August 30, 2013

Capitol Watch: Special Session 2013

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Clifton Adcock

Clifton Adcock

Oklahoma Watch reporter Clifton Adcock is blogging and tweeting from the special legislative session that begins today.

 

 

 


Mon., Sept. 9
5:24 p.m.

And that’s it. The House has adjourned. All bills before the House today were passed, though four bills – Senate Bills 1, 2, 6 and 7 – had their emergency clauses defeated. That means it will be 90 days after the Governor signs them before they go into effect.

We hope this blog and the accompanying Twitter coverage has helped readers better understand what was being discussed and a little bit about the legislative process.

Here’s a final run down of all the legislation that was passed during this special session.

Senate

SB 1: The “affidavit of merit” bill. In many cases, it requires a person bringing a civil liability lawsuit and who plans to use expert testimony in their case to obtain an affidavit from a “qualified expert” stating that their case has merit. This bill was amended by the Senate to strike the court’s $40 application fee for the affidavit of merit for cases in which the plaintiff is indigent. Sen. Anthony Sykes, who offered the amendment, stated this should keep the measure from being ruled unconstitutional. Previous affidavit of merit laws have been ruled unconstitutional twice now by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

SB 2: Modifies the procedure for dismissal of a civil lawsuit, mostly affecting the case when it’s before the pretrial phase.

SB 4: Establishes procedures in recovery of Medicaid funds from people or organizations. If the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is trying to recover Medicaid funds, the bill provides a formula to determine how much is actually owed.

SB 6: Modifies requirements for expert testimony in civil litigation cases.

SB 7: States that if a company breaches the “good faith” obligation with another company in the Uniform Commercial Code, the breach will not be cause for a separate tort case but will remain a contract action.

SB 10: Excludes a volunteer health practitioner from being considered an “emergency management worker” during a declared emergency.

SB 11: Allows for volunteers to still be considered volunteers even if they receive payment for their services; that gives them some liability immunity.

SB 12: This “Common Sense Consumption Act” states that a food manufacturer or seller is not liable for the weight gain of a consumer who eats their food.

SB 13: States that a manufacturer or seller of a product won’t be liable if the product is “inherently unsafe, is known by a reasonable consumer to be unsafe, or of the company warns consumers of the risk of using the product. If a company takes action to make the product safer after an injury occurs, that action is not admissible as evidence in many court cases.

SB 14: Changes procedures in asbestos and silica claims.

SB 15: Changes liability of successor companies subject to asbestos and silica claims.

SB 16: Requires that students in grades 6-12 who assault school personnel must be suspended from school.

House

HB 1003: Amends the ability of courts to declare whether or not they have jurisdiction in a case.

HB 1004: Exempts firearms manufacturers from liability if their weapons are used in an unsafe or criminal manner.

HB 1005: Under a declared emergency, allows certain health practitioners to be considered volunteers, and puts regulation of the volunteers under the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

HB 1006: Changes definitions of the term “frivolous” in regard to civil lawsuits.

HB 1007: Exempts certain medical peer review findings and statements during the discovery process in a civil lawsuit. Peer review is usually done by medical groups to determine if a doctor has done some wrong.

HB 1008: Limits liability in the livestock and agri-tourism industries.

HB 1009: This “School Protection Act” provides penalties for students who make false criminal allegations against school personnel, allows teachers to take time off if they are assaulted, and provides for suspension of a student who assaults a school employee.

HB 1010: Imposes restrictions on attorneys during school due process hearings, such as barring them in many cases from a school board’s executive session.

HB 1011: Modifies pleading requirements in civil actions. Changes the requirements for those filing a civil suit in which damages are undetermined or not yet set forth. Under the previous law in such a case, the plaintiff would enter that the damages are more than $10,000. This bill would require the plaintiff to state the damages are equal or more than the amount set forth by U.S. civil code.

HB 1013: Makes several changes to the class-action lawsuit process.

HB 1015: Deals with seat belts. It allows the issue of whether someone was wearing a seat belt to be admissible as evidence in a civil case unless the plaintiff is under 16.

4:40 p.m.
After about two hours, the House has passed Senate Bill 1, the affidavit of merit bill.

It was a close vote, with Rep. John Enns switching his vote to yes for passage 51-36. There were also a number of Representatives taking constitutional privilege on the measure.

It took House Speaker T.W. Shannon coming to the floor to offer a little persuasion to his colleagues to get the bill passed.

Phone in hand, Shannon visited with several Republican representatives before enough yes votes were mustered for passage.

The emergency clause on the bill, however, failed. That part might be brought up again, as with the other two bills on which the emergency clause failed.

3:14 p.m.
That was quick.

While the House is still considering Senate Bill 1 the Senate has, since 1:30 p.m., unanimously passed House Bills 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1013, 1014 and 1015.

The Senate has wrapped up its end of the special session.

Meanwhile, we’re still going strong in the House.

