislation eliminated the age limit for new volunteers.

House Bill 2005, authored by Rep. Mike Sanders and Sen. AJ Griffin, took effect Nov. 1, 2015. The law eliminated the 45-year-old age limit for new firefighters by giving them the ability to join a department without the requirement that they be added to the state’s pension plan.

In the three years since the law took effect, 270 new volunteers have been added to fire service roles. Sanders said about 85 percent of the firefighters in Oklahoma are volunteers. Of the state’s 915 fire departments, 866, or 95 percent, are certified with the Rural Fire Defense Program.

“Our rural fire departments depend on volunteers to keep our citizens and our property safe,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher and House Majority Leader. “State law, however, previously prohibited willing volunteers over the age of 45 from becoming firefighters because the state’s pension and retirement plan simply could not afford them.” 

Sanders said he asked constituents above the age of 45 if they would be interested in volunteering and about whether or not they needed a pension. Most said they already had pensions but would be more than willing to serve. Sanders worked with Griffin and with former Council of Firefighter Training (COFT) Executive Director the late Jon Hansen and rural fire coordinators from across the state in drafting the bill.

In addition to saving lives and property, Sanders said the law also can help lower insurance rates.

“I’m thankful we were able to find a solution to grow our volunteer firefighter base,” Sanders said.

The legislation was approved unanimously in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and approved by the Oklahoma Senate before being signed by the governor in April, 2015.

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Sanders Earns 100% Voting Record on Small-Business Issues

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Sanders today was notified that he achieved a 100 percent NFIB voting record in the 2017-2018 legislative session on issues that impact Oklahoma small businesses.

The voting record is compiled every two years on every member of the Oklahoma Legislature by the NFIB, a national small business advocacy organization. Only votes directly impacting small businesses in Oklahoma are considered.

“Small business is the lifeblood of our state and national economy,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I’m pleased for this recognition of my voting record, but I’m even more pleased to stand with the men and women who own and operate small business in House District 59 and across our state who benefit from a free market economy and the cutting of over-burdensome regulation.”

NFIB’s Oklahoma Voting Record includes votes on seven key issues, including property rights, health insurance, and lawsuit reform.

The 2017-2018 NFIB Oklahoma Voting Record includes legislation regarding:

  • The sale of insurance across state lines
  • Protecting businesses from website accessibility claims
  • Holding trespassers liable for damages
  • Agri-business exemption from federal truck log rules
  • Privatization within state agencies

NFIB State Director Jerrod Shouse said, “Mike Sanders clearly recognizes the challenges of running a small business. By consistently supporting small business and free enterprise, Mike Sanders supports entrepreneurs and working families back in his district and across the state.”


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Voters Asked if Eye Doctors Should Operate in Large Retail Stores

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Voters will be asked in November to decide the fate of State Question 793, which would amend the state constitution, opening the door for Oklahoma eye doctors and opticians to operate stores inside big-box retailers like Walmart, Target and Costco.

The measure was placed on the general election ballot after enough voter signatures were gathered by proponents of the measure through an initiative petition process. 

Under current Oklahoma law, an optometrist cannot “render optometric care in any retail, mercantile establishment which sells merchandise to the general which the majority of the establishments income is not derived from the sale of such prescription optical goods and materials.”  To maintain a level of independence between an optometrist and a retail outlet, an eye clinic must have a physical barrier between it and a retail outlet as well as a separate entrance.  This has been called a two-door policy and Oklahoma is said to be one of 16 states to operate using this two-door system.

If the state question were to pass, lawmakers would still have the ability to limit or ban surgery inside a retail store and limit the number of offices where an optometrist can practice. It also would let eye care professionals agree with a store to limit their scope of practice, but this point has been argued against by critics of the measure.

Both rural and urban optometrists have largely come out against this question, with some saying this would lead to substandard medical care for patients and create an unfair market advantage for large retailers. The big-box stores and supporters who favor the question argue this would modernize Oklahoma law and give customers more convenience and lower prices.

