The Legislature has adjourned and history will be the final judge of how this session impacted the state and its people. For the first time, Republicans held the majority in the Oklahoma Senate and learned how difficult and trying that role can be. Though the session was notorious for the problems of the top leader in the Senate, there were several accomplishments that were good for Oklahoma. Simply put, when the Republican leaders worked with Democrats on important issues, compromise was reached and success achieved. When they did not, their proposals failed or were shuffled off to the 2010 ballot for the voters to wrestle with. Republicans and Democrats got together on some major issues. Bills that balanced the budget in a very tight year, protected our water resources, improved student testing procedures and decided the contentious issue of lawsuit reform were passed with the input and support of both parties. When Democrats demanded funding for the Rural Economic Action Plan, many Republicans joined with us to get the job done. One of the greatest failures by the Republicans who control the legislative process was their refusal to address an issue that affects Oklahomans every day — insurance reform. The Republican company line in regard to this issue is to rely on market solutions to the health care crisis driven by their friends in the insurance industry. Senate Democrats believe any debate about access to affordable health care begins with reforming the powerful insurance industry that continues to make record-breaking profits on the backs of some of the most vulnerable and sick among us. Many Oklahomans simply cannot afford to pay for the health care needs of their families. Others find when they do try to use the insurance policy they purchased with their hard-earned money, it isn’t honored by their insurance company. This is wrong and it needs to change. It’s going to take Democrats and Republicans working together to find solutions to this very serious problem. On several issues this session, we showed Oklahomans what can be accomplished when partisan politics is left out of the debate and egos are checked at the door. We must do the same in regard to the debate about insurance reform. Anything less would fall short of the responsibility we as lawmakers have to be advocates for the common man. Laster, D-Shawnee, is minority leader of the Oklahoma Senate.
On several issues this session, we showed Oklahomans what can be accomplished when partisan politics is left out of the debate and egos are checked at the door.