Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Democrats Put Politics Before Policy on Severe Weather Liability Law

Veto Override Attempt Fails

OKLAHOMA STATE CAPITOL -- An attempt to override a governor’s veto of House Bill 2296, which would offer limitless liability protection to mobile home park owners who allow residents to seek shelter in their offices during severe weather, failed by a vote of 47-50 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
House Bill 2296 passed the House unanimously last month.
On Friday, Governor Fallin vetoed HB 2296, by Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, citing concerns about possible unintended consequences.
Gov. Mary Fallin
“After a thorough review of House Bill 2296, I felt that it had the potential to provide legal amnesty to individuals who encouraged the residents of mobile home parks to take shelter in structures that were unsafe,” said Fallin. “This would have the unfortunate and unintended consequence of actually putting lives in jeopardy rather than protecting them. This was obviously not the intent of the authors of this bill, which is why I vetoed the legislation.”
House Republicans are working on a more comprehensive liability protection policy that will address the governor’s concerns. The new language will be included in an amended version of House Bill 2419 by Rep. John Enns, R-Enid. The amended version of HB 2419 will offer liability protection to any individual who offers shelter to another during severe weather rather than offering protection only to mobile home park owners.
On Monday, the House postponed action on an attempt to override the veto of HB 2296 when Speaker Kris Steele’s motion to table the move to override passed.
Speaker Kris Steele
“The intent was never to block a vote on the veto override, but to ensure an informed vote on the veto override,” said Steele, R-Shawnee. “In the course of our caucus deliberations on the veto, we identified a House bill currently awaiting action in the Senate that could be amended to address the issue and secured a commitment from the governor to work on compromise language for that bill.”
Proctor said he hoped to insert the language of his bill into another piece of legislation. 
Steele extended an offer Monday evening to House Democrats to work together to develop a compromise, but Proctor opted instead to try to override the veto again Tuesday. The veto override attempt failed.
“The House Republican Caucus cares about this issue and is moving forward with Governor Fallin to develop appropriate liability protection for those who open their doors to others during disasters,” said Steele. “The amended bill will address the governor’s concerns through a more comprehensive policy that meets and exceeds the intent of House Bill 2296. It will offer more protection to more people.”
HB 2419 by Rep. Enns contains an emergency clause which would allow the more comprehensive liability protection to become effective immediately. HB 2296 by Rep. Proctor would not become effective until November 1, well after the severe storm season this spring. 
Fallin is working with legislators to develop the comprehensive policy.
“Moving forward, I am absolutely committed to working with lawmakers on new legislation that accomplishes the intended goal of HB 2296, which is to encourage our citizens to open their businesses or homes to other citizens in times of crisis, said Fallin. “Speaker Steele has already shared with my office an early draft of a ‘Good Samaritan’ law that not only achieves those goals, but broadens the scope of HB 2296 in a way that will positively affect even more Oklahomans.”
Fallin visited Woodward earlier this week where a tornado killed six people and injured many more early Sunday morning. 
“I have talked to families very recently whose ability to reach a storm shelter or sturdy building meant the difference between life and death,” said Fallin. “I will continue to do everything in my power to improve access to those safe places in times of emergency.”
Steele expressed regret that Democrats opted for politics over policy. 
Rep. Eric Proctor
“A good faith offer was made to House Democrats to work on a compromise bill with Governor Fallin and they rejected that offer to work together in favor of an all-or-nothing approach with the veto override,” said Steele. “I communicated to Representative Proctor that I wanted him to take a lead on this compromise, but he declined. It’s disappointing that some would rather play politics with this issue than work collectively on a compromise. Nonetheless, we are doing our jobs and moving forward with the governor to address this issue.”
Proctor said that if the bill carried by Rep. Enns is not signed next week he will again attempt a veto override on HB2296. 

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