The language in the ballot title that voters will see reads: “This measure adds a new Section 3 to Article 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Under the new Section, no law shall infringe on optometrists' or opticians' ability to practice within a retail mercantile establishment, discriminate against optometrists or opticians based on the location of their practice, or require external entrances for optometric offices within retail mercantile establishments. No law shall infringe on retail mercantile establishments' ability to sell prescription optical goods and services. The Section allows the Legislature to restrict optometrists from performing surgeries within retail mercantile establishments, limit the number of locations at which an optometrist may practice, maintain optometric licensing requirements, require optometric offices to be in a separate room of a retail mercantile establishment, and impose health and safety standards. It does not prohibit optometrists and opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice. Laws conflicting with this Section are void. The Section defines "laws," "optometrist," "optician," "optical goods and services," and "retail mercantile establishment."

Oklahoma voters in November will get to vote yes or no on this proposed question.

Meanwhile, if I can do anything to help you, I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407. 


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Sanders Comments on Emergency Medical Service Grants

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader and State Rep. Mike Sanders issued the following statement today after learning that the City of Kingfisher Fire Department will receive $99,999 from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) as part of the department’s efforts to stabilize and improve Emergency Medical Service (EMS) programs in the state. Life EMS, which serves Enid and Hennessey, also received a grant of $93,404.83.

OSDH awarded more than $1.7 million to 20 different EMS-related entities which submitted proposals for funding. A total of 22 separate proposals will be funded. The funds are distributed through the Oklahoma Emergency Response Systems Stabilization and Improvement Revolving Fund (OERSSIRF), which was established by the Legislature in 2008 to fund assessment activities, reorganization of at-risk emergency medical services, development of regional services, training for medical directors, personnel and equipment needs.

“This is great news for residents in Kingfisher and Hennessey and the surrounding areas as well as for these cities,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “Emergency medical services provided through the Kingfisher Fire Department and Life EMS are incredibly important to our citizens. These grants are a part of my overall goal of enhancing public safety services for our entire area. I’m pleased the Department of Health saw the value of these proposals and awarded these providers with these necessary funds.”

OSDH said that award applications were scored by economic viability and cost effectiveness, geographic area and the relationships between participating organizations, population and overall scope of need.

The OSDH distributes these funds each year, and a panel of nine volunteers meets to review and score the proposals. The cumulative score determines their ranking among the submissions for that year. This is the ninth distribution for this fund. A total of 68 qualified entities have been awarded 144 contracts since the fund was established.

EMS programs receiving funding are listed below:

Sinor EMS, Inc. (Clinton, Sayre, Hobart & Thomas)

Tillman County EMS 

City of Carnegie EMS

City of Antlers Fire Department EMS

City of Elk City Fire Department EMS

EMS Success, Inc. (Choctaw)

Roger Mills County EMS 

Southwest Oklahoma Ambulance Authority  (Hollis)

Major County EMS 

City of Waynoka EMS 

Cimarron County EMS 

City of Anadarko Fire Department

City of Kingfisher Fire Department EMS 

Gordon Cooper Technology Center  (Shawnee)

City of Perry Fire Department EMS 

Heartland Medical Direction, Inc.  (Crescent)

Okmulgee County EMS

Beaver County EMS 

Life EMS, Inc. (Enid)

Mercy Health, Love County EMS

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Sanders Comments on National Hunting and Fishing Day

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Sanders issued the following statement about the 46th annual National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD), to be observed Sept. 22 this year. Sanders is co-chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and member of the 48-state National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses.

“Hunting and angling have long been a part of Oklahoma’s heritage,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I am proud to join Oklahoma sportsmen and women who will participating in this national celebration and helping to pass the love of these traditions to future generations. The men and women who hunt Oklahoma lands and fish Oklahoma’s lakes, rivers and streams are not just interested in pursuing these sports for their own benefit, they also are the main contributors to our state’s conservation efforts.”

Sanders said he’s encouraged that Oklahoma hunters and anglers are passing down their love of their sports to their children and others so future generations can enjoy these traditions as well as participate in the preservation of our state and nation’s natural resources.

More information on National Hunting and Fishing Day is available at or on the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation website at



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State Question Will Ask Voters to Weigh in on Victims’ Rights

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Gov. Mary Fallin earlier this summer signed an election proclamation placing State Question 794 on the ballot for the general election Nov. 6.

If approved, the question, also known as Marsy’s Law or the Victim’s Bill of Rights, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to provide certain rights for crime victims, such as expanding the court proceedings at which victims have the right to be heard and being notified of the defendant's release or escape from custody.

The question is the result of Senate Joint Resolution 46, which Oklahoma lawmakers passed during the 2017 regular legislative session.

