Session Ends Early

By Rep. Mike Sanders

In such a tight budget year, many of us felt it was important that we end the legislative session early. The Oklahoma House of Representatives has borne our portion of cuts each year of the revenue shortfall and ending early is one of several decisions we have made to save money.

This legislative session was highly productive. In addition to creating a balanced budget, we pushed through a bold agenda to improve our state business climate, meet our redistricting obligations and stay true to Oklahoma values.

Lawsuit reform was a major part of this agenda. A $350,000 cap on non-economic damages was signed into law. A 2008 study by the Perryman Group reports that after implementing non-economic damage caps, the state of Texas created 223,700 jobs and increased annual consumer and business spending by $55.3 billion. The study also reported that medical liability insurance premiums decreased by 21.3 percent and the number of lawsuits filed against hospitals decreased by 70 percent.

Our workers’ compensation system is broken and fixing it will aid the recovery of our local economy. Senate Bill 878 rewrites most of the worker’s compensation law and creates new guidelines for treating injured workers that will ensure those workers receive proper care and can return to work in a timely manner. The legislation also sets up new protocols and guidelines to ensure fair costs are paid for treating on-the-job injuries. Once signed into law, this legislation will reduce medical costs, thus saving the businesses paying into the system money. It will also help get injured workers back on their feet. We also passed House Bill 2038, which will require new reporting that will help us gather data for further reforms.

I was also pleased to see House Bill 1008 signed into law. It removes the aerospace job creation incentives from a list of tax credits placed on moratorium. Prior to being placed on moratorium, the credits were fully in place for one year. During that time, 348 new engineers were hired in Oklahoma with a direct economic impact of $270 million.

House Democrats thanked House Republicans for the bipartisan manner in which the redistricting process was conducted. My district was not the only one that remained relatively unchanged. We worked long and hard to ensure most of the House districts did not needlessly divide communities.

House lawmakers stayed true to conservative values through several important pieces of legislation. House Bill 1888 makes it illegal to abort a child after 20 weeks. This is based on scientific research that suggests an unborn child that age can feel pain. House Bill 1459 expands our right to self-defense, allowing business owners and employees to defend themselves in their place of work or business by any means necessary. Finally, Senate Bill 406 will further restrict the terrible practice of picketing funerals. I was so proud to see these bills signed into law.

I want to thank the Okarche fourth grade middle school class for visiting me at the state Capitol last week. They had excellent questions and I enjoyed their visit.

I am proud that several of our local high school teams are now academic state champions in addition to excelling in sports. The Watonga boys track team won the 2A State Championship and the Academic State Championship. The Watonga girls track team also won the Academic State Championship. The Okeene boys track team was the Class A runner up and State Academic Champions. Not only did these young men and women excel on the field, but also in the classroom.

It was a grueling session, but we accomplished many good things and I am proud of that. In the coming weeks, I will go into more detail about the reforms we passed and will be out in the district listening to you.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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