Senate Republicans place reform, repair on session agenda 

More tax cuts, lawsuit reform and school choice were among the items presented by state Senate Republicans as part of their agenda for the upcoming Legislative session. During a news conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday, GOP senators laid out a host of initiatives they want to push when lawmakers convene next month.

 

Among some of the ideas:

" fixing roads and bridges;

" lawsuit reform;

" establishing a state office of accountability;

" consolidating state agencies;

" voter identification;

" eliminating the estate tax, as well as tax breaks for special interests; and

" more funding for prisons.

 

TORT REFORM

Lawsuit reform, also known as tort reform, will be high on the Senate Republicans list.

 

"We continue to think lawsuit reform is necessary," said Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward. "We hope to put another bill on the governor's desk that hopefully he'll support."

 

Republicans plan to include hard caps on jury awards in the proposal, one the main reasons why Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the tort reform bill last session.

 

When asked to present evidence of a legal system run amok and in need of reform, GOP leaders offered up "anecdotal" reasons.

 

"Most cases are settled out of court, so we don't know the amount of money because the parties are bound by confidentiality," said Sen. Glen Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. "But there is anecdotal evidence for lawsuit reform. Just because business owners don't want to come forward doesn't mean it's not happening. There continue to be lots of lawsuits."

 

TRANSPORTATION

On roads and bridges, the senators said they are committed to fixing the problem in a timely matter without any new taxes. They want more of the transportation fees going into the state's general revenue fund to be diverted specifically for roads and bridges.

 

Sen. Laughlin also talked about the need for a voter identification law to prevent fraud or mistakes at the ballot box.

 

"You can't go to Wal-Mart and cash a $5 check without identification," Laughlin said. "We want to require some type of identification like a water bill."

 

The next legislative session begins Feb. 4. -Scott Cooper

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