Oklahoma House members take oath of office
A Democratic lawmaker attempts to rally legislators to call a special session to deal with whether or not Oklahoma will form a health insurance exchange.
A Democratic lawmaker used Thursday's swearing-in ceremony of newly elected and re-elected members of the state House of Representatives to call for a special session to deal with whether Oklahoma will form a state electronic health insurance exchange.
Rep. Joe Dorman didn't get far in the process.
Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, gaveled down the Rush Springs Democrat, telling him the time to speak on the House floor after most of the 101 members took their oath of office was restricted to introductions and announcements.
Dorman said a special session “is the only way that we are able to come in and address this and not allow the executive branch or the federal government to dictate how we will handle the health care exchange.”
“The governor indicated earlier that she did not want to call us back to a special session for any reason,” Dorman said. “So this was our opportunity provided to the Legislature to call ourselves back into special session.”
Dorman needs to get signatures from two-thirds of the House and Senate members in order to get a special session seated. He acknowledged it would be difficult to reach that mark; Republicans have a 71-29 majority in the House and a 36-12 advantage in the Senate. He had five signatures — all from Democratic House members. He would like a special session to be held by Dec. 1 so lawmakers would have two weeks before the Dec. 14 federal deadline to submit a plan to develop an insurance exchange, which would match up the uninsured with insurance providers.
Dorman said the GOP-controlled Legislature gambled that the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down the national health care law, which calls for establishing the exchange, and that President Barack Obama, who championed the federal legislation, would be defeated by Republican Mitt Romney. Oklahoma is one of several states that have not developed a health insurance exchange, as required under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“That has left us, as far as a state, in a lurch,” he said.
Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Taylor administered the oath of office to just about all the newly elected and re-elected members.
Of the 101 members, 88 received oaths of office during a ceremony in the House chamber as about 200 family members and friends packed the overhead gallery.
Eleven were sworn in earlier and two will be sworn in later. Rep.-elect Dan Fisher, R-El Reno, was out of state and will be sworn in next week and Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, is involved in an election recount.
The recount, requested by Democratic challenger Paula Roberts, who lost last week's election by 18 votes, is scheduled to take place Thursday. Roberts also has a filed a petition alleging election irregularities occurred; the petition is scheduled to be taken up Thursday.
The year's session ended with 67 Republicans and 31 Democrats. The House now has 16 freshmen — 13 Republicans and three Democrats.