Tort Debate Continues

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The proposal would initially cap the awards at $2 million. The cap would increase to $3 million in July 2011 and to $5 million in July 2017.

The plan drew immediate criticism from lawmakers and lobbyists who want $250,000 caps and from trial lawyers who oppose any limits on pain and suffering awards.

Earlier Tuesday, two groups had back-to-back news conferences at the state Capitol to oppose Gov. Haley Barbour's plans to limit lawsuits.

Legislative Black Caucus members say they're offended that the governor and some senators seem to be trying to bypass the chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee, Rep. Ed Blackmon of Canton.

Blackmon is a caucus member and it's his choice to either bring up or ignore a lawsuit limitations bill that passed the Senate Monday. He said neither the governor nor any Senate leaders have talked to him about the bill and he has no plans to bring it up.

Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said later that it's "sad that in an effort to block tort reform, some would publicly inject race into the debate.''

In Meridian Tuesday, Barbour said he hopes the state House will get to vote on a tort reform bill passed by the Senate.

"The Senate's bill has laid in the House for 67 days this spring and the house was not allowed to vote on it," Barbour said. "If the vote is allowed, I'm confident that we will have tort reform shortly, meaning this week."

The other news conference was held by groups calling for caps on insurance rates. It was attended by trial lawyers, retirees and union members.