DALLAS – Democratic lawmakers in Oklahoma oppose a proposal being considered by Gov. Mary Fallin for a special legislative session dealing with lawsuit reform.
Fallin said she may call the Legislature back to Oklahoma City to deal with a tort reform bill passed by the 2009 Legislature that was declared unconstitutional in June by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Fallin has discussed a special session with Senate President Brian Bingman and House Speaker T.W. Shannon, both of the GOP, said spokesman Alex Weintz.
“Oklahoma's lawsuit reform bills were drafted with bipartisan input and have been widely seen as successful and important to the state's economic success,” he said Monday. “Pursuing a lawsuit reform fix would involve passing previously negotiated and vetted language, which can be done relatively quickly.”
The 2014 Legislature will convene in February, but Fallin said quicker action may be needed because businesses are hesitant to expand or relocate in Oklahoma because of the uncertainty.
Leaders of the Democratic minority in the state House and Senate said there is no need for a special session.
“My caucus believes it would be a waste of time and money, something that could easily be addressed next legislative session," said House minority leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, at a July 22 news conference in Oklahoma City.
A special session would cost $30,000 a day, said Senate minority leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore.
“It's a shame that we're contemplating spending the taxpayers' money for mistakes that the Legislature made, mistakes that they knew they were making at the time,” he said.
“I promise you the people of Oklahoma care more about protecting their children in schools from tornadoes, as well as from armed gunmen, than they do about fixing an unconstitutional tort reform law in a special session,” Inman said.
Bingman supports the special session proposal if it is limited to the tort reform issue. He said several bills may be needed to resolve the court’s decision.
“We’ve worked for many years to be pro-business, pro-jobs in Oklahoma,” Bingman said. “We need to deal with that as soon as possible.”
Oklahoma’s high court ruled in early June that the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009 included multiple subjects, which violates the state constitutional requirement for single-issue laws.