by Max Brantley
Amid the tidal wave of idiocy that hit the in-basket on the final day of bill filing, there was a notable bill MIA. That would be the "tort reform" legislation to make it near impossible to sue exploiters of the Fayetteville Shale for environmental damage to property. We'd warned you that this bill was being circulated by very powerful lobbyists.
It wasn't filed.
That's good news. We also hear that House Speaker Benny Petrus had an important role in the fact that the bill wasn't filed. (He planned to oppose it, in other words.) This is a good occasion to note that Petrus has been one of the session's pleasant surprises. (And maybe the fault was in our expectations.) He's used the significant power he's assembled fairly (too fairly for my taste when it came to cutting Republicans in on the action) and, as best I can tell, he's refrained from punishing those with whom he disagrees. You can't ask for much more than that.
UPDATE: Cassandra notes that it's always dangerous to celebrate prematurely. The corporate toady Sen. Shawn Womack has filed a shell tort reform bill that could be a vehicle to do harm to anyone's and eveyrone's right to sue for damages -- a crippled worker, owner of land befouled by a gas driller, a victim of medical malpractice, etc., or even all of the above. If Womack's the sponsor, caution is required. I still think trouble awaits in the House. Also, trial lawyers think it's possible that the original very bad bill has been broken up in easier-to-camouflage and pass small pieces, so this whole expression of happiness may have been completely misplaced.