Key Bill Approved on Last Day of Session

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The last day of the 2012 legislative session was chaotic. I spent much of it fighting to get a child welfare system reform bill through before the 5 p.m. deadline. I believe all of the Department of Human Services reforms are a step in the right direction, but I thought the passage of House Bill 3133 was especially critical.

I have been continuously studying the deaths that have taken place on the agency’s watch and what is clear is that the files on these children did not contain accurate information or too little information to ensure their safe placement. I filed a bill to address this critical issue. As we got deeper into session, I worked with legislative leaders to get the language of my bill included in the DHS reform package.

House Bill 3133 creates a new felony punishable by a fine of $1,000 and up to 2 years imprisonment for individuals who knowingly and intentionally falsify information in a document used in a deprived child proceeding that results in the great bodily harm or the death of the child. This legislation will ensure there are penalties for helping children fall through the cracks of the child welfare system.

An important state question will be on the November ballot that will give voters the opportunity to remove the oversight commission’s constitutional authority over DHS. This will allow lawmakers to take more direct oversight of the agency, including the appointment of the director and approval of the agency budget.

I was also proud to see licensed open carry signed into law. Open carry is not about flaunting firearms. It is about legitimizing firearm use as a means of self-defense. Similar laws have been on the books for years in other states without adverse effects. I do not support penalizing law-abiding citizens and licensed gun owners for failing to conceal their firearms.

I was also proud to vote for a ban on penalties for assisted living center residents when they choose to use their health care provider of choice rather than the center’s preferred health care provider. Health care choice in rural communities serves the function of protecting access and creating competition, which allows for a higher quality of personalized service and lower health care costs.

Government modernization reforms approved this year continue to reduce the cost of state government. I look forward to telling you more about specific bills in my next 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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