Tort Reform

To Tell the Truth

TO TELL THE TRUTH…FOR THE COMMON GOOD - September 8, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

During the infancy of television, when those who had sets in their living rooms were outnumbered by those who did not, networks struggled to create programming for this new media.  Many radio soap operas and variety shows were adapted to TV, but the genre that went through the roof was the panel game show.

Through the years viewers have been entertained by shows with such names as Let’s Make a Deal, I’ve Got a Secret, Anything For Money, The Big Payoff, Dollar a Second and Deal or No Deal.

One show that gained viewers by the millions was “To Tell The Truth” which began airing in 1956, the same year that NBC adopted the 11 feathered peacock as its network trademark. The format of “To Tell the Truth” involved four panelists (remember Kitty Carlisle?) who competed to correctly choose which ONE of the three challengers was telling the truth.  The losers were stumped by the two challengers who were most proficient at misleading the panelists through lies and deceit.

Now, at the urging of special interest groups, Governor Fallen has called a special session to enact laws to replace House Bill 1603 after it was declared unconstitutional.  Hardly a day goes by that the Governor and the Speaker of the House don’t belittle, berate and blame the Oklahoma Supreme Court for doing its job. Despite the finger pointing and blame directed at the Court, the plain and simple truth is that the law was illegal when it was adopted in 2009.

I have studied the bill in depth.  It is clear why the Supreme Court determined that it violated the “single subject” rule.  The rule exists to prevent unrelated items from being “logrolled” in an attempt to make them more attractive to more legislators. If enough pork is put in a bill, anyone who is going to get a little bit of the pork will play “Let’s Make a Deal,” even if their pork is not related to someone else’s pork. The practice could be political blackmail since a legislator is required to cast a single up or down vote on a logrolled bill.

In 2009, a bill that contained a little tort reform was combined with a lot of other things and those “other things” are why the law was unconstitutional.  Now, 4 years later, special interests who will do “Anything For Money” are telling us that the law is so important that we should spend up to a quarter of a million dollars of our money to split House Bill 1603 into 30 separate bills and pass them all individually. Remember…if they had all been good bills, they would have passed individually in 2009 and not have to have been “logrolled.”  Little wonder who is getting “The Big Payoff”?

Now, the people of Oklahoma are paying way more than “A Dollar a Second” for a special session to enact laws that should have been enacted right the first time.  Some estimate it to cost around $30,000 per day. Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate were busy playing “I’ve Got a Secret” and did not file their bills until the last business day before the session started.

When I received those bills, I found a number of errors and submitted 9 correction bills of my own.  There were a few bills submitted by Republicans also. On Tuesday we were told that only the bills submitted by the Speaker of the House would be heard and that each member would be limited to an average of 7 or 8 seconds per bill to ask questions and that 7 or 8 seconds would also include the time that it took for the answers. Several legislators, including both Democrats and Republicans objected.  One Republican even called it “the most abusive rule” that has occurred in his 11 years as a State Representative.

I have heard Republicans say that they are just treating Democrats like the Democrats treated them for years.  I hope that is not true.  If it is, the Democrats should be ashamed.  However, at some point we have got to get past retaliation and work together for the common good of the people of Oklahoma.  Our elderly, our children and every Oklahoman deserves better.

In any event, the rules were adopted, the bills presented and questions were cut off.  I had several questions on House Bill 1009 that I was not allowed to ask.  I was, and am concerned why we could not make the bill better.  It is a bill that makes assaults by students against teachers and volunteers a misdemeanor, but does not include assaults on other students.  It also includes a provision that a prevailing party in a lawsuit filed against a school or a teacher can receive attorney fees, but does not allow a teacher or volunteer who is assaulted to recover attorney fees if they prevail in a lawsuit against a person who assaults them.

