Friday, October 23, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Oct. 23-29, 2009 - The Struggle for Children with Autism

Hello again, everybody! Some battles at the State Capitol are over quickly; others continue, waiting on political leadership to catch up with public opinion.

The struggle to provide health insurance coverage to children with autism is one of those battles that will continue. Finding a way to help these children and their families is one of the issues to which I have devoted much effort.

For me, this struggle is a moral issue. My continued work on this is borne from my commitment to strengthen families and help ensure that every Oklahoma child has a chance to reach their God-given potential.

We are still waiting on the political leadership to catch up with public opinion. On the second night of last year’s legislative session, leaders in the House of Representatives killed the bill known as “Nick’s Law.” After that family-unfriendly vote, the leader of that committee proudly stood before the television cameras and said “Nick’s Law” was dead for two years.

Their hope was that the bill, and those families who support it, would simply go away. There have been few political miscalculations as off-base as was that one.

Those of us committed to families continued the struggle throughout the session. We won a few battles in the Senate, but House leaders continued to turn their back on these families and their precious children.

Now, almost five months after the legislative session ended, those of us carrying this banner got another boost. Despite the reluctance of some legislators to acknowledge the importance of this issue, the nonpartisan Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) has once again put autism insurance on its list of legislative priorities.

This group, which always has been a strong voice for Oklahoma’s children, made the decision during its fall legislative forum. At that two-day event, child advocates gathered from across the state to determine what OICA’s focus should be in 2010.

Republican and Democratic legislators addressed different panels on a host of issues. The child advocates were from every corner of the state and members of both political parties. This was as nonpartisan as you could get.

When the only question was “What is best for the children?” the answer was clear. Finding a way to help families pay for the expensive therapies necessary to give children with autism a chance at a full and happy life is – and should be – a top legislative priority for our state, regardless of partisan political considerations.

This is an issue both political parties have embraced in other states; in some states, the charge was led by Republicans. Oklahomachildren deserve that same bipartisan support, and I will continue working to that end.

As always, if you have comments, questions or concerns about state government, send me a message through my website at You can also follow me on Facebook at and on Twitter at

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

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