The Pryor Times

Opinion

May 26, 2011

Legislative session concludes

“Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, that don’t hurt anybody. It’s when they do something is when they become dangerous.”

~Will Rogers

 

 The 2011 legislative session concluded last week, one week ahead of schedule, as we finished work on a number of bills. Will Rogers would be relieved to know that the Legislature cannot take any more legislative action until next session.

 As I mentioned in the previous column, the major piece of legislation to complete each year is the budget. This year, the budget proposal that was signed into law by the Governor deals with a $500 million shortfall largely by cutting spending in the areas of education, veterans’ affairs and the health department.

Redistricting plans were approved with bipartisan support, crafting new legislative districts in accordance with legal guidelines. More details about how District 6 will be affected will be forthcoming in a future column.

In addition, lawmakers also approved several major reforms in a wide range of areas. This column will focus on the new laws dealing with lawsuits, workers compensation and a new tool for the Governor to use for economic development.

 House Bill 2128 caps noneconomic damages (commonly known as “pain and suffering”) at $350,000 in all civil actions. Under the bill, individuals could still receive unlimited awards for actual economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses.

 Senate Bill 862 eliminates joint and several liability where each and every defendant in a tort lawsuit is liable for the entire amount of a plaintiff’s damage regardless of their degree of fault.

 Senate Bill 865 requires that juries be instructed in civil cases that no part of an award for damages for personal injury or wrongful death is subject to federal or state income tax; and the jury should not consider income taxes when determining a proper compensation award.

 Senate Bill 878 reforms workers’ compensation laws. The bill will reduce the fee schedule for medical reimbursement rates by 5 percent and require physicians and the workers’ compensation court to follow national treatment guidelines, called the Official Disability Guidelines, which is expected to also reduce medical costs.

 In another area, lawmakers approved House Bill 1953 to create an Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund. The governor could use the proposed fund in the future to provide incentives necessary to finalize deals and relocate companies to Oklahoma.

 Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. You may reach me by calling 1-800-522-8502; emailing chuck.hoskin@okhouse.gov; or writing Representative Chuck Hoskin, State Capitol Building, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 509, Oklahoma City, OK  73105.

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