Archive for the ‘Sen. James Williamson’ Category

Official English Bill’s Supporters Disappointed by Senate Democrats’ Obstruction

May 7, 2008

Press release from Senate Floor Leader Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward

Supporters of the bill to make English the official language are disappointed that Senate Democrats utilized a rarely-used procedural maneuver to block an up-or-down vote on the bill by sending it to a conference committee.

The bill’s author, Senate Republican Floor Leader Owen Laughlin, said the Democrats’ obstruction likely kills Senate Bill 163 for the 2008 session.

“Making English the official language of our state is an issue whose time has come in Oklahoma. I am very disappointed that Senate Democrats voted in lock-step to block an up-or-down vote on this important issue,” stated Laughlin, R-Woodward. “Senator Morgan sent a pretty strong signal on the floor that the Democrat leadership plans to kill this bill in conference.”

Other supporters of SB 163 also expressed their concerns about the Senate Democrats’ action.

“Republicans have made the Official English proposal a priority for many years. We believe the people overwhelmingly agree that English should be our official language. I am sorry that the Senate Democrats have continued to block the people’s right to vote on this important issue,” stated Sen. James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised by the Senate Democrats’ actions. Instead of allowing the people of Oklahoma to vote on this critical issue, they maneuvered it into a conference committee where they can gut and kill the Official English bill,” said Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso.

“The Senate Democrats’ substitute language is just a piece of paper that does not change the status quo. It still requires the state to expend funds to provide unnecessary translations for government services. Our version would have stopped the silly lawsuits that seek to force our state to provide services in any number of foreign languages,” said Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore.

Podcast: Tulsa Lawmakers Author Language to Close Loophole in State Rape Law

April 16, 2008

To Listen to the Podcast, Click Here

Sen. James A. Williamson (R-Tulsa) and Rep. Pam Peterson (R-OKC) have unveiled language to close a loophole in Oklahoma criminal statutes. The Tulsa Republicans crafted the measure after a Tulsa County judge was forced to reduce charges against an accused rapist from first-degree rape to second-degree rape. Williamson:

There’s a case in Tulsa County right now where a male nurse is accused of raping a patient who was sedated. The nurse was initially charged with first-degree rape, but the judge said under current law, a victim who has been drugged or is unconscious at the time of the assault can only be charged with second-degree rape. It is tragic a crime had to occur before this problem came to light, but now it is our responsibility to amend this law to allow the strongest punishment possible.

Williamson said he had approached Sen. Jonathan Nichols (R-Norman), about amending one of his bills to include the language clarifying the definition of first-degree rape. Nichols said he would support such an amendment

As a former prosecutor, and father of two daughters, I am thankful that Senator Williamson has identified and is closing this terrible loophole in the laws against rape. Rape committed by use of sedatives or any such drugs should absolutely be first-degree rape and carry the maximum punishment.

Peterson said she was stunned to learn that an assault on someone who had been drugged could only result in a charge of second-degree rape:

If you’ve been given an intoxicating narcotic or anesthetic, there is no way you can consent to sex. It seems obvious to any lay person the charge should be first-degree rape, but the way the law is currently written, it isn’t. I contend it shouldn’t matter that the victim was drugged at the time. Rape is rape.

Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said the difference is a maximum penalty of 15 years for second-degree rape versus up to life in prison for first-degree rape. He applauded the lawmakers for their efforts to correct the language in current law that prevents the charge of first-degree rape from being pursued:

It is frustrating to find an oversight in state law that thwarts justice, but I am very pleased to have been able to work with Senator Williamson and Representative Peterson to fix this law. I think it is important for the safety of Oklahoma citizens everywhere.

Senate Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Urges Governor to Show Lawsuit Reform Plan

March 31, 2008

An agreement on lawsuit reform is possible this year, according to the Republican co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, if Gov. Brad Henry is willing to make a counter-offer to the bipartisan lawsuit reform plans that he rejected during the 2007 legislative session. OK Sen. James Williamson (R-Tulsa):

I believe that a meaningful lawsuit reform bill is doable this year if the governor will get engaged in the process and make a formal counter-offer to the bipartisan proposals he rejected last year…There was a lot of talk last year by the governor and his surrogates about how close an agreement was, yet Gov. Henry still has not provided legislative language to show what he supports. If he truly wants to reach an agreement on lawsuit reform, it is time for Gov. Henry to put his cards on the table.

In 2007 Henry vetoed Senate Bill 507, a bipartisan lawsuit reform bill that passed the Senate and House of Representatives. Henry also rejected a second bipartisan compromise that sought to resolve his complaints about SB 507.

Williamson said the need for lawsuit reform is clear, but it is ultimately up to Henry whether Oklahoma doctors and businesses receive relief this year from lawsuit abuse.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Judicial Hellholes report published by the nonpartisan American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) gives Oklahoma a “dishonorable mention.”

