Oklahoma neither a laggard nor trend-setter in crafting policy

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: November 25, 2012

California is celebrated and sometimes castigated for its “innovative” policies on safety, health and the environment. In California, it's illegal to smoke in a car containing a minor or to talk on a hand-held cell phone or send text messages while driving. Oklahoma has relatively liberal smoking laws and has yet to take seriously the problem of driving while phoning or texting. The state was slow to require seat belt usage for adults.

Sometimes the threat of federal sanctions forces action, as was the case with seat belts. This is a state that recoils at restricting the size of sodas but not at forcing lawmakers to retire after 12 years in office.

Rather than seeing Oklahoma's late adoption (or non-adoption) of policies in other states as a sign of backwardness, we see it as a sign of freedom. The state should restrict texting while driving and not because other states have done so but because it makes sense. The latest policy adoption choice came with state health care exchanges and Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin said no to both.

One marketing theory proffers a hierarchy ranging from innovators and “early adopters” to laggards, with most people falling in between. The people who line up to buy the latest iPhone model are early adopters. Those who've yet to own any smart phone are laggards.

In the policy world, Oklahoma isn't an early adopter or a laggard. It's right where the majority of states are in exercising their right to lead on some policies and lag on others.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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