Taking Care of Corrections

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

This past week, House lawmakers have smoothly transitioned to reviewing Senate bills. We will send some without changes to Governor Mary Fallin and, when we do want to amend a bill, they will go to a joint conference committee. The purpose of the joint committee is to hash out differences between the Senate and House on bills we do not initially agree on. Composed of both state senators and state representatives, the joint conference committees will rewrite the bill with agreed upon language and then send it back through both houses of the Legislature for a final vote.

Governor Fallin signed important legislation into law that will reduce the number of furlough days for corrections officers. Senate Bill 970 reduces the number of furlough days from four a month to just one a month by authorizing the Department of Corrections to spend $4 million from the Correctional Industries’ fund. I was pleased to support this legislation, which will dramatically affect the lives of those corrections officers who reside in my district.

Senate bills 862 and 865, which are part of the governor’s lawsuit reform package, have been passed by the House Judiciary Committee. These bills would change the way awards are divided among multiple defendants and require that juries receive accurate information regarding the tax impact of an award. The idea is a simple and fair one – defendants should have to pay for their portion of the tort, or wrongdoing. Under current law, the richest defendant has to pay the largest portion rather than the one who did the most damage. The tax impact language is meant to address any confusion over whether an award will be taxed or not.

House Speaker Kris Steele has appointed me to the Human Services and Public Safety Standing Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments. This organization brings state lawmakers from around the United States together to work on problems shared by all states. I hope to bring back the best ideas and practices of other states in addressing human services and public safety concerns.

I recently showed a lamb, “Bob”, for Kingfisher middle school student Peyton Burns at the Oklahoma Youth Expo. I would like to thank Peyton for the opportunity to show “Bob.” Peyton is in the 4th grade and is the son of Ryan and Lori Burns, the instructors for the Kingfisher High School FFA.

I want to congratulate Marci Howerton, an 8th grade student from Canton Middle School on winning the 2010 National Association of Conservation Districts National Poster Contest. Oklahoma Conservation Day at the Capitol was on Tuesday, March 22. Soon, we will also recognize the Hennessey football team for winning the Class 2A state championship at the Capitol. The team’s seniors and coach will be present in the House chamber for a reading of a resolution citing the team’s accomplishments.

In the coming weeks, I will talk about the Senate bills I am authoring and their progress. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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