Rep. Mike Sanders on Capitol Report - Nov. 6

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Brave Veterans, Thank You

Veterans Day is such an important holiday because when we pause to consider the sacrifices that are made on our behalf; we are reminded of the importance of our ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The brave men and women who have served our country are a barrier between us and the injustice and violence we see in much of the world.

In the founding of this nation, regular citizens took up arms to help liberate the United States from Great Britain.  President George Washington, our Founding Father and first president, was a general who fought for independence.  In every war and battle since, our military men and women have fought to preserve those freedoms and protect American lives.

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Rep. Sanders calls Destruction of Ten Commandments statue ‘Unconscionable’

OKLAHOMA CITY – On Friday, state Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, released a statement on the destruction of the Ten Commandments statue on the site of the state Capitol.

“The news surrounding the destruction of the Ten Commandments statue at the Capitol is absolutely unbelievable to me. For someone to have enough hate in their heart to go to so much effort to destroy a monument that a resounding majority of Oklahomans support is just bewildering to me.

“This is an attack on Christianity and the Christian principles in which this country was founded. It is absolutely unconscionable. Whoever did this is a despicable person and an absolute coward. Even if you’re not of the Christian or Jewish faiths and don’t support the Ten Commandments, there is nothing on there that should offend a halfway decent, good person. I mean, is this person for theft? Are they in favor of murder or adultery? Do they have an axe to grind against their mom or dad? The Commandments are – even if you’re not a person of faith – a great list of things to abide by when navigating the potential pitfalls of life. There is nothing in those Commandments which is hateful, mean or vulgar.

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Importance of Transportation in Budget

State budget priorities are a never-ending discussion in Oklahoma. Advocates exist for every current spending item. That is why I find it extremely important every year to bring everyone’s attention back to the infrastructure needs in Oklahoma.

For 20 years, from 1985 until 2005, the only source of annual state funding directed to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation originated from fuel tax proceeds. This funding stream stayed virtually flat during that period at around $200 million annually. Meanwhile, the cost of building and maintaining roads and bridges continued to increase and needs went unmet.

Beginning in 2006, with the creation of the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety (ROADS) fund, state funding levels for highways have incrementally risen to more than $608 million annually. In the decade since 2006, the state has sustained transportation infrastructure investment as a priority and invested more than $4 billion to begin to address the backlog of critical highway system and bridge needs. This investment includes both the proceeds from the fuel tax revenue combined with resources provided by the ROADS fund.

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Bridge and Road Improvements in HD59

Note: This is the second column in a three-part series on road and bridge infrastructure. The third column will be sent next week..

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The investment in roads and bridges in Oklahoma since 2005 has led to a lot of improvements in my legislative district, House District 59. Recently, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation released its newest eight-year plan. Although it is a large and complex plan, I want to give you a sample of the projects and investment planned for the district.

The plan includes more than $50 million of infrastructure investment in Kingfisher County alone. In fact, a project has just begun along State Highway 33. It is scheduled to last 280 calendar days and will encompass a little over a half mile. The project description is to grade, drain, surface and bridge the highway starting from a half mile east of US-81 and continuing east over Uncle John’s Overflow and an unnamed creek.

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Oklahoma Bridges Continue to Improve

As Chair of the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Transportation, I continue to track our state’s progress on replacing or fixing deficient, dilapidated and dangerous bridges. We will get an annual report in December of this year, but as of last December, we are looking at 468 bridges that still need to be made safe.

In total, there are about 6,800 bridges along our state highway system. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation inspects those every year. With each passing year, bridges are added to the list, so our progress is set against a moving number.

 

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Taking Care of Business

Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system was for the longest time one of the primary complaints I received when I talked to business owners in Northwest Oklahoma. As I am preparing for this year’s tour of businesses, I have some good news to share with you.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has announced a projected 7.8 percent decrease in workers’ compensation costs for next year. Last year, the NCCI reported business owners would see a projected average of 14.6 percent decrease for 2014. The organization credited the decrease to workers’ compensation reform passed by the Oklahoma Legislature.

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Sanders Letter to OKC Officials Asking to Stop Black Mass

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Urban Newspaper Attacks Rural Funding

In an Aug. 7 editorial by The Oklahoman, the newspaper’s staff criticized the Rural Economic Action Plan funding for local rural projects.

The editorial correctly notes that the program provides millions of dollars each year for infrastructure improvements in unincorporated areas and communities with fewer than 7,000 citizens. The program receives about $11 million each year. Most of the primary beneficiaries of the program are volunteer fire departments, law enforcement agencies or city water and street projects.

The Oklahoman asserts that local projects are the responsibility of local governments. This is a strong sounding argument, but ultimately nonsense. REAP projects are just as local as each individual school, but no one would argue that schools should be funded only locally. Small towns strive hard to cover all their needs, but sometimes fall short. These holes are filled with state support. It is a highly necessary arrangement.

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Sanders Praises Permanent Restoration of Program for Firefighters

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Mike Sanders today an announcement from the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency to fully and permanently restore the surplus equipment programs that benefit Oklahoma counties, school districts and rural fire departments.

“This is great news for our rural firefighters who do so much to protect our communities from wildfires and severe weather,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “I knew that when the idea of ending the programs was thrown out, it would be disastrous for our volunteer fire departments. Now that Sen. Inhofe and others have brought the Department of Defense to its senses, fire departments will no longer be in such a bind.”

On July 2, the DOD announced that it would suspend the programs that allowed for the transfer of federal surplus equipment to state and local agencies because the equipment did not meet current emissions regulations set by the EPA. On July 9, the DOD and EPA reached an agreement that would allow local fire and law enforcement agencies to continue receiving the equipment but would require the DOD to retain title of the equipment.

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