Before session begins there was a number of bills that I planned on running and changes I wanted to make into law. However, once session begins there is fluidity to proceedings that necessitate an ability to be flexible to make needed changes. It is often impossible to predict the language that will be necessary to accomplish both stated and unstated goals.
HJR 1072 is a prime example of this. This resolution came about as a result of the Water Resources Board deciding to more than triple their existing fees for wells and include irrigation wells. This fee increase would have amounted to $100 per well and up to $500 per owner. This would have placed disproportionate burden on farmers and ranchers in our area.
I worked with Farm Bureau in coming up with a resolution that eradicated this onerous rule. I was able to quickly get the resolution to the House floor and get approval to suspend the rules to hear the resolution immediately. The resolution passed and, with the passage of the resolution in the Senate by Senator Laughlin, the rule will be abolished. That is the least that needs to be done for our agriculture community that is suffering tremendously during this protracted period without rain.
One measure that I have been working on since running for office has been lawsuit reform. This is also a top agenda item for the State Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma Medical Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. In fact it is also an issue that Governor Brad Henry said was a top priority of his administration in his first State of the State address.
Although the House bill was not heard in the Senate, some language from that bill was put into Senate Bill 1657 by Speaker Todd Hiett and Rep Fred Morgan. Among other things it would cap non-economic damages at $300,000 while also allowing full recovery of actual damages, such as medical expenses and lost income. The bill also reforms “joint and several” liability. Defendants are only liable for their share of the harm. If someone is found 10% liable, they will pay only 10% of the plaintiff's award.
This bill also makes it easier for courts to sanction attorneys that file frivolous lawsuits. It also includes provisions to provide liability protection for volunteers working for charities and protection for teachers so they cannot be sued for giving bad grades or disciplining a student. Finally it includes the “Common Sense Consumption Act” which prohibits lawsuits by people blaming their weight problems on fast-food chains or food producers like agriculture business in our area.
This week will be the final chance for bills to get a hearing in the opposite chamber. All bills not passed by the Thursday deadline will be dead. The next major step will be the appropriation process and passing bills out of conference committee.
Boise City News