Blue Lives and Victims’ Voices Matter

By Rep. Mike Sanders

A bill I will be co-authoring this session is the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017.

House Bill 1306 provides that any person convicted of murder in the first degree of a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or corrections employee while in the performance of their duties shall be punished by death or life in prison without parole. This bill was written after the tragic shooting deaths of police officers in Dallas and around the country. It’s reprehensible that people would purposefully shoot to kill those who work tirelessly to keep our citizens safe. This bill ensures these perpetrators will be punished to the fullest extent of the law and removes even the possibility that they would get a lesser sentence.

Also this week, I presented House Bill 1116 on the House floor, which passed by a vote of 76-17. This measure allows for the first time statements, made by a vulnerable or incapacitated person who alleges abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or any violent act to be admissible as evidence in court if a judge finds the statement to be reliable. The bill now moves to the Senate.

I also co-authored House Joint Resolution 1002, Marsy’s Law. This puts to the vote of the people a proposed constitutional amendment to give victims rights equal to those of the accused. These would include the right to: privacy; reasonable and timely notice of all proceedings; be heard in any proceeding during which a right of the victim is at issue; reasonable protection; notice of any release or escape. We heard heartbreaking stories from victims who have been denied these protections in the past. I am honored to help give them these added rights.

In other business, a teacher pay increase measure passed the House Appropriations & Budget Committee with overwhelming support. House Bill 1114 would grant teachers a $6,000 pay raise over three years. Voters gave legislators a clear message in November when they voted against raising taxes to increase teacher pay, even while saying they support a raise. We still have to find a funding source for this – a difficult task when a new state revenue failure has just been declared – but, legislators showed with their vote that they are willing to make this raise a reality.

Finally, a bill to allow nurse practitioners and advanced practice registered nurses to provide health care services in line with their education and training is expected to be heard in the House in the next few weeks. This will increase access to quality health care, particularly in the rural areas of our state. The bill does away with the need for a collaborative agreement with a physician. Many times, these agreements cost thousands of dollars but result in no actual collaboration. In many cases, doctors do not see the patients or even their charts. Plus, doctors can only contract with two nurse practitioners at a time, severely limiting the number that can practice in the state. Nurse practitioners must be nationally board certified in their area of training and are licensed and regulated by the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. They complete graduate-level education that leads to a master’s or doctoral degree. Several amendments have been added to the bill to further protect patients. People deserve to have this choice.

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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