Standing behind law enforcement, American Legion

The 2015 legislation session begins on Feb. 2 with Governor Mary Fallin’s State of the State address to state lawmakers. I am excited about our opportunity to accomplish the will of the people and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of state government.

Bill filing ended on Jan. 22. I would like to talk to you about some of the proposals I am making this year. Every year, I run a weekly column during session to ensure you are kept up on what your state lawmakers are doing.

The courageous men and women who work in law enforcement are increasingly the focus of a lot of anger these days. This anger has grown out of media coverage of police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and our bigger U.S. cities. That coverage has included statistics and other information that lend to the idea that all law enforcement officers use excessive force, even inappropriate legal force. In this current climate, I think it is even more dangerous to be in public safety.

With that in mind, I am looking at addressing an issue related to assaults on police officers. I filed House Bill 1318 for the 2015 session. The legislation will address assaults on law enforcement officers who are out of their uniform. Currently, an assailant would face a felony charge for an assault on a uniformed officer, but only a misdemeanor if out of uniform. My legislation would make it a felony charge if the assailant knew he was targeting a cop, regardless of whether or not the cop was on-duty or in uniform.

The American Legion is another group I will be supporting in public policy this year, as I have done every year. House Bill 1090 will exempt sales of tangible personal property or services to the American Legion. It is a policy proposal I have pursued in the past with success among my House colleagues. Senate leaders ultimately blocked the bill, because they were not willing to grant even small additional tax exemptions until they felt better about our state budget situation. I contend that such a leader in our communities must receive the same exemption given to other charitable groups. The American Legion is composed of veterans who have made sacrifices for our country. They should be first on our list of groups receiving an exemption.

A third bill I would like to mention in this column is House Bill 2005. I filed this legislation in response to constituents who told me that they wanted to volunteer to fight fires but could not because of the current age limit. I did some research and found that there has been a decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters in Oklahoma and throughout the U.S. The measure would get rid of the current age limit of 45 for new volunteer firefighters. That age limit was set up because of the firefighters pension system, which could not afford to take on older volunteer firefighters. The constituents I have spoken to say they don’t need benefits, because they have already retired from good careers. They just want to help out the community.

I will tell you about Governor Mary Fallin’s State of State address in next week’s column. My door is open to you at all times. You can reach my legislative office at (405) 557-7407, e-mail or stop by Room 205 at 2300 North Lincoln Boulevard in Oklahoma City.

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