Regardless of whether art imitates life, the names of game shows should not reflect what is happening under the dome.  Sadly, instead of the Common Good, when the dust clears, it will be Deal or No Deal.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

A Dollars Worth of Gas, Buck Night and Tort Reform

A DOLLARS WORTH OF GAS, BUCK NIGHT AND TORT REFORM FOR THE COMMON GOOD - September 1, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

In March 1973, I crossed a threshold that so many 16 year olds face with trepidation. I successfully parallel parked my parents’ 1969 Impala with the driver’s license examiner, checklist in hand, sitting in the passenger seat.  It was one of those monumental, life altering events that validate one’s worth. My newly acquired status allowed me to seek employment as the Saturday delivery boy at the small country store in my home town.

Except for brief gas wars between the Skelly station and the D-X station across the street from each other, throughout that summer and until the October oil embargo hit, gasoline was around 30 cents per gallon. Ten ounce bottles of pop and large candy bars were a dime apiece and all summer long, Thursday night was buck night, a dollar per car load, at the drive-in theatre.  I quickly became “independently wealthy” at the 1973 minimum wage of $1.60 per hour.

Unfortunately, based upon the Consumer Price Index, today’s minimum wage (Currently $7.25 per hour) would have to be $8.42 and gasoline (Currently over $3.50 per gallon) would have to be only $1.58 per gallon for a wage earner to have the same buying power as I had in 1973. No wonder so many people find themselves having too much month left at the end of the money.

This week, we have been hastily called back to the Capitol for a special session to consider monetary caps on damages and other issues called tort reform. Anytime anyone, Democrat or Republican, is in such a hurry that they want to rush something through; the motive is suspect, usually involves money and which side of the bread is being buttered.

The absolute irony is that the special session and tort reform are being pushed by insurance companies and people who normally scream and yell about big government, regulatory interference and attacks on the free market.  They beg for personal accountability and say that they want the Constitution upheld.

Except this session, as they ask the government to step in and adopt regulations limiting and restricting the ability of injured persons or their survivors to hold a wrongdoer accountable?  Except this session, as they ask the government to cap the amount of money that a jury of peers can legally award to the spouse and children of a person who is killed by the actions of a negligent or reckless person?

The Constitution provides a person who is wronged or injured or whose life is taken shall be compensated and the right to a jury trial shall not be infringed upon. Instead of worrying about which side the bread is buttered on, wouldn’t it be in the common good to say, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” or maybe a more appropriate phrase is, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Luke 6:31 is the epitome of the Common Good.   

Based upon the current composition of the legislature, most of the 2009 law will be readopted.  Unfortunately, since this is all about money, the proposal is to readopt it 2009 dollar levels or below.  The costs and expenses of injured people and their survivors increase year to year just like yours and mine.  With nothing in the law to provide for adjustment to 2013 levels, we are placing injured people in an even greater hardship than they were when the 2009 law passed.

That is why I am proposing 9 bills and amendments to address a number of inequities in the 2009 law.  For instance, since a 2009 dollar is worth only 91 cents today, I am proposing legislation that would adjust those numbers to 2013 values. Otherwise, injured people would get 9 percent less value than they would have four years ago. This adjustment gives injured persons and the families of people who have been killed the buying power of 2009 dollars and keeps injured people or survivors from being treated more harshly than they were in 2009 when these caps were first put in place.

My other amendments deal with keeping kids safe at school, helps teachers and school support personnel defends themselves when they have been falsely accused, cleans up typographical errors and removes the penalty that prevented injured persons from receiving pre-judgment interest after their injuries have been verified.  The goal of the Constitution is to make sure that people are made whole.

Gas will never again cost 30 cents per gallon. Not for me, not for you and not for the families of a person killed by another person’s negligence.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Tax Credits, Tort Reform and Tea in the Boston Harbor

Tax Credits, Tort Reform and Tea in the Boston Harbor…The Common Good - August 25, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

On December 16, 1773, One hundred sixteen men, several of whom were dressed as members of the Mohawk tribe, threw 342 chests full of tea into Boston Harbor.