2:10 p.m.
Senate Bill 1 is now up.
Rep. Mike Ritze (R) offers an amendment exempting instances in the case of a “botched abortion” to require a certificate of merit. However, the amendment was tabled.

2:08 p.m.
Seeing that they now have the numbers for it, House Republicans have brought back the emergency clauses on Senate Bill 13 for reconsideration. The emergency clause on SB 13 passed 69-20, and the clause on SB 12 passed 68-17.

If at first you don’t succeed… well, you know the rest.

2:00 p.m.
Holy consensus, Batman!

The House just passed Senate Bill 4, which deals with the the recovery of Medicaid funds and provides a formula for recovery, 90-0.

1:40 p.m.
From the Pressing, Unanswered Questions file: I’m going to have to find Rep. Richard Morrissette and ask him why he placed a rubber chicken on his microphone during debate prior to the lunch recess.

1:30 p.m.
After a recess for lunch, the House is back in session. For those wanting to keep score at home, the House has passed Senate Bills 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.

Emergency clauses on two of those – Senate Bills 12 and 13 – failed to receive the necessary 68 votes. Senate Bills 3,5,8 and 9 were not voted on by the Senate and the House is not considering them.

That leaves seven bills yet to be considered by the House, including Senate Bill 1, the “affidavit of merit” bill. There has been some question as to whether the House will take up that measure, but thus far no definitive answers.

During the lunch break, House Democrats held a presser headed by Rep. Ben Sherrer. Sherrer said the Democrats were not happy with the special session being called to address the issue of tort reform at the taxpayers’ expense, but that it was encouraging to see Republicans addressing the logrolling issue.

10:30 a.m.
A second emergency clause, this one on Senate Bill 12, failed 64-21 in the House.

Senate Bill 12 deals protects food sellers and manufacturers from liability in lawsuits in which the plaintiff claims they suffered weight gain because of the food.

The bill itself passed.

10:07 a.m.
Last week, we told you that the Democrats were hoping to defeat emergency clauses on the bills being considered by the House.

That plan didn’t come to fruition when the House considered the House bills, as all of the emergency clauses passed. However, the second Senate bill that came before the House today failed to get the required 68 votes to pass the emergency clause, though the bill itself passed.

The emergency clause on Senate Bill 13, which provides manufacturers or sellers of “inherently dangerous” products with an affirmative defense against civil lawsuits, failed 62-24.

That means the bill will not go into effect as soon as it’s signed by the Governor, but instead would go into effect a few months after the fact.

9:57 a.m.
Here’s a cheat sheet of all the bills being considered during the special session, bumped to the top of this blog for quick reference for those following @OklahomaWatch on Twitter.

Here are the bills:

Senate

SB 1: The “affidavit of merit” bill. In many cases, it requires a person bringing a civil liability lawsuit and who plans to use expert testimony in their case to obtain an affidavit from a “qualified expert” stating that their case has merit. This bill was amended by the Senate to strike the court’s $40 application fee for the affidavit of merit for cases in which the plaintiff is indigent. Sen. Anthony Sykes, who offered the amendment, stated this should keep the measure from being rules unconstitutional. Previous affidavit of merit laws have been ruled unconstitutional twice now by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

SB 2: Modifies the procedure for dismissal of a civil lawsuit, mostly affecting the case when it’s before the pretrial phase.

SB 3: Modifies the procedures of appeal bonds, the money a person in a lawsuit must use as a bond if a case is being appealed.

SB 4: Establishes procedures in recovery of Medicaid funds from people or organizations. If the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is trying to recover Medicaid funds, the bill provides a formula to determine how much is actually owed.

SB 5: Establishes new procedures for summary judgment in civil litigation cases.

SB 6: Modifies requirements for expert testimony in civil litigation cases.

SB 7: States that if a company breaches the “good faith” obligation with another company in the Uniform Commercial Code, the breach will not be cause for a separate tort case but will remain a contract action.

SB 8: Removes political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, from being able to separate damages out in some joint liability claims.

SB 9: Caps non-economic damages in liability cases at $350,000 unless there was gross negligence, fraud or intentional harm.

SB 10: Excludes a volunteer health practitioner from being considered an “emergency management worker” during a declared emergency.

SB 11: Allows for volunteers to still be considered volunteers even if they receive payment for their services; that gives them some liability immunity.

SB 12: This “Common Sense Consumption Act” states that a food manufacturer or seller is not liable for the weight gain of a consumer who eats their food.

SB 13: States that a manufacturer or seller of a product won’t be liable if the product is “inherently unsafe, is known by a reasonable consumer to be unsafe, or of the company warns consumers of the risk of using the product. If a company takes action to make the product safer after an injury occurs, that action is not admissible as evidence in many court cases.

SB 14: Changes procedures in asbestos and silica claims.

SB 15: Changes liability of successor companies subject to asbestos and silica claims.

