Hello again, everyone! The Senate met this week for our one-day organizational meeting.
I began with much hope about relations between the political parties. My hope was grounded in my belief in the integrity of the Senate’s new Republican majority.
President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee and I have known each other many years – predating our elections to the Senate. While we disagree on a number of issues, we have never been disagreeable.
I have always considered Senator Coffee one of Oklahoma’s most gifted leaders. You don’t have to agree with someone to acknowledge their talent and integrity; so it has always been between Senator Coffee and me.
Much of my initial hope about the session was left in tatters on the floor of the Senate. Behavior of the new majority during organizational day should trouble every Oklahoman.
One of most important duties we have that day is the adoption of Senate Rules. Rule changes – inelegantly written and poorly drafted – have shaken the ability of senators to stand for the values of their constituents. The principal rule change was directed toward my struggle to end insurance discrimination against children with autism.
The rule change is a ham-handed attempt to protect Republican senators from having to vote on “Nick’s Law.” That bill has strong popular support, but is opposed by big insurance companies which financially support many of their political campaigns.
Under the new rule, senators cannot consider any bill that would change insurance coverage until the board which governs state employees’ insurance provides a financial impact statement. On its face, this sounds like a good rule: get all the information possible before making a decision.
Getting this information helps senators in making an informed decision. The problem is, nothing in state law requires the insurance board to provide this information, and the board is certainly not subject to Senate Rules.
The board is free to “slow play” data until legislative deadlines pass or the session ends. The cowardly rule gives unelected bureaucrats the ability a kill a bill without a vote, protecting weak senators from making a tough decision.
It is a bad start to a session begun with high hopes. Senator Coffee, in his speech after he was elected President Pro Tempore, talked about ideas that are seeds, proposals that “take on a life of their own.”
Few proposals have taken on a life of its own more than “Nick’s Law.” Based on countless emails and phone calls I have received, Oklahomans support it, and no pitiful attempt to shield members from voting will stop it. As for me, the disdain displayed on the Senate floor has only strengthened my resolve to end insurance discrimination against children with autism.
This is not the end of the battle. It is merely another chapter in a struggle that will not end until “Nick’s Law” becomes Oklahoma’s law.
Thanks again for reading this week’s “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.