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Laster Disappointed Republicans Refused to Support

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charlie Laster expressed disappointment Thursday that the Texas-plus tort reform measure proposed by Governor Henry last year was not considered by the full Senate this week.

He didn’t bring the bill up, he said, because it would not have passed.

“We couldn’t muster one Republican vote for the same bill they said last year was the answer to Oklahoma’s lawsuit reform needs,” Laster said. “We had almost every Democrat on board, but with a narrowly divided Senate, we needed at least a few Republican votes to pass the bill.

“They told us they would vote lock-step against the governor’s bill.”

Laster pointed out that a year ago lawsuit reform proponents offered praise for Henry’s plan.

In February 2004, the founder of Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform, businessman John Brock of Tulsa, said Henry’s Texas-plus proposal was “an omnibus bill providing for sweeping reforms that will release Oklahoma from the stranglehold of frivolous lawsuits and unwarranted claims and settlements.”

In April 2004, Judy Hatfield, a Norman businesswoman who was chairman of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce last year, said: “This bill is the result of a lot of hard work by the governor’s office. Henry looked at what Texas did last year and decided Oklahoma could do better. We need to keep our focus on Henry’s stated goal.”

Praise for the governor’s bill also came from the medical community last year.

Oklahoma State Medical Association past President Dr. Jack Beller said Henry’s bill would: “out-Texas Texas.”

“Suddenly, the Republicans aren’t for Texas-plus. It sure looks to me like they’re more interested in politics than policy,” Laster said.

Laster said he does plan to hear other lawsuit reform legislation in committee.

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