SB 16: Requires that students in grades 6-12 who assault school personnel must be suspended from school.

House

HB 1002: Exempts some school disciplinary actions from liability.

HB 1003: Amends the ability of courts to declare whether or not they have jurisdiction in a case.

HB 1004: Exempts firearms manufacturers from liability if their weapons are used in an unsafe or criminal manner.

HB 1005: Under a declared emergency, allows certain health practitioners to be considered volunteers, and puts regulation of the volunteers under the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

HB 1006: Changes definitions of the term “frivolous” in regard to civil lawsuits.

HB 1007: Exempts certain medical peer review findings and statements during the discovery process in a civil lawsuit. Peer review is usually done by medical groups to determine if a doctor has done some wrong.

HB 1008: Limits liability in the livestock and agri-tourism industries.

HB 1009: This “School Protection Act” provides penalties for students who make false criminal allegations against school personnel, allows teachers to take time off if they are assaulted, and provides for suspension of a student who assaults a school employee.

HB 1010: Imposes restrictions on attorneys during school due process hearings, such as barring them in many cases from a school board’s executive session.

HB 1011: Modifies pleading requirements in civil actions. Changes the requirements for those filing a civil suit in which damages are undetermined or not yet set forth. Under the previous law in such a case, the plaintiff would enter that the damages are more than $10,000. This bill would require the plaintiff to state the damages are equal or more than the amount set forth by U.S. civil code.

HB 1012: Would allow interest on civil judgments to not begin accruing until two years after the suit was filed.

HB 1013: Makes several changes to the class-action lawsuit process.

HB 1014: Makes changes to the civil discovery process.

HB 1015: Deals with seat belts. It allows the issue of whether someone was wearing a seat belt to be admissible as evidence in a civil case unless the plaintiff is under 16.

9:00 a.m.

Today, it’s possible the House will hear Senate Bill 1, the “affidavit of merit” bill. This bill requires that anyone in a civil liability case who will be using expert testimony in their case to obtain an affidavit from a qualified expert certifying that their case has merit.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled affidavit of merit bills unconstitutional twice in recent years, though Sen. Anthony Sykes (R), who brought the bill to the Senate floor, said two amendments to the bill in the Senate would meet the constitutional requirements set forth by the court.

Those amendments expand the bill to include cases beyond medical malpractice cases and eliminates an associated fee by the court for the indigent.

Senate Bill 1 is the only bill that will come before the House that is not subject to the special rules for the session passed by the House on Friday.

Those restrictions limit questions and answers to 180 minutes, allows for only 10 calls for points of order by each political party and bars floor amendments by House members.

8:48 a.m.
Good Monday morning. The Oklahoma Legislature continues its special session today.

The House is scheduled to convene at 9 a.m. and the Senate at 1:30 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 6
10:05 a.m.
The House Calendar Committee will be considering special rules that mirror the special rules passed earlier this week for House Bills. Those rules caused an uproar among House Democrats and Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.

The rules limit questions and answers to 3 hours total, 10 points of order for each political party and no floor amendments.

The only exception to these rules is Senate Bill 1, which is the affidavit of merit bill.

9:33 a.m.
Rep. Mike Reynolds asking that the House journal be corrected to show that there was no first reading of the Senate bills yesterday. Reynolds said it could cause legal issues for the bills in the future if there was ho actual first reading.

However, Assistant Floor Leader Lee Denney says that publishing the bills in the House Journal counts as first reading. The Senate Bills have now undergone second reading and the House will recess while the Calendar Committee meets.

9:09 a.m.

Below are are some brief descriptions of the bills being voted on by the House and Senate, with links to the full bills.

I’m no lawyer, or legislator, or authority on tort reform, so feel free to read the bills and offer your own take on whether anything important is missing from the descriptions. Or, tell us what you think the potential impact of these bills will be. Perhaps you will spot an effect that no one else has publicly noted, based on your reading or your own experiences.

I’ll add to the descriptions and mention possible effects as more of your information comes in.

Here’s how to offer your suggestions: Tweet @OklahomaWatch or @cliftonhowze, or email comments, descriptions or opinions to cadcock@oklahomawatch.org.

Here are the bills:

Senate

SB 1: The “affidavit of merit” bill. In many cases, it requires a person bringing a civil liability lawsuit and who plans to use expert testimony in their case to obtain an affidavit from a “qualified expert” stating that their case has merit. This bill was amended by the Senate to strike the court’s $40 application fee for the affidavit of merit for cases in which the plaintiff is indigent. Sen. Anthony Sykes, who offered the amendment, stated this should keep the measure from being rules unconstitutional. Previous affidavit of merit laws have been ruled unconstitutional twice now by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

SB 2: Modifies the procedure for dismissal of a civil lawsuit, mostly affecting the case when it’s before the pretrial phase.

SB 3: Modifies the procedures of appeal bonds, the money a person in a lawsuit must use as a bond if a case is being appealed.

