Tort Reform Bill, a.k.a. Republican Porn

The Republican dream bill knows euphemistically as Tort Reform passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Wednesday, March 4, 2009 — “a day that will live in infamy.”  If you take time to read the bill, it reads like Republican porn.  There are so many things in this bill that makes it easy for Big Business to screw the Regular Joe/Jane that, if signed by the governor, there will be a nasty orgy of malpractice and manufacturing defects without the prophylactic of meaningful lawsuits to keep things safe.

OK, so maybe I’m carrying this analogy a little far, but I  am absolutely furious at the sheer, unadulterated disregard by these so-called “patriots” of the individual right to redress grievances in court.

Let me just address a few of the fun things you will find in this bill.

In the case of medical malpractice, the bill bars the admission as evidence the defendant’s (physician’s) unfavorable peer review and credentialing information.  So basically, if that physician has had any disciplinary actions taken against him by a medical board, you cannot use that in court as background for your case.  If this is the case, then should we not use prior crimes against a criminal defendant to determine sentencing?

The bill imposes federal standards for the determination of liability.  What this means is if a federal agency has already approved a product, then that product becomes immune from liability lawsuits.  This probably put the pharmaceutical companies in an extremely happy mood.

The bill also caps noneconomic damages to $300,000.  Noneconomic damages are also called “pain and suffering.”  Pain and suffering can  include death.  It should make every Oklahoman proud to know that these legislators have placed a value on their lives.  Each one of you is only worth, at the maximum, $300,000.  Now, folks, there are times in my life when I have made my wife mad enough that she would tell you my life wasn’t worth a plug nickel.  However, being my wife, she has that right!

The bill also has a stipulation in it that exempts manufacturers and dealers from suits stemming from the use of firearms.  This is a touchy subject, I know, and I am a firm believer in the right to bear arms, but this provision is downright irresponsible.  The gun lobby has resisted each and every attempt to require added safety features on firearms.  In the state of Oklahoma, the gun lobby has no worries.  Also, I cannot help but wonder if a dealer would be exempt from a suit in which the dealer sold a gun to a person with a criminal record, did not follow the waiting period laws, and that firearm was used to injure or kill an innocent in the commission of a crime.

Folks, this bill is purely political.  Republican legislators have for years attempted to turn “trial lawyer” into a four-letter word.  The main reason for this is that the trial lawyer lobby has traditionally supported Democrats.  If this bill could break the financial back of trial attorneys, Democrats would get less campaign funding and, ergo, Republicans would have a greater chance of gaining and staying in power.

One thing I cannot stomach is that the author of this bill, Rep. Dan Sullivan (R-Tulsa), has stated that mandating insurance companies to cover the treatment of children with autism would be government interfering with the way a company does business.  This same legislator is now trying to interfere with the way lawyers do business.  I guess if you don’t get money from one special interest group, you’re allowed to impose mandates on them.  But if you give generously to a Republican or the Republican party, well then, you are exempt from legislative interference.

The only thing missing from the pro-tort reform arguments is the cheesy porn music.

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Filed under Economic Issues, Oklahoma Politics

How to Get a Political Headache

Simple:  Just subscribe to this blog.  The link for this is on the right-hand side of your screen.  Once you submit your email address, you’ll be notified of each new post that Yours Truly publishes to this digital rag.

Hope you keep in touch!

The Okie Pundit

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Legislators! Get your hypocrisy out of my video games!

Oh, these people never cease to amaze me.

Senator Anthony Sykes (R-Moore) “…has proposed tax incentives for game developers – but only if their project is eligible for a T (13+) or lesser rating from the ESRB.” (Link)

Wait a minute!  These Republicans are such free-market champions that they are willing to offer tax incentives to boost an industry in Oklahoma only if that industry will comply with the Right’s sense of “morality” and “family values” but won’t send a mandate to insurance companies to cover autism spectrum disorder.

Wow!  So, telling insurance companies to cover austism is “Big Government,” but telling software design companies they can have a tax incentive only if they produce games that are basically G-rated is somehow not “Big Government?”

To be fair, Sen. Sykes has stated that he would rather not include the ratings restrictions, and that he only added them to get the support of other senators.  I actually feel for the good Senator Sykes.   I know what it’s like to be up against those who think that they can legislate morality.

In Oklahoma, that can be a very lonely place.

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Filed under Oklahoma Politics, Social Issues

What in the Hell Are They Thinking?

Recently, the Oklahoma legislature has shown the full extent of their ability to shock, horrify and astound me.  A House committee chaired by Rep. Dan Sullivan used sneaky tactics to shoot down a bill informally titled “Nick’s Law.”  In short, the bill would have issued a mandate requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for the early diagnosis testing and medications for the treatment of autism in children.

The bill (HB 1312) was voted on in the Economic Development and Financial Services Committee on February 3rd, 2009.  Guess what?  It failed.  Not one single Republican on the committee voted in favor of the bill.  Not one.

And to really put the “compassionate” in “compassionate conservative,” a newly enacted House rule forbids similar legislation from being introduced for two more years.  So not only did they shoot it down, but they made sure that they don’t have to hear anything like it until after the next election cycle.

These “family values” champions who voted against the bill relied upon an actuarial study (commissioned by guess who? The Republicans) that stated that the health insurance premium cost increases for the average Oklahoman would be much higher than the studies from reputable sources showing the minimal impact realized by consumers in other states where similar legislation has been enacted.  So let me get this straight.  Other states have enacted legislation like Nick’s Law and seen minimal impact(+1%)  In fact, The Oklahoma State Education Employees Group Insurance Board recently announced its own study revealed that Nick’s law would have 1% or less impact on claims.  But in Oklahoma, according to the Republicans’ self-commissioned study, the legislation magically would have seen a more dramatic increase (+7.8%-19.8%)?

