Amongst the interim charges proposed over the last three days, hidden in the depths of the often over-looked Civil Practices committee section, Speaker Tom Craddick made a clear implication that he was looking to tighten up tort reform yet again, and even discourage ‘meritless’ litigation (i.e. the kind that loses) by introducing “recovery of costs and other financial penalties.”
But as vice-chair of Civil Practices, Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, politely implied that he’d be taking the list of charges under advisement, and expected committee chair Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, would be doing the same. “I would encourage the chair that we should study what we think we should study,” he added. He also noted that he didn’t know whether he or Cook would hold their posts next session, since their relationship with the speaker has been a little frosty since their personal privilege speeches during the last session asking him to resign (especially when Cook said Craddick’s tenure had been somewhat defined by “tyranny, bullying, [and] threats”.)
“The interim charge is vague enough to study anything,” Strama added, noting there’s plenty of room for legislation that doesn’t come from the speaker or his agenda. For example, he confirmed that he’ll be looking to bring back his full disclosure program, an initiative whereby hospitals and health care providers would have to make records fully available to patients. (As House Bill 2837, it died in the Heath committee under chair Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple.) He pointed out that where such programs were employed, both instances of malpractice and malpractice litigation decreased, without the kind of punitive measures the speaker proposes.
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