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Thursday, July 19th, 2018Last Update: Friday, June 1st, 2018 10:41:02 AM

Honest Change of Mind or Political Flip-flop?

By: Charlie Meadows

HB 2130, a high profile bill by Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele and supported by Governor Mary Fallin, passed the House with only 51 votes and then headed for the Senate. The legislation intended to set up a health care insurance exchange using a $54.6 million "Early Innovator" grant from the federal government, made available through the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAA), referred to by opponents as ObamaCare.

Once it arrived in the Senate, Steele and Fallin were both surprised when Senate President Pro-Tem Brian Bingman said the Senate would not hear the bill. Bingman indicated that in doing so, Oklahoma might become tied to ObamaCare.

Governor Fallin appeared unruffled when she declared the next day that it would become part of future negotiations. Conservative grassroots activists became suspicious that Senator Bingman might not be serious and that similar wording might appear in another piece of legislation.

I had conversations with several senators who indicated the educational information provided by Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) had convinced them that in taking the money Oklahoma would indeed become wed to ObamaCare. Therefore, the Senate leadership became more strident in its opposition and they began to look for an alternative that would stave off a threat from the feds. Some senators indicated Oklahoma would be forced to accept a federal exchange designed by the feds in 2013 if we didn't have a plan in the process of creation by that date.

About this same time, opposition to HB 2130 came from another direction. In my 30 years of observing Oklahoma government, I have never seen a freshman class of lawmakers band together to take a stand, especially in opposition to the Speaker. However, on Wednesday, April 13th, 12 Republican freshmen issued a joint press release expressing their opposition to taking the $54.6 million from the feds. Their reasoning's were hard core conservative.

With the Senate firmly against the bill, and several freshmen disgruntled in having been pressured to vote for something they didn't fully understand when it was first voted on, Speaker Steele and Governor Fallin were caught in the middle. It became apparent it was time to change their mind and save face by getting on board with the Senate's alternative.

The next day, there was a joint press conference with Bingman, Fallin, and Steele, announcing that they would reject the $54.6 million grant and Oklahoma would create the Health Insurance Private Enterprise Network exchange with state and private funds.

While state leaders have agreed in principle to the alternative, the legislation must still work its way through the process. No doubt lawmakers are trying to buy time hoping that things change in Washington and ObamaCare is rolled back. If this piece of legislation passes, we will have some time to determine if it is good or bad for the citizens of Oklahoma. If not, it has a provision in the bill to renew or repeal the Network on or before the last week of May, 2014.

Many grassroots conservatives are still concerned the "Oklahoma Network" is too similar to ObamaCare's strategy and objectives. The best source of information as to the problems with the "Oklahoma Network" are to be found on the Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE) web-site: www.ok-safe.com

I believe legislation to opt-out of any kind of state or federal government exchange is the best path to take. However, I don't believe we have a governor who is willing to stand up to the federal government, nor do I believe that without the leadership of a Randy Brogdon in the Legislature that it is likely for either of the two bodies to lead out with legislation to opt-out of an exchange. Therefore, I believe this alternative plan is the best for Oklahoma.

For those who want nothing or legislation to opt-out, now is the time to contact your State Representative and State Senator. Forget about contacting the Governor on this issue at this time, as she will be out of the loop unless we can get a bill to her desk. If grassroots conservatives can apply enough pressure upon lawmakers to get an opt-out bill to her desk, then Governor Fallin will become very important as she would have a choice to sign the legislation or smash it with a veto.

Readers will have to decide if educational information caused leaders to change opinions or did they feel the heat and see the light? Frankly, Oklahomans shouldn't give a hoot. Fallin and legislative leaders should be praised for not taking the $54.6 million from the bankrupt federal government which doesn't have it to give in the first place.

Charlie Meadows is president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC). You may contact him at: Charliemeadows7@gmail.com

About Charlie Meadows

Charlie Meadows is the founder and former president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC).

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