Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Rolly: Once upon a time GOP wanted to help autistic kids

By PAUL ROLLY

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Mar 01 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 03 2014 09:42 am

Rep. Ronda Menlove has fought for years to get some state funding to treat children with autism, and she has been well-armed with statistics that show the right treatment early on can make a substantial difference in a child’s quality of life.

But Menlove, R-Garland, has struggled to get her fellow Republicans in the Legislature to recognize the need for funding the treatment, and she has had to settle for crumbs that will reach about 10 percent of those Utah children in need.

At a glance

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The best the Legislature seems willing to do is provide about $2 million to treat about 200 children who would be chosen for the program through a lottery.

They will be the winners. Ninety percent of the children with special needs will be the losers.

Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, also sees the need to help children with autism and is running a bill that would require state regulated insurance companies to cover autism in their policies. Because that would also cover state employees, that would cover about 60 percent of Utah families.

His bill passed the Senate Friday, but there already is resistance from insurance company lobbyists forming in the House.

The bottom line is that while the Legislature has budged a little bit after years of lobbying by special-needs advocates, it still demonstrates an unwillingness to invest enough to improve the lives of children with autism and other special needs.

But the Utah Republican Party — whose banner cloaks more than 80 percent of the Legislature — was the great champion of special needs kids when political points were to be made.

In other words, Republicans have not put their money where their mouths were.

In 2006, after several failed attempts to pass bills giving tax credits to parents to help pay tuition in private schools, the advocates of the tax credit, or voucher, plan targeted several Democrats who consistently voted against those bills.


story continues below
story continues below

But those advocates, mainly Parents for Choice in Education, played their cards with a sleight of hand.

The flurry of mailers attacking about a half dozen Democratic legislators in 2006 were sent by the Utah Republican Party. But they really were produced and funded by Parents for Choice in Education. And they attacked the Democrats for everything except their votes against the voucher bills.

One of the attack pieces chastised the Democratic legislators for voting against the Carson Smith bill, which provides scholarships to special needs children enrolled in private schools.

The fliers, sent to several legislative districts with only the name of the Democratic incumbent changed to fit the district, claimed that the particular legislator "doesn’t support families with special needs children."

One of the Democrats targeted by that flier was then Rep. Carl Duckworth, D-Magna, the grandfather of a special needs child. Another was then-Rep. Jim Gowans, D-Tooele, the father of a special needs child and the driving force behind the opening of a school dedicated to special needs children when he was superintendent of the Tooele School District.

Most of the Democrats at that time voted against the Carson Smith bill because they suspected it was a back-door attempt to get vouchers introduced as Utah policy.

The Republican Party, however, painted a picture of Republicans weeping for the disabled, doing everything they could for them, and being undermined by the evil Democrats trying to undermine efforts to help the kids with special needs.

Once the campaign was over, and now that the voucher debate has been settled by a ballot initiative in 2007, the great passion toward kids with autism and other disabilities has turned into crocodile tears.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.