SB 4: Establishes procedures in recovery of Medicaid funds from people or organizations. If the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is trying to recover Medicaid funds, the bill provides a formula to determine how much is actually owed.

SB 5: Establishes new procedures for summary judgment in civil litigation cases.

SB 6: Modifies requirements for expert testimony in civil litigation cases.

SB 7: States that if a company breaches the “good faith” obligation with another company in the Uniform Commercial Code, the breach will not be cause for a separate tort case but will remain a contract action.

SB 8: Removes political subdivisions, such as cities and counties, from being able to separate damages out in some joint liability claims.

SB 9: Caps non-economic damages in liability cases at $350,000 unless there was gross negligence, fraud or intentional harm.

SB 10: Excludes a volunteer health practitioner from being considered an “emergency management worker” during a declared emergency.

SB 11: Allows for volunteers to still be considered volunteers even if they receive payment for their services; that gives them some liability immunity.

SB 12: This “Common Sense Consumption Act” states that a food manufacturer or seller is not liable for the weight gain of a consumer who eats their food.

SB 13: States that a manufacturer or seller of a product won’t be liable if the product is “inherently unsafe, is known by a reasonable consumer to be unsafe, or of the company warns consumers of the risk of using the product. If a company takes action to make the product safer after an injury occurs, that action is not admissible as evidence in many court cases.

SB 14: Changes procedures in asbestos and silica claims.

SB 15: Changes liability of successor companies subject to asbestos and silica claims.

SB 16: Requires that students in grades 6-12 who assault school personnel must be suspended from school.

House

HB 1002: Exempts some school disciplinary actions from liability.

HB 1003: Amends the ability of courts to declare whether or not they have jurisdiction in a case.

HB 1004: Exempts firearms manufacturers from liability if their weapons are used in an unsafe or criminal manner.

HB 1005: Under a declared emergency, allows certain health practitioners to be considered volunteers, and puts regulation of the volunteers under the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

HB 1006: Changes definitions of the term “frivolous” in regard to civil lawsuits.

HB 1007: Exempts certain medical peer review findings and statements during the discovery process in a civil lawsuit. Peer review is usually done by medical groups to determine if a doctor has done some wrong.

HB 1008: Limits liability in the livestock and agri-tourism industries.

HB 1009: This “School Protection Act” provides penalties for students who make false criminal allegations against school personnel, allows teachers to take time off if they are assaulted, and provides for suspension of a student who assaults a school employee.

HB 1010: Imposes restrictions on attorneys during school due process hearings, such as barring them in many cases from a school board’s executive session.

HB 1011: Modifies pleading requirements in civil actions. Changes the requirements for those filing a civil suit in which damages are undetermined or not yet set forth. Under the previous law in such a case, the plaintiff would enter that the damages are more than $10,000. This bill would require the plaintiff to state the damages are equal or more than the amount set forth by U.S. civil code.

HB 1012: Would allow interest on civil judgments to not begin accruing until two years after the suit was filed.

HB 1013: Makes several changes to the class-action lawsuit process.

HB 1014: Makes changes to the civil discovery process.

HB 1015: Deals with seat belts. It allows the issue of whether someone was wearing a seat belt to be admissible as evidence in a civil case unless the plaintiff is under 16.

8:47 a.m.
Happy Friday! The Legislature is wrapping up the first week of the special session today. The House is set to convene at 9 a.m. today and the Senate at 9:30 a.m.

Thurs., Sept. 5

5:01 p.m.

The first round of the special session has ended, and the Republican majority is clearly in control.

A total of 12 Senate-authored lawsuit reform bills were passed by the Senate Thursday, and 12 House-authored bills cleared that chamber. Legislative leaders determined that several bills they had drafted were unnecessary, so they weren’t taken up.

Efforts by House Democrats to strip “emergency” clauses from the House bills failed, too. An emergency clause, which requires a two-thirds vote of approval, allows a bill to take effect as soon as the governor signs it.

The House has 72 Republicans and 29 Democrats. An emergency clause needs 68 votes to pass. Democrats had hoped that a few GOP absentees or defectors might allow them to prevail. But they didn’t.

The minority party’s sense of frustration was evident during debate on the final House bill of the day, a measure changing the rules affecting class-action lawsuits.

“There are very, very, very few class-action lawsuits being filed,” said Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City.

“Here we are, spending $30,000 a day trying to resolve an issue that doesn’t exist for a problem that didn’t materialize.”

The House is scheduled to reconvene at 9 a.m. Friday to take up the Senate-authored bills. The Senate will gather at 9:30 a.m. to consider House bills.

Republican leaders said they hoped to wrap up the session early next week.

3:33 p.m.

Frustration over the special session boiled over briefly during House floor debate over a bill reducing lawsuit liability for drivers who injure someone who failed to properly secure a seat belt or child restraint.

