Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Canned heat: Autism mandate put on the back burner

The Oklahoman Editorial
Published: February 5, 2009

Gov. Brad Henry’s State of the State speech offered its biggest applause lines as the biscuits in a sandwich whose sausage was the autism mandate. This was a free Grand Slam breakfast for Henry because he knew a Republican Legislature was unlikely to send him a mandate bill.

A House committee wasted no time defeating the mandate and declaring it dead for the next two years. The early vote was smart because it dealt quickly with a sizzling issue rather than let it stay on the griddle for week after week.

That’s what happened last year. Mandate supporters — mostly parents of autistic children and therefore unlikely to be objective — aren’t finished. Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, the short-order cook who served up this issue in 2008, said the GOP stance is a recipe for a political scorching.

"I think that’s a serious miscalculation on their part,” Gumm declared. "These families aren’t going away.”

If taking a rational view of the mandate is politically unappetizing, then why did Republicans increase their strength in the Legislature in 2008?

If the autism mandate is worth having, isn’t it also worth having a rational debate in which the mandate’s costs are thoroughly digested? And spare us the empty-calorie argument about insurance company greed.

Gumm wants to pay the tip but let the rest of us pay the tab. His figures on the mandate’s cost vary widely from numbers offered by Republicans.

Let’s keep autism on the menu. But let’s not order a supersized mandate until we get more nutritional data.

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