Reaction to Gov. Henry’s Veto of Legal Reform in OK

By April 29, 2007Briefly Legal

In reaction to Governor Brad Henry’s veto of SB507 yesterday, the legal reform package, one wonders why any of the objections he raised couldn’t have been resolved beforehand. Henry had made tort reform one of his supposed priorities, and the political makeup of the Legislature maximizes a governor’s leverage (Republicans have a 57-44 majority in the House and Senate is evenly divided, 24 to 24.) Compromise would be possible if you were really serious about legislation to bring a measure of balance to the state’s civil justice system, right?

Anyway, here’s the reaction as reported in the Tulsa World:

Senate Co-President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said: “The governor missed a grand opportunity to send a message to the nation that Oklahoma is pro-jobs, pro-doctor and pro-business. Instead, he sent a message that millionaire trial lawyers are still running the show.”

Coffee said Henry’s proposed changes to the bill’s $300,000 limit on damages for pain and suffering and other areas “would have unacceptably gutted the bill’s key provisions.”

And from the Daily Oklahoman (free registration required):

House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, said: “It is ridiculous for the governor to claim he is trying to protect businesses. Business owners know the truth, and they wanted this reform.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, praised Henry’s action, saying SB 507 “would have severely limited access to the courts for most Oklahomans, leaving civil justice as a commodity only the wealthy could afford.”

According to the 2006 Tort Liability Index by the Pacific Research Institute, Oklahoma ranked 38th among states:

Oklahoma ranks poorly in the following areas:
Venue reform (none)
Attorney-retention sunshine reform (none)
Junk food/obesity exemption (none)
FDA/FTC defense (none)
Class action reform (none)
Homeowners’ multiple peril [liability portion] insurance losses (rank #48)

With recent reforms, Texas has jumped into the No. 1 ranking for its tort climate, according to the PRI study. It’s usually a bad sign for economic development when your neighboring state is so much more receptive to business, making its legal climate less capricious.

Opportunity missed, Governor.

UPDATE (Monday, 10:58 a.m.): On the plus side, business climatewise, Oklahoma has the earliest Tax Freedom Day in the country.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Hugh says:

    For every study you can name, there are others that rank differently….look at how they come up with those rankings– very biased. Look at the US Chamber survey, Texas is ranked below Oklahoma.

    The governor thank goodness is one who will look out for the defenseless, obviously something corporations have no interest in.