Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Political Gamesmanship Often More Important Than Good Policy

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant
Hello again, everybody! The give-and-take of making law is an interesting process to watch.

Most Oklahomans believe a good proposal should stand on its own, earning support of lawmakers and leaders just because it is good for our state. One of those is the “All Kids Act” – the bill I wrote about last week to extend Medicaid coverage to as many as 42,000 Oklahoma children without insurance. It deserved to pass on its own merits.

Even so, its fate was put in doubt during the final hours of the legislative session because of political gamesmanship. Republican leaders in the House insisted that one of their bills pass before they would pass the “All Kids Act” 2007 as the session neared its end.

The disheartening thing is the bill they tied to “All Kids” was a bill that cynically proved the old saying that it is better to look good than to do good. House Republicans would not pass “All Kids” until the Senate passed House Bill 1270.

HB 1270 directs the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to do what it is already doing, except calling that effort the “2nd Century Entrepreneurship Center.” The reason for the change is that it center’s title is the same as the name given by House Republicans to their legislative agenda for 2007, making it sound like some kind of sweeping change.

When HB 1270 was up before the Senate budget committee, I asked a very simple question of its author. “What does this bill do other than require a sign be placed in the Department of Commerce and changing some letterhead?”

His response told every Oklahoman everything we needed to know about this bill. After a pause, he said, “That’s a good question.”

The 2nd Century Entrepreneurship Center bill was completely unnecessary except for the fact its passage convinced House leaders to do the right thing and pass the “All Kids Act.” In that regard, it was a fair trade – but it should not have to be that way.

Bills coming before us should live or die based on their own merits. On its merits, the 2nd Century Entrepreneurship Center deserved to die, and “All Kids” deserved to pass on its own without being tied to an effort to look good rather than do good.

It is hard for me to imagine why anyone would put at risk a bill to cover thousands of children with health insurance just so one political party could claim a legislative victory by passing a different bill that does nothing. In a word, that is unconscionable, and the people of Oklahoma certainly deserve better.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.

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