Legislative Update

Since this is my first weekly column, I want to make sure that I introduce myself to those of you who I might not have met during my campaign to be your representative in the state House.

I am a conservative Republican and a native of Western Oklahoma. Having lived here most of my life, I have seen many ways in which our state government could be modernized to save your hard-earned dollars and many ways in which our laws could be updated to better serve the education, health care and infrastructure needs of rural Oklahoma.

But before I get into the many events occurring at your state Capitol, I’d like to introduce the newest member of the Sanders family. Davis Lee Sanders was born at 11:48 a.m. Friday, Feb. 6. My wife Nellie and I are overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally, to be parents – but we also feel truly blessed. Davis is a big boy, weighing 7 pounds and 15 ounces at birth.

I should also mention that Davis was born on the same day as a favorite president of mine, Ronald Reagan. I was inclined to change his middle name to Reagan, but Nellie was able to convince me that it was in my best interest to keep the name that we had already chosen.

As for the first weeks of the 2009 legislative session, legislators have moved several bills through committee that are worthy of our attention.

School Bills
Two important bills would give schools more flexibility and local control. One bill would change the annual requirement of 180 six-hour school days to 1,080 school hours. This would allow rural schools, which are sometimes hit a bit harder by winter weather conditions, to make up snow days without adding days to their calendar. Instead, schools could just extend the length of a few school days to make up for lost time. The other would leave it to schools to set their end-of-instruction test days rather than the state board of education. Both bills give credit to the notion that every school district in Oklahoma operates under unique conditions.

Rural Tax Exemption
Another bill I have been watching with interest is entitled the “Come Home to Oklahoma Act.” It consists of a five-year tax exemption for anyone moving from out-of-state to a rural county or town that has been losing population. This measure could help draw new residents to rural Oklahoma who would then pay sales and property tax that boosts our local schools and governments.

Livestock Regulation
In both the Senate and House, bills have passed out of committee that would streamline the regulation of livestock. It would place all regulatory authority solely with the Legislature. The idea behind the legislation is to protect ranchers from being annexed into a city and then subsequently subject to laws that would interfere with livestock operations. This has become a huge problem for producers across the country.

Gov. Brad Henry, in his State of the State, has called for cuts in the traveling expenses of a number of state agencies and a slight increase in funding for education. Meanwhile, in the state House, most bills await a hearing in one of the many committees before going on to the House floor.

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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