There are rumblings coming from the State Capitol indicating a special session may be scheduled in upcoming months.
The purpose of the special session would be to rework a tort reform law from 2009 that was ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court in June. The law was designed to reduce frivolous lawsuits and make the state more conducive for businesses. The question of constitutionality came into being when the court found the law contained more than one subject, which is called logrolling. Currently, there is a suit regarding the recently signed bill lowering the state income tax for the same reason.
Legislators were recently given a questionnaire to determine whether a consensus would be in favor of holding a special session before Labor Day or after. But for now, the decision lies within the hands of leadership.
"I haven't heard anything specifically," Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) said. "We meet in February for this reason. I have been here five years and this is the first time we have seriously looked at a special session, and for a good reason."
Sen. Frank Simpson (R-Ardmore) said that, should leadership be in favor of the special session, he would be accepting of the party's wishes. The special session is expected to last two weeks and will examine up to 24 separate laws, which made up the tort reform bill that was ruled on by the court.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "I do think we probably need to fix these things because it puts a lot of cases in jeopardy. The longer we wait to get it settled, the more problems it will cause."
Ownbey said he is concerned about the potential cost to the taxpayers for a special session and also about the timeliness of meeting in the session.
"Based on some of their (court) past rulings, several of us are wondering why it wasn't a single subject," Ownbey said. "There are 24 bills that make up that one bill. I have mixed emotions about going into special session. I would rather wait until the regular session. We have always tried to be careful about spending taxpayer money and I haven't seen anything that would mean we have to meet right now."Although a special session is expected to last two weeks, Simpson said he would be surprised it it takes them that long because the template for the laws is in place. And there will be a hardship factor for some legislators.
"For a lot of lawmakers,, there is a burden," he said. "They work a job in the off session and it will create an inconvenience."
In a story, the Tulsa World listed the cost for a special session as $6,805 per day for the Senate and $22,471 per day for the House according to information provided by legislative staff members.
One reason Ownbey said one possible issue is minority opposition to slow the bill down.
"I think all of them will be passed," Ownbey said. "There is too much opposition."