‘Nick’s Law’ Quickly Trampled in Committee
OKLAHOMA CITY (February 4, 2009) State Capitol – Events in play leading up to the hearing on Nick’s Law foreshadowed the failure of the measure to receive a judicious or fact-based reception. An actuarial analysis requested by Republican leadership and attached to Nick’s Law was created with instructions to approach the analysis with annual caps $25,000 higher than allotted in Nick’s law, thus skewing the fiscal impact of the bill. House Rules adopted in short notice allowed little debate and no allowances as to the rules killing language for two years if either unheard or failing to pass in committee.
The Chair of the Economic Development and Financial Services Committee, Representative Daniel Sullivan, held a private conference one hour prior to the committee hearing to explain to members of the media the rules and procedures he would enforce in the coming meeting, and House staff sent at the bequest of Democratic Leader Danny Morgan and Democratic Floor Leader Mike Brown to attend this informational meeting was barred from entering the meeting. Long story short, the Economic Development and Financial Services Committee is stacked with nine (9) Republican legislators and five (5) Democratic legislators, and in a mere two hours Nick’s Law lived and died along partisan lines and by those unwilling and indifferent to consider the plight of children with autism.
“Last year, one of my former Republican colleagues took a lot of grief by not granting this bill a hearing,” said Floor Leader Brown, D-Tahlequah. “So this year they switched strategies. They brought up the bill in committee early just to quickly vote it down. This isn’t lawmaking – this is game playing, and they’re playing games with kids’ lives. There’s no excuse for it.”
According to House Rules, the language within Nick’s Law, or any similar language attempting to allow insurance coverage for autism, is denied re-entry in the form of an amendment or a bill this year and next.
“Rep. Sullivan blatantly stated that Nick’s Law is finished for two years – end of story. Legislators are bowing to the interests of insurance companies, who as we all know are not benevolent in practice and constantly seek methods in which to have the best return on profits by providing the least amount of service. Both the Senate and House Republicans have openly expressed their allegiance to the insurance industry, and have proven this allegiance by their actions on Nick’s Law.
It’s apparent that only the Democrats are willing to fight the insurance companies and stand up for these families.”
“In the end, it’s not just these families and these children who will pay for our lack of action. All Oklahomans will pay – when a middle-class family goes broke trying to pay for their kid’s treatment, we will have to foot the bill while they pick up the pieces. We will pay an astronomical price over the lifespan of each autistic child unable to receive the proactive services available but unaffordable to families. I find the actions of my colleagues across the hall shameful, and yesterday marked a sad day not only for Oklahoma families, but for those who should have stood up for Nick’s Law and instead choose to stand up for the interests of insurance companies.”