By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Those trying to convince Gov. Mary Fallin the state should keep at least some beds available for the developmentally disabled will find a tough customer to sway.
That option appears to be the leading compromise going into the 2014 legislative session. Only time will tell, though, whether Enid’s state legislators can convince the Department of Human Services or the governor’s office to change course and keep Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid open past 2015.
State Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, has signaled he might introduce legislation to prevent the facility’s closure. In a hearing at the state Capitol last week, Jackson said he was not opposed to transitioning residents from NORCE to private care, but added there could be some residents who would respond better if they remained under the state’s care.
Not so, said Fallin, who said she believes community-based care for the developmentally disabled is the better option for everyone.
“I think the thought is that we want the best care, the best quality, the best models, the best systems of care for these individuals,” she said during a visit to Enid Thursday. “And things have changed since the state started institutionalizing individuals. We don’t feel like that’s the best kind of care for an individual.”
NORCE is on track to close in August 2015 and its sister facility in Pauls Valley will close next year. The now-disbanded Human Services Commission voted in 2012 to close the state’s two residential facilities.
Caring for the developmentally disabled is a difficult issue, Fallin said.
“Any time you have people with severe medical conditions, those who have developmental disabilities, we always want to do the very best thing we can to provide quality health care services, make sure they’re safe and protected, and receive the kind of care and service that they deserve,” she said.
Fallin was in Enid as one of the first stops on her 2014 campaign tour. So far, she remains unopposed, although there is one possible candidate who has said he intends to file as a Democrat.
During a speech to members of the Garfield County Republican Party Thursday, the governor boasted about how Oklahoma’s economy has thrived in contrast to the national economy.
“I knew we could do things better here in Oklahoma. There’s a better way to provide essential services, and certainly we were going to do it a lot different than what Washington, D.C., has been doing and continues to do,” Fallin said.
She said she decided to run for governor in 2010 because President Barack Obama was taking the country “further down a path that we didn’t need to be going as a nation.”
Fallin said in her second term she will focus on education, infrastructure, public safety, corrections and health care.
The attendees at the campaign stop were vocal about their opposition to the president and the federal government in general.
Paul Allen commended Fallin for her work and encouraged her to protect state residents from the federal government.
“If you don’t stand up to Washington, they’re going to run over us. I want to hear you say that you are not going to accept Medicaid expansion even if they keep talking about it,” he said.
Fallin said that continues to be her position. The concern is federal subsidies for the expansion eventually would diminish, leaving the state to foot the bill.
One woman who didn’t identify herself said the states have to take back power through nullification laws.
“We really hope that you’re going to be doing as little and taking as little federal money as possible and doing everything you can to detach ourselves from it,” she said.
Fallin said federal law supersedes state law.
“That’s the challenge in our nation,” she said. “Our nation, as a majority of Americans believe, is on the wrong track. I don’t think there’s any debate about that at all.”
Enid resident Mark Irwin suggested the federal government “can’t make just any old law they want.”
“The states created the federal government. And if we think we’re going to win in the federal court system that’s determining the extent of federal power, that is never going to work. The government is out of control. It’s broke beyond relief,” he said. “In my opinion, we need a governor that’s going to stand up and protect the liberties of the people of Oklahoma.”
Again, Fallin mentioned her record of challenging the Obama administration on the Affordable Health Care Act and regulations she believes oversteps its boundaries.
Clark Steiger asked Fallin if she thought the states have the right to say what is constitutional and what is not constitutional.
“That’s going to be handled by the courts. We also have our elected officials in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
Steiger also suggested the federal court system does not have the authority to decide what is constitutional.
“Since it isn’t (in the Constitution), that’s one of the powers that were retained by the states. The states are the final authority on what’s constitutional and what isn’t,” he said. “Do you support a state nullifying an unconstitutional federal law?”
Fallin replied, “Only if it’s constitutionally legal.”
“My responsibility is to uphold the law. That’s why I keep saying it’s got to be determined by our courts,” she said.