Lawmakers Question Tort Reform

Wednesday, February 18th 2009, 5:52 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- One of the most contentious issues at the Capitol this session promised to be lawsuit reform. It's at the top of the Republican majority's agenda, and Democrats announced Wednesday defeating it is at the top of their agenda.

Now that Republicans control both the House and Senate, Democrats can no longer expect to be able to defeat bills they don't like on the floor, which may help to explain why party leadership has decided to launch their offensive elsewhere.

"We're gonna do television, we're gonna do radio ads, we're gonna do newspaper ads," Democratic Party Chair Ivan Holmes said.

The Democratic Party Chairman told reporters Wednesday a $500,000 media campaign will be aimed primarily at undercutting the GOP's effort to pass tort reform legislation, dispelling what he said are republican myths about greedy trial attorneys and frivolous lawsuits.

Holmes says what the Republicans want, isn't tort reform, but corporate immunity.

"Lawyers are hired by the citizens of Oklahoma to fight for their individual rights, while insurance companies, let's face it, are there to make record profits," the Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman said.

"Well, how much have trial lawyers made over the years in the state of Oklahoma?" Senator Todd Lamb said.

Senate Floor Leader Todd Lamb said the truth is, tort reform would help the people Holmes and Democrats purport to care about, the middle class, making it more affordable for doctors to practice in Oklahoma, and making the state more business-friendly and encouraging entrepreneurs to come.

"Create jobs here, expand here, companies relocate to Oklahoma, which will create more jobs for all Oklahomans," Sen. Lamb said.

Tort reform isn't the only legislation concerning Democrats. Holmes says he confronted the author of a bill that would allow people with conceal-carry permits to take their guns on college campuses.

"I said, ‘You start allowing guns on campus,' and, I looked him right in the face and I said, ‘You will cause people to be killed on campus, through this bill'," Holmes said.

"People who don't like the conceal-carry program always say that there will be Armageddon if people are to defend themselves, but I think Mr. Holmes should realize it's the criminals who have the guns are using them irresponsibly, not the conceal-carry licenses," Rep. Jason Murphey said.

Those are hardly the only bills Holmes and the Democratic party believe are a waste of lawmakers' time, but tort reform is the one they really want to stop.

Tort reform has been blocked by Democrats and Governor Henry the last few sessions. Republicans said they're optimistic this will be the year they get it done.