Bipartisan panel is named to consider lawsuit reform
A series of open hearings on the contentious issue will begin April 15.
By Paul English
World Capitol Bureau
Oklahoma City---- Promising to have an "open and inclusive dialogue," Democratic legislative leaders announced on Friday the formation of a bipartisan, 23-member committee on lawsuit reform.
The joint legislative committee will conduct a series of open hearing beginning April 15, to examine the myriad issues surrounding lawsuit reform.
Rep, Jari Askins, D-Duncan, and Sen. Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, were chosen to lead the committee by House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, and Senate ProTem Cal Hobson, D-Lexington.
Committee members are expected to serve on the joint conference that will write the final version of the tort reform bill. House Bill 2661.
"We are committed to an open and inclusive dialogue in seeking reforms that will make our system work better for Oklahoma,"Hobson said.
"We want to hear from doctors, lawyers, business people, the insurance industry and victims----both those who have won and those who have lost in court."
Adair said, examining an issue as divisive as tort reform should be done in a public forum and with much scrutiny.
"Our course of actions is the only way to ensure all parties involved have a voice in the process and an end result on which we all can agree," he said.
Askins and Morgan said they plan to conduct four or more open hearings in which they will hear testimony from wittneses, and a record will be made of proceedings.
"Like most Oklahomans, state legislators need to be educated on this subject, as well,"Askins said. "Public hearings will allow committee members the opportunity to become informed on these difficult issues.
"In the end, we will have a thorough piece of legislation beneficial to all Oklahomans," the former special district judge said.
Morgan said everyone who wants to be heard on the issue should have the right to contribute to the discussion.
"We want to create an environment where all of those people can have input into this process and committee members will be given the opportunity to ask questions----all in an open forum, he said.
Morgan, a former municipal judge and adjunct professor of business law, said the job of the panel will be to "take these diverse views and reach a consensus on what we think will work for Oklahoma."
The first hearing will be held in the Senate Chamber, but subsequent hearings are likely to be held in the House Chamber.
In addition to Adair and Askins, House members named to the joint committee include Reps. Thad Balkman, R-Norman; David Braddock, D-Altus; Bill Case, R-Midwet City; Frank Davis, R-Guthrie; Terry Harrison, D-McAlester; Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur; M.C. Leist, D-Morris; Jim Newport, R-Ponca City;
Wayne Petigrew, R-Edmond; Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City; and Mike Tyler, D Sapulpa.
Hobson and Morgan will be joined on the panel by Sens. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City; Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City; Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward; Rihard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne; Angela Monson, D-Oklahoma City; Herb rozell, D-Tahlequah; Jerry Smith, R-Tulsa, and Minority Leader James A Williamson, R-Tulsa.
LUKE 11:52 "Woe unto you, lawyers!"
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