Gov. Mary Fallin has called a special legislative session to begin Sept. 3 in response to a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that struck down a 2009 bill limiting the rights of people here to sue for damages.
Here are three reasons why the special legislative session is a bad idea.
(1) Costs Too Much Money. Legislative staffers estimate the special session will cost the state $30,000 a day. The question, of course, becomes how long will the session last? How much will it cost? The ostensible purpose is to override an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision negating a 2009 corporate immunity lawsuit bill, House Bill 1603, because it clearly violated the state’s constitution, which prohibits legislation from having more than one subject. But what else could come up when the session starts? Even one day of costs is too much in a state that has failed demonstrably and notoriously to provide anything close to adequate funding for public schools. The money spent on the session could be used in more useful, productive ways, and the lawsuit immunity issue could be dealt with in the 2014 session.
(2) No Guarantee The Fix Will Happen. So the idea seems to be that the GOP-dominated legislature is going to come together in harmony and swiftly and easily fix this terrible decision by the court. Everyone will then sing a campfire song, go home and all will be well. But is there really harmony in the state GOP these days? Can it all be done quickly? It’s no secret that hardline Republicans continue to clash with more moderate voices in the GOP. Will the hardliners use the session to make political statements? How will that affect the process? Even if there’s universal agreement, will the fix stand up to additional judicial scrutiny? In other words, what if the legislation passed in the special session is ultimately negated by the courts again? It could easily happen when it comes to legislation limiting the rights of people to sue for damages, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
(3) It Won’t Help and Could Even Hurt The State’s Image. Republicans, most notably Fallin, have argued that the state legislature needs to override the state’s highest court to show how friendly it is to corporations and businesses. This, the argument goes, will increase economic development. But the knee-jerk reaction to the court’s decision by the GOP-dominated government in Oklahoma will also be read as extremist and desperate to many people outside the state. Many people will see it as just another anti-Obama state legislature throwing a fit to reward the wealthy at the expense of regular people. Oh, look at what the wackos in Oklahoma are up to. The special session has as much potential to make the state look bad as it does otherwise, both short-term and historically.
The special session is not only a bad idea for everyone in the state, but it’s also a specific risk for Republicans. If the special session goes badly, and that could easily happen, then Fallin and other GOP leaders will look incompetent with the 2014 election looming. That might not mean much against all the anti-Obama hysteria here, but it could add up.