As much of the world rejects the corporate-dominated reality and market fundamentalism that ruined our national economy, some Oklahoma politicians want to reward big businesses and deny people legal rights.
The Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed House Bill 1603, a Republican-backed measure that would cap noneconomic damages in lawsuits at $300,000 and establish a 10-year limit on product liability lawsuits. Democrats Kenneth Corn (Poteau) and Charlie Laster (Shawnee) voted against the bill, which will now be considered by the full Senate.
Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a similar Republican bill last year.
In essence, people will be denied basic legal rights and big insurance companies will reap the benefits if the bill becomes law. Proponents of the corporate amnesty bill say it will lower insurance costs, but that’s simply not true, according to OK Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group.
OK Watchdog argues:
Should HB 1603 become law, economic growth will be unchanged. Doctors' medical malpractice premiums will not decrease. Health care will not be more affordable or more accessible.
In addition, insurance companies will benefit the most. According to OK Watchdog:
If profits in states without noneconomic damage caps were the same as those in states with caps, insurance companies would have made an additional $9.2 billion in 2005.
Most people can sympathize with rising malpractice insurance rates for physicians, but this bill will do nothing to reduce people’s medical costs. It also allows big corporations to limit their liability for negligence. It transfers more wealth and political power to the richest people in our culture.
We have recently witnessed corporate corruption and greed that went unchecked and led to the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. This bill removes more checks and balances and leaves us vulnerable to unscrupulous and negligent behavior from our culture’s richest and most powerful people.
A state legislative committee has passed a dangerous, anti-education bill that would deregulate schools and lead to lower standards.
The House Common Education Committee approved Senate Bill 834, and it now goes to the House for a vote. The bill would allow an increasing percentage of Oklahoma schools to operate as charter schools, which are exempt from certain state mandates, such as lowered class sizes.
The Oklahoma Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers oppose the bill.
I wrote about this issue in this week’s Oklahoma Gazette. Be sure to read the counterpoint article as well.