(Oklahoma City) Saying it’s only natural to continue to build on the advances enacted by the Legislature in the last two years, Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson announced Friday that he will support Governor Henry’s continued work on tort reform in the coming legislative session.
“Governor Henry has indicated that he still supports the tort reform proposal he put forward last January and it’s abundantly clear that there are those who intend to continue to use this as a wedge issue to divide the Legislature and our state. We need to address the issue so we can put an end the political games,” said Hobson, D-Lexington.
Hobson noted that just nine months ago lawmakers held 16 hours of unprecedented public hearings and heard sworn testimony from 40 witnesses before passing the most in-depth tort reform measure in state history.
That legislation and a 2003 measure targeted at protecting obstetricians, gynecologists and emergency room physicians from rising medical malpractice premiums have already had a dramatic effect in Oklahoma, the Senate leader said.
“The American Medical Association does not consider Oklahoma a state in crisis. Statistics show that doctors in Oklahoma pay some of the lowest malpractice premiums in the country and the number of malpractice lawsuits is down dramatically.
“No less of a conservative organization than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported last spring that based on the 2003 reforms enacted in both states, Oklahoma’s liability system actually improved dramatically while its ranking of Texas remained almost unchanged,” Hobson said.
Democrats carried those bills and they are making a dramatic difference in the legal landscape in Oklahoma, he said.
“Some people won’t be pleased by this announcement because they aren’t happy unless the Capitol is in turmoil. I don’t believe that’s good for the people of Oklahoma,” Hobson said.
Hobson said he still doesn’t believe there is so-called “jackpot justice” or “run-away” juries in Oklahoma. Last year’s hearings provided no evidence of these often touted phenomena, but something must be done about the damage inflicted on the state by those who keep trying to invent a crisis for political gain, he said.
“The real crisis for Oklahoma is that there are those who would rather rant and rave about a legal liability emergency that doesn’t exist than to seriously address the issues facing our state. I’m ready to address the issues that affect the lives of every Oklahoman like health care and education,” Hobson said.