House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, was trying to get House Judiciary Committee Chairman Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, to explain why she would vote for a bill with provisions he called “unconscionable” just because it had been part of the big 2009 reform law overturned by the Supreme Court.

Inman quarreled with the notion that lawmakers who voted for the 2009 bill should automatically vote for each of the two dozen smaller measures under consideration during the special session.

Osborn declined to discuss specific provisions of the seat belt law and why she intended to support it, and she chastised Inman for pressing the point repeatedly.

“No matter how many times you bluster and pontificate, I’m going to give you the same answer,” Osborn said. “I’m going to put a green light on that board, and I believe in this bill.”

2:20 p.m.

While legislators recessed for lunch, a contingent of white-jacketed physicians met with reporters to try to make the case for reenacting all of the 2009 lawsuit reform provisions that were struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

A typical family practice doctor in Oklahoma pays about $1,000 a month for malpractice insurance, according to Dr. Carl Hook of the Physicians Liability Insurance Co. (Plico) of Oklahoma City.

OB/GYNs pay several times that amount, Cook said.

After the Legislature enacted the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act in 2009, malpractice insurance premium rates stopped rising and began to decline for some medical specialties, he said.

Plico cited the following five-year reductions in average annual premium rates:

  • Anesthesiology, $31,174 in 2008, $17,985 in 2013, down $42%.
  • Ear, nose and throat surgery, $41,803 and $31,174, down 25%.
  • Orthopedic surgery, $51,579 and $41,803, down 19%.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology, $63,058 and $51,579, down 18%.
  • Neurosurgery, $69,433 and $63,058, down 9%.

Overall premium rates have fallen about 19%, according to Plico.

The declines have begun to level off since the Supreme Court overturned the provisions of the 2009 law earlier this year, Cook said.

“We are here to try to get them reinstated,” Cook said.

1:52 p.m.

The Legislature is heading into the home stretch of the first round of the special session on lawsuit reform. Final votes are expected this afternoon on House bills in the House and Senate bills in the Senate. The bills now move to the opposite houses for consideration. The Legislature hopes to wrap up the session early next week.

12:26 p.m.

The House is in recess until 1:30 p.m. Under the new rules limiting questions and answers, the House has spent about 1 hour and 8 minutes of their total 3 hours on questions and answers. They’re about halfway through the bills they’re going to be considering, with the last one passing being House Bill 1007.

The Dem’s plan to derail the emergency clauses seems to not be working as well.

With all of the recess, it would probably be a good time to mention I’ll be taking a recess of my own in a few minutes.

But fear not, the illustrious Warren Veith is going to be taking over our coverage here and on Twitter for all your special session informational needs.

I’m hoping to have a brief description of the all the bills and separate links to the language of each bill up sometime today, and possibly something I hope readers out there who want some further depth on the bills will like. We shall see.

11:14 a.m.
The Senate passed Senate Bills 4,6,7, 10,11,12,13,14, and 15 without much dissent. They are now in recess for lunch. Let’s head over to the House to see what’s going on.

10:24 a.m.
Senate Bill 1 passes 33-11 on a party-line vote. The doctors in the gallery will be holding a presser later today at 1 p.m. The bill will now go to the House for consideration.

10:13 a.m.
Sen. Burrage says there are no “runaway verdicts” in the state, but the Senate is considering this an emergency over education and peril of Insure Oklahoma is not. He says the bill creates two classes of lawsuit and denies access to the courthouse.

9:59 a.m.
Lots of what appears to be doctors wearing white lab coats sitting in the Senate gallery right now watching the action. This bill is a pretty big deal for doctor groups.

9:51 a.m.
First up, Senate Bill 1, the “affidavit of merit” bill. Sen. Anthony Sykes (R) brought the bill to the floor. There were some amendments to the bill, which Sykes says will make it constitutional. Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage (D), is questioning Sykes on whether the bill would create a hurdle to filing a suit. Sykes says it won’t and applies when expert testimony is required.

9 a.m.
Good morning, and welcome to Day 3 of Oklahoma Watch’s coverage of the special legislative session.

To kick things off, the House will be called to order at around 9 a.m. and the Senate will be called to order around 9:30 a.m.

Today, both chambers are going to debate and vote on the bills originating in their respective chambers.

We’ll probably start out in the Senate. Why? Senate Bill 1 will probably be debated and heard today. Senate Bill 1 is the “affidavit of merit” bill. Basically, it states that in some cases, a person bringing a civil lawsuit would probably be required to obtain an affidavit from a “qualified expert” stating that their case has merit.

Unlike the rest of the 2009 tort reform law that was overturned by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the high court has ruled twice that “affidavit of merit” law is unconstitutional on its face. The rest of the tort reform law was ruled unconstitutional because it violated the single-subject law.

This is probably one of the pieces of legislation that bears watching and should make for some interesting debate.

Wed., Sept. 4
4:40 p.m.
During the House’s recess today around 2 p.m. (just after the Calendar Committee meeting from which those controversial special House rules emerged), I caught Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, in the hallway.

