UPDATE: Oklahoma GOP, Democrats disagree over need for special session
OKLAHOMA CITY – After a bill that was passed in 2009 was deemed unconstitutional, Oklahoma lawmakers were sent to a special session to deal with a variety of bills. That special session came to a close Monday.
Lawmakers were called back to the statehouse for the last five days to help overhaul the state’s civil justice system.
The session came after a bill that included several tort reform measures was ruled unconstitutional over the summer.
Since last Tuesday, legislators have been voting on more than two dozen bills individually. Each and every one has easily passed.
The goal is to keep the court system free from so-called frivolous medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits.
Rep. Mike Sanders, from Kingfisher, said, “We’ve done our job. The governor called us in and things have moved very quickly.”
Republican lawmakers say the session will reduce barriers to economic growth.
Sanders said, “At the end of the day, we want to make Oklahoma a more business-friendly environment. That’s priority number one.”
Rep. Joe Dorman, from Rush Springs, said, “I really think it was a waste of time.”
Democrats, like Dorman, point out the special session costs taxpayers $30,000 a day.
Dorman said, “We could have waited three months and gone back into session and saved money but for some reason people felt this had to happen right now.”
Dorman also wishes lawmakers could’ve addressed other topics besides tort reform.
For example, Dorman wanted to approve state funding for storm shelters in schools.
However, Republicans say those issues would have slowed the session and cost taxpayers even more money.
Sen. Kyle Loveless, from Oklahoma City, said, “All those issues do have merit but if we were to deal with all of them, we’d be here until October.”
Governor Mary Fallin requested the special session after the Supreme Court struck down a tort reform package that was passed in 2009 because it violated the rule that one bill could deal with only one subject.
At the very least, that conflict has now been solved.
Loveless said, “It is a victory for Oklahoma and for Oklahoma businesses.”
Sanders said, “We told the folks of Oklahoma we would get the job done in five days and that’s what we’ve done.”
The governor is out of town for a conference in Colorado.
She has previously defended the need for the special session by claiming it helps avoid any confusion in the court system.
The governor has indicated she’ll sign each of the bills sent to her desk within the week.
Sunday’s Flash Point program had two state representatives as guests and they debated on the merits of this special session. You can see that segment here:
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