The measure is named after Marsalee (Marsy) Nichols, a University of California Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after she was killed, the victim’s family ran into her accused murder not knowing he had been released on bail because California’s courts at that time had not obligation to keep them informed. Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas became the key backer of the law, which is now being pursued in states nationwide.

In addition to the rights detailed above, the Oklahoma ballot measure states that it also would allow crime victims to be protected in a manner equal to the defendant's rights, including:

  • adding a right to reasonable protection;
  • adding a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
  • adding a right to talk with the prosecutor; and
  • allowing victims to refuse interview requests from the defendant's attorney without a subpoena.

The language in the ballot title that voters will see explains: “The Oklahoma Constitution currently grants victims' rights to crime victims and their family members. This measure would instead grant these rights to crime victims and those directly harmed by the crime. Victims would no longer have a constitutional right to know the defendant's location following arrest, during prosecution, and while sentenced to confinement or probation, but would have the right to be notified of the defendant's release or escape from custody.

“Under this measure, victims would have these rights in both adult and juvenile proceedings. Victims would be able to assert these rights in court, and the court would be required to act promptly.”

Oklahoma voters in November will get to vote yes or no on this proposed question.

Meanwhile, if I can do anything to help you, I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.

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Interim Studies Give Opportunity for Deeper Dive into Issues

By Rep. Mike Sanders

House Speaker Charles McCall approved 31 interim studies for the House this year. Fifty-seven studies were requested by various representatives. Two studies were withdrawn by their authors; leaving 55 to stand alone or be combined by topic into one study. Each study has been assigned to a House standing committee. It will be up to the committee chair to schedule the studies, which generally are held August through October.

Interim studies give lawmakers more time to examine issues brought by constituents, state agency heads or other groups or even ideas which they themselves are considering making into law. It gives us time to bring in outside experts and ask questions so we know all sides of an issue, the pros and cons, before we proceed with drafting legislation.

The legislative session operates on a compressed schedule that begins with a flurry and maintains the hectic pace for 120 days. The more than 3,000 bills filed on average annually face tight deadlines – when they must be filed, be heard in committee, be heard in the chamber of origin and then be heard in the opposite chamber before being sent to the governor to be signed into law.

This is why interim studies are helpful. They happen at a slower time of the year, when the Capitol is not as packed, and they give lawmakers and the public more time to work through any undesired consequences of potential legislation with experts on hand to answer questions.

Here's a quick look at a few of the studies that have piqued my interest so far and the committees which will consider each issue:

  • A look at moving full-time Oklahoma deputy sheriffs from a defined contribution retirement plan to a defined benefit retirement plan; Banking and Business.
  • A look at Oklahoma State employees' health benefit allowances; Insurance.
  • A study on safety and security in public schools; Common Education.
  • A combined study of Oklahoma's underperforming schools and the effectiveness of turnaround models being utilized in Oklahoma and other states, and addressing issues to aid in improving the effectiveness in public education; Common Education.
  • A combined study on state fees on municipal surface transportation program grants and the governor’s Oklahoma United We Ride Council; Transportation.
  • A look at how DHS has allocated and used federal funds given to OK. What state funds are for improving Child Care, both number served and quality of care; Children, Youth and Family Services.

The public is welcome to attend any of the studies. You also are welcome to send me any questions or opinions you have about any study.

Use this link to see a full list of the House interim studies for this year: A few studies already have times, dates and committee rooms assigned. Others will appear on the calendar as they are scheduled.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.

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Tourism Opportunities Abound in NW Oklahoma

By Rep. Mike Sanders

In the few weeks before school starts, I thought it might be fun to write about some of the tourism opportunities we have in Northwest Oklahoma. Whether it’s a day hike, some fishing or overnight camping, there are plenty of things to do in our area that don’t involve a great deal of cost or even much travel time.

I know my favorite spots in the Northwest part of the state, but I also sought some suggestions from Leslie Blair at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. She, in turn, gathered some information from the state Department of Tourism & Recreation. Following is a list of our combined ideas.

Roman Nose State Park near Watonga has everything from pristine views of canyons and mesas to wide open fields of buffalo grass and wild blue sage, not to mention the refreshing waters of Lake Watonga. You can hike the trails or fish or boat. You can swim in the pool; rent canoes, kayaks or paddle boats; ride horses or mountain bikes; play golf; camp out or stay in the lodge or a cabin.

