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Tort reform issues discussed

Armstrong Williams | 10/21/2011, 11:19 a.m.
Republicans are right to draw a line in the sand. We have an obligation to...
At Thanksgiving, embracing the winds of change and increasing our faith

Republicans are right to draw a line in the sand. We have an obligation to say "no" to tax increases that do nothing to stem the profligate, big-government spending favored by the Democrats.

Unchecked government spending is a road that, if traveled, will further plunge our nation into a downward spiral of economic weakness due to massive debt and uncontrollable entitlements, which Democrats will argue may only be solved by "redistributing wealth" through backbreaking tax increases that will erode the spirit and principles that distinguish our country, leaving only a shadow of past greatness. That is what is at stake, and the stakes have never been higher.

Conservatives cannot allow Republican lawmakers to soften or defect on the party's fundamental principles-or worse, align with those who are diametrically opposed to everything the GOP stands for: free enterprise, reasonable taxes, limited government and tort reform. Yes, tort reform, and here's why.

Ignoring tort reform has been devastating to taxpayers, the economy and American business. The United States is the most litigious nation in the world; it weakens us competitively and lessens respect for America's legal system in the eyes of the world. The question isn't how this critical issue fell from our sight lines to the sidelines. The question is, why have we permitted trial lawyers to worm their way into our ranks to undermine GOP priorities and the party itself?

In state capitols across the country, there are legislators who proclaim to be conservatives yet block lawsuit reform. A look at just a few states readily finds examples of Republicans who align with personal injury lawyers.

In North Carolina, the legislature recently passed a medical malpractice bill that would allow patients to recover full medical expenses and lost wages as well as up to $500,000 for non-economic damages. The bill passed with bipartisan support yet Republican Reps. N. Leo Daughtry and Grey Mills couldn't deliver a yea vote. Could it be because they both received campaign donations from the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers? Or is it because they are both trial lawyers who have settled millions of dollars in personal injury awards?

Pennsylvania has the dishonor of being the home of Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart Greenleaf, who has been a more reliable vote for the trial bar than for tort reform. He has used his powerful committee chairmanship to bottle up, gut and otherwise sabotage efforts to pass meaningful reform. This year he nearly succeeded again when he maneuvered to upend the "Fair Share Act"-a bill to stop the abhorrent practice of targeting defendants based on the depth of their pockets rather than the extent of their liability-with a bill that was so watered down as to render it useless. Luckily, this gift to the trial bar was exposed and principled Republicans passed real reform.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, the consummate executive and a rising star of the GOP, rode the call for reform to victory. So far, he's lived up to every word, working hard to bring the state budget back from the verge of collapse. Yet, in his own backyard, Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the Republican Conference leader, boasts about raking in millions of dollars in personal injury damages.