The Edmond Sun

July 26, 2013

Our View: Special session can wait

Special to The Sun

EDMOND — Gov. Mary Fallin and other state legislative leaders keep flirting with the idea of calling a special session to repair the language of the 2009 and 2011 tort reform laws.

Both sets of legislation were struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court last month for issues of logrolling — dealing with more than one topic in the bill — and for creating an unconstitutional monetary barrier to the court system.

The laws were designed to achieve significant tort reform as part of the Republican-controlled government’s overall efforts to improve the state’s business climate. The laws significantly changed the filing procedure and measures of worthiness of malpractice and other types of lawsuits. They also changed the payouts available on certain types of lawsuits.

No one has rolled out publicly a full solution to repair the legislative language, which we believe to be the key reason for delaying a special session. Plus a special session could take more than a month to follow the full process and get a solution hammered out.

So here we are two months out from the end of the legislative session but we’re still hearing discussion of a special session. This seems like an unusual waste of taxpayer dollars to call legislators back to the Capitol when other options exist.

One solution would be for the governor and legislative leaders to hammer out a bill that would be put on the docket for the first Monday in February when the Legislature reconvenes. Committee appointments usually are already in progress by January when legislators are sworn in. A committee for this legislative problem could start meeting the day legislators are sworn in and be ready for a solution to be voted on the first meeting day in February. It would trim the expense of a special session, and probably would only increase travel budgets for a handful of legislators for coming up a few days earlier than normal to the Capitol.

We believe the Legislature should swiftly address this problem and restore the reforms into law. We just don’t think taxpayers should have to pay even more out than they already have to reach this solution.