Session Wrap

By Rep. Mike Sanders

In early February, the House Republican Caucus unveiled their 2013 agenda. It included a pay-as-you-go plan to fund the repair and upkeep of the state’s infrastructure, an income tax cut and workers’ compensation reform. My personal goals for 2013 included increased funding for education, a pay raise for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, maintaining funding for the eight-year road and bridge plan, and trying to improve the position of our communities in state water policy discussions.

In late April, the governor and legislative leaders announced an agreement and impending action on the income tax cut, workers’ compensation reform and a plan for long-term infrastructure needs. The three bills were eventually signed into law by the governor. On May 2, they reached a budget deal that included increases for education. I could not be more proud of the collaboration between Gov. Mary Fallin, Speaker T.W. Shannon and President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman.

Under House Bill 2032, the top income tax rate will drop from 5.25 percent to 5 percent on January 1, 2015. If revenue growth meets a certain mark, a second cut will drop the top rate from 5 percent to 4.85 percent on January 1, 2016. The bill will also fund a total of $120 million towards repairing the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Senate Bill 1062 reforms the workers’ compensation system in Oklahoma. It reduces legal costs, medical costs, and excessive payouts to workers that have driven up costs for Oklahoma businesses and encouraged fraud. It moves Oklahoma from a court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative system, reducing the adversarial nature of the system and reducing the time needed to process claims. Under the bill, workers receive 70 percent of their pay in benefits, tax-free.

House Bill 1910 creates a pay-as-you-go plan that will be developed by the Long-Range Capital Planning Commission. The plan will include recommendations on reallocation, reuse or liquidation of state properties.

The conservative budget approved by lawmakers and signed into law held most agency funding level while providing a $74 million increase for common education and a $17 million supplemental for this fiscal year. We also continued to provide the necessary funding to accomplish the eight-year road and bridge update plan. The budget also included monies for the repair and renovation of the state Capitol building.

I was disappointed on not getting a pay raise for state troopers. House Bill 2145 would have provided a 16 percent pay raise, but did not make it all the way through the process. It will be one of my top priorities next session.

On the last day of session, rural state lawmakers gained a victory in Senate Bill 965. The legislation modifies the representation on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, which is made up of nine members. Currently, the board includes several at-large members, which gives the governor the power to fill the board with Oklahoma City representatives. The legislation we passed, and hope to see signed, spreads out the representation to better include rural communities.

This was a very historic session. I was proud to author and co-author many of these reforms that will help move our great state forward. I was also proud to have the governor sign five pieces of my legislation into law this session. In the coming weeks I will talk about these measures and other measures I plan to introduce next year.

I look forward to returning to spend more time in Western Oklahoma and get to work on finding out what we need to do in 2014. I can be reached through my Capitol office at (405) 557-7407.

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