Survey data from the Oklahoma Alliance of Physicians for Tort Reform showed the threat of lawsuits caused nearly one-fifth of Oklahoma doctors to consider leaving the state, while 60 percent of doctors have stopped performing riskier procedures (like delivering babies) in order to avoid lawsuits.

Lawsuits are also playing a role in the growing shortage of critical medical specialties here, such as obstetrics, especially in rural Oklahoma. Meanwhile, The Houston Chronicle reported that tort-reformed Texas is attracting doctors from non-reformed states like Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, making it difficult for Texas to keep up with the requests for new medical licenses. Similarly, a recent State Chamber survey of businesses showed that 87% believe that Oklahoma’s legal climate hurts job growth, while 52% said they would consider moving their business out of state because of lawsuits.

A 2007 report in Directorship magazine – widely read by job-creating CEO’s and directors – ranked Oklahoma’s legal climate a paltry #44 for business and job growth. The nation’s preeminent business newspaper – The Wall Street Journal – has scolded the governor in editorials because of Oklahoma’s lack of lawsuit reform. Williamson:

A majority of state legislators support real, comprehensive reforms to halt lawsuit abuse. We’re hopeful that Gov. Henry will choose to be a catalyst for reform this year instead of being the road block he has been in past years. All we are asking is that the governor fulfill his pledge to Oklahomans for Texas-Plus lawsuit reform.

Senate Judiciary Committee Co-Chair Comments on Bankers Association Study of Illegal Immigration Law

March 26, 2008

Senator James A. Williamson (R-Tulsa), the Senate author of House Bill 1804 and the co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday regarding a study by the Oklahoma Bankers Association regarding House Bill 1804, Oklahoma’s illegal immigration law:

Oklahoma’s economy is stronger and in much better shape than the national economy, and we’re probably doing as well as ever here in Oklahoma. We certainly aren’t seeing any evidence that HB 1804 is negatively impacting our state economy. In fact, most Oklahomans believe that our state will benefit in the long run from the reforms contained in House Bill 1804.

Even if a few businesses are impacted by a departure of illegals from Oklahoma, this will be more than offset by the positives to the taxpayers of Oklahoma. The legislation gets illegal aliens off of welfare, reduces the substantial costs of illegals to public education, and keeps illegals who have left the state from committing crimes or driving in Oklahoma without insurance. All of these public benefits were why the legislation passed by overwhelming margins in the House and Senate.

HB 1804 was passed by the Legislature in 2007. It eliminates welfare benefits and most other public assistance for illegal aliens, and mirrors federal laws that make it a crime to harbor, transport, or shelter an illegal alien. The Oklahoma Bankers Association claimed in its study that HB 1804 will have a negative impact on Oklahoma’s economy.

Williamson Vows to Continue Effort to Override Henry Veto of Pro-Life Bill

April 25, 2007

SB 714 author disappointed by Senator Laster’s flip-flop on abortion issue

The evenly divided Oklahoma Senate fell one vote short today of the 32 votes needed to override Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of a pro-life bill after Democrat Senator Charles Laster of Shawnee flip-flopped by voting against an override motion after voting 3 previous times in favor of the legislation this session – once in committee and twice on the Senate floor.

But Senate Bill 714’s author, Sen. James A. Williamson of Tulsa, said he will press on with future attempts to override Henry’s veto.

“Today’s vote is just the beginning. Our fight on behalf of unborn Oklahomans will continue for as along as necessary until we override this veto,” Williamson said.

“Sen. Laster’s flip flop on this life-and-death issue is surprising and disappointing. Sen. Laster will likely be hearing from many pro-life Oklahomans in the coming days. There will be a lot of prayers that he will have a change of heart on the next override vote,” stated Williamson.

“Sen. Laster’s explanation for changing his vote on SB 714 involves the same arguments that were used against this bill during every previous vote, yet Sen. Laster still voted for the bill every time until today,” he said.

Senate Bill 714 is a pro-life bill that prohibits the use of state funds, facilities, and employees to perform abortions. It also requires abortionists to file paperwork with the state showing they are following laws requiring informed consent of patients and the notification of minors’ parents before abortions are performed.

Williamson noted that Democrat Sen. Nancy Riley of Sand Springs, who switched parties in 2006, has also changed positions on the abortion issue.

“In the past, Sen. Riley consistently voted pro-life as a Republican. She never told pro-life supporters that rape and incest exceptions were important to her. As a Democrat, she even voted for SB 714 in committee before opposing the bill on the floor,” Williamson said. “Sen. Riley’s waffling on the issue of life is extremely disappointing.”

Williamson said he will continue to bring up his motion to override Henry’s veto of SB 714 “as many times as necessary” until the end of next year’s legislative session.