Special session in September

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

A special session called by Governor Mary Fallin will begin September 3 and likely last two weeks. The session is in response to an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling, 7-2, that a 2009 lawsuit reform bill broke the single-subject rule in the Oklahoma Constitution.

The court’s ruling was severely criticized by Andrew Spiropoulous, a constitutional scholar. Spiropoulous called the court an “unaccountable political body” imposing its political will “without sufficient legal justification.” Specifically, he noted the inconsistency of the court’s single-subject rulings and that they were ignoring the language of the state constitution that does allow multiple subtopics within a general subject area. The 2009 lawsuit reform legislation was complex and had many components, but all fell within the subject area of lawsuit reform.

In order to re-enact this legislation, we are breaking it up and putting each component into a single bill, so that the court cannot claim it is breaking the single-subject rule. This would be a tedious process and a difficult one to undergo during regular session, when there are a myriad of other topics we have to address.

As special sessions have become less common, the governor’s announcement has become a point on which her detractors have focused on in order to score political points. Yes, holding a special session costs money. However, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the money we are all spending on health care because of how the current system forces providers to pay to protect themselves from the threat of frivolous lawsuits.

A 2008 study by the Perryman Group reported that Texas created 223,700 jobs and decreased medical liability insurance premiums by 21.3 percent after implementing lawsuit reforms, specifically a cap on non-economic or “pain and suffering” damages. Thirty states have hard caps in place. State lawmakers are hesitant to delay Oklahoma’s opportunity to benefit from the reform.

Frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of doing business in Oklahoma. They are irresponsible and cost jobs, which leads our children and grandchildren to have to seek jobs outside the state. Nellie and I are the parents of two young boys and we want nothing more than to have our boys go to school here, get good jobs and raise their families in Oklahoma.

Lawsuit reform, because of its importance and because of the tedious process that the court is forcing lawmakers to undertake in order to enact it, warrants a special session.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I regularly check the calls I receive at the Capitol office at (405) 557-7407.

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