Senators Ted Fisher, Ben Robinson, Mike Morgan, President Pro Tem Cal Hobson,
Governor Brad Henry and House House Speaker Larry Adair met with the press Friday
following Sine Die to discuss this year's legislative session.
Senate Republican leaders said that Oklahoma trial lawyers won a major victory in their fight against meaningful lawsuit reform this session, with passage of House Bill 2661 by the Senate and House of Representatives this week.
“The very fact that every senator who has publicly opposed lawsuit reform voted for this bill proves that HB 2661 is a sham,” stated Sen. James A. Williamson, Senate Republican Floor Leader. “The trial lawyers have won a major victory.”read more.
Senate Republican Leader James A. Williamson gave the just-completed 2004 legislative session a grade of “D.”
“The 2004 legislative session is one of the worst examples of missed chances I have ever seen,” said Williamson, R-Tulsa.
“This session started with so many positive opportunities to create jobs and promote economic development. Instead, the governor’s program to raise taxes and expand gambling dominated the debate and our time. Even those issues were referred to a vote of the people instead of being dealt with directly by the Legislature,” he said.read more.
As lawmakers entered the next to last day of the Second Session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature, the leader of the State Senate Thursday morning proclaimed this session as the most successful in his 26 years of legislative service.
“We have addressed in a positive way more significant issues in this session than in any other since I first came here in February 1979,” Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson said. “We’ve given the people of Oklahoma the chance to rescue our state’s ailing horse racing industry and regulate tribal gaming for the first time in history.
The special joint House-Senate Conference Committee on tort reform today endorsed a comprehensive lawsuit reform proposal, the co-chairpersons of the committee announced.
A measure that could lead to “historic improvements” at Lake Texoma Resort Park has cleared the Legislature and is on its way to the governor.
The measure would allow the Commissioners of the Land Office – also known as the School Land Commission – to invest in real property held by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. read more.
State Sen. Jim Maddox said he disagreed with an interpretation of the law on term limits that could force him to leave office in mid-term. The Democrat from Lawton said he was considering a legal challenge in an effort to finish the four-year term he was elected to serve.
Just this week the legislature approved a bill outlining the procedure for filling such seats by special election. House Bill 2663 was approved by the Senate on Tuesday after being approved in the House on Monday.
Special Session Likely Needed to Pass Meaningful Reform
Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday that time is running out for meaningful lawsuit reform to be passed by the Legislature this year, and that a special session may be needed to complete work.read more.
Oklahoma lawmakers essentially completed the Fiscal Year 2005 state budget with the passage of the final bills out of the General Conference Committee on Appropriations Tuesday – three days before the constitutionally mandated adjournment of the Second Session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature.
“There are a couple of bills that still have to be heard on the floor of both House and Senate but the budget is finished. We have fulfilled our constitutional duty with time to spare,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Morgan.
The State Senate has given final approval to two measures that will enhance the benefits of Oklahoma’s educators today, according to State Senator Kenneth Corn. Senate Bill 1134 and Senate Bill 1272 will both help to properly compensate retired and current teachers.
SB 1134 would provide for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retired members of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma based upon the retirement benefit amount and the years of service of each retired member.
State Senator Sam Helton stated today that legislation to further enhance veterans’ benefits has received approval from the Senate General Conference Committee on Apppropriations (GCCA) today. House Joint Resolution 1044 would provide disabled veterans with property tax relief on their homes.
Oklahoma should jump on the job growth bandwagon by passing lawsuit reform, workers comp reform
Senator James Dunlap, R-Bartlesville, said Friday that there is clear evidence that President George W. Bush’s tax cuts have provided a significant boost to the U.S. economy.read more.
Oklahoma Senators today gave final approval to Governor Henry’s Health Initiative sending a proposed tobacco tax increase to the vote of the people in November.
Senate Republican Leader James Williamson disagreed with the assessment of Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson that Friday’s Senate vote on a tobacco tax bill (House Bill 2660) was the most important vote since House Bill 1017 in 1990.
“Health care is a very important issue in the state, as the level of support for HB 2660 bears out. But in my opinion, if the Legislature fails to pass a meaningful lawsuit reform bill and does not address workers compensation reform this year, the 2004 legislative session can only go down as a failure,” said Williamson, R-Tulsa.read more.
MEASURE: Conference Committee Substitute for House Bill 2660
SUBJECT: Cigarette and Tobacco Products Tax
AUTHORS: Speaker Adair and Representative Pope and Senators Hobson and Monson
PROVISIONS: SECTION 1: Sends to a vote of the people at the November 2004 General Election for their approval or rejection Sections 2 through 19 of this act.read more.
Two measures authorizing municipalities to allow disabled people to use golf carts on city streets are still awaiting final action by the House and Senate. The Senate author of one of those measures wanted to clarify the status of the bills after some newspapers and broadcasters reported that one had been signed into law.
Both House Bill 2367 and Senate Bill 1461 are still in conference committees. Each was written in response to the case of a disabled Claremore resident ticketed by local police for driving his golf cart on city streets.read more.
“We have taken a giant step today toward making Oklahoma a healthier place to live. We’ve got a couple more steps to take, but I’m confident that we’re going to get there.
I applaud the 66 House members who had the courage to stand up against those who would continue to put profits from tobacco above the health of current and future generations of Oklahomans.read more.
The Oklahoma State Senate passed a measure Thursday that will give Oklahomans another chance to vote on the cockfighting issue. Senate Bill 835 by Senator Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta, would reduce the penalty for cockfighting from a felony to a misdemeanor.
"The law was not well written," said Shurden. "We send people to prison for far less time for crimes such as the rape of a child. The punishment doesn't fit the crime, and I don't think this is what the voters intended."
Tort Reform Committee Chairpersons Cite Wall Street Journal Story
The special joint House-Senate Committee on Tort Reform has already adopted a provision lauded by medical professionals in a front page story in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal as the most effective tool at stemming malpractice lawsuits.
The “I’m sorry” provision allows doctors and other health care professionals to apologize to patients and their families – in the event of an undesirable medical outcome – without fear that the apology can be used against them in a future lawsuit.
Senator Charles Ford announced the dedication of another original painting commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc. The painting, titled “Mahongo” by nationally renowned artist Mike Wimmer of Norman, was unveiled during a ceremony in the Senate Chamber this afternoon.