Boiling Springs State Park in Woodward is another beautiful place to visit. Of course, the highlight of the park is the natural “boiling” spring that still flows. Visit the interpretive center for more information about the spring and the wildlife on view at the park. Camp, RV or stay in a cabin; hike three different trails; swim in the pool; or just enjoy a picnic for the day.

If you’re looking for something literally cool to do, visit Alabaster Caverns State Park near Freedom. The three-quarter-mile cavern is formed of alabaster, a rare form of gypsum, and is the world’s largest natural gypsum cave that is open to the public. Once inside the cavern, you’ll be able to see the interesting gypsum formations as well as bats that take up residence in the cool dark environment. Guided tours of the cave are conducted daily on the hour, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Groups of three or more can request a permit through Sept. 30 to go wild caving. You’ll need to bring your own gear, including three light sources per spelunker, hard hats or bicycle helmets, long sleeves and water. There are also a few hiking trails at the park.

The Great Salt Plains State Park near Jet is another fun family adventure. Through Oct. 15, you can dig for selenite crystals, or you can watch for many of the migratory birds that use the nearby wildlife refuge as a stopping place. The refuge is comprised of salt left over from an ocean that covered Oklahoma in prehistoric times, and the saltwater lake in the park, Great Salt Plains Lake, is said to be about half as salty as the ocean. Visitors can hike or bike on trails or bring your horses to ride. You can fish at the lake. The cabins also have been newly renovated, and there are tent and RV campsites available if you want to check into staying a night or two.

For additional outings, you could visit the sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park or Beaver Dunes Park near Waynoka, or take in the beauty and the history of the Black Kettle Recreation Area near Cheyenne

Visiting our state parks and taking advantage of the amenities they have to offer is a wonderful way to enjoy our great state. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.


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Welcome Back to a New School Year

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Schools across our district are opening doors to new and returning students over the next several weeks. Some have already started classes; others are busy still enrolling students, hosting parent nights, administering physicals and vaccines and more as children, parents, teachers, administrators and staff gear up for a new school year.

I encourage everyone to be on the lookout for school zones and school buses as you travel so we can keep our kiddos safe. Also, for those of you with children returning to school, please ask your child’s teacher what you can do as a parent to make their lives easier this school year. Teachers working in collaboration with parents equal successful students.

This year, teachers statewide received a pay raise that went into effect Aug. 1. This puts beginning year Oklahoma teachers among the highest pay rates in the region and all teachers at the 12th highest pay in the nation when cost of living is factored. Even teachers who already make above the state minimum salary schedule will get a raise. Raises are based upon years of experience and level of degree.

The two most important people in every school building are the student and the teacher. First, is the student. Our entire future hinges on how well we educate our children. We must ensure that each child that enters our public education system receives the teaching and skills they need to advance to the next grade level and eventually into higher learning and out into the work force. We also must assure that our students become good citizens who are willing to contribute positively to our communities so future generations can continue to enjoy our American way of life.

Aside from a parent, a teacher is often the most influential role model in a child’s life. They are the ones who can instill a love of learning and adapt to the individual needs of each child’s learning style. They are the ones who see the needs of each child and can gather additional resources to help ensure a child’s success in life.

Of course, we also need great leaders in our schools – principals and superintendents who can help foster a positive culture in our schools where teachers are free to achieve their own highest level of success. In addition to more pay, teachers often report that it is the culture of a school and their feeling valued that leads them to either want to stay in the profession or move on to other work.

During my service as state representative, I have met with area educators countless times.  I value their commitment to our children and their work to make our state better.  I strongly believe if we as parents, classroom teachers, administrators and policy makers, all pull on the same end of the rope, we can continue to build on the successes of 2018.  Let’s keep up the good work.

I know I’ll continue to hear from many educators that this raise and the additional money given to education this year is still not enough. I can assure you that when the legislative session starts in February, the state budget will be our first priority, and education will be at the top of the list for state dollars.

In the meantime, have a safe and productive school year!

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.

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Roads and Bridges Update

By Rep. Mike Sanders

It’s the time of year when I like to give an update of roads and bridges projects in House District 59. This gives area residents an idea of what’s coming, so they can plan routes and appropriate drive times.

I fully recognize that roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure needs are endless. As the House majority leader and representative of this district, I will continue to work tirelessly to address our needs.

Transportation is a core service of government and we must and will continue to fund it appropriately. I applaud the Department of Transportation for its 8-year roads and bridges plan. They are careful to plan projects they know can be funded and completed within the time period allotted. 

