New Laws Mean New Jobs

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

A conservative principle that has been proven time and time again is that treating businesses with respect will lead to a healthier economy and more job opportunities. Two bills that followed that line of thinking have made it through the legislative process and were signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Beginning Nov. 1, 2011, non-economic damages in all civil actions will be capped at $350,000. Once House Bill 2128 takes effect, Oklahoma will join the numerous other states that have enacted hard caps on non-economic damages. This will be our third attempt at true lawsuit reform. Our first was struck down in court because it was tailored to one industry, which the court found unconstitutional. The second attempt was watered down to a compromise bill and though it was never implemented, could have forced taxpayers to cover the cost of awards above the $400,000 cap set.

I am excited about the passage of this legislation. A 2008 study by the Perryman Group reports that after implementing non-economic damage caps, the state of Texas created 223,700 new jobs, increased annual consumer and business spending by $55.3 billion, and grew state revenues by $1.4 billion. I expect to see Oklahoma’s cap benefit our state through a decrease in health care costs because of fewer medical lawsuits and cheaper medical liability insurance. I also expect that it will lower the cost of doing business in the state.

For those of you who might have reservations about the new law, keep in mind that plaintiffs can still receive an unlimited amount for actual economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses. The cap will also be lifted in cases where the defendant is determined to have acted with gross negligence or with reckless disregard.

Promoting the aerospace industry through tax credits has been proven to attract new jobs in Oklahoma. Prior to being placed on moratorium, the credits were fully intact for one year. During that time, 348 new engineers were hired in Oklahoma with a direct economic impact of more than $270 million. Gov. Fallin has now signed House Bill 1008 into law, which restores the Aerospace Engineer Workforce and Recruitment Tax Credit. The legislation removes the aerospace job creation incentives from a list of tax credits placed on moratorium as of July 1 of this year.

Education is an important factor in attracting businesses to our state and early intervention for students that are reading below grade level is critical to greater student achievement. One bill that is making its way through the process focuses on intervention at an early age.

Under Senate Bill 346, students entering first grade in the 2011-2012 school year would have to pass a reading test or an alternative assessment when they complete the third grade to be promoted to the fourth grade. The bill requires schools to notify parents in the first, second and third grades if their children were reading below their grade level, creating the possibility that they may not be promoted to the fourth grade. Finally, the schools would have to develop a plan to address a student’s reading difficulties.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.