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State bill bolstering lemon law hits potential snag

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A bill bolstering Oklahoma's ``lemon law'' had been speeding through the legislative process, but it hit a potential roadblock Tuesday in the Oklahoma Senate.

The state Senate passed the bill, 34-10, but only after it was amended to remove the title of the measure, ensuring that it will go to a joint conference committee for further work.

Angie Gallant, a Broken Arrow woman who lobbied lawmakers for a stronger lemon law after a dispute with General Motors, said she was disappointed the bill did not pass intact.

Gallant, who watched the Senate action from the gallery, said sending the bill to conference was ``just a way the manufacturers and their lobbyists are trying to kill it.

``But I don't believe it is the end of the road. I'll keep on fighting.''

The bill gives consumers the option of taking a full refund or a replacement vehicle of a similar type when defects occur in a new vehicle. Current law permits the manufacturer to dictate those terms to consumers.

It also caps user fees at 10 cents a mile or 10 percent of the value of the car or truck.

Gallant and Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, said the bill was not onerous to manufacturers.

``It's certainly not one of the strongest lemon laws in the country,'' Gallant said. ``It's sort of the middle of the road.''

Duncan said the legislation passed the House, 92-0, and would have been unnecessary if manufacturers treated their customers more fairly. ``If they won't do it on their own, I'll keep working on this bill and other bills like it,'' he said.

Sen. Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, made the unanimous consent motion to cripple the title of the bill, requiring that it go to conference.

The measure appeared in trouble earlier in the Senate when it was not scheduled for a hearing before a committee deadline in the Senate Business and Labor Committee. That panel's chairman, Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, was among those voting against the bill Tuesday.

The bill was kept alive in the committee process when Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, reassigned it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed the plan.

Gallant said she had not been able to talk to Morgan about the bill, but was aware that the Senate leader had had discussions with GM representatives.

She said she had to fight 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, bought 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 often would not start.
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