By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
There is no news to report on the expected closure of Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said during a visit here Wednesday.
The Enid native said he hasn’t heard whether there will be any interim studies or other investigatory panels on the issue of closing NORCE and its counterpart in Pauls Valley, Southern Oklahoma Resource Center. Both facilities care for developmentally disabled clients.
“I really understand the impact Enid has through NORCE, and taking care of people,” Lamb said after keynoting the annual Garfield County Republican Women’s Club fundraiser. “They’ve done it in a very exceptional way with professionals for a very long time, so that’s why through the process and the hearings that led up to the decision, I was visiting with Sen. (Patrick) Anderson on a regular basis.”
Anderson serves as the current state senator for the Enid area. Lamb said he spoke to Anderson before making the trip to Enid and relayed that from the senator’s perspective, there have been no recent developments.
Lamb also said state Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, has asked whether he would be willing to serve on a commission to look into the closings, but so far, the group has not been formed.
Jackson holds the No. 2 leadership position in the Oklahoma House.
“I mean this very, very sincerely. NORCE, or parenthetically Enid, could not have better advocates on its behalf,” Lamb said of Jackson and Anderson. “Laser-focused advocacy for NORCE. They’ve been lead dogs for NORCE and they’ve done an outstanding job making sure everybody understands impact for the residents and the impact for the community.”
The Legislature adjourned last month. During the interim session before lawmakers return to work in February, they often hold dozens of hearings on important issues facing the state.
NORCE and SORC were put on the chopping block last year when the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services voted to shut the facilities down. SORC is scheduled to close in 2014, and NORCE a year later.
This is despite a backlog of more than 7,000 Oklahomans seeking state-paid care for the developmentally disabled, according to Oklahoma Watch.
As of last month, the two facilities cared for 231 residents who now will have to transition to community-based housing over the next two years. Some of the residents require intensive, constant care because of severe disabilities.
During Lamb’s keynote address, he told the friendly crowd one thing that attracted him to the position of lieutenant governor was the latitude he has in defining the job. Aside from his constitutional duties, he’s the chair of the Oklahoma Tourism Commission and serves on the governor’s cabinet as a small business advocate.
As an advocate of small business, Lamb said the top hindrance to business growth has consistently been the lack of workers’ compensation reform, a task the state Legislature tackled in its most recent session this spring.
He said with help from Jackson, Anderson and the Republican-led Legislature and executive branch, they got it done.
“For years, the GOP has stood for ‘Grand Old Party.’ It still does, but a moniker I prefer in our state is ‘Generating Oklahoma’s Prosperity,’” Lamb said.
A common theme of Lamb’s public speeches revolves around Oklahoma’s good-natured rivalry with its southern neighbor, a rivalry that he sees extends past sports.
“As lieutenant governor, I want to beat Texas in something besides football on a regular basis,” he said. “We don’t want to be competitive. We want to beat Texas. I want to beat that state regularly with economics.”
That goal will not happen by accident, he encouraged the conservative crowd.
The issue of workers’ comp reform has been a top issue in both Democratic and Republican campaigns for 50 years, he said. It wasn’t until the GOP captured the governorship and lieutenant governor position, both houses of the Legislature and every one of the statewide elected offices, that reform was accomplished.
“You can’t just wish good thoughts and hope good things and think policy will change,” Lamb said.
Lamb also spoke to Oklahoma’s resilience in the face of adversity. Immediately after the devastating May 20 tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, Lamb went out to help reassure both locals and the nation that Oklahoma could rebuild.
“With the things we’ve faced throughout our history, we always come back and we always come back stronger,” he said.