By Rep. Mike Sanders
The second session of the 57th Legislature ended Friday, May 22. Technically, we are recessed until sine die is official at 5 p.m. May 29. Unless something unforeseen occurs – and this year, it could – we have completed our work.
We started the year with more than 3,000 pieces of legislation filed. We ended with only 167 measures becoming law. This is less than half the number of measures enacted in a normal year. For those who think we have too many laws on the books, this is a good thing.
We did pass a few measures, however, that bear noting.
One is the Unborn Persons and Wrongful Death Act. This holds physicians liable for the wrongful death of an unborn child if it is proven that they acted fraudulently to coerce the mother to have an abortion or if they did not properly disclose the harm that can be done to the woman. Thousands of women have signed affidavits saying they were coerced into having an abortion or they were given an abortion against their will when they thought they were only going in for a routine exam. Others say they were irreparably harmed during the procedure. This bill gives these women a way to fight back against a multi-billion dollar industry that cares nothing for their health or safety, much less that of their unborn child, but only seeks to profit off of this murderous practice.
Another bill signed into law this year would prohibit the state, cities, counties or any political subdivision from enacting red flag laws. These laws, which are starting to gain a foothold in other states, seek to take firearms from people that others deem “might” pose a danger to themselves or others but who have committed no crime. This practice poses a threat to all citizens’ Second Amendment rights. We already have background checks and age restrictions in place for those who seek to own firearms. Those are sufficient.
Also this year, we were able to get a cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees across the finish line. The House has passed a COLA the past two years, but the Senate failed to vote on it until this year. The governor, thankfully, signed it into law. So, retired teachers, firefighters, police and other law enforcement, state employees and judges and justices will receive between a 2% COLA if they’ve been receiving benefits for two to five years and a 4% COLA if they’ve received benefits for five years or more. This is welcome news for retirees who’ve seen health insurance premiums and costs for other living expenses rise in the 12 years since the last COLA.
Legislation that strengthens Oklahoma’s support of Israel as one of the state’s top trade partners and the nation’s greatest ally in the Middle East also was signed into law this year. The measure specifies that unless exempted by the secretary of state, the state of Oklahoma will not enter into contracts with companies that advocate boycotts, divestments or sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The state also will not adopt a procurement, investment or other policy that has the effect of inducing or requiring a person to boycott the government of Israel or those doing business in or with Israel or territories under its jurisdiction. There are people and nations that would like to see Israel cease to exist as a nation and who also would like to wipe out the Jewish people altogether; they use the BDS movement to help accomplish their goals. This legislation puts a stop to that.
In addition to the measures the governor signed into law, he vetoed 12 House bills and six Senate bills, including the overall state budget and three appropriations’ bills that supported the budget. The Legislature came back and overrode 10 of those vetoes. This was necessary to ensure we have a budget that minimally and not drastically cuts state services, and to ensure several policy measures protect our constituents.
Just a reminder that I am still in office until mid-November, so if there is anything I can help you with, please reach out to me. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.