Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma, despite having campaigned as an advocate of tort reform, vetoed a well-considered and much-debated legislative package to bring reason and balance to the state’s system of civil justice. This is a mistake on his part that will have serious consequences for the state’s business climate. The veto message for SB507 is available on this page. It states:
This is to advise you that on this date, pursuant to the authority vested in me by Section 11 of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution to approve or object to legislation presented to me, I have VETOED Senate Bill 507. I have vetoed this bill primarily because several provisions are unconstitutional, and the measure unduly restricts the ability of Oklahomans to seek equal justice through the civil justice system. The measure also makes it virtually impossible for the state to pursue a legal course of action designed to protect its citizens and valuable resources. Finally, the legislation does little to curb frivolous lawsuits.
UPDATE: 5:05 p.m.: THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW:
Governor Henry Announces Comprehensive Tort Reform Initiative
January 30, 2004
Governor Brad Henry is asking state lawmakers to approve a comprehensive tort reform initiative that will stamp out frivolous lawsuits and prevent abuse to make Oklahoma’s civil justice system the “best in the nation.” The governor announced his package Friday after completing an exhaustive review of recent reforms approved by other states around the country, including Texas.
Gov. Henry said he developed the comprehensive initiative in consultation with business leaders, medical representatives and consumer advocates. The plan builds on the strongest reforms adopted by the Lone Star State in addition to addressing specific areas untouched by the Texas reforms.
“This is the most sweeping, comprehensive tort reform package in the nation,” said the governor. “It enacts genuine and meaningful reforms that address the real problems in our civil justice system.”
Not if it’s vetoed, it doesn’t.
UPDATE (5:50 p.m.): The AP broadcast story:
OKLAHOMA CITY Governor Brad Henry today vetoed a sweeping civil justice measure that would have changed the way negligence and medical malpractice lawsuits are filed and litigated in state courts.
Despite his veto of the so-called “tort-reform” bill, Henry says he plans to work with lawmakers on a compromise measure to address what he said were flaws in the bill.
Senate Co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee accused Henry of flip-flopping on the issue of civil justice reform, but says he’s willing to continue negotiating with Henry on a revised measure.
Saturday was the deadline for Henry to either sign or veto the bill, which passed the House and Senate earlier this month.
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