Hickman said the House really hadn’t done much yet, so it was hard to gauge how the special session was going. However, he did lay out how he thought the special session is likely to proceed on the House side.

Now that the special rules are in place, the House will begin voting on its own bills tomorrow, Hickman said.

The House has 14 surviving bills, out of 26, in the special session.

The other 12 bills were sent to the Rules Committee. Because the Rules Committee is not meeting this special session, that means they will not be heard during the session. One other measure, a House Resolution “memorializing Congress not to support military intervention in Syria” by Rep. Mike Reynolds, was also sent to the Rules Committee.

The 14 House bills that remain – all co-authored by House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman – will probably be voted on tomorrow, Hickman said. It’s likely to be a busy day that could run late.

On Friday, the House Calendar Committee will meet again, he said, and schedule considerations in the House on the Senate bills passed Thursday.

The House and Senate will probably hear the other chambers’ bills on Monday, Hickman said, so it looks like tomorrow and Monday will be the “heavy lifting” days for each chamber in terms of legislation passed.

3:47 p.m.
The House is adjourned for the day.They’re going to pick back up tomorrow at 9 a.m. I’ll have a blog post later today about what the next few days will look like.

3:45 p.m.
The special House rules pass 60-29. It was mostly a partly-line vote, with Democrats opposing the resolution and Republicans in favor, but some Republicans, such as Rep. Mike Reynolds, Rep. Paul Wesselhoft and Rep.Tommy Hardin voted against the measure.

3:39 p.m.
Rep. Joe Dorman said he knows the special rules will pass and is saddened by that fact. He calls the proposed rules “shameful.” Rep. Pam Peterson, the resolution’s author, says the Democrats have made her case for her to limit Q&A. “Just as the minority party has shown us today, 30 minutes is not enough.”She then read a letter from a medical professional from Norman who said they moved to Oklahoma because of the tort reform law.

3:34 p.m.
Rep. Scott Inman tells House Republicans they would be in Washington D.C. with pitchforks calling for the overthrow of the government if former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had proposed such special rules. He went on to call the measure special rules for a special session meant solely to serve special interests.

3:29 p.m.
Rep. Richard Morrissette goes off on the proposed special rules, calling the whole thing a “joke” and a “farce.” He went on to demand Speaker T.W. Shannon come out of his office and preside over the House (Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Jackson is currently chairing).

3:23 p.m.
First up, Rep. Mike Reynolds. Says Republicans are “ceding the moral high ground” and the resolution “the most abusive rule that’s occurred in the 11 years I’ve served in this body.”

3:20 p.m.
Rep. Peterson presses her motion. Now for debate. Reynolds, Dorman, Morrissette and Inman will be debating against it. Peterson will debate in favor of it.

3:02 p.m.
Rep. Richard Morrissette moved that the proposed rules be tabled. The motion failed.

2:58 p.m.
Rep. Scott Inman asks why the 36 legislators who weren’t in the House in 2009, when the original law was passed, should not be able to hear the bills in committee. Rep. Peterson said the bills were law up until recently, until overturned by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and most members knew what they were going to be looking at prior to the session.

2:50
Rep. Pam Peterson introduces the rules. Reynolds is up for a question.

2:45 p.m.
And the House is back in session. Here we go.

2:37
The House Calender Committee has approved the special rules for consideration by the full House, 14-3. The committee also approved putting House Bills 1002 through 1015 on the House calender for consideration.

The House should be back from its recess in a couple of minutes.

Expect some debate on these rules.

The rules limit total question and answer time to three hours on all of the bills, prevent floor amendments and allows for 10 points of order per political party.

1:53 p.m.
Rep. Reynolds is asking about a House Resolution he introduced being sent by Rep. Mike Jackson, the chair, to the Rules Committee – which is not meeting this session. Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, asked why some bills were not going through the committee process to provide more transparency.

1:41
Rep. David Dank thanked members of the House and House staff, the Governor’s Office and others for their support and prayers. Dank’s wife, long-time educator and former Rep. Odilia Dank, died in August.

1:35 p.m.
HR 1001 is up for consideration. It establishes the order of business for the House. The rules, which we discussed yesterday, will be up next. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, after the Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Jackson called for order, asks that legislators be quiet because “I want to hear every word spoken today.”

1:30 p.m.
And we’re off. The House is now in session.

1:15 p.m.
The House will be called to order in about 15 minutes. Follow @OklahomaWatch on Twitter for events as they happen. Updates will be posted here as well.

12:20 p.m.

Politics is often as much about numbers as it is policy.

Case in point:

Yesterday, Minority Leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, said his party would probably try to sink the emergency measures on the bills during the special session.

Emergency clauses must be voted on separately from the bill they are attached to and require a two-thirds majority for passage. The bills themselves require only a simple majority for passage.

