The Norman Transcript

August 26, 2013

Speaker sets session guidelines

Associated Press
The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers will likely take up more than two dozen bills when they convene at the state Capitol next month for a special session dealing with tort legislation, according to House Speaker T.W. Shannon.

Shannon, R-Lawton, said a rewrite of the state’s tort system would require 26 to 28 bills. The Journal Record reported Sunday that Shannon told lawmakers in a memo last week there’s no deadline for bill introduction, though all House bills will be read on Sept. 3, the first day of the session.

He said he expects the session to last six to 10 days.

Gov. Mary Fallin called the special session to restore several laws overturned by the state Supreme Court that were designed to cut businesses’ legal liability costs.

It will be the first special legislative session since Fallin took office in 2011, and the governor wants lawmakers to limit the session to restoring the provisions of a bill adopted in 2009 that was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma.

The high court threw out the legislation earlier this year, finding that it violated the single-subject rule in the Oklahoma Constitution and amounted to logrolling, or the passing of legislation that contains multiple subjects.

Some Democrats have opposed the special session, noting that it would cost taxpayers about $30,000 per day.

“The Democrats in the state Senate believe that a special session to revisit this issue is a waste of both time and taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore.

State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, said the tort reform legislation would pass both chambers of the Legislature.

“The way things are going, it looks like they have the votes to pass it,” she said. “But what’s sad to me is I’m getting email from the medical community urging me to support the bill. But, at the same time, these same people have stayed silent on Medicaid expansion.”