By Rep. Mike Sanders
As budget negotiations remain tense, I have continued to advocate that we take care of our core services, including county road and bridge funding, K-12 school funding and health care funding. I was elected to protect the rural way of life and funding these core services, especially roads and bridges, is too important for our state and my district. I hope that we will end these discussions soon, but not without proper priorities.
With everyone waiting on the budget, there is not a lot of other legislative action going on. The governor does continue to sign bills. I would like to tell you about several bills that I sponsored in the House that now have been signed into law.
I was most excited about Senate Bill 322, an important public safety bill. It authorizes the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to post a temporary reduced speed limit using a changeable message sign or other appropriate sign for maintenance operations or for hazardous highway conditions.
As an advocate for our hardworking law enforcement officers, I was proud to see Senate Bill 134 signed into law. It allows a retired officer with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety or a retired agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to pay to keep their duty weapons upon retirement. The price they pay is defined as the price at which the weapon was purchased during their service.
Senate Bill 178, which has been sent to the governor, strengthens statutes that prohibit minors from consuming or attempting to buy an intoxicating beverage and businesses from selling alcohol to minors. Although there is a ban in place, there are places in our statutes that only refer to low-point beer, rather than any intoxicating beverage.
A new law that I didn’t sponsor, but did support, was Senate Bill 167. The legislation closes a legal loophole regarding “zones of safety” limiting how close registered sex offenders can live or even pass by areas where children tend to be, such as parks, daycare centers and schools. These zones of safety were supposed to apply to towns and cities, but a judge ruled the law only applied to larger communities because it said ‘cities.’ The new law would take effect on November 1.
Proposals to fund the American Indian Cultural Center and OKPOP Museum have now emerged and I am voting “No” on both. I cannot support state funding at a time when we have crumbling roads and financially-tight school budgets. House Bill 2237 creates a $25 million bond to finish the American Indian museum in Oklahoma City and will require $2 million in annual funding to pay it off over the next decade. Senate Bill 839 creates a $25 million bond to support the OKPOP Museum in Tulsa. I think both projects would be more appropriately funded by the local city.
I hope to be able to present the results of our budget negotiations soon. Thank you for your patience with the process.