Ready to Get to Work in 2014

By Rep. Mike Sanders

State lawmakers have completed bill filing for the 2014 legislative session and I want to tell you about what bills to expect to see moving through the process this spring.

The state budget will be tight this year. There is a $170 million revenue hole, but because of the Rainy Day fund and other resources, it will essentially be flat. There is a mandatory increase to the state child welfare system that will be made under the terms of a lawsuit settlement made by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Any other increases will likely go to education and corrections.

Pension reform will be a hot topic of the session. The current unfunded liability of the state pension systems creates a risk to the benefits that retired state employees receive. Even so, any change to the system is controversial as many state employees would rather see increased funding to the system rather than reform. The average Oklahoman, on the other hand, would rather see core services prioritized in the budget.

I am interested in a bill that a colleague has filed that will require hospitals that accept Medicaid funding from the state to post the prices for their most common medical procedures and surgeries. There has been a growing movement to increase price transparency in health care as a way of controlling costs through competition. There are few industries that get away with asking you to agree to pay them for a service without first telling you the price. I will be reviewing the legislation in more detail and will give you an update about as session gets underway.

I have filed my legislation. As the chair of the House budget subcommittee on transportation, I have several transportation funding bills. I also filed House Bill 3085, which would add the American Legion to a list of non-profits that receive a sales tax exemption.

Western Oklahoma is always subject to severe weather and other natural disasters and I have been working on finding ways to improve our response. My latest endeavor is House Bill 3086, which would create the Oklahoma Incident Management Program and the Oklahoma Incident Management Team, both under the Department of Public Safety. The program and team would help improve Oklahoma’s response to emergencies and natural disasters.

I also like to support our local county government in providing quality services to residents of the district. I have filed House Bill 3090 to give county treasurer’s greater flexibility in holding county resales.

A few other areas of legislation I will be watching closely this year will be judicial reform, state modernization, improvement of the state services provided to senior citizens and the proposed elimination of a sales tax on red-dyed or “farm” diesel

I will push to make this a productive legislative session on your behalf. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at (405) 557-7407.

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