Senate Judiciary Chairman Has Already Killed Henry’s Tort Bill This Session
State Capitol, Oklahoma City – Senate Republican Leader Glenn Coffee has written Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Laster to formally request a committee hearing for House Bill 2047, the landmark comprehensive lawsuit reform bill authored by Coffee and House Speaker Todd Hiett.
HB 2047 passed the House of Representatives three weeks ago on a bipartisan 62 to 38 vote, and is still awaiting action in the Senate.
“Next week is the deadline for House bills to receive a committee hearing in the Senate. If House Bill 2047 does not receive a hearing, it is dead for the session. As a committee chairman, Sen. Laster has the full discretion whether or not the bill receives a hearing, so the future of lawsuit reform in Oklahoma rests squarely on his shoulders,” Coffee said.
Coffee noted that Laster pulled the plug on Gov. Henry’s watered-down version of lawsuit reform two weeks ago because of bipartisan opposition to the weak bill. Laster and Henry could not muster 25 Senate Democrats to vote for the bill, and refused to negotiate with Republicans to strengthen the measure in order to gain GOP support.
“First, Sen. Laster and Gov. Henry couldn’t even get 25 members of their own party to support their watered-down bill. Then, they refused to negotiate with Senate Republicans to make changes that could have gained our support. That was a real failure of leadership, and it calls into question whether this governor and Senate Democrat leaders are serious about enacting meaningful lawsuit reform in Oklahoma,” Coffee stated.
Coffee said significant lawsuit reform is needed for Oklahoma to keep up with states like Texas, Mississippi, and Missouri – all of which have gained national recognition for the passage of significant reforms in recent years.
“If Oklahoma is going to attract new and better-paying jobs, if we’re going to keep up with our neighbors in the region, we urgently need to enact real lawsuit reform this year. Passage of House Bill 2047 as it is drafted would put Oklahoma on the map as one of the strongest states in the nation for lawsuit reform,” Coffee said.
Coffee is concerned, however, that Henry, Laster, and new Senate Pro Tem Mike Morgan are all trial lawyers who have tried to protect attorneys from meaningful lawsuit reform in the past.
“Lawsuit reform is one of the top two or three issues facing the state today, so how the Democrat leaders treat HB 2047 will be a true test of their leadership. Will they side with their trial lawyer friends, or will they side with the people of Oklahoma?” Coffee stated.