The rest of the story involves tax credits, government bailouts, monopolies, American ships and yes, even tort reform in 2013. 

It is natural to think that the Boston Tea Party as it has become known was a reaction to high taxes imposed by the British Parliament. 

However, to understand the issues that precipitated the event that for decades was simply known as “the destruction of the tea” we have to go back to December 31, 1600, when the British Crown chartered and granted favored status to a business known as "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London, trading with the East Indies" for the importation of agricultural goods and products from the area of India and the Middle East.

In time, the mega-corporation that had its own military, counted opium among its commodities and for several decades was the world’s largest drug-dealing operation became known as simply, “The East India Company,” or the “EIC”.  Many members of parliament owned interests in the EIC and eerily like 21st century politics, the company’s paid lobbyists were always available to “help” make laws.

Through favorable legislation, government incentives and protectionist policies, the EIC reaped huge profits and lined the pockets of England’s merchants and members of parliament.  Enter the American colonies.  The EIC eyed the emerging American market, however, 85% of the tea drank in America was smuggled Dutch tea. In 1767, lobbyists for the East India Company compelled parliament to grant it a tax credit rebating to the company a chunk of the tax on tea that was re-exported to the colonies so that it could compete with the smuggled tea. 

In 1772, the tax rebate expired.  Sales plummeted, warehouses were full of unwanted tea and the EIC, perhaps England’s most profitable commercial entity was in dire financial trouble.  May 1773 dealt a blow to free enterprise when the lobbyists of the East India Company convinced parliament to enact the “Tea Act”, restoring the tax credit and allowing the company to bypass colonial businessmen who had previously bought and sold tea.  In July 1773, the East India Company selected agents in the colonies who would simply be hired to sell tea on commission.

What transpired aboard the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver, three American ships carrying East India Company tea into Boston Harbor was not at all about high taxes.  As a result of the Tea Act, East India Company tea was now cheaper than smuggled Dutch tea. 

The destruction of the tea was as much of a protest against a large commercial conglomerate that had used its financial and political influence to create a government sanctioned monopoly as it was about a lack of representation.

The benchmark of the United States is its system of private capitalism.  Theoretically, and as it should be, it is a system under which, without asking anybody’s permission, various enterprises compete with each other in the market by offering the highest quality goods and services they can, at the lowest possible prices.  Progress occurs as companies and individuals strive continuously to raise quality and lower their prices.

In September, the legislature will return to Oklahoma City.  The special session has been called to review several statutes that were adopted in 2009 and ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. Among other things, those statutes limit the amount of money an injured person or the family of a deceased person may receive from the person or company who caused the damage, injury or death; make it more expensive to sue a company or another person who has caused injury or death; and make it more difficult to hold someone accountable if they harm a person, such as a nursing home resident or a child.

Our Founding Fathers drafted the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Oklahoma to give ordinary citizens the right to hold accountable those who violate the rules of society and cause harm to others.  We must carefully examine whether the legislation that will be introduced this session will be in the common good.  The last thing we should do is allow the rights of the people to govern themselves through trial by jury to be taken away or infringed.

On the day after the Destruction of the Tea, John Adams, who would later become our nation’s second President wrote in his diary, “Last Night three cargoes of tea were emptied into the sea. This morning a Man of War sails. This is the most magnificent movement of all. There is a Dignity, a Majesty, a Sublimity, in this last effort of the Patriots, that I greatly admire. The People should never rise, without doing something to be remembered—something notable and striking. This Destruction of the Tea is so bold, so daring, so firm, intrepid and inflexible, and it must have so important consequences, and so lasting, that I can’t but consider it as an epoch in history.”

Contrary to the Common Good, the East India Company sought government protection before America’s Independence.  Will the Common Good be served in this century by those corporations and their lobbyists who want government to step in and artificially tilt the scales of justice in their direction?

I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  I look forward to hearing from you at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.