BY ARNOLD HAMILTON
As promised, House Democrats returned to their seats today, a day after walking out en masse to protest what they viewed as heavy-handedness by the Republican majority.
Dems had hoped to revive “Nick’s Law” that would require insurance companies to cover treatment for autism. But the GOP – with Rep. Don Armes of Faxon ruling from the speaker’s chair – thwarted the parliamentary maneuver.
It’s hardly unprecedented in state history that the House majority arbitrarily and capriciously applies its rules – a variation of situational ethics.
This episode was so egregious, however, that even normally mild-mannered Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, came unhinged, likening the ruling to “totalitarian government.”
What shouldn’t be overlooked is this fact: Legislative opposition to Nick’s Law reflects not the will of the people, but the financial power of the insurance industry.
The GOP majority isn’t about to cross one of its chief underwriters. Instead, it hopes to bamboozle a majority of Oklahoma voters into thinking it is seriously addressing the autism problem [by approving SB 135].
It’s certainly reasonable to help train more doctors to diagnose and treat autism, but what good does it do if rank-and-file Oklahomans can’t afford to be diagnosed or treated?
For the record: three Democrats remained in their seats on the House floor during the walkout – Reps. Ryan McMullen of Burns Flat, Wade Rousselot of Wagoner and Jerry Shoemake of Morris.
McMullen says he declined to participate because “I fervently disagree with walking out when you don’t get your way. Even as the minority, we have an arsenal of procedural moves at our disposal to get our point across. Procedural moves, not the walkout, will be what allow us to have a modicum of fairness on the House floor. In my opinion, walkouts are not effective, and certainly don’t play well to the general public.”
Eventually, eight Democrats joined 57 Republicans in supporting the window-dressing measure.
This fight is far from over. Can you imagine the fun in the next election cycle? The legislative majority is OK that insurers cover Viagra – but not children with autism?
Maybe it’s time to resurrect Bob Dole and his little blue friend.
– Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer