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Bill to strengthen lemon law revived

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A state House-passed bill to strengthen Oklahoma's ``lemon law'' was revived by the state Senate leadership Monday, just when it appeared to be dead for lack of a committee hearing.

A Senate spokesman said Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan decided to reassign the bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee after it was left off the agenda of another Senate panel.

The action came after Senate staff was lobbied by Angie Gallant, a Broken Arrow woman who has been campaigning for a stronger lemon law, and legislative sponsors of the bill, Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, and Sen. Mary Easley, D-Tulsa.

Easley said she asked for the bill to be sent to another committee after she discovered Monday that it was not on the agenda of the Senate Business and Labor Committee.

Gallant said she tried to contract Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, committee chairman, to inquire why the bill was not going to be heard before this week's deadline for Senate action on House bills. She said Leftwich did not return her telephone calls.

Leftwich told reporters she lost track of the legislation.

The legislation, which had the support of the attorney general's office, passed the House, 92-0.

Gallant described it as ``a middle-of-the-road'' consumer protection bill that is fair to both consumers and the industry.

``Literally everywhere I go I find somebody who has a lemon, or had a lemon and thinks the law should be stronger,'' she said. ``For it to just die without a hearing would have been wrong.''

Among other things, the bill gives consumers the option of taking a full refund or a replacement vehicle of a similar type when defects occur. Current law allows the manufacturer to mandate those terms to the consumer.

It also caps user fees at 10 cents a mile or 10 percent of the value of the vehicle, whichever is less.

Gallant fought for 10 months to get her defective Chevrolet Malibu replaced by General Motors, who charged her $1,530 for the miles she had put on the vehicle.

GM officials have said the cap would be a windfall to consumers and unfair to automakers.

Gallant and her husband, Army Reserve Capt. Jeff Gallant, purchased their Malibu in January 2004 shortly before Jeff Gallant was called to active duty. Three weeks later, the car began having serious mechanical problems and intermittently would not start.

The bill is House Bill 1426.
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