Governor cites attorney general's stand in nixing tort-reform bill

Legal News Line May 2, 2007, 3:00am

Gov. Brad Henry

Drew Edmondson

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Attorney General Drew Edmondson is no doubt claiming major credit for the decision by his fellow-Democrat, Gov. Brad Henry, to veto a contentious tort-reform bill. Henry announced in a press release yesterday he would veto SB 507, a package of new restrictions on key elements of civil litigation procedures. Oklahoma business leaders strongly supported its passage. But Edmondson took a high-profile stance opposing the bill, LegalNewsLine reported last week. He said SB 507's changes "would severely hamper the state in its litigation" by creating "roadblocks of [the state's] own making." Edmondson said SB 507, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Cliff Branan, would crimp the state from pursuing action like those against tobacco makers and the ongoing pollution suit against Arkansas poultry producers. Henry cited Edmondson's strong public opposition to SB 507 as a significant factor in his decision to red-line the bill. "Obviously, the attorney general's opinion carries great weight with me," the governor stated. "I think it would be a huge mistake to tie this attorney general's hands or the hands of any future attorney general when it comes to protecting our state and its citizens," he added. Gov. Henry said the vetoed bill differed from a tort-reform package he proposed in 2004 because SB 507 focused more on reducing penalties than on "curbing frivolous lawsuits." He complained that the three-page SB 507 the state Senate passed in February ballooned into 130 pages after numerous house amendments. It became "a very flawed piece of legislation that would likely be struck down as unconstitutional," Henry argued. Edmondson was joined in opposition to SB 507 by the Consumer Federation of America, the Coalition of Oklahoma Surface and Mineral Owners and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma. Others against the bill included the AARP and MADD. Henry said he will continue to seek compromise tort-reform legislation before the Oklahoma Legislature adjourns at the end of this month.

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