Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sets special session for September 3
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Published: 12-Aug-2013

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s widely anticipated special legislative session will begin Tuesday, September 3.

Gov. Mary Fallin made the announcement Monday (August 12). In her call for the session, the chief executive was responsive to the announced desires of both President Pro Temp Brian Bingman,R-Sapulpa, and Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, to act “sooner, rather than later.” 

Fallin’s executive order designating the session limits it to lawsuit reforms enacted in House Bill 1603, an omnibus package enacted in 2009 with bipartisan support. The state Supreme Court in June ruled the legislation violated a state constitutional “single-subject” rule. 

In a statement sent to Oklahoma Watchdog, Gov. Fallin said, “Oklahoma’s lawsuit reform measures are part of what makes this state attractive to businesses and allows us to retain and recruit doctors. Those laws are now under attack. In the weeks since the court ruled our laws unconstitutional, at least a dozen lawsuits have been reopened against hospitals, doctors and other employers. As lawmakers, we need to act now to protect our businesses and our medical community from frivolous lawsuits and skyrocketing legal costs.”

Fallin’s comments about legal filings bolstered concerned expressed four weeks ago by Sen. Bingman, and later by shared by the Speaker, over what they called a “land run” of litigation from trial lawyers hoping to exploit uncertainties after the 7-2 state Supreme Court decision. 

Fallin said she called the session for early this fall to avoid as much as a year’s delay in a “legislative fix” until next August “or even November” of 2014. Fallin was referencing legal requirements for legislative super-majorities (two-thirds) that could delay implementation of new laws until several months after next year’s regular session (which runs February through May). 

“If we do not act now, we may not see a legislative fix implemented until August or even November of next year. It is important to address this issue immediately and with a singular focus. The alternative is to allow Oklahoma’s business climate and job market to erode,” Fallin said. 

Fallin did not extend her legislative call explicitly to health care. Many legislators had hoped she would so that the looming demise of Insure Oklahoma could be addressed. However, she said, “Legal costs and predatory lawsuits are a driver of rising health care costs. If we allow the floodgates to be opened for a host of new medical malpractice suits, health care premiums will rise and health care will become less affordable.

“It’s important – for both the health of Oklahoma families and their economic bottom line – to act now and prevent lawsuits from pushing the costs of medical care even higher.”

In Executive Order 2013-30, promulgated by her signature Monday Fallin convoked what will officially be designated the First Extraordinary Session of the Fifty-Fourth Legislature to convene at the State Capitol” at 1 p.m. on Sept. 3.

Fallin’s executive order specified that “Any legislative should be drafted in such a way to ensure that Article 5, Section 75 of the Oklahoma Constitution, or any other Constitutional provision, is not violated.” 

The state High Court has frequently assailed “log-rolling,” the practice of putting more than one subject into legislation. Legislators disagree they did that in the 2009 law, but majority Republicans likely have the votes to move a dozen or more bills through the pipeline three weeks from now. 

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.

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