By Senator Dan Newberry in Bixby Bulletin

Prior to the beginning of the 2011 legislative session, Senate leaders announced an agenda focused on establishing conditions for economic growth in Oklahoma.  The Senate continued its efforts in advancing that agenda this week, approving legislation that will lower costs for businesses and help Oklahoma compete for major economic development projects.

The Senate approved House Bill 2128, which establishes a cap of $350,000 for noneconomic damages in civil actions.  The approval of this proposal sends a message to prospective employers that Oklahoma is positioning itself to compete for jobs on a national level.  In order for our state to become a destination for business and industry, it is critical that we mitigate the risk of predatory litigation.  This legislation accomplishes that goal, while ensuring citizens with severe injuries have access to adequate compensation.

The Oklahoma Trial Bar has led a campaign of misinformation on this year’s tort reform proposals, perhaps saving their worst and most irrelevant criticisms for this proposal.

Nowhere in their advertisements and literature will you find them mentioning the fact that the bill will not limit damages for medical expenses and loss of wages.  Additionally, the measure allows for exceptions in instances of gross negligence, intentional actions, reckless disregard or malicious conduct.  The bill brings balance to our system of civil justice.  The costs of jackpot lawsuits affect all Oklahomans.  We pay for it in the form of higher insurance premium costs and higher costs for businesses.  This law will help keep these costs under control.

We also approved House Bill 1953, which will create the Quick Action Closing Fund.  Approximately 30 states have a special closing fund to attract economic development projects by providing resources for infrastructure and capital needs.  Under the measure, the Department of Commerce will administer the fund. The program will include a “claw back” provision so that the state will be reimbursed if the project does not generate projected results. Although no public funds will be appropriated this session, the bill does contain a five-year sunset provision that will take effect beginning the fiscal year after the program is funded. The measure also requires disclosure of all payments from the fund on the Department of Commerce website.

Read full story at Bixby Bulletin website.