If passed, an emergency clause means that the bill goes into effect upon the governor’s signature, rather than a few months afterwards.

So, 68 votes out of 101 total members are required to reach this super majority.

The House already has a super majority of Republicans – 72, though in the past some have broken ranks and helped defeat emergency clauses.

However, Inman said yesterday that because of absences by some Republicans, and with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats, the emergency clauses could go down in flames.

On Tuesday, there were a total of 94 members present for roll call. Out of that, 66 were Republicans and 28 were Democrats. I’ll include a list of House and Senate members who were absent at the bottom of this post.

However, the rules of the House don’t change depending on how many members are present.

In other words, no matter how many members are on the floor, 68 votes are required for emergency clause passage – not two-thirds of those members actually present.

Assuming that the same members who were present on Tuesday for the start of the session are still present when voting on the bills begins, and that none of those absent on the first day show up, that would mean the Democrats could defeat the emergency clauses without any Republican votes.

Of course, House leadership could call in some of those who were absent during the first day. If they get at least two of the six Republicans who were absent, they would have a super majority and the Democrats would have to peel off at least one Republican vote to defeat the emergency clauses.

And that might just happen.

In the past, Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, has voted with Democrats to kill emergency clauses, and judging by the back and forth between him and Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Jackson yesterday, that might just happen again.

However, if more Republicans show up, then it becomes harder for the Democrats to kill the emergency clauses.

When the House convenes today at 1:30 p.m., the main order of business is a second reading on the bills. That means no votes on the bills until later in the special session, so House leadership has time to rally the troops.

First and second readings are generally supposed to be quick affairs, like the Senate’s approximately 5-minute session earlier this morning.

But with in the House, all bets on brevity are off.

Here’s a list of those who were absent during the beginning of the special session Tuesday:

House
Republican Marian Cooksey
Republican Doug Cox
Republican David Dank
Republican John Enns
Republican Mike Ritze
Republican Colby Schwartz
Democrat Emily Virgin

Senate
Republican John Ford
Republican Mike Mazzei
Republican Ralph Shortey
Democrat Jabar Shumate

While many of those absent likely have good reasons, Shortey, R-south Oklahoma City,  has a pretty good excuse – his wife Jennifer gave birth to a baby girl, Evelyn, on Tuesday; this is their third child and third daughter. Congratulations to the Shortey family on their new arrival.

11:10 a.m.
Will today’s House session (which starts at 1:30 p.m.) be anything like yesterday’s, complete with fierce floor speeches, numerous procedural questions, objections and bickering?

Here’s a possible indication of things to come: Republican Rep. Dustin Roberts was seen walking to his office carrying a 12 pack of Mountain Dew.

That’s a lot of caffeine for what should be a short session.

9:50 a.m.
And… that’s it. The Senate is adjourned. After a few quick announcements, the Senate is done for the day. The big job for them was second reading of the bills today. The House will be called to order at 1:30 p.m. And if today is anything like yesterday, things might get a little more complicated than today’s Senate action.

9:45 a.m.
Welcome to day two of Oklahoma Watch’s coverage of the Special Legislative session. The Senate has just been called to order. The House will convene this afternoon.

 


Tues., Sept. 24
4:08 p.m.
That about does it for today. We will pick up where we left off tomorrow morning, probably around 11 a.m., before the House and Senate convene. Both chambers will start their business at 1:30 p.m.
3:35 p.m.
So there’s also some proposed special rules for the special session out there as well that probably won’t go over well with some House members.

The proposed rules, introduced by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, who heads the House Calendar Committee, are for the special session only, but it’s hard to believe they won’t run into some resistance from Rep. Mike Reynolds and the Democrats.

The proposed rules state that only 180 minutes total may be expended on questions and answers for all bills, no floor amendments may be presented or considered, there may be no more than 10 points of order or inquiry per-political party (in other words, Democrats get 10 and Republicans get 10).

The proposed rules in House Resolution 1002 cover 14 of the bills introduced, meaning each bill would be limited to an average of around 13 minutes of questions and answers.

This is the second version of the resolution. The first read that a total of no more than 180 minutes of questions and answers could be expended for “any measure.” The second version changed that “any measure” to “all measures.”

That’s a pretty big shift for only three little letters being changed. Does it mean that today’s events in the House caused Republican leadership to tighten the reins, or was it just an oversight in the initial draft?

The second draft was sent out via e-mail by Rep. Peterson at 1:15 p.m. today, just as the session was starting, so it could be that today’s events were not the reason. However, House Republicans undoubtedly expected stall tactics by some members and sought to circumvent that.

3:15 p.m.
After adjournment, Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, said he believes his party can muster enough votes to defeat the emergency clauses attached to the special session bills.

Inman, who is the House Democratic Minority Leader, said he expects the Republicans not to have the super majority it has enjoyed in previous sessions because several Republican members will likely not show up. Inman said he thinks the Democrats can get enough Republicans to vote with them to defeat emergency measures on the bills.

