“It jeopardizes jobs. Businesses (are) open to potentially frivolous lawsuits. And, we know that one business field that is particularly open to that is the medical profession.”
While many lawmakers agree that tort reform is necessary, some are unhappy that a special session is being called.
“I'm for tort reform, but I am very upset about the special session,” said Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore. “It is a waste of tax money, and I'm not the only one in the Republican caucus that feels that way.”
Lawmakers like Wesselhoft feel this is not a pressing matter and could have waited for the next regular session.
Even if the special session moves quickly, it likely will end up costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time when tight budgets have, for example, prevented a raise in Oklahoma Highway Patrol salaries for seven years.
“The problem is that not only are we spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money at a time that it's not necessary to do so, but we're also doing it in a way that is the most closed, the least transparent way possible,” said Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City. “The bills have been thrown to us right before Labor Day weekend ... They will not have an opportunity to go through a 24-hour amendment cycle, which always happens for all our other bills.”
“It's clear to us that the governor is listening to some powerful, wealthy special interests in Oklahoma and thus has decided that it's OK that we spend taxpayer dollars, close to $300,000, to take care of their special interests right now instead of waiting to do it in regular session. That's clearly what is happening, there's no other way around it.”
Weintz contends that the language in the estimated 30 new laws that will be filed for the special session will be cut and pasted from the previous tort reform legislation, and the governor is interested in reinstating as much of the original substance as possible. He said unless the matter is resolved quickly, Oklahoma's economy will suffer.
“I think it demonstrates the gravity of the situation in the eyes of the governor and policymakers in the business community. That we think that the state of Oklahoma stands to lose a whole lot more than $30,000 a day,” he said.
“And, we've let our legal climate and our economic environment erode. So, that's why we think that these are really important measures and that they help to create jobs, and we'll lose jobs if we don't put them back into place. We think it's worth that price tag.”
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