Really?  You guys can’t beat the bill on its merits, so you rely on some trumped up study (a.k.a. LIE)?  And why do I call it a lie?  Well, the study commissioned by the Republican leadership was created with the express instructions to perform the analysis based upon an annual cap that was $25,000 HIGHER than the cap actually cited in the bill.  Oh, I get it.  You don’t like the answers you will get from an honest study, so you just change the parameters to suit your needs.  Cute.  Really cute.

And damned shameful.

I believe that deep down, my fellow Oklahomans are big-hearted, giving people.  However when ideology clouds the judgment, that compassion goes right out the window like a bottle of whiskey when the preacher comes to visit.

Nick’s Law is named after Nick Rohde, 11 years old, who is autistic.  Nick’s father Wayne spoke recently with members of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee.  He was told that parents of autistic children should band together to do fundraising to help each other out.  (I wonder if their families would do that if they were stricken with cancer and insurance did not cover that.)

One brainiac actually said that the costly behavioral therapy involved was unnecessary because of some “cream” that could be placed on an autistic child’s temples.  (If there are any snake-oil salesman out there, you might want to look up this person, because apparently he or she will buy anything!)

And the most “compassionate” of these conservatives actually suggested that Wayne move his family to another state where a mandate exists.  Yeah, that’s a good idea.  And make sure you take your tax dollars with you!  Because Lord knows we don’t need any in the Great State of Oklahoma.

Folks, I can honestly say that I did NOT vote for these guys.  I voted for one Republican on my ballot and he was not in this committee.  I  have friends who are Republicans and who are legislators.  This, however, has left a very bad taste in my mouth.  Just the other day, I was called by the House Republicans for a donation.  Not only was their script highly insulting, but I am averse to giving money to those who loudly proclaim to be good Christians and the height of family values and virtue, yet cannot see fit to help out those who cannot help themselves.

Nick’s Law was authored by Rep. Mike Brown (D-Tahlequah) and Sen. Jay Paul Gumm (D-Durant).  These two are TRUE champions for what is right.  As a citizen of the Great State of Oklahoma, I am proud of them and their efforts.

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Filed under Economic Issues, Oklahoma Politics, Social Issues

Patriotic Energy

When I lobbied for wind energy, I was amazed at the resistance I encountered by some in the Oklahoma Legislature. My last bill, which didn’t pass, was blocked in the senate by Senator Mazzei and Senator Johnson. That bill would have implemented a tax credit for the consumer of wind, solar or geothermal technology. It would have made the price of those technologies more affordable to home- and business owners. Senator Jolley railed against the bill stating that “if you want to do something for the environment, plant a tree.” Senator Mazzei stated that if we gave this tax credit to the consumer, then Oklahoma’s tax base would have eroded to the point that the legislature wouldn’t be able to give a blanket tax relief package to everyone. This may have had merit if Sen. Mazzei hadn’t pushed a bill giving tax credits to those who purchase health club memberships. I guess his hypocrisy know no bounds. Senator Johnson’s excuse was that he just didn’t want to do any more for alternate energy. At least that was more honest.

I have stated numerous times that the USA’s necessity in finding home-grown, alternate energy resources is a matter of national security. Here’s an example: Guess what runs on oil and is essential to our national security? Stumped yet? Well, it’s the military! We could not fight a land or air war for very long if we had to rely on American production and reserves. We’d be sitting ducks (and lame ones, too) like Rommel was in WWII.

Now, the vehicles used in the military don’t have much to do with wind energy, but the concept is the same.  If the USA were able to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, then not only would we be more secure, but we would also not be sending all that money to a group of countries that don’t like us very much.

Think about it.

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The Final Word on Gay Marriage

My how this issue brings out the best in people.

A few things to consider:

1.  “Marriage” is a holy institution that has been adopted by the government. According to most religions, only God can make a marriage, and “that which God hath made, let no man put asunder.” I’m sure most of you have heard that. That being said, government adopted this concept in order to build laws around it. So, if you hate “Big Government” as all the conservatives claim they do, you should be incensed that the government is choosing to define marriage, which, as you claim, has been defined by God! How dare Government intrude upon lives like that!

2. Current law views marriage as a contract between two people. Think about that. Only those who can legally contract can legally marry. Dogs, cats, aardvarks, underage children, none of these can legally marry because they legally cannot contract for themselves. Two people of the same sex CAN legally contract for themselves. As a matter of law, gay “marriage” should be perfectly legal.

3. Who here can honestly say that if Bill and Bob got married that they would look to their wife and say, “Myrtle! We might as well get a divorce now, because the gays cheapened the love we have for each other. I don’t love you as much now as I did yesterday because two guys got married!”

In short, the government should have a vehicle for legally binding two people together, whether they be gay or straight. The church (of any faith) should be left alone to determine what is or what is not a “marriage” by its own tenets.

It’s actually a common sense issue.

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What Does the New Oklahoma Legislature Hold in Store?

With the election of November 4, 2008, Republicans took control of the Oklahoma Legislature for the first time in the state’s history. So what does this mean?

Personally, I think it means that Governor Henry is going to be a busy man. He is going to see bills crossing his desk for tort reform, criminalization of abortion, irresponsible tax cuts, faith-based initiatives, Kernesque anti-gay legislation above and beyond what the people already voted in, and who knows what else.

However, Oklahoma is full of Republicans and bi-polar Democrats who just love the conservative Republican “God, Guns and Gays” platform.  Now is their chance to see some of it enacted.  Think of it as another Great Experiment.  How long will they approve of its outcome?  That remains to be seen.

Some less conservative people like myself have expressed a desire to leave the state.  I however refuse to do so.  I hope to enact change from within the state, to bring it forward or at least more towards the center.

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