If some people still think the Oklahoma Republican Party is not owned and managed by big business, they should consider its vote Tuesday to kill legislation that would force insurance companies to cover the treatment of autistic children.
A House committee voted on party lines to kill the measure with Republicans opposing the measure and Democrats favoring it. The GOP controls the House and has a majority of votes on the House Economic and Financial Services Committee. The measure was voted down despite urgent pleas from Oklahoma families with autistic children.
Despite Republican spin, this is a clear GOP vote to protect the profits and interests of health insurance companies over the care of autistic children. It’s a cruel, anti-family vote.
The Oklahoma GOP, which is now the country’s weird museum of dead right-wing ideologies, argued the mandate could increase insurance costs by 7.8 percent, but the Democrats presented evidence that contradicted this claim. Several states require health insurance companies to cover autism treatment. It’s unlikely this one mandate would have any kind of significant impact on health insurance premiums or increasing the number of uninsured.
Even if health insurance companies felt compelled to raise rates significantly because of the autism coverage, then that simply shows us how broken our health care system remains. In other words, some people get their illnesses covered; some people don’t.
The health care system in this country is in a state of crisis. The GOP here can obstruct all they want and put the profits of health insurance companies above people, but reform is coming on a national level.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma Democrats need to keep fighting for the legislation.
As the Oklahoma Legislature kicks off its 2009 session today, one of the main issues has become whether Republicans, with majorities in the House and Senate, have the political power to pass bills over Gov. Brad Henry’s veto.
The legislature and Henry will also have to deal with an expected $600 million budget shortfall.
The House currently has 61 Republican and 40 Democratic members. The Senate has 26 Republican and 22 Democratic members. Henry is a Democrat.
It takes a two-thirds majority vote to override a governor’s veto, which translates to 68 votes from the House and 32 votes from the Senate. A bill containing an emergency clause can be overridden by a three-fourths majority vote, which translates to 76 votes from the House and 36 votes from the Senate.
Consequently, any overrides will need some Democratic support. Republicans have proposed bills critics see as religious intrusion legislation, from legislation allowing classroom attacks on the theory of evolution to establishing a Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds. Republicans have also proposed a corporate legal amnesty bill that would cap the amount of damages a person could recover in a lawsuit.
Another issue that has emerged is the elimination of the state sales tax on groceries. The proposal could attract bipartisan support, but any tax cuts will meet resistance this year because of the budget shortfall. Nick’s Law, a bill requiring health insurance companies to cover the treatment of autism in Oklahoma, should draw an immense amount of public scrutiny. The Republican leadership opposes the bill.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute has issued a 2009 Legislative Overview, which is a comprehensive look at how the legislature works. It is a valuable tool for anyone who wants to know how the Oklahoma Legislature officially operates.
(The image on the right is courtesy of PhotoTune.)
The idea that there should be equal pay for equal work in this nation despite gender is just a basic and fair proposition.
Who would oppose legislation supporting this concept?
Well, how about Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat. The entire delegation voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which passed the House and Senate and has been signed into law by President Barack Obama. The bill deals with statue of limitations over discriminatory paychecks:
According to the Associated Press:
The bill is a response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said a person must file a claim of discrimination within 180 days of a company's initial decision to pay a worker less than it pays another worker doing the same job. Under the bill, every new discriminatory paycheck would extend the statute of limitations for another 180 days.
The plaintiff in the case, Lilly Ledbetter, argued that she did not become aware of the pay discrepancy until near the end of her 19-year career at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in Gadsden, Ala.
The new rules about statue of limitations will make employers more concerned about discriminating against people, and this is what gives the measure substance. Those who opposed the act, mostly Republicans, said the act could open up legal problems for employers. But a law without bite would have no effect on the issue of equal pay. If employers don’t want to face legal problems, they shouldn’t discriminate.
How can you say you support equal pay for equal work despite gender, but not support the concept with a strong law that really holds employers accountable?
When he signed the bill into law, Obama said:
Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue -- it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition and child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves; that's the difference between affording the mortgage -- or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor bills -- or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination.
Boren was called a “reactionary fake Democrat” by the popular Down With Tyranny! blog after the vote, but, in a sense, he does reflect the state’s current political conditions. The state is considered one of the reddest of red states. Every single Oklahoma county gave John McCain a majority of votes in the recent presidential election.
Yet this bill, in particular, is historical and right. Women continue to make less money than men in the marketplace, and this, as Obama suggests, often affects families. Boren and the rest of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation were on the wrong side of history when they voted against the bill.