Emergency measures, which require a two-thirds affirmative vote, are voted on separately from the bills they are attached to, and if passed, cause the bill to become effective immediately after the governor signs them. Otherwise, it’s a matter of months before they go into effect.

Inman said he and other Democrats may actually vote in favor of some of the bills this session, but the majority of his caucus disagrees with having the session for the issue of tort reform and that the special session is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Initially, the emergency clauses were not on the bills, Inman said, but special interest groups pressured legislators to have them attached.

There were several members absent today, but whether they remain absent in the coming days remains to be seen.

3:06 p.m.
It looks like all the fireworks were on the House side today. What took the Senate about 30 minutes to accomplish took the House about 1 hour 15 minutes to do. Lots of talk in the halls about the effort by Inman to call for an adjournment until next year.

2:13 p.m.
House just voted to adjourn until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. The Senate, after first reading of the bills it is considering adjourned at around 1:30 p.m.

2:10 p.m.
Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, is protesting that his motion to adjourn the House until next year was not given a hearing.If problems facing Insure Oklahoma, school safety, Oklahoma Highway Patrol pay and the Department of Corrections issues don’t rise to the level of an emergency, tort reform certainly doesn’t, Inman said.

2 p.m.
One hour in, and the House is still in introductions and announcements portion, mostly because Democratic attempts to expand the session, and parliamentary procedure wrangling by a number of Democrats as well as Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. Reynolds has often clashes with House leadership on such issues in the past. One issue Reynolds is bringing up is that the House Calender Committee has allegedly not given necessary advance notice of a meeting later today.

1:37 p.m.
So far, House Democrats have made eight motions to expand the special session, or call on Fallin to expand the session, to include:

• School safety and storm shelters.
• The Department of Corrections and correctional officer pay.
• Oklahoma Highway Patrol and trooper pay.
• The expansion of the Insure Oklahoma program.

Each motion was tabled by a solid majority of the House, with Rep. Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa, making the motion for each tabling.
The scope of the special session at the outset was, and still is, limited to tort reform.

1:17 p.m.
Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, has his first question out there: He and other legislators were not officially notified by the Governor’s office of the special session. He questions whether the session is constitutional because of this.

1:05 p.m.
And we’re underway. Shannon calls the House to order, and the roll has been taken. Shannon is trying to bring the House to order, telling Reps to take their conversations outside or have a seat.
Falling at special sessionJust prior to the start of the session, Gov. Mary Fallin spoke to the press about why she called the session, saying that the law that was struck down reduced the number of frivolous lawsuits, helped attract businesses and helped to grow the state’s economy.

12:45 p.m.
We’ll start on the House side, then move over to the Senate later. Most of what is being done today is first reading of the bills, which can be found here.

12:40 p.m.
Before the session starts in a few minutes, here’s a bit of trivia: Around 31 percent of current House members were not in office at the time the 2009 tort reform law was passed.

11:30 a.m.

Welcome to Oklahoma Watch’s “Capitol Watch” coverage of the special legislative session.

The session starts at 1 p.m. today, and legislators will take up a number of bills dealing with the issue of tort reform.

For those who don’t speak legalese, the term “tort” means a civil wrong, either intentional or accidental, and includes negligence suits in civil court. In other words, much of what the Legislature will be doing deals with civil court procedures and practices, as well as what constitutes “liability” in certain civil cases. Here’s a full definition of “tort.

The impetus behind the special session is an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision handed down this year that struck down a 2009 tort reform law, which was backed heavily by physician groups, the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce and other interests.

The case in question involved a Tulsa retirement home and an individual whose estate filed a wrongful death suit against the home, alleging the business was negligent in its care for the deceased.

The defendant petitioned for the suit to be dismissed under the Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act of 2009, but the court ruled that the law violated the “single subject” rule – meaning each bill passed by the Legislature can pertain to only one subject.

Including more than one subject in a bill is known as “log rolling.” Several laws have been struck down by the high court because of this rule. The Court chastised the Legislature on the matter, writing: “The Legislature should be well aware of the single-subject requirements of the Oklahoma Constitution.”

Here’s a link to the court’s ruling. 

The Comprehensive Lawsuit Reform Act, was one of the Legislature’s past signature bills, and shortly after the ruling, Gov. Mary Fallin called for a special session of the Legislature to address parts of the law that were struck down.

A total of 32 bills have been introduced for the special session – 16 in the House and 16 in the Senate – separately addressing parts of the law.

Fallin and others have said they want to keep the session as short as possible, around a week. And though Republicans have a solid majority in both chambers to pass the bills, the emergency clauses, which allow the bills to become law as soon as they are signed by the governor, might be more problematic.

Check back here for updates on the session. Of, if you have any feedback, feel free to e-mail me at cadcock@oklahomawatch.org. You can also follow our coverage on Twitter: @OklahomaWatch.

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