Following is a list of this year’s projects four our district detailed by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT):

In Blaine County:

  • On State Highway 8, work on the bridges over Spring Creek and other creeks at 1 mile, 10.9 miles and 12.4 miles south of the State Highway 51 junction near Okeene and Hitchcock are estimated to begin Sept. 4 and take 195 days to complete at a cost of $3.6 million.


  • On State Highway 51, work on the bridges over the North Canadian River and the overflow at 0.4 miles and 0.6 miles east of the State Highway 58 junction in Canton is set to begin Sept. 4 and take 150 days to complete at a cost of almost $3.4 million.


In Canadian County:

  • On State Highway 3, the bridge over U.S. Highway 81 will be repaired starting in March 2019 at a cost of almost $2.7 million.


In Dewey County:

  • On U.S. Highway 183, from 7.3 miles south of the U.S. Highway 60 junction north to near Taloga, work is scheduled to start Sept. 4 and take 150 days to complete at a cost of almost $4.1 million. The bridge has already been constructed. This project will tie the roadway to the bridge.


  • On U.S. Highway 270, road repairs continue from 0.4 miles southeast of the State Highway 51 junction extending northwest near Seiling, construction started Feb. 12 and is expected to take 240 days to complete at a cost of almost $8 million.


In Kingfisher County:

  • On State Highway 51, work continues on the westbound lane with the traffic signal at Skeleton Creek. The southeast section of the existing roadway is being removed so the existing surface and base can be reconstructed with new asphalt paving. The project is expected to be complete by August at a cost of $6.6 million.


  • On U.S. Highway 81, the northbound half of the Frontier Bridge (also known as the Kingfisher Creek Bridge) has been removed; drilled shafts were scheduled for June 11. Work on abutments, columns and piers are scheduled for the rest of June and July. Beams should be hung in early August and the first half of the new bridge deck poured in early September. After this curing time, traffic will be switched to this new northbound half of the bridge and the contractor will repeat for the southbound half of the bridge. The project is expected to be complete in May 2019 at a cost of almost $3.5 million.


  • A separate project will reconstruct the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 81 and rehab the southbound concrete pavement, 1.3 miles south of State Highway 33, extending south 3.3 miles on the south side of Kingfisher. The project was scheduled to start June 25 and take 265 days to complete at a cost of almost $8.6 million.


  • Also on U.S. Highway 81 at County Road 860, the right and left turn lanes are being constructed. The project is scheduled to start in September and take 120 days to complete at a cost of almost $1.2 million.


  • On State Highway 132, work on the northbound lane near Drummond was complete June 5. Work to seal the recycled roadway should begin in the near future. The project cost $694,520.


In Woodward County:

  • On U.S. Highway 270, five miles southeast of State Highway 50 extending 5.6 miles southeast near Mutual, two lanes have been overlaid and two southbound lanes added at a cost of $19.8 million. Lanes are complete, striped and open to traffic. Only shoulder work, grass planting and other minor work remains.


  • The next section of U.S. Highway 270 should be released for bid in November if all goes well. This will be a continuation of the previous project, beginning 10.5 miles southeast of State Highway 50 extending 3.7 miles southeast. This is a grade drain and surface adding two new lanes to accomplish a four-lane divided highway at an estimated cost of $18.8 million.


  • Work on the State Highway 34 bridge and approaches over Indian Creek, 2.3 miles south of U.S. 183, is complete with minor exceptions. The work started Jan. 31, 2017 at a cost of almost $2.2 million.


  • Work on the State Highway 34 bridge and approaches over south and north Persimmon Creek, approximately 4.9 and 7.6 miles north of the Dewey County line is complete with minor exceptions. Work started Feb. 13, 2017 at a cost of almost $5.8 million.


  • Construction is planned to improve 34th Street in Woodward. This project will be a grade, drain, bridge and surface project beginning at U.S. Highway 412 and extending south 2.07 miles. This project was awarded in March but has not yet begun. The project is estimated to take 180 days at a cost of $8.6 million. This project is a joint venture between ODOT and the City of Woodward.


  • Work on the bridge and approaches on State Highway 34 over the North Canadian River overflow, 1.2 miles north of U.S. Highway 183 extending south was awarded in May but has not yet begun. The project is estimated to take 180 days at a cost of $704,522.


Drive safely, and keep an eye out for construction crews.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.


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