Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Lawsuit Reform Being Pushed in Legislative Races

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Lawsuit Reform Being Pushed in Legislative Races

Article excerpt

Lawsuit reform may be overshadowed by the illegal immigration issue in the current election campaign, but it will not go away during the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, a large coalition of business leaders and business groups has made lawsuit reform its top priority for the election and next year. The State Chamber helped put together this coalition and says it will push harder for it than ever before.

Legislative races often involve local concerns as well as major statewide issues, but this year lawsuit reform is being pushed as Republicans seek to gain control of the Senate for the first time. Previously Democrat-controlled Senates provided the blockade for the legislation.

Comprehensive reform legislation was passed the last two years by the Republican-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives under the leadership of House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville. It contained everything Gov. Brad Henry said he wanted.

Impetus for the chamber's effort comes from reliable polling numbers showing the people strongly support lawsuit reform.

Mike Seney, senior vice president for operations for the chamber, said he believes Democrats know this. That may be true for some Democrat state senators who, while maintaining their support for reform to their constituents, hide behind their chosen leaders such as Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, to block the legislation in committee or in conference to avoid a recorded vote by the entire Senate.

About the only way this is going to change is for Republicans to gain control of the Senate, which they have a good opportunity to do this year.

Seney admits a lot of the chance for success will depend on the outcome of the election, but insists the chamber will push forward regardless.

A 12-member committee from the coalition currently is working on drafting a comprehensive reform bill. According to Seney, it will be patterned after Henry's proposal in 2004.

"We are going to give the governor what he said he wanted," Seney declared.

In a press release dated Jan. 30, 2004, with great fanfare Henry announced his "comprehensive tort reform initiative."

According to him it was developed in consultation with business leaders, medical representatives and consumer advocates. …

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