By Rep. Mike Sanders
One of my primary jobs as a state legislator is to talk to constituents and address their concerns. I get many calls and emails from constituents on a daily basis, and I try to help each one.
One recent concern dealt with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service at Oklahoma State University and the thought that the state Legislature cut the budget of this service over the last few years. The service receives money from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education not directly from the Legislature. Any budget cuts would have been made by the regents. It is true that higher education received about 16 percent less last year than the previous year and about 23 percent less in the last four years as the state has struggled through a recession, but I see plenty of other places in their budget they could have cut instead of this service. The University of Oklahoma could have sold an Italian monastery it owns in Tuscany, Italy, for instance; the chancellor could take less than his $400,000 annual salary. Those are just a few examples.
Another issue brought to my attention is the flashing lights out at the intersection of State Highway 183 and Highway 60 west of Seiling in Dewey County. This has been the site of numerous auto accidents, including several fatal wrecks. I’ve received several calls from concerned citizens, and I wanted to give everyone the update I received after I reached out to the Department of Transportation for assistance in this matter.
I’m told that new lighted perimeter stop signs should be up by later this month, and that rumble strips leading to the intersection should also be in place. I was reminded this was not a planned event, but the lights were knocked down by a truck that was over the height limit for this area. Considering how often the lights were hit in the past, the lighted stop signs will be a better fit for this intersection, according to the transportation department. Public safety is one of my top concerns, so when I hear of an issue like this, I act immediately to seek a remedy.
Another concern voiced is that state services for rural Oklahoma are declining, including rural fire protection, county roads, rural schools, conservation districts, rural health care and more.
I am a fierce advocate for rural Oklahoma, particularly rural Western Oklahoma. In 2015, I voted against the fiscal year 2016 state budget because it cut these priorities in Western Oklahoma. During last year’s budget negotiations, I fought successfully to maintain funding for rural fire department grants even while the state secretary of agriculture continues to cut this funding to balance his books. I will continue to stand in the gap and fight him on this issue. It is another example of why we need this as a line item in the budget.
As chair of the House Appropriations & Budget Transportation Subcommittee for the past four years, I fought for and secured adequate funding to keep the Transportation Department’s 8-year road plan on track as well as for numerous county road projects. In addition, I have fought to keep rural hospitals and health care centers open to serve our rural residents, and I have been a strong advocate and supporter for our rural schools.
These are all perfect examples of the way a citizen’s government should operate. Constituents should always feel free to call their legislators and voice their concerns. I’m thankful when citizens give me the opportunity to listen to them and help see their needs met. It’s why I ran for office in the first place – to serve the public.
So, please, let me hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@OKHouse.Gov or (405) 557-7407.