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Recapping the legislative session

Written by Dick Pryor on Monday June 1, 2009

(Left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Janice Francis-Smith, Scott Cooper, Michael McNutt, Michael Cross)

Just a day after the Oklahoma legislature adjourned Sine Die, we convened a panel of reporters who follow the legislature every day to discuss what happened. Janice Francis-Smith of The Journal Record has carefully followed the effort to enact tort reform, and she was surprised that a comprehensive bill was agreed upon. Having mineral rights owners at the table led to a provision on joint and several liability. Scott Cooper of the Gazette added that attorneys were successful in raising the non-economic damages cap to $400,000, wih the possibility of breaking the camp in some instances of bodily injury.

The economic stimulus money provided by the U.S. government helped budget writers get through a very trying budget year. Faced with a revenue shortfall of anywhere from $600 M to $900 M, the federal dollars allowed the state to actually raise the amount of money spent on health care and education, while reducing most agencies’ budgets by less than 10%. It’s important to note that by not using the Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget, the legislature will have that money available next year, when even tougher economic times are a possibility.

The panel agreed that the new Ten Commandments law, allowing a Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds, will face a legal challenge. Consensus is that the legal challenge will occur after the state announces where it will place the monument. That’s expected to be several months from now. And, we also discussed the controversy over the Flaming Lips and the official state rock song, “Do You Realize?".

The first legislative session with Republicans fully in control of both houses of the legislature was truly historic, and the dynamics of the political debate in the capitol are changing. It makes for an interesting program.

Until next time,
Dick Pryor

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