Oklahoma’s Speaker of the House, Larry Adair, and Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson announced the formation of a 23-member bipartisan joint committee on lawsuit reform.
The committee, which will be led by Representative Jari Askins and Senator Mike Morgan, will conduct a series of open hearings beginning April 15, to examine the myriad of issues surrounding lawsuit reform. Members of the joint committee are also expected to serve as members of the conference committee that will write the final version of lawsuit reform legislation this session.
“Examining an issue as divisive as legal reform should be done in a public forum and with much scrutiny. Our course of action 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,” said Adair, D-Stilwell.
“We are committed to an open and inclusive dialogue in seeking reforms that will make our system work better for Oklahoma. 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,” said Hobson, D-Lexington.
House Bill 2661, which carries Governor Henry’s lawsuit reform proposal, has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and both Adair and Hobson, authors of the measure, said the bill is eventually headed for a conference committee.
Morgan and Askins said they plan to conduct four or more open hearings in which they will take testimony from witnesses. The co-chairpersons also said a record will be made of the proceedings.
“Like most Oklahomans, state legislators need to be educated on this subject as well. 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,” said Askins, D-Duncan.
“Everyone who wants to be heard on this issue should have the right to contribute to this discussion and 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. The job of the committee will be to take these diverse views and reach a consensus on what we think will work for Oklahoma,” said Morgan, D-Stillwater.
The first hearing will be held in the Senate Chamber but subsequent hearings are likely to be held in the House Chamber.
Askins is a former Stephens County special district judge and executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board.
In addition to Adair and Chairwoman Askins, House members named to the joint committee include Rep. Thad Balkman, R-Norman; Rep. David Braddock, D-Altus; Rep. Bill Case, R-Midwest City; Rep. Frank Davis, R-Guthrie; Rep. Terry Harrison, D-McAlester; Speaker Pro Tempore Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur; Rep. M.C. Leist, D-Morris; Rep. Jim Newport, R-Ponca City; Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, R-Edmond; Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City; and Rep. Mike Tyler, D-Sapulpa.
Morgan is a former Stillwater Municipal Judge and has served as an adjunct professor of business law at Oklahoma State University.
Hobson and Chairman Morgan will be joined on the committee by Sen. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City; Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City; Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward; Sen. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne; Sen. Angela Monson, D-Oklahoma City; Sen. Herb Rozell, D-Tahlequah; Sen. Jerry Smith, R-Tulsa; and Minority Leader James Williamson, R-Tulsa.
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